Most aquariums fall into one of two categories: a lush freshwater aquascape with lots of vibrant green plants, or a tropical saltwater aquarium with beautiful coral and brightly-colored fish. It’s not surprising at all that these two aquascapes are the most popular because they’re so incredibly gorgeous, but some aquascaping fans prefer unorthodox forms of beauty.

Today we’re going to focus on a truly quirky underwater denizen: the garden eel. What makes these little fellas so weird? Take a look-see:

Garden eels are the type of creature that you either love or hate. Their serpentine appearance and odd behavior is enough to give some people the heebie-jeebies. The fact that they hide the lower halves of their bodies almost implies something sinister, like a snake lurking in the grass. Additionally, their vertical movements are just plain weird to horizontally-oriented creatures like you and me.

On the other side of the coin, though, there’s something undeniably endearing about garden eels. The fact that they hide in the sand shows that they’re timid, but they constantly poke their heads out and look around like overly-curious children. Their movements are pensive and adorable, kind of like a curious child who’s just been exposed to a new, slightly scary toy for the first time.

Spotted Garden Eel

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And on top of all that, garden eels are bizarrely alien. It just doesn’t look like these creatures fit anywhere on planet Earth. They’d be more suited in a science fiction movie or in a Dr. Seuss book. They just look weird.

For a few aquascapers out there, the delightfully weird personality of garden eels is perfect. These funky creatures can help you create a one-of-a-kind aquascape that’s sure to leave a lasting impression on anybody who lays eyes on it.

The thing that I love most about garden eels is that they can act as a replacement for aquatic plants. Saltwater aquariums rarely have plants, relying instead on neon-colored coral (which are actually colonies of animals) to give the scene a more organic feel. Garden eels can also replicate plants in their own special way. They’re “planted” into the soil, they sprout upwards like plant stems, and they poke their heads around like flowers swaying in the breeze.

Garden Eels

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Their simple lifestyle could be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it. These eels excrete a special mucous to cement the walls of their burrows, creating permanent underground homes. These eels won’t be terribly dynamic, so I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re trying to build a high-action aquarium. On the bright side, you’ll always know where to find your tiny eel buddies — they almost never leave their homes.

The other important thing to consider with a garden eel aquarium is that you need to have very deep gravel deposits. You can’t put in half an inch of gravel and expect your eels to live happily ever after. They can need up to a full foot of gravel, which leaves less room for aquascaping up top. Also, they tend to be finicky eaters, which means that they could be a handful if you’re new to aquascaping or if you don’t have a professional aquarium maintenance team.

Don’t let that scare you off. If these funny-looking eels make you smile, then start designing your very own custom garden eel aquascape!

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