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Another “D’oh!” Moment – The Eel Incident

After Jose’s blog in May about some of our coworker’s mishaps and misadventures, I’ve been badgered and teased (again) about what we refer to around here as “the eel incident”, one of my own prize foibles that Jose had forgotten when he wrote his blog. Since he wants to tell all of you anyway, here it is in my words….

Green Moray EelAlong the back wall of our fish room, we have two large coral tanks side-by-side. Now they are coral tanks, but at the time of this incident, we used them for particularly large or aggressive saltwater fish. In the smaller tank on the right, we had a green moray eel affectionally known as Captain who was about three feet long. The other tank had another eel that was about four feet long and was from the old incarnation of our 700 gallon display tank where it used to live with a huge Bumblebee Grouper named Buzz. That eel wasn’t named, so I’ll refer to it as eel B.

At the time, I was a supervisor in the Fish Room. While turning the lights on in our saltwater room one morning, I almost tripped on a very large and mostly-dried-out eel on the floor at the end of the third row in our saltwater room (a good 10 feet or so away from the end of the closest eel tank). After the initial shock of almost tripping on the eel wore off, I started walking back to the front of the room where the other employees were asking what had happened. I told them “Captain jumped out and is dried up on the floor.” When one of the other employees went back to look (and I tried to get my heartrate under control), he yelled back up to the rest of us and said “He’s not dead, his head just moved!”

Another employee and I ran to get some larger pond nets to get him up while a couple other went back to the eel tanks to get them opened up. When we picked Captain back up off the floor and back into his tank, we got shock #2: That wasn’t Captain and Captain wasn’t too happy about having another large eel (eel B) put into his tank with him. While they tussled and two emplyees tried netting them apart again, I was opening the right side of the left tank to get one of the eels over. Now my shock #3- Captain managed to knock the canopy off the right side of his tank, jump out and over my right shoulder, ending up on the floor himself. Now we had a stressed, half-dried-out eel in Captain’s tank, one angry Captain on the floor, and one freaked out marine biologist who got an up-close look at a moray’s dental work (did I mention that one of my only phobias is snakes falling out of trees and landing on me? Not helpful.).

Yellow Margined Moray EelWe managed to get the canopies off eel B’s old tank and got Captain into it. We spent the next few days mopping eel slime up off the floor and no one could walk in the area for a few days because the floor was so slippery. As for the eels? We had to cover both tanks with dark sheets for a day or two to help the eels get over their ordeal, but both eels survived and were perfectly healthy. They were both eventually sold and went off to new homes.

As for me? The marine biologists who has been surfing with sharks, hand-fed Blue Ring Octopuses and assorted scorpionfish, and did about every other job and handled every other dangerous animal around here? I could barely look at an eel for months much less handle any of them. Even the tiny little 6 inch Snowflake Eels freaked me out. The other marine biologists and aquatic staff still won’t let me live this one down.

Yellow margined Moray Eel image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jon Hansen
Green Moray Eel image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Michael Harjes


  1. avatar

    Haha! 😀 Great story!

    Seeing a fish go carpet diving is pretty freaky. I thought my one damselfish (not exactly as big as an eel, but hey!) had dryed out and died once, since he was all black and had been out of the water for at least ten minutes. But then I noticed he was still gilling, and then he started flailing around and scared the crap on me. Fortunately, we got him back into the water quickly enough and for the past several months he’s been quite happy.

    It’s always a freaky ordeal though!

  2. avatar
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About Eileen Daub

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Marine Biologist/Aquatic Husbandry Manager I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).