GOT Larval Fish: Redfin Needlefish Larvae Hatch

Fish in the GOT are frequently observed spawning, or laying eggs, and we have been hard at work trying to collect some of these eggs in the hopes of hatching them out. These baby fish, or larval fish, can then be raised up in special tanks to hopefully one day make their way back into the GOT as adults.

Redfin needlefish | Photo: Floret's Guide

Redfin needlefish (Strongylura notata) eggs were collected from the GOT and placed into a special fish egg hatchery. The hatchery blows water over the eggs simulating ocean currents and making sure they receive adequate oxygen.

This is a redfin needlefish egg. The numerous hairs help the eggs attach to floating sea weed in the wild
After the first week the fish embryos started to take shape within the developing egg
The clear sphere attached to the fish's belly is the remaining yolk from their egg. The larval fish are unable to feed for a few days after hatching and must gain nutrients from this yolk
Pigment develops in the fish's eyes a few days after hatching
By the end of the second week twelve larval fish had hatched out of their eggs

In the wild fish lay thousands upon thousands of eggs and only a small handful survive to become adults. With only twelve larval fish we may not have any that reach adulthood. But the lessons we learn now will help us become more successful in the future when working with this species.

Ripples, fish and corals at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank

These larval fish are behind the scenes, and it likely will be a long time before you would see them on exhibit. But you can look for the adult needlefish at the top of of the Giant Ocean Tank. They can dart around just below the surface, racing for a morsel of food or to scoot out of the way of hulking sea turtle surfacing for a breath. Plan your visit to the Aquarium this summer and get to know these fish and dozens of other species in this 200,000-gallon Caribbean reef exhibit!


Meet the snake eel

Snake eels share an Order (Anguilliformes) but are in a separate Family (Ophichthidae) than morays (Muraenidae). They are named so because of their strong resemblance to snakes, and you may know a diver that claimed to have seen a sea snake while diving in Florida or the Bahamas. Sea snakes do not inhabit these waters. They likely saw a snake eel!

Of the 300 or so species of snake eels, five are represented in Caribbean waters. Meet 1 of them: the goldspotted eel, a new addition to our Giant Ocean Tank.

Distinguishing the goldspotted eel from other snake eels is easy.  Look for the bright gold spots with black borders around them.  In comparison, the sharptail eel - a past GOT denizen - has gold spots but no border.

Goldspotted eels can grow to almost 3 1/2 feet in length, though 1-2 1/2 feet is more common.  Ours is a little longer than 2 feet presently.

Goldspotted eels - like morays - are nocturnal and feed mainly on crabs.  This guy hasn't eaten yet (as far as we know) but is being offered shrimp and clam tongue pieces daily.  In fact, every day during the 10:00 dive, we seek out all of our eels (6 morays, 1 snake eel) to offer seafood to each one.  Typically, only 1 or 2 eels will eat per day.  If you are at the Aquarium, look for a diver with a yellow stick (safety first!) and a blue catch bag.

The best spot to possibly catch a glimpse of our goldspotted eel, is at the top of the reef, in the center... though no guarantees - he likely will move around a lot!


Now don't you want to see this cool animal? Get in the door quicker. Buy your tickets online and print them out at home.