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

The Spotted Garden Eel can be recognised by its colouration.  Individuals live in sandy burrows near coral reefs.

Standard Common Name

Spotted Garden Eel


The Spotted Garden Eel has a white body covered in small black spots. There are three prominent black patches located on the body. One surrounds the gill opening and pectoral fin, the second is half way along the body and the third surrounds the anus. Juveniles are entirely black.

Size range

The species grows to 60 cm in length.


The Spotted Garden Eel occurs in tropical marine waters of the Indo-Pacific region, from East Africa, north to Japan, south to New Caledonia and east to the Pitcairn Islands. In Australia it is known from the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.  Source: Atlas of Living Australia.

Heteroconger hassi

Distribution by collection data

Ozcam map of Spotted Garden Eel specimens in the Australian Museums.

What does this mean?


It is usually seen on sandy bottoms near coral reefs at depths of 15 m to 45 m.

This fish lives in sandy burrows, which they construct. When feeding, the Spotted Garden Eel rises out of its burrow, exposing up to two-thirds of its body. It feeds on zooplankton taken from the passing current.

Other behaviours and adaptations

When disturbed the Spotted Garden Eel retreats backwards into its burrow.

Mating and reproduction

Spotted Garden Eels stay in their burrows when spawning. Potential mates stretch over from adjacent burrows and entwine bodies.

Economic/social impacts

The species was not discovered until SCUBA diving became popular. Since then colonies of hundreds or thousands of individuals have been reported.



What does this mean?


  1. Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 220.
  2. Castle, P.H.J. & J.E. Randall. 1999. Revision of Indo-Pacific garden eels (Congridae: Heterocongrinae), with descriptions of five new species. Indo-Pacific Fishes No. 30: 1-52, Pls. I-III.
  3. Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & R.C. Steene. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press. Pp. 415.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, Spotted Garden Eel, Heteroconger hassi, Congridae, eel, white body, dots/spots, black spots, 30 cm - 1 m, tropical water, marine, Great Barrier Reef, coral reef, shallow water,