Interesting Facts About Ribbon Eels

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swimming ribbon eel

photo credit Swee Cheng

Ribbon eels are one of the amazing underwater animals only divers get to see. When the photo above turned up on PADI’s Facebook page from diver Swee Cheng, we decided to find out more about this fascinating creature.

Commonly known as the ribbon eel, or blue ribbon eel, these colorful animals are actually a species of moray eel. Depending on the stage of the ribbon eel’s life it may appear black, blue and or yellow. They grow to one meter / 3.3 feet in length and can live up to 20 years in the wild. Sadly, ribbon eels are sometimes captured for aquariums and rarely survive longer than one month in captivity.

All ribbon eels start off as male and are black with a yellow dorsal fin. As they mature, the male eels turn mostly bright blue with yellow accents around the mouth and on the dorsal fin. The changes don’t stop there. After the male’s body reaches a certain length, it begins to turn yellow and will develop female parts until it is able to lay eggs. You read that right: they’re (sequential) hermaphrodites.

Ribbon eels tend to live in lagoons or coastal reefs throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, from East Africa to French Polynesia, as far north as southern Japan, and south to Australia and New Caledonia. If you’re diving in one of these areas and hoping to see a ribbon eel, look closely. Ribbon eels typically bury themselves in crevices of the reef.

We hope you have enjoyed learning more about the mesmerizing ribbon eel!