Conger Eel

Last updated: April 21, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Damsea/Shutterstock.com

The European Conger ( Conger conger) can weigh as much as an adult human!

Conger Eel Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Anguilliformes
Family
Congridae
Genus
Conger

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Conger Eel Conservation Status

Conger Eel Locations

Conger Eel Locations

Conger Eel Facts

Prey
Crustaceans, small fish
Fun Fact
The European Conger ( Conger conger) can weigh as much as an adult human!
Most Distinctive Feature
Long, thin body and snout
Other Name(s)
poison eel, conger, dog eel, southern conger, grey eel
Habitat
oceanic
Diet
Carnivore
Common Name
conger eel
Number Of Species
14

Conger Eel Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Smooth
Lifespan
20 years
Weight
10 - 160 lbs average, 350 lbs largest
Length
5 - 6 feet average, 9.8 feet largest

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The term “conger eel” refers to one of 14 species of eels in the genus “Conger.”

These eels vary widely in size and weight, though most are of a similar color. Some species are used in cooking, while the fishing of others is discouraged. Fishing for conger eels has been documented as far back as the 12th century. Their mysterious mating habits and preference for deep waters mean there is much more yet to be learned by science about these fish! Congers can be dangerous to divers because they like to bite.

6 Incredible Conger Eel facts!

  • Conger eels can swim in reverse and have hundreds of bones in their spines.
  • Congers are practically blind and hunt primarily by scent.
  • Conger eels are aggressive and their bite is very strong.
  • Congers enjoy living in waters almost 3000 feet deep.
  • Congers can live out of the water for several hours.
  • At least one species of conger eel is found in every ocean in the world.

Conger Eel Classification and Scientific name

Conger is the genus of 14 different species, and each one has its own scientific name. Some of the more common conger eels include the European conger (Conger conger), the grey conger (Conger esculentus), and the American conger (Conger oceanicus).

Conger Eel Species

Previously, there were 16 species of conger eels, but two of the species, namely the sea conger and the bandtooth conger, have since been relegated to their own genus Ariosoma. The 14 remaining species of conger eels are:

  • Conger triporiceps (manytooth conger)
  • Conger verreauxi (southern conger)
  • Conger wilsoni (cape conger)
  • Conger erebennus (Anaconger)
  • Conger esculentus (grey conger)
  • Conger marginatus (Hawaiian Mustache Conger)
  • Conger myriaster (whitespotted conger)
  • Conger oceanicus (American conger)
  • Conger cinereus (longfin African conger)
  • Conger conger (European conger) – This is the largest conger eel species.
  • Conger orbignianus (Argentine conger)
  • Conger philippinus
  • Conger oligoporus
  • Conger macrocephalus

Conger Eel Appearance

Much like other species of eels, conger eels have a long, thin, snake-like body, with a wide prominent snout, and many strong, sharp teeth which often grow in several rows. Congers have long fins that run along the top and often the bottom of their bodies. Since there are 14 different recognized varieties of conger, their color, and size range a lot. A conger eel can be anywhere between 5 to 10 feet in length and weigh from 10 pounds up to 160 pounds. A conger eel can be white, gray, black, or brown, and their snouts can be pointed or snubbed. The largest European conger ever caught was 9.8 feet long and weighed over 350 lbs.

Conger eels have a long, thin, snake-like body, with a wide prominent snout.
Conger eels have a long, thin, snake-like body, with a wide prominent snout.

Jesus Cobaleda/Shutterstock.com


Articles Mentioning Conger Eel

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Conger Eel Distribution, Population, and Habitat

Conger eels are found in every ocean in the world. Populations vary by species. 70 % of the eels eaten in the world are caught around Japan, so numbers are lower in that area and conservation efforts are underway. Overall they are considered of least concern. Conger eels are bottomfeeders who prefer to burrow into the mud when not hunting. They particularly enjoy living around reefs, caves, and shipwrecks in deeper coastal waters.

Conger Eel Predators and Prey

Conger eels are bottom feeders who subsist primarily on crustaceans, shrimp, and small fish, though they also eat sea urchins, dead fish, and occasionally other eels. They have very poor eyesight and they hunt by tracking a prey’s smell. Some hide and wait to attack prey that happens by, while others chase prey down to attack. They have few known predators in their adult stage aside from humans, though they may be consumed by any number of carnivorous or omnivorous sea creatures during earlier life stages.

Conger Eel Reproduction and Lifespan

A conger eel can live up to 20 years on average, though 30 years is not unheard of. Because they only seem to mate in the last stage of their lives and often at depths of many thousands of feet, little is known about their mating habits or reproduction. What is known is that there are four separate stages of an eel’s life. They begin as embryos or larva called leptocephali. From there, they drift in the ocean consuming food until they reach the glass eel stage. As they grow they lose transparency and become small elvers, which finally grow into adult eels.

Conger Eel in fishing and cooking

Though it is discouraged or illegal in some places, many countries fish for and eat conger eels because of their taste. Some species of conger eel have a strong taste and are very popular fish for use in sushi. They are also used in some other Asian cuisines, some dishes in South America, and they are also used to make a popular stew recipe in Portugal. These eels are often found for sale at fishmongers in England, for dishes such as baked conger with tomato. Conger eel tails, bones and all, are often used to create a broth that tastes much like fish stock, while the rest of the body is boned and used for its meat alone.

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Conger Eel FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do conger eels eat?

Conger eels are carnivores that eat fish, crustaceans, shrimp, and squid.

How do you catch a conger eel?

Conger eels are usually caught using very strong hooks baited with crab, shrimp, squid, or mackerel.

What eats conger eel?

Humans eat conger eels, but little else eats adult congers.

How big do conger eels get?

Conger eels are usually only about 5 feet long, but the largest ever found was 10 feet!

Do conger eels bite?

Conger eels do bite and it can cause a lot of damage due to their many strong teeth.

Are conger eels dangerous?

Conger eels are dangerous to divers, as they have several rows of strong sharp teeth and have been known to attack and bite divers who swim near.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conger
  2. Study, Available here: https://study.com/academy/lesson/eel-predators-lesson-for-kids.html
  3. Sky News, Available here: https://news.sky.com/story/the-eel-story-giant-fish-big-but-not-that-big-10359488
  4. Wildlife Journal Junior, Available here: https://nhpbs.org/wild/Congridae.asp
  5. Study, Available here: https://study.com/academy/lesson/conger-eel-habitat-lesson-for-kids.html
  6. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Available here: https://biogeodb.stri.si.edu/caribbean/en/thefishes/species/2874
  7. Animals Network, Available here: https://animals.net/conger/
  8. New Jersey Scuba Diving, Available here: https://njscuba.net/marine-biology/marine-fishes/ocean-bottom/conger-eel/
  9. Bad Angling, Available here: https://badangling.com/sea-fish-species/conger-eel/
  10. British Conger Club, Available here: https://britishcongerclub.org.uk/conger.htm
  11. Irish Examiner, Available here: https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/arid-20246129.html
  12. Fish Info, Available here: http://www.uk-fish.info/pages/conger.html
  13. Animal Spot, Available here: https://www.animalspot.net/eel
  14. Science Direct, Available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/conger

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