Muray Eels – 4 species

  • Giant Moray
  • Snowflake Moray
  • Fimbriated Moray
  • Laced Moray

Moray eels are characterized by their long bodies and continuous dorsal and pectoral fins. They do not have scales, but rather a thick skin. Their jaws are wide and their snouts prominent.They secrete a mucus layer that facilitates their movement through sharp-edged corals and rocks. They also possess a second set of jaws in their throat called pharyngeal jaws, which also has teeth. When hunting, morays launch these jaws into the mouth to grasp their prey and carry it into the throat and digestive system. They are the only animal on earth that use pharyngeal jaws to actively capture and restrain prey.

They hunt at night and spend day time in crevices and caves. Morays are highly territorial and defend fiercely their habitats against invaders. They have poor vision; they mostly rely on their highly developed sense of smell, lying in waiting to ambush prey.

Moray eels often live in association with cleaner shrimps or cleaner wrasses with which they have a beneficial relationship. Cleaners benefit from the morays protection and eat their food remains, in return they clean and deworm the moray eel.
Four species of moray eels can be found around Phuket.

Giant Moray

Giant Moray leaving its cavity to hunt

Giant Moray leaving its cavity to hunt

As the name suggests, this is the largest moray species in the world. It can reach up to 3 m (9.8 ft) in length and 30 kg (66 lb) in weight. Its body has a brownish background color. Juveniles have a dark skin dotted with large black spots. Adults have clearer skin with leopard-like spots behind the head. This moray has also an impressive fang-like dentition.

Giant morays are often seen around Similan islands from 1 m to 50 m (165 ft) deep. They are carnivorous and eat fish, crabs, shrimps, octopuses and even other species of eel. Adults have no predators and are at the top of the food chain.

They can travel up to 6500 km (4000 miles) in seven months to breed. During this migration, eels apparently do not eat and rely on their body fat and muscle tissue to consume nutrients. Morays are hermaphrodite; they are born males and change to become females later. Adults die after breeding.

On hatching, eggs take the form of larvaes that float in the open ocean for around 8 month. Then they swim down on the reef and become a moray eel after three years. Adults can live between 6 and 36 years in the wild.

Surprising fact : the Giant moray is involved in cooperative hunting with another reef-associated fish: the Roving Coralgrouper. The invitation to hunt is initiated by head-shaking. Moray eels are able to access narrow crevices and flush prey from niches, making it a valuable hunting companion for the groupers. This is the only known case of interspecies cooperative hunting among fish.

Snowflake Moray

Moray eels Snowflake


The snowflake moray, also called clouded moray can reach 100 cm (39 in) in length, but its common size is between 50 and 70 cm (19 to 27 in). Its body has a white color background with rows of black and yellow spots. Nostrils are tube shaped and yellow.

This species usually inhabits rock cavities, coral reefs and sometimes on sandy floors covered with algae. When capturing octopus, they sometimes use a remarkable technique to extract tentacles: they form a knot near their tail and trace to their head to snatch the immobilized tentacle.


Fimbriated Moray

Fimbriated Moray

Fimbriated Moray

They occur in outer slopes of coral reefs, in lagoons or small caves hiding behind dead corals. They are carnivorous and feed on small fish and crustaceans.

Laced Moray

Laced Moray living in a wreck

Laced Moray living in a wreck

The laced moray also known as leopard moray or honeycomb moray is large and may reach a maximum length of 300 cm (9.8 in) even though most specimens are much smaller.

Its body is white color spotted with numerous black spots. These spots vary in size depending on the environment in which the animal actually live. Specimens living in clear waters have fewer black spots than those living in turbid environments.



If you want to see these strange and fascinating sea creatures in their natural habitat by your own eyes, you can book your diving trip with SSS Phuket. Our team will make sure you come back home with unforgettable memories.

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