It may sound crazy, but a lot of people claim there is a "gentle side" to eels. Some Aquarium workers have even said the snake-like fish are even more like dogs, showing intelligence and memory uncharacteristic for a non-mammal. Still, none of this necessarily means that they make good pets.
If you were to browse YouTube for "friendly eels" or even "eel pet" for a minute, you would stumble upon hundreds of videos where seemingly crazy people are handling large and terrifying eels like it were the family pet.
Claim to Fame
"Aww, there's the belly rub, there's a belly rub," an unnamed aquarium worker says a while he pets Oliver, the green moray eel.
The eel itself is flopped on its side, its characteristic open-mouthed grimace looking far more like a grin of pure pleasure as the underside of its body is scratched.
"He really needs to be a YouTube star," the worker jokes.
And on a small scale, this has really happened. Since "Oliver The Green Moray Eel Loves to be Petted" was uploaded in 2012, it has seen more than 100,000 views and countless Twitter shares. When looking for helpful tips and web pages about keeping an eel as a pet, you're bound to stumble upon this clip.
And Oliver isn't alone, the internet seems to not have forgotten the magical relationship between diver Valarie Taylor and the spotted eel she named "Honey," which has recently resurfaced on Reddit and YouTube.
In both these videos, the eels appear to be far more emotive and "feeling" compared to what is generally thought of when we think of fish.
"A lot of people think that fish behavior is totally inflexible, like little swimming robots, but that's absolutely not the case. They can learn all sorts of things and adjust their behavior, if only we give them the chance to do it," expert Culum Brown said in an ABC interview about fish some years back.
Nature World News also recently reported on some of Brown's more recent work, in which he details how fish are social animals that feel pain just like mammals, and deserve to be in the "moral circle" that restricts what can be done in hunting industries.
Potential Pet Material?
Whether this brings eels and other fish on the same levels as dogs remains to be seen, but it does raise the question "do they actually make good pets?"
The answer is actually mixed. It sure appears that at least eels are capable of what some pet owners might call "love," happily returning affections given. However, according to Animal World true eels are very difficult and expensive creatures to care for.
Some can grow remarkably large, and would require massive tanks that most home aquarium owners cannot afford. Think about all the space even a pet poodle needs to stay active and healthy. You can't just fill your house up with water can you?
For the most part, the size issue is a deal breaker, making eels impractical pets despite their "dog-like" behavior towards the right people. However, if you do have the right size tank and would love a new aquatic buddy, Christopher Scharpf of the North American Native Fishes Association has a stern warning.
"Do not underestimate the eel's Houdiniesque talents," he writes. "I'm sad to confess that nearly every eel I've kept has foiled my attempts to confine it."
Still, if you can keep your eel happy but confined, it will prove a hearty and long-lived pet that only needs to be fed live or freeze dried prey two or three times a week.
Taylor, the friend of Honey the spotted eel, argued in a past documentary that the surprisingly intelligent and gentle creatures are best left in their natural habitats, where researchers can continue to study these creatures that are still barely understood.
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