Eel Anguilla anguilla

Eels are very long, narrow freshwater fish which can grow over a metre in length. Eels look smooth and lack the obvious scales and gills of other fish. A group of bizarre fish called lampreys could be mistaken for an eel, but have large sucker-like mouths and no pectoral fins. Eels range in colour above, from silver to olive-green, and have yellow bellies. Young eels (known as ‘elvers’) are almost completely transparent.


Eels can be found in rivers and ditches but leave the freshwater to breed at sea, in an area of the west Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. Elvers return to freshwater rivers to develop. Eels are predators and scavengers, feeding on dead animals, fish eggs, invertebrates and other fish.


Length: up to 1m

Weight: 0.5-1.5kg

Average Lifespan: 15-70 years


Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


Found in rivers and estuaries throughout the country.

When to see

January – December


  • Eels are able to survive out of water for quite a long time and may crawl through wet grass to reach water.
  • It has been suggested that the Loch Ness monster may be a giant eel, as eels are known to live in Loch Ness.

Common name


Species name

Anguilla anguilla

IUCN Red List status

Critically endangered

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Rivers throughout Scotland, particularly in the Dee and its tributaries. Eels are not regularly spotted on Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves, but occasionally the ospreys at Loch of the Lowes will catch an eel to feed their chicks.

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