Eels are an unusual pet that few people keep, so you’re not likely to spot one at a friend’s house. However, we all seem to be fascinated by these fish when we do see them. They are different from what we’re used to seeing, and the fact that the electric eel can produce an electrical current just shows what a force of nature they can be.

The fish are not too picky and will eat other fish, crabs, shrimps, insects, and much more. If you’ve ever wanted more information about eels and what they eat, read on!

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What Are Eels?

Fire Eel in aquarium
Image Credit: Roberto Dani, Shutterstock

Eels are a little bit tricky because most of the fish we think of as “eels” aren’t eels at all. Eels are ray-finned fish that belong to the order Anguilliformes, which contains around 800 species. However, electric eels belong to the order Electrophorus, and are not true eels. Spiny eels belong to a different order as well, so they are not true eels. These fish are eel-like in appearance, but they do not belong to the correct genus to be considered true eels.

True eels can be freshwater, saltwater, or catadromous, which means they are freshwater fish that spawn in saltwater. True eels range between 2 inches to 13 feet in length, and while they all have long, snake-like bodies, they have varied appearances. After hatching, they enter a larval stage, but they go through multiple stages before becoming full-fledged adult eels. Some eels are endangered, including the American eel, Japanese eel, and European eel, which is considered critically endangered.

What Do Eels Eat in the Wild?

Eels are primarily carnivorous fish, but what they eat is dependent on the type of eel, where it lives, and its size. They are known to eat other fish, crabs, freshwater and saltwater shrimps, insects, insect larvae, and just about anything they can get into their mouth. They are mostly ambush predators, with many types of eels partially burying themselves in the substrate and sticking their head and body out to catch unsuspecting fish. Some eels use scent to hunt, silently stalking and ambushing their prey. They rarely attack fish that are similar to their size.

Eel fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

What Do Eels Eat as Pets?

When it comes to captive eels, you have lots of great options for providing a healthy and varied diet. They can eat live and thawed frozen foods, like brine shrimp, worms, crickets, bloodworms, glass worms, saltwater or freshwater shrimp, and small fish. You can also offer carnivore pellets and freeze-dried foods, although this isn’t their preference. Eels can also be fed terrestrial proteins, with beef heart being a favorite in the aquatics community. However, it’s best to feed eels proteins they might encounter in the wild, like insects and aquatic animals. Keep in mind that eels will take the opportunity to eat small tank mates, so avoid keeping them with fish and invertebrates they are large enough to eat.

Image By: ABS Natural History, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Eels are strange animals that often defy our expectations of what fish should be like. Many people aren’t aware that many of the eels we are familiar with aren’t true eels, but most of those fish have similar needs to true eels. Eels can be a unique addition to your aquarium if you are educated and fully prepared for their care. Providing a healthy diet is necessary to giving your eel a healthy, long life.

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Featured Image Credit: tristan tan, Shutterstock