A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek

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Scientific stuff

Long-finned eel.
Also known as spotted eel,
Australian longfinned eel,
speckled longfin eel.

Species:
Anguilla reinhardtii
Family: Anguillidae
Suborder: Anguilloidei
Order: Anguilliformes
Class: Actinopterygii

Identification:
Long cylindrical body with dorsal, tail and anal fins forming one long fin.

Brownish green or olive green back and sides with small darker spots or blotches throughout. Underside paler.

Long-finned eels are the largest freshwater eels in Australia. Females grow much larger than males.

The two most common types of freshwater eels in Australia are the long-finned eel and the short-finned eel. The most common species in Queensland is the long-finned eel. The short-finned is more common in southern areas.

Long-finned eels thrive in creeks, rivers, streams, and estuaries. Also found in swamps and dams.

They can be found in eastern Australia from Cape York to Melbourne, and north and east coasts of Tasmania.

Size:
Common at one metre (3 feet), but some may grow to two or three times this size.

Personality:
Strong migratory instinct. They return to the sea to breed, and then migrate to their spawning grounds near New Caledonia.

Using our photos

Photos on this website are copyright. If you want to use any, email us at: creeklife@gmail.com

Elwood's photos

Elwood is one of a number of long-finned eels in Calamvale Creek.

He is often seen swimming in the shallow waters, and at night is sometimes heard (and seen if you have a flashlight) thrashing around with prey he has caught.

The photographer said:

“My first encounter with Elwood was a couple of years ago when I was walking across the wooden bridge after sunset one evening.

“I heard some incredibly energetic thrashing in the water and shone a light to see what it was.

“It turned out to be Elwood — thrashing in circles with something quite large in his mouth.

“I wondered whether he had got one of the young ducklings or a dusky moorhen, but it was too dark to see.

“Since then I have caught glimpses of him and other eels swimming beneath the lily pads, or as murky shadows in dark areas of the water.

“Eventually I found him in reasonable light, close enough to the surface to get the photos on this page.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Elwood the long-finned eel

Also known as spotted eel, longfinned eel, speckled longfin eel

Anguilla reinhardtii

long-finned_eel_1 (38K)Hello. I'm Elwood the long-finned eel from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.

A family of us eels live in the creek, and our sizes range from little Elvis at 30 centimetres up to my size of about one metre long.

Like humans, some of us live extremely long lives — maybe even 100 years — so you are likely to see us around for a while.

(I don't think I have reached 100, because I haven't received a letter of congratulations from the Queen.)

Long-finned eels are similar to short-finned eels, but we long-fins have small dark spots all over our back and sides, and the fin on our back (the dorsal fin) starts much closer to our head. Short-finned eels are more evenly coloured, and don't have the speckles and spots.

What do I eat?

Although I am a fish, I am a carnivorous fish, so I will eat other fish and almost anything else you would eat.

long-finned_eel_2 (18K)

You can see me in the photo above prowling around like a shark looking for something to eat. Apart from fish, I will eat insects, crustaceans, molluscs, some plant material, dragonfly larvae (mudeyes), and even juvenile waterfowl.

Moving overland

long-finned_eel_3 (9K)You have probably heard stories of eels coming out of the water and moving across land.

Are these stories true?

You bet!

But remember, we are fish, so we need water. But on rainy nights, and even on gloomy rainy days, we can travel a respectable distance overland if there is enough water on the ground.

Some of my cousins have made their home in the ponds of Sydney's Botanic Gardens, where they thrive on eating fish and young birds. Every now and then some anti-eel person clears all the eels out of the ponds, but when there is good rain, the eels travel overland and sneak back in.

Our amazing migrations

long-finned_eel_5 (14K)

Have you heard about our amazing instinct for migration?

Adult long-finned eels migrate downstream when they reach sexual maturity in an attempt to reach and eventually breed around the Coral Sea near New Caledonia. Eels reach sexual maturity at different times, even at 90 years of age. After spawning (producing eggs), the adult dies. A mother eel may carry millions of eggs inside her.

Riding the current

Anguilla_reinhardtii_6 (9K)When the eggs hatch, the see-through larvae are called leptocephali, and they may spend two years at sea riding south on the east Australian ocean current.

Leptocephali means “slender-headed”. They are small and flat, and some are shaped like eucalyptus leaves. The name leptocephalus is singular (one is called a leptocephalus and more than one are referred to as leptocephali).

The leptocephali eventually turn into “glass eels”, meaning they have no colour. They lose their teeth, and stop feeding while they move into areas where the rivers meet the sea — where fresh water meets salt water.

Young eels continue the huge migration

When the glass eels move into fresh water, they grow quickly and gain colour. Now the young eels become known as elvers, and they move into the lower reaches of streams.

Elver migrations generally take place at night. To avoid fast-flowing water, the elvers stay close to the banks.

When the young eels reach obstructions such as waterfalls and dam walls, many cling to the wet surface and wriggle their bodies until they are up and over the obstacle.

They take several years to mature in fresh water.

What happens to landlocked eels?

Anguilla_reinhardtii_4 (12K)

Of course, some of us can't get out to sea in the first place because of obstructions. These landlocked eels can grow very large — up to three metres (10 feet) and weighing more than 20 kilograms (40 pounds).

— Elwood the eel