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The green moray is actually brown! The yellow tint of the mucus that covers its body, in combination with a drab background color, gives the fish its namesake green color.
The moray eel is considered a "true" eel, classified in the order Anguilliformes. Like other true eels, the moray's dorsal fin begins just behind its head, extends along the length of its body and is fused with the caudal (tail) and anal fins. The moray eel also lacks both pelvic and pectoral fins.
The moray's muscular, scaleless body is laterally compressed (flattened side to side), and this eel is often feared and mistaken for a sea serpent.
Part of their vicious reputation may come from the fact that they habitually open and close their mouths, which shows off their sharp teeth. Although this behavior may appear threatening, the eel is actually taking in water to breathe. The water passes over the gills and exits through vent-like openings at the back of the head.
A Note from the Caretaker
During the daytime, green morays are sedentary or sit-and-wait predators. At night, they are more active, hunting through the reef for their meal.
Learn more about the green moray eel! Did you know that green moray eels are often feared and mistaken for sea serpents?
The green moray is found in the western Atlantic Ocean, from New Jersey to Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico southward to Brazil.
This solitary animal hides among cracks and crevices, along rocky shorelines and in coral reefs.
The green moray feeds mostly at night on fishes, crabs, shrimp, octopuses and squid.
This species is one of the largest morays, with a maximum recorded length of 8 feet and weight of 65 pounds.
The green moray is common throughout much of its range.
Large green morays have few natural predators.
Meet the Expert Jack Cover
As the National Aquarium's general curator, Jack Cover ensures that all animals in our care thrive in healthy, beautiful habitats.