Gymnomuraena zebra: Another Moray You Just Might Love!

Zebra moray (Gymnomuraenea zebra)

Zebra moray (Gymnomuraenea zebra)

On various occasions, I’ve written about my fondness for the snowflake moray eel (Echidna nebulosa), in one post even going so far as to claim there may be no better eel for the marine aquarium. My biases notwithstanding, I can’t deny that certain other morays make excellent aquarium candidates as well. Among them is the stunning zebra moray (Gymnomuraenea zebra), which has a pretty sterling reputation for being peaceful, hardy, adaptable, and generally safe around piscine tankmates.

Physical traits

As you might guess from its common name and specific epithet, G. zebra is brown overall with a series of vertical white to yellowish bands running the length of its body (or is it white to yellowish overall with vertical brown bands?). Typically eel-shaped, this species can reach a length of almost five feet—but that’s the record holder. Most specimens are unlikely to achieve that prodigious length. The teeth are blunt and molar-like and designed for crushing hard-shelled prey items, not sharp and needle-like for the purpose of snagging fish.


G. zebra are often most active during the day

G. zebra are often most active during the day

In nature, G. zebra feeds primarily on crustaceans. Captive specimens can be taught to accept a variety of meaty food items, such as shrimp, clams, mussels, squid, etc. Feed no more than twice weekly. Presenting food items on a stick or with tongs is the best way to elicit a feeding response. Specimens that are reluctant to feed can often be enticed with live ghost shrimp.

Do not, however, hand feed your zebra moray. While possessing a powerful sense of smell, this species has notoriously poor eyesight and may mistake your digits for something edible. It may not have the sharpest teeth, but I still wouldn’t want that crushing force exerted on my fingers!


G. zebra doesn’t need much in the way of open swimming space, but it does require lots of rockwork to hide in and, as mentioned, is capable of reaching a rather respectable size. Thus, I would recommend a tank of at least 100 gallons for minimum housing. Also, be sure to cover the tank completely and tightly because, like any moray, this species can easily slither out of an open-topped tank or through an opening in the cover.


Obviously, crustaceans are best left out of a tank containing a zebra moray, but most fish will be fine with one. While many sources claim these morays can be trusted around small fish, I would advise against keeping bite-sized species as tankmates. I know I’m probably being overly conservative here, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in my opinion.

G. zebra won’t directly harm sessile invertebrates, but owing to its size, waste production, and potential for toppling aquascaping, I wouldn’t recommend one for most reef aquariums, with the possible exception of large systems with well-secured rockwork and corals.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.


  1. Paul Baldassano says

    Morays are extreamly common on a reef, more common than Supermodels at an all you can eat broccoli convention. If you dive at night, you will see them (eels, not Supermodels) actively swimming over the reef ordering take out. During the day, they stay in the rocks with just their head sticking out. If you live near the sea (like we all should) you can buy small fiddler crabs which are sold as bait to feed these guys. That is the best food for them (and octopuses) Live Fiddler crabs are sold in quart containers and are pretty cheap. Of course if you live in Utah, you will need to find a substitute like shrimp.

  2. Matt Bowers (Muttley000) says

    How hard are these to source Jeff?

    • Jeff Kurtz says

      They’re kind of hit or miss from what I’ve seen, Matt. I was poking around various online sources a while back and noticed that a few had them but most listed them as out of stock. If you’re interested in getting one, you might want to click “notify me when this fish is back in stock” (or whatever verbiage is used) on your preferred dealer’s website.

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