Well, WHAT DO YOU KNOW!... he started getting ancy with everybody rushing by him... a few fish and guppies even hit him in on head as they swam by... so the BR grabs one of the guppies very lightly, and looks around almost seeming to see if he is doing the right thing, and then drags the guppy slowly into the pipe!
He came out a minute later (guppy gone), seeming a bit more excited. He did not eat any more, but I had at last seen the impossible with my own eyes. The next day, I confined my "frenzy" feeding to just guppies, and again dumped 30 in and used the grabber tool to chase them and guide them to the BR (and pretend the grabber was an eel too). Wow! He grabs another and drags it in. So I sit back now and watch the other 29 guppies swim right by his head. But now he just looks at them. So I stick the grabber tool back in and chase them around some more, and AGAIN he grabs one!
Huge realization: The BR is possibly in a dream state (after being caught by whatever method from the ocean)... and only the instict of "beating others out for the food" wakes him up enough to realize that there is food in front of him. I then also realized that it was not the quantity of guppies I put in that mattered, or even how many swam by his head. It was IF THE GUPPIES WERE BEING CHASED BY ANOTHER EEL (the eel-looking grabber tool). So, I reduced my guppy feeding to just 4 or 5, and just chased them near the eel with the grabber a few times a day. BAM! He would eat one usually once a day, athough a few times he at four or five.
Now the BR was starting to associate the grabber tool with "another eel", and as soon as he saw the grabber coming in, he would start coming out of the pipe to meet it. Then, my tank-maintenance man Bill Purcella (email@example.com) at Coral Reef Creations came up with the idea of grabbing a guppy by the tail (using the grabber tool) and feeding it to the eel. Well we tried it, and the eel came up to the grabber like normal and SNAP!... got the guppy and draged him into the pipe. Wow! So now it started to be a routine... feed a guppy with the grabber, and if the guppy gets away, chase him around so he'll swim by the eel's head.
Then I got cocky and would try to feed the eel before feeding anyone else (instead of after, like I had learned to do), and he became non-interested. So I'd remove the guppy from the grabber (so now the grabber arms would be open like the BR's mouth), and play with the eel a bit. This got him excited, and then I'd put the guppy back on, and POP! This started to work every time. The trick really seemed to be to get the BR excited first by using a grabber with open-pinchers so that it looked like another BR eel. Then put the guppy on the grabber and feed him.
Then the first setback occured. He stopped eating, no matter what I did. I played with him, fed everthing, and still nothing. This went on for a WHOLE WEEK. Then, for no reason, he began eating again. Incredible.
Well now the BR was starting to get his bright yellow and blue colors back. He also had gotten a somewhat "dirty" face, which I think might be from rubbing the algea in the pipe. I also by this time had noticed that not once, not ever, did he eat while he was out of the pipe. I have 100 pounds of LR, and three inches of sand, but he never uses them; it's the pipe or nothing. This means that when the pumps (water flow) are off and he comes out and swims around, he never eats. He ONLY would eat when in the pipe (with his head sticking out maybe three inches.) Matter of fact, when he swims around he has that same dream-state appearance that he had in the sump. He notices NO FOOD when swiming around. This might explain why LFS's, as well as everybody online, could not get their BR to eat... they keep/kept them in clear, open tanks with bright light. My BR would never eat in one of those tanks, even if it had a few rocks or a small pipe in it for hiding. My BR only eats when his whole 3-foot body is covered by the pipe. And when he grabs the food outside the pipe, he STILL drags it inside the pipe to eat it.
I began to notice that he had less interest in tiny guppies (half inch), and more interest in big ones. So I tried some live goldfish... 3/4, 1, and even 1 1/2 inch. BAM!... he really went for these. This seemed to increase his whole desire for food. He came at the grabber faster now, and when it had a goldfish, he would go right at it. So I switched from guppies to goldfish. He's eaten as many as two a day, but I try to limit him to one. The fish are so big that he's got a lump in his body for quite a few hours... like a snake. But the bigger the goldfish are, the more he likes them. He once also swallowed a ghost shrimp, but never tried one again.
Then another non-eating week actually happend two more times, a few months later, but each time he'd just start back on his own again. I now realize what caused it... he ate one of my regular fish (a 4-inch long blue gudgeon goby). I'd seen the BR try to grab them before, but they always got away. I guess he got one. It filled him up for a week. Then he did it again. I have one of those gobies left, and he stays very far away.
Next minor setback... I watched as the snowflake eel grabbed the BR on the head, and tried to pull him out of the pipe. So the snowflake got donated to the nearest LFS right away.
Six months later, the BR has great energy, actively chasing and poking at everything in the tank that moves and doesn't move. He coils up like a python more, as he sticks out of the pipe. He's even done a few 360's, where he rotates himself upside down and back upright. He's fascinated with the lookdown fish (shiny-ness?), and the one remaining blue gudgeon (dinner?). He now goes absolutely crazy when the pumps are off... he shoots around every part of the tank, weaves in and out of the coral, twists around things, and all the time racing through the water with his mouth wide open (NEVER eating while doing this, however). He now even comes out of the pipes for short periods when the pumps are on, or the lights are off.
Update: A few months later, I'm almost through converting the BR from live to frozen. I started by realizing how he would only eat the live goldfish if I wiggled it a bit (or if it was wiggling itself, of course). So I tried a dead one, and wiggled it a bit, and it worked. Then I tried some frozen silversides (with the big ones cut in half), and he would sometimes take one, but sometimes not. Seems he likes bright red fish much better. The silversides, when they are eaten, seem to fill up the BR for a few days, whereas a goldfish only fills him up for a day or less. Nevertheless, I want to convert him to all frozen, so what I'm doing is getting live goldfish and freezing them, and then feeding him one of those one day, and a silversides the next.
Update: He is now totally converted to frozen silversides. The silversides are sometimes too big (2 inches), so I'll cut those in half and just feed one per day. He still has days that he does not eat, but he's back on track the next day. I've noticed that he's always more hungry in the evening, instead of the morning when the lights first come on. And he finally caught the last blue gudgeon and dragged him into the pipe, but the fish got away and hid again in the rocks. The eel's nose is now totally dark... it completely lost the yellow it came with. It can't be because of the algae in the tube, because the rest of his yellow stripe is bright as can be, and it rubs the tube too. Lastly, I also have thought a bit about the sump; it may be possible that the constant vibrations from the pump helped to "wake up" the eel into the real world.
So in closing, here are my recommendations:
1. Have a 2-inch thick pipe, at least three feet long. Curved ok.
2. Have lots of other fish
3. Wait until the eel is IN the pipe.
4. Play with the eel with an eel-looking grabber tool (pinchers are open).
4. Feed the other fish first, then try feeding the eel a goldfish from the grabber.
5. Put some goldfish in the water and chase them with the grabber (pinchers open).
I hope this help some of you. I would like to see other successes.