What do they look like?

Sandeels are long and slender like an eel.

Lesser Sandeels (Ammodytes tobianus) and Raitt’s Sandeels (A. marinus) have a pointed jaw, and the lower jaw is longer than the upper. They are silver in colour with a yellowish, grey-green back and a small, forked tail fin.

Greater Sandeels (Hyperoplus lanceolatus) are larger (up to double the size) and are silver in colour with a darker blue-green back.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

From April to September, they will be found shoaling in shallow coastal waters around the whole of the UK. Lesser and Raitt's Sandeels prefer inshore waters around estuaries, sheltered beaches and harbours and are unlikely to be seen in water deeper than 20 meters.

Greater Sandeels also like sandy, clean seafloors but can be found much deeper, down to 150 metres.

Fun Fact
Sand eels are not actually eels! However, true to the other half of their moniker, they will bury themselves under sand. They may do this to escape predators or to remain undetected when they aren’t eating. They also hibernate and will stop feeding in June or July (or October for young sand eels), burying themselves to depths of 20 – 30cm!

(20cm) ; (35cm)
Length (Lesser) ; (Greater)
Up to 10 years
Average Lifespan
Priority Species
Conservation Status

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A sandeel sticks its silvery head out of fine sand, where it has buried itself
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