Anguilla rostrata, American eel : fisheries, aquaculture, gamefish, aquarium

You can sponsor this page

Anguilla rostrata (Lesueur, 1817)

American eel
Add your observation in Fish Watcher
Native range | All suitable habitat | Point map | Year 2050
This map was computer-generated and has not yet been reviewed.
Anguilla rostrata   AquaMaps   Data sources: GBIF OBIS
Upload your photos and videos
Pictures | Sounds | Google image
Image of Anguilla rostrata (American eel)
Anguilla rostrata
Picture by The Native Fish Conservancy

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes(genus, species) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Teleostei (teleosts) > Anguilliformes (Eels and morays) > Anguillidae (Freshwater eels)
Etymology: Anguilla: Latin, anguilla, .-ae = eel (Ref. 45335);  rostrata: Anguilla, Latin for eel, and rostrata, Latin for beaked or curved (presumably a characteristic of which only Lesueur was aware) (Ref. 79012).
More on author: Lesueur.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Marine; freshwater; brackish; demersal; catadromous (Ref. 26938); depth range 0 - 464 m (Ref. 57178). Subtropical; 4°C - 25°C (Ref. 12468); 66°N - 5°N, 98°W - 21°W

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Northwest to western Central Atlantic: Greenland south along the Atlantic coast of Canada and the USA to Panama, and throughout much of the West Indies south to Trinidad.

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 68.5, range 37 - 100 cm
Max length : 152 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 26938); 122.0 cm TL (female); common length : 50.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 3242); max. published weight: 7.3 kg (Ref. 4699); max. reported age: 43 years (Ref. 40922)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Anal spines: 0. Head rather long; eyes small and placed well forward on head. Lips thick. Caudal vertebrae without transverse processes. Premaxillae not developed as distinct elements in adults. Frontal bones paired, not grown together. Pectoral girdle with 7 to 9 (up to 11 in the young) radial elements. Adults usually white or light-colored below and brownish to blue-black above, but coloration is variable; young with some yellow on the edges of the dorsal and anal fins (Ref. 30499). Caudal fin rounded, joined to dorsal and anal fins. Gill opening on side in front of lower half of well-developed pectoral fin; lower jaw longer than upper; 103-111 vertebrae (Ref. 26938).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Occurs in streams, rivers, muddy or silt-bottomed lakes (Ref. 5951); usually in permanent streams with continuous flow (Ref. 86798). Hides during the day in undercut banks and in deep pools near logs and boulders (Ref. 86798). Feeds on larvae of Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Plecoptera, Coleoptera, Trichoptera, and Lepidoptera, as well as gastropods, oligochaetes, amphipods, isopods, mysids, and fish from the families Percidae, Cyprinidae, Ictaluridae, Catostomidae and Anguillidae (Ref. 9593). Migrates in autumn to the Sargasso Sea to spawn (Ref. 3242). Sexual maturity occurs approximately in less than10 years and up to 40 years in freshwater (Ref. 57533). Larvae (transparent leptocephali shaped somewhat like a willow leaf) hatch and develop at sea to metamorphose into elvers in nearshore waters and estuaries (Ref. 57533). Adults are caught with eel pots and trot lines. Elvers and glass eels are caught with fine mesh fyke nets and dipnets. Catadromous species. (Ref. 26938). Maximum depth reported taken from Ref. 57178.

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Undertakes migration in autumn to the Sargasso Sea where spawning is said to take place. Coloration changes with sexual maturation. Dorsal surface of the pectorals becomes dark, lateral line becomes prominent, eye diameter increases and visual pigments change, body takes on a silvery bronze coloration. Females are usually larger than males and migrate much farther upstream (Ref. 57533). Adults die after spawning (Ref. 30499). Spawn at sea but growth occurs in estuaries or freshwater (Ref. 7135). Spawning grounds believed to be between 20° and 30°N and 60°and 75°W (Ref. 40916, 40917).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p. (Ref. 5723)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 130435)

  Endangered (EN) (A2bd); Date assessed: 08 November 2020


Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

Fisheries: commercial; aquaculture: commercial; gamefish: yes; aquarium: public aquariums
FAO - Aquaculture: production; Fisheries: landings; Publication: search | FishSource | Sea Around Us

More information

Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

Download XML

Internet sources

Estimates based on models

Preferred temperature (Ref. 123201): 0.5 - 24.3, mean 6.3 °C (based on 323 cells).
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804):  PD50 = 0.5000   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00087 (0.00070 - 0.00108), b=3.18 (3.13 - 3.23), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  3.8   ±0.2 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tm=3-6; tmax=43; Fec=5,000,000).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  High to very high vulnerability (72 of 100).
Climate Vulnerability (Ref. 125649):  High vulnerability (60 of 100).
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.
Nutrients (Ref. 124155):  Calcium = 32.2 [19.9, 67.1] mg/100g; Iron = 0.734 [0.430, 1.146] mg/100g; Protein = 19.6 [17.8, 21.5] %; Omega3 = 0.367 [0.197, 0.697] g/100g; Selenium = 56 [29, 105] μg/100g; VitaminA = 8.64 [1.82, 42.50] μg/100g; Zinc = 0.64 [0.46, 0.92] mg/100g (wet weight); based on nutrient studies.