Commonly found in the waters of South America; Electric Eels are world-famous for their incredible ability to generate electric shock to fend off or even kill both predators and its preys. They can generate up to 860 V for 2 milliseconds, comparable to a stun gun; capable of causing brief but painful numbing shock, even in larger animals; including humans. This characteristic made them one of the most interesting animals in the planet and amazing creations of nature; which eventually made them a favorite among Electric eel aquarists and enthusiasts.
Electric Eels are Actually Fish
Despite their elongated body that gives them a serpentine appearance, electric eels more fish than eels. Their scientific name is Electrophorus electricus, and they belong with the classification closer to catfish and carp.
Electric Eels are big; they can grow for as much as 2.5 meters and weigh 44 lbs. Despite of being categorized as fish, electric eels need to resurface to breathe air for every 10 minutes; this is mainly because of their complex circulatory system.
Their body is long and cylindrical body, with flattened head and usually grayish or dark green in color; with yellow color underneath.
This animal dwells in muddy and murky; but calm water in ponds and streams of the Amazon and the Orinoco basics in South America. They prefer coastal plains, creeks, swamps, and floodplains. These eels tend to live in stagnant river arms and bottom of muddy waters. They spend most of their time hunting for food.
Eels prey on fish and small animals, such as amphibians, smaller birds, and even small mammals. Their eyesight is poor; but they can use their electric ability as radar; and emit low-level charge (lower than 10V) to navigate underwater and locate their prey.
Incredible Electric Ability
They carry inside their body (in their abdomen) electric organs with around 6000 electrolytes; the specialized cells responsible for their ability to store power like batteries. These organs take up about 80% of their whole body; with the remaining 20% holding vital organs they need to survive. When agitated and feeling threatened, or when attacking their prey; they discharge the cells emitting a burst of electric shock of around five times the power of a traditional U.S. wall socket.
Unique Breeding Behavior
This animal has quite a unique breeding behavior; during the dry season, the males use their saliva to make a nest; where the female electric eel can lay her eggs. One nest can hold and hatch as much as 17,000 baby electric eels. Young electric eels feed on smaller invertebrates along the river bed. First-born young eels however; are known to eat up the eggs laid shortly after them.
Electric Eels as Pets
If you’re planning to get one as pet; then it is best to have a fish tank that will limit them from growing to their full adult size. You can talk to an exotic breeder or research about the specie of your choice. Generally, a tank of no more than 20 gallons per eel is recommended to slow the animal’s growth cycle.
The water should also be kept at around 70˚ F to lessen the strength of their electric shock. Be very careful in handling this animal, use rubber gloves for direct contact.
Electric Eel Fact
Though their electric shock is likened to a stun gun, human deaths from electric shock caused by Electric eels are quite rare. Multiple shocks however, can cause heart failure or respiratory problem to humans, causing many to drown in shallow water after being electrocuted by this animal.