The infamous electric ‘eel’
Mention electric fish, and most people will instantly think of the electric eel, Electrophorus electricus, from South America’s Amazon and Orinoco basins. Rather than being a true eel, it’s actually a species of knifefish. Much of the electric eel’s body is dedicated to generating electricity, and it has three pairs of distinct electric organs, used to produce either strong or weak discharges.
The Sachs’ organ and the posterior part of the Hunters’ organ (both in the tail) produce weak EODS of less than one volt, which are discharged frequently as a navigational and communication aid.
The main organ and the anterior part of the Hunters’ organ can produce a short burst of electricity up to 600V to stun or outright kill prey, or incapacitate predators.while an electric eel is unlikely to kill a human, thanks to the very short discharge duration (just two milliseconds), it would theoretically be possible if multiple bursts were delivered.
E. electricus is actually easy to care for in the right system. The species is adaptable to a range of meaty foods and not particularly fussy regarding water quality. However, it can reach over 2m in length, so you need a very long tank with a huge volume.
On that basis, and due to the potential dangers they pose, they are best reserved for public aquaria. Juveniles can be kept together but larger, more dominant individuals can be aggressive. Simple maintenance can be dicey with electric eels, and care obviously needs to be taken not to touch the animals. At the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire, we use 1000V electricians’ gloves when servicing our eels. That might sound OTT, but we’re not taking any chances!