Can an Electric Eel Kill You

Despite their serpentine appearance, Electric Eels are not actually eels. Their scientific classification is closer to carp and catfish but this fish needs to surface to breathe air and get oxygen and their body contains cells acting as tiny batteries that store and shoot out high voltage pulses to use for defense or hunting prey. Can an Electric Eel Kill You?

It’s rare to find documented cases that report deaths from an Electric Eel’s shock, but it can happen. An adult eel can produce a lethal 600 volts of electrical energy, which could cause a person to stop breathing, go into heart failure or incapacitate them long enough to cause him or her to drown.

Electric Eels possess a specialized nervous system that synchronizes the activity of electricity-producing cells called electrolytes. There are other electric fish on earth but none are as deadly as The Electric Eel.

Where Do Electric Eels Live


Electric Eels from the order Gymnotiformes, and the (family of knife fishes. Knife fishes have no dorsal fin and a long, extended anal fin).  They are scaleless fish with long, cylindrical bodies and slightly flattened heads.

Electric eels live in slow-moving freshwater muddy water throughout stretches of ponds and swamps in the northeast parts of South America,  Amazon, and Orinoco river basins and are nearly blind. They rely on low-level electrical pulses to navigate and explore their surroundings.

They are air breathers and are able to move in and out of the water making them dangerous creatures. They are capable of reaching 8 feet in length and 44 pounds in weight generally dark green or grayish on top with yellowish coloring underneath. The Electric Eel gets more than 80% of its oxygen from breathing air. It surfaces for air every 10 minutes or so and can live up to 15 years in its natural habitat.

Higher levels of voltage that they are able to generate are used to stun or kill prey and to protect them from predators. Electric Eels are illegal to hunt and own unless for scientific purposes. Some areas of the world have strict laws prohibiting hobbyists from keeping electric eels because they pose a potential threat to local fish and human populations if they were to escape into surrounding areas. The Electric Eel has very few predators if any in nature that would be willing to take on this savage creature and the battery-charged weapon they possess.


Electric Eel Voltage


Electric eels can kill horses, new research confirms | CBC News These famous freshwater Eels get their name from the enormous electrical charge they can generate to stun prey and dissuade predators. Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 specialized cells called electrolytes that store power like tiny batteries. When threatened or attacking prey, these cells will discharge simultaneously with successful results.

The Electric Eel displaces its electrical voltage in a wide pattern like a shotgun blast and normally because of this, the blast is less likely to kill a human or bigger animal. If the Eel feels a higher threat, it can increase the voltage of its electrical charge by coming out of the water and delivering a more powerful shock to an animal they perceive to be a predator.

There are more than 200 species of electric fish like the electric catfish that can unleash 350 volts from sensors on its torso and the electric ray that has kidney-shaped sensors on its head that can produce up to 220 volts but none are as deadly and powerful as the Electric Eel. 



How Do Electric Eels Produce Electricity


The secret to their shocking talent lies in three abdominal pairs of electric organs that make up most of their long body: the Sach’s organ, Hunter’s organ, and the Main organ. These organs contain hundreds of thousands of modified muscle cells called electrolytes. These are flattened disk-like cells that are stacked in about 70 columns on each side of the fish’s body. In turn, each column contains 5000–10 000 electrolytes. Two New Electric Eel Species Discovered, Produce Record-Breaking Shocks

When an electric eel senses prey or a threat, it sends a signal through its nervous system to the electrolytes:

  • Nerve fibers join each electrocyte on one of its sides, but not the other.
  • The arrival of a signal causes positively-charged sodium ions (Na+) to flood into the cell.
  • This flow of ions gives rise to a temporary potential gradient across the cell and a discharge of electricity.
  • The voltage produced from each cell is only small, around d 150mV.
  • However, electrolytes are stacked in a series that builds and increases the voltage, and in parallel which builds current, like cells in a battery.
  • The head of an electric eel is the positive pole of this battery and the tail is the negative pole.
  • The electric eel’s vital organs are contained in a small part of its body directly behind its head. The rest of the body contains the organs that generate electricity.


What’s the Difference Between Fluke and Flounder?

Flounder(Winter Flounder)
have eyes on the right side
smaller in size
darker- reddish/olive green color
smaller mouth & flatter teeth

Fluke (Summer Flounder)
have eyes on the left side of their body
much lighter/brown color
have three-ringed, eye-like spots on their back & tail
bigger mouth & sharper teeth ..…………………………………………………………………………………………………. Read more

Electric Eel Shock


The average shock from an electric eel lasts about two thousandths of a second. The pain isn’t searing unlike, say, sticking your finger in a wall socket but isn’t pleasant. A brief muscle contraction, then numbness but the scientists who study the newly discovered Electric Eel called Electrophorus voltai all say it comes with the territory.

For scientists who study the animal, the pain comes with the professional territory. “I remember the first time I was shocked,” said Carlos David de Santana, an ichthyologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., who recalled falling into the water and dropping his equipment. “I was scared.” Dr. de Santana has suffered several high-voltage attacks in his years studying electric eels, including one close to 400 volts.

The biggest surprise came when the researchers measured each eels electrical discharge  a process that involved placing an electrode on each animal’s head and tail. They measured an 860-volt discharge from the eel,  previously the highest known discharge was 650 volts, more than 5x the voltage of a standard American electric wall socket. The amperage is too low to cause serious harm to humans.

Electric eels possess a specialized nervous system that synchronizes the activity of electricity-producing cells called electrolytes. An eel has about 6,000 electrolytes, packed into three organs called the main organ, Hunter’s organ, and Sachs’ organ. Electric Eel has a special mucous membrane that is located in their mouth that can absorb oxygen from the air helping them to survive during dry seasons and giving them an advantage.


What Do Electric Eels Eat


The habitats are ponds and murky streams where the Electric Eel 0ccupy serves up not only fish but also amphibians and even birds and small mammals. As air breathers, they must come to the surface frequently. They also have poor eyesight but can emit a low-level electrical charge, less than 10 volts, which they use like radar to navigate and locate prey in and out of the water.

The Electric Eel has sensory pits on its body that can sense prey in the area and by using low-voltage electric pulses it can zero in on prey nearby. Once the prey is in range the Eel lets go of a high-voltage electrical shock through the water.

The high-voltage shock stuns the fish and the Electric Eel can swallow the prey whole with little trouble. When the Eel attacks it can let go of as much as 400 high voltages per/second. They travel through water instantaneously and any fish in the range are affected and are rendered defenseless.


Why Do Fish Have Scales?

Fish scales act like armor protecting fish from scrapes on rocks & branches protecting the fish from injury, & shielding fish from predators. Scales provide defense against parasites. They make fish more aerodynamic & help them move through the water faster up, down, or sideways without changing speed ..……………………………………………………… Read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor



NY Times article –New Electric Eel is the most shocking Yet.

National Geographic-The Electric Eel



Recent Posts