Spotted Garden Eel, Heteroconger hassi (Klausewitz & Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1959)

Other Names: Spotted Garden-eel

A Spotted Garden Eel, Heteroconger hassi, at Balicasag, Philippines, May 2017. Source: zsispeo / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


A pale garden eel covered in small irregular black spots & lines, and three prominent black blotches or spots along body - one around gill opening and pectoral fin, the second midway along body, the last surrounding the anus. Juveniles are entirely black.

Spotted Garden Eels at Balicasag Island in the Philippines.

Video of Spotted Gardens Eels and Splendid Garden Eels in the Enoshima Aquarium, Japan.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Heteroconger hassi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Spotted Garden Eel, Heteroconger hassi (Klausewitz & Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1959)

More Info


Recorded in Australian waters from the territory of Cartier Island, Western Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef, Cape York - from Tijou Reef  to Escape Reef, Queensland; also in the Coral Sea. 
Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific - from East Africa, north to Japan, south to New Caledonia and eastwards to the Pitcairn Islands. 

Large colonies inhabit coral reefs where individuals construct burrows in sandy and coral rubble areas. Depth range 7-45 m.


Reaches a maximum length of 60 cm TL.


Garden Eels rise partially from their burrows and face into the current to feed on drifting zooplankton. When divers approach, they retreat backwards into their burrows.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Although they never fully leave their burrows, potential mates from adjacent burrows reach across to entwine their bodies during spawning. The eggs and leptocephalus larvae are pelagic.


A popular species that is traded in the aquarium industry.

Species Citation

Xarifania hassi Klausewitz & Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1959, Senckenberg. Biolog. 40(3–4): 138, figs 6, 8, 15, 16.Type locality: Addu Atoll, between Gan Island and Fedu Island, Maldive Islands.


Dianne J. Bray

Spotted Garden Eel, Heteroconger hassi (Klausewitz & Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1959)


Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21.

Allen, G.R. & Steene, R.C. 1987. Reef fishes of the Indian Ocean. Book 10. Pacific Marine Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 240 p.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Castle, P.H.J. 1997. Garden eel leptocephali: characters, generic identification, distribution, and relationships. Bulletin of Marine Science University 60(1): 6-22

Castle, P.H.J. & Randall, J.E. 1999. Revision of Indo-Pacific garden eels (Congridae: Heterocongrinae), with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes 30: 1-52 pls I-III

Fricke, R., Kulbicki, M. & Wantiez, L. 2011. Checklist of the fishes of New Caledonia, and their distribution in the Southwest Pacific Ocean (Pisces). Stuttgarter Beiträge zur Naturkunde. Serie A (Biologie) Neue Serie 4: 341-463

Hoese, D. F. & Gates, J. E. 2006. Congridae. pp. 287-297 in Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50

Klausewitz, W. & Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I. 1959. Neue Röhrenaale von den Maldiven und Nikobaren (Pisces, Apodes, Heterocongridae). Senckenbergiana Biologica 40(3–4): 135-153 figs 1-17

Miller, J.M. & Tsukamoto, K. 2004. An introduction to leptocephali biology and identification. Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo. 96 pp.

Paxton, J.R., Hoese, D.F., Allen, G.R. & Hanley, J.E. (eds) 1989. Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Pisces: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service Vol. 7 665 pp.

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 720 p.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Smith, D.G. 1999. Families Colocongridae, Derichthyidae, Muraenesocidae, Nemichtyhyidae, Congridae, Nettastomatidae, Serrivomeridae, Cyematidae, Saccopharyngidae, Eurypharyngidae, Monognathidae. pp. 1670-1697 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 3 1397-2068 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37067017

Depth:7-45 m

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated - in burrows

Max Size:60 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map