Matt Clarke finds a very rare Yellow spotted moray, Echidna xanthospilos, living in freshwater in a Northumberland wholesaler. But, as he explains, this species is normally reef-associated.
Common name: Yellow spotted moray
Scientific name: Echidna xanthospilos
Origin: Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and other parts of the west Central Pacific. This fish was imported from India.
Size: Small for a muraenid at around 60cm/24".
Water: This fish is currently in fresh to very slightly brackish water! While other euryhaline moray eels, such as Gymnothorax tile, tend not to feed well in water that isn't very salty, this fish was doing very well in just 2 ppt. However, adult xanthospilos are reef-associated, so as the fish grows, it's going to need more salt. It's
unlikely to survive in freshwater forever.
Diet: Not known, but crabs, shrimps and fish are the normal diet of most Echidna species. These were taking whole fish.
Aquarium: There are no previous reports of this normally reef-associated fish living in freshwater. You could try keeping it in a large tank alongside other larger brackish species, but it will probably need rehousing in a marine system later on. Due to its size and predatory nature, it will need a spacious aquarium with a hefty filter. Morays spend much of their time hidden among rocks, so provide the fish with plenty of shelter to keep it happy.
Identification: Dr David Smith of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the world's top muraenid expert, kindly identified this eel for me as neither I nor Tom Halvorsen knew what it might be.
He says: "The eel in question looks like Echidna xanthospilos Bleeker. It was described from Indonesia, but it certainly could occur in eastern India as well. I don't think that very much is known about this species (of course, that could be said about most morays), but it is interesting to know that it is living in freshwater."
Availability: A first for the UK. It's not even imported for the marine trade. Tom Halvorsen (0797 709 8127; www.tomhalvorsen.co.uk).
Price: The only one in the country. Expect to pay about 200 for this fella.