Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Freshwater eels

Freshwater eels

Most people are scared of eels but they are actually gentle giants, apart from the bit when one of those pieces of bread you're feeding them are your fingers! There are two main types of eel - the shortfin and the longfin.

Eels can be found throughout New Zealand. They live mainly in dirty rivers, inland lakes and streams. Eels are great at climbing and have made their way well inland in most rivers, even those with natural barriers. Elvers (young eels) swimming up a river will climb up waterfalls and even dams by leaving the water and wriggling over damp areas. An eel can climb a waterfall for about 20 metres, before they let go and drop down.

Eels migrate up streams, as elvers, to find suitable adult habitat. After many years (15-30 years for short fins and 25 years for long fins) the eels migrate too the Pacific Ocean too breed and then die. Eels are mainly nocturnal and prefer habitats with lots of weeds too hide in and trees hanging over the water. That sort of cover.

Eels eat live food. Small eels living on the bottom of the river will feed on insect larvae, worms and water snails. When they get bigger they start feeding on fish. They will also eat fresh-water crayfish and even small birds like ducklings.

Eels may look weird but they are awesome creatures. We could learn a lot more about eels so look after them.  

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