The Pink Paddle Tail Eel or Purple Spaghetti Eel is a rarity in the marine aquarium hobby.
They are also elusive creatures that are incredibly shy and hide away in your tank, burrowing down into the sandy substrate and keeping out of sight.
However, if you want to add something unusual and desirable to your collection, keep reading to learn more about this fascinating saltwater species.
What Is a Pink Paddle Tail Eel?
The Pink Paddle Tail Eel is also commonly called the Purple Spaghetti Eel and has the scientific name Moringua raitaborua.
These are “true eels” and are members of the Moringuidae family of spaghetti or worm eels. These animals are carnivores, however, thanks to its tiny head and mouth, the Pink Paddle Tail Eel presents no threat to most aquarium-kept fish in a community setup.
Rather than being a true marine species, the Purple Spaghetti Eel lives primarily in estuaries which means it does well when kept in a slightly brackish tank and can even live in freshwater, too.
Distribution and Habitat
The Pink Paddle Tail Eel was first described in 1822 by Hamilton and is found in many areas around the Eastern Indian Ocean, including the Gangetic estuary in West Bengal, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and the Bidyadari River. Despite its rarity in the trade, this species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.
The Paddle Tail Eel inhabits brackish water, freshwater, and saltwater environments. Generally, young eels live in freshwater, migrating to brackish conditions or even to the ocean as they reach adulthood.
The eels live in the soft substrate of estuaries and rivers, where they feed on small fish, insects, crustaceans, and insect larvae.
These eels have long, slender bodies that can grow to around 17 inches in length. The eel’s head is so tiny that it’s virtually indistinguishable from the remainder of the creature’s body. The eyes are small and covered with skin.
Pink Paddle Tail Eels are purplish-brown to pinkish-gold in color with pink fins. The fins join the caudal fin, forming a paddle-like extension, hence the eel’s name. The creature’s anal and dorsal fins are found toward the back end of the body, appearing more like folds.
Interestingly, these eels do not have scales but instead are covered with smooth skin. The eel’s gills are set low down on the body.
Male and female Pink Paddle Tail Eels look very similar. However, mature females generally have a deeper body.
If you do decide to buy a Pink Paddle Tail Eel, you’re making quite a long commitment!
These strange creatures generally live for between 5 to 12 years when kept in the correct environment and fed a high-quality diet.
Are Pink Paddle Tail Eels Difficult to Keep?
We don’t recommend the Pink Paddle Tail Eel for beginners. These carnivorous fish are best kept by an experienced fish keeper who is familiar with caring for eels.
These animals are sensitive to change and need pristine brackish or saltwater to thrive. When first acquired, you might find it difficult to persuade your pet to eat, and since the eels are scaleless, they can be prone to attack by parasites and fungus.
They also tend to be very sensitive to commonly used medications, especially those containing copper.
Diet and Feeding
Pink Paddle Tail Eels are carnivorous and eat tiny prey in the wild environment, primarily insect larvae, little fish, and crustaceans.
In captivity, you can feed the eels live brine shrimp, bloodworms, and tubifex. However, in time, you can usually acclimate the creatures to frozen meaty foods, too.
Although the eels have very small mouths, they are capable of eating livebearer fry, guppies, neon tetras, or other similar fish species.
Pink Paddle Tail Eels prefer to feed at night. That said, you can also feed them during the daytime on the rare occasions that they venture out of hiding.
Pink Paddle Tail Eel – Care Guide
In this part of our guide to the Pink Paddle Tail Eel, we explain how to care for these fantastic creatures.
Although these animals are very thin and almost worm-like in their form, they can grow to measure over 17 inches long. For that reason, we recommend you use a tank that’s at least 30 gallons in capacity.
You’ll also need to choose a tank that has a very tightly fitting lid and ensure that you cover any gaps between outlet pipes that the eels could escape through with fine mesh.
Pink Paddle Tail Eels need soft, slightly acidic water, and the tank needs to offer pretty decent water movement so that the environment is well oxygenated.
Ideally, the filtration system should turn the water over at least 10 to 15 times every hour. The best choice of filter for these fish is an under gravel system because they generate high oxygenation throughout the aquarium, as well as reduce the amount of waste that could affect the water quality.
If necessary, introduce powerheads and airstones or a canister filter to improve the flow and oxygenation.
Pristine, well-oxygenated water is essential for these creatures to thrive.
You’ll need to change at least 30% of the water every week, as well as use an aquarium vacuum cleaner to remove uneaten food and decaying organic matter that would otherwise pollute the water.
It’s also helpful to include a cleaning crew of shrimp and fish once the eel has settled into its new home and is eating well.
Paddle Tail Eels are primarily brackish or saltwater species, so ideally, the specific gravity in the tank needs to be kept at 1.005 to 1.010.
The pH range should be between 8.1 and 8.4, with a hardness range of 8 to 12 dGH.
These fish are tropical species that prefer a warm water temperature of between 72.0 to 78.0° F.
Pink Paddle Tail Eels love to burrow, so you need to provide a soft, fine sand substrate that the eels can bury themselves in without damaging their skin.
Also, you need to provide lots of hiding places in the form of rockwork, roots, and dense planting so that the eels feel safe and secure in their new habitat.
Choose plants that are securely anchored, as the eels like to burrow and will uproot fragile plant species that have shallow, delicate root systems.
The Pink Paddle Tail has a tiny head and mouth, meaning it is no threat to most of the other fish and residents in a community tank.
However, be aware that the eel feeds on benthic invertebrates, such as worms, larvae, and the like, as well as very small fish and fry. Avoid livebearers, neons, and guppies just in case!
You should also steer away from larger fish species or semi-aggressive and aggressive eels that might try to make a meal out of the Pink Paddle Tails.
Can You Keep Pink Paddle Tail Eels Together?
These eels are peaceful creatures that can be kept in groups, provided that you have a large tank with plenty of space for the eels to establish territories.
Can You Breed Pink Paddle Tail Eels in Captivity?
The simple answer to that question is no. Purple Spaghetti Eels have not been successfully bred in captivity.
Health and Disease
Since Pink Paddle Tail Eels are scaleless, they are very prone to suffering from diseases caused by fungus and parasites.
Be very careful when adding these fish to an established setup. Since they are wild-caught, they may be carrying diseases or parasites right into your healthy tank.
Also, very low water temperatures and unstable tank conditions can seriously stress these fish, leaving them prone to a weakened immune system and making it more likely that they will suffer from diseases.
Treating disease is difficult since these scaleless fish are highly sensitive to most of the common fish medications that contain copper.
Pink Paddle Tail Eels are also very delicate, so extreme care must be taken when netting them.
Ich (White Spot Disease)
The most common fish disease that affects Pink Paddle Tail Eels is White Spot Disease or Ich.
Ich is caused by a parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This parasite attacks almost all species of aquarium fish, including both tropical and coldwater species. However, eels are usually the first to be affected.
Be very careful when treating Ich in eels, as most White Spot disease medication contains copper, which is highly dangerous to these fish. We recommend that you use a reef-safe Ich treatment when treating this condition.
The best way to combat disease in your fish tank is to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place.
Many parasites flourish in an environment where water conditions are poor, and the fish are already adversely affected and weakened as a result of it.
Protect your livestock by keeping the tank scrupulously clean and maintaining the filtration system correctly.
Also, replicating the wild environment as closely as possible in the aquarium and feeding your eels a high-quality, well-balanced diet is the best way to keep them healthy and thriving.
Anything new that you bring into your aquarium can potentially import disease. Any fish, plants, decorations, and substrate can carry bacteria and parasites that could affect your eels and other community residents.
So, it’s crucial that you set up a quarantine tank so that you can observe and monitor any new livestock for signs of disease before adding them to your main display tank.
Purple Spaghetti Eels are not commonly seen for sale in fish stores, however, they do appear occasionally, and you can sometimes buy them online via auction sites.
Prices vary from around $50 upward, depending on the size of the eel.
Would a Pink Paddle Tail Eel Be a Good Addition to My Community Tank?
The Pink Paddle Tail Eel is seldom seen in fish stores and is a rare sight in the home aquarium.
These wild-caught fish are tricky to keep and are best left to experienced hobbyists with tanks over 30 gallons.
However, if you can provide the creatures with a brackish or saltwater environment that closely replicates that of their wild habitat, you might want to take on the challenge of keeping this fascinating, elusive species.