Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Electrophorus electricus

Electric eel

Electric eel, Electrophorus electricusElectric eel, Electrophorus electricus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Electrophorus: Greek, elektron = amber + Greek, pherein = to carry

General Notes:

At 2 metres and weighing in at 20kg electric eels are simply to big for almost everyone to consider keeping at home. The minimum sized aquaria / indoor pond needed would be double the fish's length wide and six times the fish's length long!!! A large specimen would also be extremely dangerous as it would be able to produce an electric shock of approximately 600 volts. Electric eels are able to live in oxygen deficient water due to their ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen. Their gills are unable to support all their oxygen needs even in well oxygenated water and so electric eels are obligate air breathers and so they must have easy access to the surface or they will drown.

The most obvious feature of interest with electric eels is their ability to produce electric shocks, the shocks from an adult eel are capable of causing a human fatality. The shocks come from two muscle like organs the Hunter's organ and Sach's organ. The Hunters organ produces high voltage shocks and Sach'organproduces low voltage shock These shocks are used to stun prey in order to easily over come them without risking injury and they are also used defensively to deter enemies.

Unless you can properly house an adult specimen there is little point in buying a small juvenile because it will grow quite rapidly and no one will want it or take it off your hands. Leave them in the wild or for public aquaria where its needs will be properly met.


Adults feed on invertebrates, fish and even small mammals which are stunned by electric shock before being consumed.


When adult male electric eels are much smaller than females.


Males build a nest made from saliva, the male then guards the nest which may contain up to 3,000 eggs or fry. Up to three separate and successive broods could be laid in a single nest. The fry from the first brood will prey on their younger siblings.

Wild status

Electric eels are common across their range and their population is stable. Some are collected for scientific study and some are taken for food. Neither of these collections has any effect on the wild population.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 7.5
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 23 - 28°C (74 - 82°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 200cm (80in)
Min tank size: N/A
Difficulty level: Do not keep
Aquarium type: N/A
Swimming level: Bottom

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Electric eel, Electrophorus electricus

Origin: South America: Amazon and Orinoco River basins, and related areas in northern South America.

Habitat: Occurs in coastal plains, swamps and creeks but is also found inland where a favorable biotope exist.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gymnotiformes
Family: Gymnotidae
Genus: Electrophorus
Species: E. electricus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Common name:
Electric eel

Synonyms: Gymnotus electricus, Gymnotus tremulus, Gymnotus regius, Electrophorus multivalvulus