Electric Eels are cool
. Dude, they're animals
but they have electric powers
! They're like real-life supervillains
! They could totally fry you to a crisp, electrify the entire lake, and fire bolts of lightning from their eyes!
Yeah... that's not exactly
how Electric Eels work in reality.
First off, Electric "Eels" are actually not eels at all. They are a species of Knifefish
, a group of fish closely related to Catfish
, many of whom are electrogenic; they are able to generate electric fields which aid them in hunting for food. There are actually a surprising number
of electrogenic fish, but don't expect them to show up in fiction
Anyway, Electric Eels are found only in South America. They are indeed able to stun their enemies with a nasty jolt - up to 1 ampere, enough to kill a human. They can generate a charge large enough to kill a grounded
person, stun a horse or blow out several bulbs. But they don't exactly light up like Las Vegas. They also are not capable of constantly emitting jolts over a long period of time, and will eventually run out of juice if forced into it.
In fiction, these fish will be ridiculously overpowered
. Furthermore, thanks to the confusing name
, writers tend to think actual Eels—a different group of fish entirely—have electric powers (this has led to the asinine belief that eel-skin wallets erase credit cards, when "eel" leather is also
made from an entirely different fishnote
). Worse yet, Eels may even be confused with snakes, and may be poisonous to compound the electricity. Furthermore, whenever a Mad Scientist
needs to give his monster some extra oomph, he'll give it electric eel powers. Often results in X-Ray Sparks
when they attack someone in a cartoon.
See also Slippery as an Eel
, Electric Jellyfish
, and Shark Pool
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Anime and Manga
- The idea of all eels being "electric eels" is averted in Japanese media in general because most people there are far better acquainted with the regular kind of eels which you eat, and as stated above knifefish only live in South America.
- In an episode of Princess Tutu, the manager of a ballet troupe is an electric eel. He supplies the lighting needs of the theater.
- An obscure ecchi manga called Okitsune-sama de Chu actually did feature an electric catfish as one off the evil animal spirits possessing people.
- Adolf Reinhardt from Terra Formars has an electric eel base.
Live Action TV
- This trope is so pervasive that there's an urban legend that Eel-skin wallets erase credit cards. Busted by the MythBusters, seeing that the wallets aren't made of electric eels, duh. (They're not even made of eels, for the record.) When they put credit cards next to live electric eels, there was no effect.
- Star Trek: Voyager had the Delta Flyer, doubling as a submarine, in a brush with an alien giant electric eel.
- The Future Is Wild has the Lurkfish, a descendant of modern electric eels... that is three meters long, and capable of outright killing octopi at considerable range.
Mythology and Folklore
- The "Mongolian Death Worm" combines this trope with Sand Worm; it can allegedly shoot jolts of electricity that can kill livestock.
- In the Broadway musical of Disney's The Little Mermaid, Flotsam and Jetsam have electric powers. This in spite of their having been moray eels in the movie, and actually being accurate enough to not have electric powers.
- Ehlek, one of the Barraki from BIONICLE. Quite Electric Eel-like, and very, very psycho.
- Many of the watery areas in Banjo-Tooie feature electric eel enemies. Their current never travels—only touching them damages you.
- Some Roguelikes have electric eels which do electricity damage. Possibly the worst example is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Although toned down in later versions at one point they were capable of flinging lightning bolts across the screen for massive damage then diving underwater when you got close, making them among the most annoying enemies in the game.
- Electric Eels are a combineable animal in Impossible Creatures, where they give the resulting horror an arcthrower in their head and the ability to generate a massive burst of lightning that does damage to everything around it. Slightly more justified than most examples, however, since you can produce a combination critter forty feet long and weighing twenty tons by combining it with a sperm whale or an elephant, presumably creating a much more significant electric charge than an ordinary garden-variety six-foot eel weighing forty pounds.
- The Punisher game on PS2 and PC both averts and subverts this trope in quite a hilarious way. During one level you can 'interrogate' an enemy mook by threatening to dunk him in an Electric Eel's tank. While the aquarium's (automated) PA system goes into scientific detail about the Eel - pointing out that it's actually a fish, for example - when you dunk the mook, he's electrified to death in a very dramatic manner.
- According to the game manual for Street Fighter II, Blanka learned how to electrify his skin by observing electric eels. Apparently it's a skill, like basket weaving or flower arranging.
- Electric eels show up in an (admittedly based on South America) area in EarthBound, and yes, they do attack with electric magic.
- In the first Freddi Fish adventure game, at one point the titular fish finds her way blocked by a hostile electric eel with a very sleazy voice who emanates cartoon lightning bolts. However, this being a kid's game, no actual violence ensuesnote and Freddi gets past him by giving him a sandwich.
- World of Warcraft possesses a few eel-type monsters in Zangarmarsh that have (rather weak) electric powers.
- Pokémon Black and White has the Tynamo line-up which, for some reason, are found in a cave. Not in the water inside the cave, but actually in the cave itself, floating around. They're not even part Water-type; they're all Electric, and also have elements of leeches and lampreys.
- Tynamo and its evolutions are actually lampreys, and they are found in a cave because it's the electric cave full of magnetic rocks.
- There's also Stunfisk, the Electric/Ground flatfish/flounder/stargazer which is also Electric.
- The Barboach/Whiscash line can have Spark bred onto them. Remember the header? About electric eels actually being close cousins of catfish?
- Mega Man series:
- Volteel Biblio from Mega Man Zero 3.
- As an exception to the "no other electric fish" rule, Volt Catfish from the third Mega Man X game.
- Street Fighter X Mega Man has you face them in Blanka's stage. (See the Street Fighter example above for a probable reason why)
- Battletoads has the Electra-Eels in the Terra Tubes level. They're one of the few enemies that won't kill you in one hit, but will push you into something that does.
- In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Raiden - the God of Thunder in the game's universe - transforms into an electric eel as his Animality.
- One level in Sleeping Dogs allows you to finish off enemies by throwing them into an aquarium full of electric eels.
- Electric catfish are actually the power source of Thunder Tower in Mother 3. The Pigmasks were originally able to get them to provide electricity by scaring or suprising them, but, in time, diminishing returns set in as they became harder to frighten.
- Kingdom of Loathing, with its inordinate fondness of puns, has an acoustic/electric eel as one of the monsters you can encounter in The Sea.
- The ever so infamous eel from Super Mario 64 is one.
- The electric eels in Endless Ocean Blue World are dangerous to touch, and unlike the luna lionfish, they move around. Unlike all the other dangerous animals, however, they don't really attack so much as they just don't care where you are in relation to them. And they can't be made harmless with the Pulsar. However, they're only located in a small part of the Cortica River in, as said, South America. (There are actual species of eel in the game, and they're not conflated with the electric eel.)
- The Eel, a supervillain from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe has the ability to generate an electrical charge in addition to having the "Aquaman" power set of being able to operate underwater without life support, and the ability to squeeze through very tight openings.
- One of the weapons in the Flash game Crush the Castle 2 is a jar containing electric eels. When it smashes against a conductive surface, it zaps everything in contact with that surface.
- In an episode of Robo Cop The Animated Series, a Mad Scientist gave one of his creations electric eel powers.
- Coming from a show you'd think would know better: The Mad Scientist in Gargoyles who worked out a way to change humans into Gargoyles - sort of - explained that the real Gargoyles had a magical means of storing solar energy as they slept through the day as stone. Lacking another animal that could do so, he decided to give his human-goyles the genes for an electric eel's electric organs. Which allowed them to fire bolts of lightning from their hands. Naturally.
- A vat of Electric Eels and a special containment system are used for Electro's origin in The Spectacular Spider-Man.
- Despite being based on a Japanese eel, Unagi from Sushi Pack uses electrical power to attack.
- Used in Kim Possible to allow Kim a chance to vent and lampshade the predictability of her rogues gallery and to predict the inevitable "Shocking!" line that the villain does indeed use.
- The CG-animation short A Gentleman's Duel features a Victorian-steampunk mecha... that also harbors several electrogenic fish. Their electricity is harnessed as a mode of attack.
- One of the cute but dangerous baby animals the harried Delivery Stork in Partly Cloudy must deliver is an adorable knifefish.
- Used in the Beetlejuice animated series episode "Road Hawg", where Beetlejuice builds himself a vicious motorcycle made from nasty parts, to which he added two electric eels, giving Road Hawg an electric charge.
- In The Simpsons' "The Cartridge Family":
Lenny: Assault weapons have gotten a lot of bad press lately, but they're manufactured for a reason: to take out today's modern super animals, such as the flying squirrel, and the electric eel!
- Used by the Hooded Claw to power a Death Trap in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop episode "The Treacherous Movie Lot Plot".
- The Flintstones occasionally features electric eels as a power source for some of their Stone Age devices (such as microwave ovens in the 90s TV-movies).
- Electro (reimagined as an anthropomorphic electric eel) in Spider-Man Unlimited.