Freshwater eel

Family Anguillidae

Fascinating Facts

  • These eels are catadromous meaning they begin their life in saltwater and move to freshwater for adulthood
  • They are terminal breeders; they die after spawning.
  • During the winter they burrow into the mud and enter a state of torpor (hibernation).
  • These eels are commonly used for “unagi” in Japanese food, and all types are listed as “avoid” by Seafood Watch.


Freshwater rivers, lakes, or estuaries for the majority of their lives, swimming out to open ocean to spawn. Young eels consume “marine snow” (organic detritus), while adults eat crustaceans, fish, amphibians, and occasionally small birds.

Status in the Wild

European eel – Critically Endangered, IUCN 2014

All others Data Deficient through Endangered, depending on the species. Visit The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for more information. 


Freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams worldwide, dependent on species.

Location in the Zoo

Fish and Amphibians Zone of the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Animals & Exhibits