Don’t let their intimidating name mislead you. Wolf Eels are not a true eel but belong to a family of fish called Wolf Fishes. They are typically non-aggressive, and are in fact curious and rather friendly.
While Wolf Eels can be found in the waters off the Pacific Northwest down to Northern California, Adventure Aquarium’s Wolf Eels were actually received as young hatchlings in July 2011 from the Scripps Institute (Birch Aquarium in California), where they were born. They were then kept in holding at Adventure Aquarium until they reached an adequate age to be placed on exhibit.
In the wild, Wolf Eels eat hard-shelled animals like crabs, sand dollars, and sea urchins. During the feeding process, they grab their food in their jaws and use their broad molars in the back of their mouths to crunch through the shells.
Wolf Eels are monogamous creatures, mating for life. During the mating process, the pair takes special care of its eggs as they develop. Beginning around age seven, the female lays up to 10,000 eggs at a time (!), coiling around them and using her body to shape the eggs into a neat sphere roughly the size of a grapefruit. When she is settled, the male coils around her as an added layer of protection, and the female continues to massage the eggs periodically as they develop, helping to circulate water around the eggs to keep them supplied with oxygen. In total, eggs take about four months to hatch.
Plenty of room to grow!
While Adventure Aquarium’s Wolf Eels are only about 2 feet, Wolf Eels can reach a maximum of 8 feet long!
Wolf Eels have often been nicknamed the Ugly Old Men of the Sea. As they get larger, their cheeks and lips become more accentuated (making it look like their lips have essentially overtaken their mouths!). This – along with their grayish color – gives them a rather “crotchety” appearance!
Check out our Wolf Eels during your next visit! They can be found in the Jules Verne Gallery, Zone D of Adventure Aquarium.