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Psycho Electric Eel

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Electric, electronic, whatever powers your motorboat.

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 freshwater 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.

Secondly, 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. Lastly, they are also 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 fish.note  Worse yet, eels may even be confused with snakes, and may be venomous to compound the electricity (real eels aren't venomous, but moray eel bites can be infected by septic bacteria in their mouth). 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.

Sub-Trope of Fiendish Fish and Artistic License – Marine Biology. See also Slippery as an Eel, Electric Jellyfish, and Shark Pool.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • An obscure ecchi manga called Okitsune-sama de Chu actually did feature an electric catfish as one of the evil animal spirits possessing people.
  • In an episode of Princess Tutu, the manager of a ballet troupe is an electric eel. He supplies the lighting needs of the theater.
  • Adolf Reinhardt from TerraforMARS has an electric eel base.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2 features a tank full of genetically altered electric eels. Max Dillon gets bitten, fried, and turned into the villainous Electro when he accidentally falls into said tank.
  • A big aggressive one inhabits the cavern where the Nautilus is hidden in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Hank re-charges the submarine's long-dead batteries by sticking the zap-happy creature with a wire-trailing harpoon.
  • In Licence to Kill, James Bond knocks a guard into a tank of electric eels with lethal results.
  • In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein uses electric eels to jump-start his monster.
  • One is used to comedic effect in Reptilicus, inflicting Amusing Injuries on the slow-witted maintenance worker, Peterson.

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Done with an electric ray (if there was one work that would avert Small Taxonomy Pools, this is it) that shocks Conseil out of his Third-Person Person and Stoic demeanor. In revenge, he eats it for dinner (but as noted by the professor, solely out of vengeance, because it wasn't even that good).
  • The Future is Wild has the Lurkfish, a descendant of modern electric eels... that is three meters long, and capable of outright killing octopuses at considerable range.
  • In Wings of Fire, Queen Coral keeps a prison with electric eels inside the water and streams of water floating from the top of the prison so flying won't help you. Their shocks are noted to be enough to kill a dragon, though they are portrayed as being able to run out of electricity and not being able to emit it constantly. Also justified given that everything is larger and more powerful in the Wings of Fire universe to be more dragon-sized.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Died" has a Viking village that farms electric eels, with a constant lightning effect over the top of their tank. Since they don't use the eels as weapons until the Doctor thinks of it, we're never told why they farm electric eels (perhaps for medical purposes, like the Greeks used torpedo fish?) or indeed how electric eels even arrived in Viking lands.
  • 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.
  • Eleking from Ultraseven, a Kaiju resembling a giant bipedal mix of an electric eel with antenna and an eyeless newt, was inspired by this trope. Asides from having the ability to spit electric energy disks from its "mouth", its ridiculously long tail was effective at coiling around the hero and shocking them. Eleking is also one of the most popular monsters in the series, and has reappeared in many sequel shows.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • The "Mongolian Death Worm" combines this trope with Sand Worm; it can allegedly shoot jolts of electricity that can kill livestock.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The Far Side: One strip helpfully demonstrates places not to keep your pet electric eel, ie, in a fishbowl perched on the edge of your tub while you are taking a bath.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The electric eel is, naturally, one of the fish that can be caught in The Amazon Trail. It is completely inedible and has to be released when caught, or else it will retaliate with an electric shock. ("OWWW!")
  • Many of the watery areas in Banjo-Tooie feature electric eel enemies. Their current never travels — only touching them damages you.
  • 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.
  • There are Electric Eel enemies that only appear in the sewer levels of Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, and they come in two varieties: the normal type present in every sewer level periodically electrifies the water for a couple of seconds while a rarer variant only seen on a secret route in one level is constantly discharging electricity. The eels themselves cannot be defeated so the only thing that Crash can do is avoid their electrical discharges.
  • The Crystal Key 2 has the Tarru Eel, on planet Meribah, which not only cause dangerous shocks on contact, but they're also known to attack another of its kind to protect its territory. You have to exploit such an eel to trick it into charging a submarine this way.
  • The boss battle against Cuphead's Cala Maria features electric eels as Mooks which can spit lightning blasts in Bullet Hell fashion. Two of them also trigger Cala's transformation into a Gorgeous Gorgon by zapping her, complete with X-Ray Sparks.
  • 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.
  • Drake and the Wizards: Electric eels are one of the enemies on Eildrim Shore.
  • Electric eels show up in an (admittedly based on South America) area in EarthBound (1994), and yes, they do attack with electric magic.
  • 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.)
  • Fox N Forests: One enemy type Rick can encounter in the game are electric eels that leap out of the water and give off electricity before diving back in. They can be defeated by being made to dive onto ice.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Amp, a pet from Insaniquarium, is an electric eel which can zap all the guppies present in the tank, turning them into diamonds in the process.
  • 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.
  • Mega Man series:
    • Volteel Biblio from Mega Man Zero 3. He used to be a normal mutosnote  reploid until an accident fried his brain, turning him into a Talkative Loon with a penchant for screaming randomly. Being reprogrammed by Dr Weil to serve as one of his Weil's Numbers didn't help his mental state at all.
    • 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).
  • In Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Raiden — the God of Thunder in the game's universe — transforms into an electric eel as his Animality.
  • 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 surprising them, but, in time, diminishing returns set in as they became harder to frighten.
  • Octogeddon has Volt the Electric Eel. This adorable fish can unleash a huge electric shock stunning every enemy on screen. The attack will also reveal every cloaked enemy which was onscreen.
  • 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. The lack of a Water-type may be a reference to the little-known fact about electric eels being obligate air-breathers.
    • Tynamo and its evolutions are partly based on lampreys as well as electric eels, and they are found in a cave because it's the electric cave full of magnetic rocks.
    • There's also Stunfisk, the Electric/Ground flounder/stargazer/electric ray which is also Electric.
    • The Barboach/Whiscash line can have Spark bred onto them, and are based on the lesser known electric catfish.
    • The earliest example was the Chinchou/Lanturn-line. They are anglerfish, but their light isn't chemical, but electrical, so they are part Electric-type and learn many electric moves.
  • The Punisher (THQ) 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.
  • One level in Sleeping Dogs (2012) allows you to finish off enemies by throwing them into an aquarium full of electric eels.
  • The Zapfish from Splatoon are electric catfish that are used as major sources of power in the games' universe. The Octarian Army kidnapping the Great Zapfish, a giant Zapfish that provides most of Inkopolis's power, kicks off the plot of the main single-player modes in the first two games.
  • 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.
  • One of the bigger, nastier creatures that can assail you in Subnautica is the Ampeel, a large, armored eel-like creature covered in electric prongs. It is able to generate an electrical field that does a fair amount of damage to a player and a noticeable amount of damage to all vehicles. It is one of the more dangerous foes that a Cyclops submarine can face, especially because it is undeterred by electrical defense fields and must instead by driven off by stasis rifles, repulsion cannons, or torpedoes.
  • The third Turrican game (the title of which varies depending on your system) features a section partially underwater. Electric eels appear from time to time, and the only way to avoid injury is to be out of the water entirely when they discharge at regular intervals.
  • World of Warcraft possesses a few eel-type monsters in Zangarmarsh that have (rather weak) electric powers.

    Web Original 
  • 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.

    Western Animation