Swamp Eel: Monopterus albus
Body snake-like tapering to a point; small eyes, tiny scales,
and finless; typically dark reddish-brown with light tan to orange
abdomen, but some are light orange, pink or white, with dark
calico-like markings; heavy mucous coating facilitates burrowing
nature; secretive and most active at night, but generally
considered a 'sluggish' fish; present in Hawaii for 100 years with
negligible effects on native species.
Abundant in several southeast Florida box-cut canals, and common
in Little Manatee River and Bullfrog Creek drainages near Tampa. It
was first collected in 1997 and is expected to slowly spread into
central and south Florida. However, it is not expected to have
dramatic effects on native fishes. Native range from northern India
and Burma to China, and perhaps Soviet Union.
Prefers shallow, sluggish, standing, or even stagnant waters and
dense vegetation; often burrows or submerges in mud bottoms; can
live in waters without oxygen because it breathes air. In native
range found in ponds, canals, ditches, rice-fields, and swamps and
is reported to survive in moist mud during dry season.
Spawning Habitats: Spawns in
summer; some reports indicate it is a bubble nest builder species,
others say uses burrows for egg incubation; ripe female typically
contains about 440 ready to spawn eggs; hermaphroditic-- all mature
as females, and some of these females later become males; most
populations have highly skewed sex ratio dominated by females.
Feeding Habits: Feeds primarily on
small fishes, crayfish, grass shrimp, and worms; due to mouth
width, the largest food a 30-inch swamp eel can eat is about the
same as what a 9-inch largemouth bass can eat; due to mouth size,
weak swimming attributes, and poor vision, swamp eels do not appear
to be affecting native fish in canals.
Age and Growth:
Oldest believed to be about 10 yrs; largest collected by FWC was
33.7 inches long and 1.7 pounds.
Good, mild tasting meat; considered a delicacy in its native
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