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Southern Company River Scout

Electric eel

Electric eel

(Electrophorus electricus)

The electric eel is a South American freshwater fish found mainly in the Amazon River basin. It prefers to live in murky to dark shaded streams and creeks. This eel has a long cylindrical, scaleless body that is olive to black in color. It can reach about 8 feet in length.

The electric charge is produced by special organs along the sides of its body. The electric discharge can exceed 500 volts and is used against predators and to subdue its prey. Longer fish produce a stronger discharge. Therefore, older electric eels can consume larger prey.

Look for the electric eel lurking in its habitat in the River Scout gallery.

Fun Facts

  • Its electric charges are also used for communication and navigation.
  • The electric eel has poor eyesight and to compensate for this, it creates an electric field around its body, allowing it to sense the presence of other fish.
  • This species is nocturnal and it feeds on small fish and amphibians.
  • The electric eel is an obligate air-breathing fish, meaning it must surface to gulp air every few minutes or it will suffocate.
  • The oxygen in the air that it takes in is absorbed through vascular folds in its mouth.
  • Download full fact sheet

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