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Gymnophiona: Caecilians For the discussion of Caecilians (also known as "Eels").



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Old 31st July 2015   #1
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Default New T. natans caresheet (need feedback)

some months ago I decided to compile a caresheet for this specie since I found a paper with information I couldn't find in any other caresheet. Only today I decided to finish it and post it here.
I need to say that I don't own any of these animals, so any feedback of someone who has them or anyone who has different references with information to add would be appreciated.

If someone could also double check the information here with the references that would be great too.

Caresheet of Typhlonectes natans
Compiled by Andr Limede


Gymnophiona is probably the least studied order of tetrapods (Superclass Tetrapoda), due to the secretive nature of these creatures in conjunction with their apparent disinteresting appearance. However these creatures have distinct features, not found on other groups. All species of caecilians have a chemo-sensorial organ, known as tentacle that incorporates elements of the eye and the vomeronasal organ. This sense can be described as a hybrid between vision and olfaction; scientists aren’t yet sure how these systems work together, in part because caecilians are almost blind (skin covered eyes), but it aids the caecilian forage for food. Caecilians are the only order of amphibians that have internal fertilization, being the male equipped with an organ, called phallodeum.
T. natans, it’s one of the most well studied species of caecilians, in part due to their full aquatic lifestyle, which makes them easier to be identified and caught. As a result, this is also the most common specie of caecilian in the pet trade (however, this doesn’t imply that this specie is readily available or is easy to find). Currently, T. natans has a status of LC (Least Concern) given by the IUCN back in 2004; this means that the wild population of this specie is stable or that there aren’t any apparent threats that may cause the decline of the population in the near future.


Adult size: 40-60cm (16-23’’) The females are larger than males.

Diameter: 3cm (1,2’’) Pregnant females may reach 6cm (2,4’’)

Life span: 10+ years

Distribution: Colombia, on the Cauca and Magdalena rivers; and in Venezuela in the Lake Maracaibo Basin

Diet: Dead invertebrates, thawed fish (saltwater fish preferably, to avoid cross contamination; however, it shouldn’t be offered regularly, since it has been linked to hypovitaminosis B), crustaceans, mollusks, beef heart, amphibian pellets and bloodworms.

Toxicity: There is good evidence that this specie has at least some degree of toxicity; however they can be housed with other fish, with no repercussions. Some authors suggest that for the toxin to be released into the water, the animal needs to be agitated (e.g.: being agitated by a fish trying to eat it).

Sexual dimorphism: Diameter of the cloacal disc of the males is larger while it has a more elongated and slit appearance on females.

Suitable temperature range: 27-30C (80-86F); as low as 23C (74F) it's also endured, but keep in mind that these animals are tropical.

pH: 6-7 Even though people suspect that this parameter doesn’t need to be precise. These were the values obtained in measurements made in their natural habitat.

dGH: 3,9-5,9 (<8,4 may cause skin lesions)


Since this specie can reach a reasonable size, the least recommended volume it's of 60L (16 gallons US) per individual.
In nature, they were found associated with flowing water, and the river bed is usually composed of big boulders, gravel and sand. Apparently, this specie also likes to hang out in roots of floating plants. Your tank should also have several hiding spots.
Taking these facts into consideration, your tank could have sand as substrate (T. natans may burrow occasionally), with large boulders stacked in a way to create various crevices. Pottery, PVC pipes and driftwood can also be used as additional hiding spots. In one tank end, you could use a water pump to make the water flow (don’t place it near the surface), and in the other end you can have a cluster of floating plants, if the tank is big enough, the water flow of the pump shouldn't affect the floating plants too much.
Some author’s advice the use of a floating platform, it might not get much use, but just in case, your tank should have one as well. A heater guard should also be used, since caecilians might wrap around it, and possibly get burned. Alternatively you can make your own in line heater, like this video explains:

In addition to what the video mentions, I would recommend the use of some type of fine mesh in your in line heater, so that you can be sure that any sneaky caecilian won’t get in. This is a very efficient way of heating your tank.
The use of a powerful external filter is essential since caecilians are messy feeders and shed quite frequently. The recommended filter it’s one that filters at least 3 times the volume of your tank in an hour.
Plants that have been found in the habitats of this specie consist of:
-Pistia stratiotes
-Eichornia sp.
-Colocasia spp. (Potentially toxic)

Fish species that have been found in the habitats of this specie consist in:
-Caquetaia kraussii
-Hoplias malabaricus (Predator)
-Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma (Possibly)
-Hyphessobrycon columbianus (Possibly)
-Poecilia caucana
-Pimelodus blochii

If you pretend to keep any fish species alongside your caecilians, add the fishes a few months after the caecilians, or after the caecilians are used to the food you are giving them, so they don’t associate the fishes as food.
Caecilians are well known for being extremely capable of escaping tanks, so you shouldn't overlook this fact, and a secure and heavy lid should be provided. The air inside the tank shouldn't have any currents, and should be warmer than the water itself; as some authors say this will prevent health issues related to respiratory functions.


These animals need a environmental trigger to start breeding. In nature, this occurs when the dry season starts and the basins where these animals live, shrink to shallow pools (September to October). Due to this fact, a good strategy to trigger reproduction in captivity it's to lower the water level of the tank, lower the pH below 5 and to rise the organic content of the water, especially nitrates (this last point can be accomplished by delaying water changes).
When this setup is established the animals are expected to breed soon after. The copulation may last some hours and at some point it might even appear that the animals have drowned. The animals might copulate more than once in period of time of approximately one week.
After the animals have finished copulating the tanks conditions were restored back to normal. Since these animals are viviparous, the females are expected to give birth to live young between 10 and 11 months after the copulation period finished, litters of 6 aren't uncommon and rarely 11 young will be delivered. The babies measure between 10 and 15cm (4-6'') and are born with external gills that are discarded some days after the delivery.
Since these animals are smaller and weaker, it is recommended to either change them to a aquarium with lower water level or to lower the water level of the main tank, making it easier for them to get air from the surface. Animals will reach sexual maturity when they are 5 to 6 years old.
Due to the long pregnancy it is recommended to let the female rest at least one year after giving birth, before she copulates again; not doing so might put the animals health at risk. In contrast males might be able to reproduce annually.


Parkinson, R.W., 2004. Caecillian care and breeding. Herpetological Bulletin, (March).
Pasmans, F., Janssen, H. & Sparreboom, M., 2014. Salamanders, keeping and breeding
Tapley, B., 2009. WAZA Husbandry Guidelines for aquatic typhlonectid caecilians ( Typhlonectes sp .). Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, pp.1–18.
Tapley, B. & Acosta-Galvis, A.R., 2010. Distribution of T. natans in Colombia, environmental parameters and implications for captive husbandry. Herpetological Bulletin, 39(113), pp.33–39.

PDF version of these documents can be downloaded here:

A PDF version of this caresheet can be downloaded here:Caresheet of Typhlonectes natans

Last edited by Otterwoman; 25th August 2015 at 11:46. Reason: author's request
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