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  • Zitteraal im Zoo Zürich.

    Electric eel

    Electrophorus electricus

    Despite its eel-like appearance, the electric eel is not an eel but a knife fish. Because the electric eel is largely blind, it orientates itself in space by means of weak electric currents. The reflection of these electric currents shows the electric eel if there are obstacles or prey about. Violent surges of up to 500 volts are capable of killing fish and other living creatures. These are produced using three pairs of muscles which have developed into organs for the generation of electrical energy and which take up a large part of the eel’s body. The total of up to 6,000 electric cells (electrocytes) reach the amperage of 0.83 ampere with the power output of 415 watts, occasionally up to 1 ampere and 600 watts. Electric eels can give off violent electric shocks continuously or occasionally for an hour without getting very tired.

    Closest relatives New World knifefish, knifeeels (33 species)
    Habitat muddy and oxygen-starved lakes and rivers
    Behaviour nocturnal, solitary, kills or paralyzes prey with electric shocks
    Diet Fish, small mammals, worms, crabs, insect larvae
    Body length Males up to 2.5 m, females smaller
    Weight up to 20 kg
    Spawn Male builds a nest of mucus, in which the female lays the eggs, male guards the nest, up to 3,000 young animals
    Breeding period unknown
    Life expectancy 15 to 22 years
    Use for scientific study, rarely fishing
    Current status common, stable
    At Zurich Zoo since 1954

    geographic range

    Verbreitungskarte Zitteraal

    How much electricity does an electric eel produce?

    Current:0.83 ampere

    Power output:415 watt

    Voltage:600 volt

    This power could be used to light a Christmas tree for a short time. However, this would be more of a flashing rather than a continuous light.

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    IUCN RedList