Fish Profiles Electric Eel

The electric eel is an electric fish and the only species in the genus Electrophorus. The electric eel is capable of creating an electric shock, which is very powerful. The electric eel is a predator that has no predators itself and it is native to South American waters. Despite the name eel, the electric eel is not an eel at all, but is actually considered a knifefish.

Electric eels can be found living in the fresh waters of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, amongst the basin throughout South America, in the river floodplains, swamps, creeks and coastal plains. They can also be found living and thriving along the muddy bottoms of calm and even stagnant waters. Electric eels mainly feed on invertebrates, although the larger adult’s eels have been known to consume small fish and even mammals. Newly hatched eel’s will even eat the eggs and embryos from later batches of eggs. The electric eel is also very well known for its unique breeding habits. Making a nest from its saliva, the male eel creates a shelter for the female to lay her some 17,000 eggs in and this is done during the dry season.

The electric eel has a very long body, cylindrical is shape and can be found growing in lengths that reach six feet and they can weigh as much as forty five pounds. The colors of the electric eel are most commonly dark grey- brown on the top of the body with either orange or yellow on the belly. An adult male electric eel’s under belly color is much darker than that of a female and neither have scales. These fish are classified as obligate air- breathers and will surface to the top of the water every ten minutes, where they breathe in large breaths of air before returning to the murky water bottom. Nearly all of the electric eels air intake is done in this fashion.

There are three sets of abdominal organ pairs in the electric eel that produce electricity: the main organ, the hunter’s organ and the sachs organ. All these organs combined make up four fifths of the electric eel’s body and are what allows the fish to discharge two forms of electricity, low voltage and high voltage discharges. The electrical pulse is generated in a similar way as a battery. In an electric eel stacked plates, approximately 5000 to 6000 plates, called electroplaques are all stacked on top of one another, and are capable of producing an electric shock of about 500 volts. This amount of a shock is so dangerous that it is deadly even to humans.