The Ocellated Snake Eel ( Myrichthys maculosus) is also known as the Ocellate Snake Eel,Tiger Snake Eel, Leopard Eel and Magnificent Snake Eel.
The Ocellated Snake Eel has dark spots on a cream-coloured background. The pattern of the spots changes as the eel ages. Juveniles under 25 cm in length have a single row of spots on the top of the body. Between 25 cm and 50 cm they have spots along the side with alternating spots on the top of the body. Over 50cm in length they have two or three rows of spots on the top of the body and several rows of smaller spots along the sides.
They have long downward protruding nostrils and the probable reason for this is their habit of burrowing in the sand and spending a large amount of time with just the head sticking out. The nostrils then align horizontally as can be seen in the image below. This gives them the ability to just stick their noses above the sand when threatened.
IN THE WILD
They are usually seen buried in the sand with just the head protruding from their burrow as can be seen in the image below which is of a different species of snake eel. They also have the ability to burrow under and through the sand. If a diver or any threat approaches too close to them they immediately retreat into the burrow.
They occur in marine tropical waters of the Indo-West Pacific. Transkei to Kenya across the Indo Pacific not including Hawaii and the Leeward Islands.
Ocellated snake eels spend most of their time in their burrows catching passing prey. They feed mainly on fish and crustaceans. Occasionally they will leave their burrows to catch prey which they swallow whole.
Very little seems known on their mating habits other than they are oviparous.
They are seldom encountered in the aquarium trade but are sometimes seen in public aquariums. They are reportedly easy to care for but are very good at escaping from tanks.
The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates
East and South Coasts of Southern Africa
Dennis King & Valda Fraser