Fear2fascination: Freshwater Eels

Freshwater Eels

Myth: Large freshwater eels will bite, entangle, and drag humans underwater; causing fear amongst the local people.


Truth:  These remarkable fish (yes, they are fish) are not only relatively harmless, but are often considered a part of the family in many parts of the world.

Many cultures throughout the world believe freshwater eels are ancient gifts from the gods. Many families will keep eels in their backyard ponds and hand feed the slimy captives daily. 




  • Freshwater eels belong to the genus Anguillidae. There are 15 species in the world; however, another species in the Philippines may be added to the list soon. 


  • The largest of the freshwater eels is endemic to New Zealand.  The longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii)- known as tuna by the Maori culture- can reach over 7 feet (2 meters) and live to be close to 100 years old. 


  • Freshwater eels are known as catadromous, meaning they spend majority of their life in freshwater but migrate to the sea to spawn and die.

  • Some species of eels travel up to 4,000 miles to breed (only once, at the end of their life). Adults will not develop their reproductive organs until their ocean journey begins.  This journey can take the eel over seven months to finish.


  • The newly hatched larvae may take 7-9 months to float back to the coast and make its way to its new freshwater home.  


  • Eel is a delicacy in many cultures. The eel must must be cooked thoroughly because its blood is toxic.


  • Eels begin life as a flat, transparent larvae. Eel larvae drift in the surface waters of the sea feeding on dissolved nutrients. Eel larvae change into glass eels and again into elvers before finally becoming an adult.


  • Some freshwater eels do not mature until they are in their 50's.


  • The electric eel is a South American freshwater fish (not a true eel) found mainly in the basin. The electric charge is produced by special organs along the sides of the eel’s body.


  • Where freshwater eels breed is still an unknown mystery to scientists.  



Do you know any AMAZING eel facts? Share them below!