An Electric Eel Lights Up Christmas at the Tennessee Aquarium

This holiday season, the Tennessee Aquarium presents an unusual yet fascinating spectacle. In a unique blend of nature and technology, the aquarium’s Christmas tree shines bright, powered not by conventional electricity, but by the electrical shocks of an electric eel named Miguel Watson. This innovative endeavor not only offers an exciting holiday experience but also showcases the remarkable abilities of electric eels, in a setting that captivates both adults and children alike.

Electric Eels: An Overview

Electric eels, such as Miguel Watson, have three different organs that generate electricity, two of which can produce up to 800 volts—over eight times the current in a household outlet. This electricity serves multiple purposes for the eel. Low-voltage shocks, for example, are used for electrolocation, a phenomenon similar to the echolocation employed by dolphins, aiding the eel in navigation and food detection. High-voltage shocks, on the other hand, are primarily used for self-defense and stunning potential prey in the wild.

The Electric Eel Christmas Show

Engineers at the Tennessee Aquarium have ingeniously harnessed the electric eel’s power for a festive purpose. By setting up probes in Miguel’s tank, they can detect when he sends out shock waves. These shocks are then translated into the dazzling blink of Christmas tree lights, creating a unique and interactive light show. The intensity of Miguel’s shocks even influences the brightness of the lights—a stronger shock wave results in a brighter light, making for an unpredictable and dynamic display.

Social Media Engagement

Miguel’s influence extends beyond the physical realm of the aquarium. His shocks also power his social media presence. A team of coders from Tennessee Tech University has built a Twitter account for Miguel that sends out electrifying tweets such as “Kaboom!” and “Bazinga!” each time he emits a potent shock wave. This innovative approach not only adds an element of fun to the experience but also brings a sense of connection between the eel and his online audience.


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