Moray eels species identification guide

A fascinating snake-like fish

Muraenidae (moray eels) are a big family encompassing about 200 species. Those snake-shaped fish with impressive teeth often scare swimmers. Yet most of the time moray eels are fearful and discreet, and only bite when defending themselves. They are often seen gaping, but there is no aggressiveness in that: opening and closing their jaws permanently just helps them breathe. Most of the time moray eels hide inside rocky holes, making them hard to spot as their head is often the only part sticking out. In average adult morays are 1,50m long. When snorkeling, you’re most likely to spot young ones (30-70 cm) since they take shelter in shallow areas, notably lagoons. There are even spots where they are fed and almost tamed by divers!

You’ll also find on this page species from the Ophichthidae family (or snake eels), closely related to moray eels.

Where to snorkel with moray eels?

Most moray eels have wide distribution areas. The green moray eel is the biggest and the most widespread species in the Caribbean, but it’s not the only one: the spotted moray and the chain moray can also be easily seen there. Yet the Caribbean is not the hottest place to spot eels: not less than 40 reef species have been identified in the Indian and Pacific Oceans! The most famous amongst them is the giant moray, it is also the most distributed. The Mediterranean moray (or Roman eel) breeds in the Mediterranean Sea, but also along the Atlantic coast from the United Kingdom to Senegal.

Caribbean & Western Atlantic morays

Indian & Pacific Oceans morays

Eastern Pacific Ocean morays

Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic morays

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Have a look at the best identification fish guides to learn more about marine life!

Want to learn more about the species you observed or photographed under water? The identification guides are true treasures for those curious to know about the undersea world! These books show, in the form of images or drawings, the species of certain environments (such as coral reefs) or certain regions of the world (such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or the Red Sea). If some guides are limited to fish, others describe all the local underwater fauna and flora. True scientific works, the identification guides are also a beautiful way to prepare for our future snorkeling explorations!