are eels fish or snakes

Are Eels Fish or Snakes?

Eels are aquatic creatures, so you might assume they’re fish. But there’s common confusion about whether eels are actually fish, reptiles or something in-between.

Eels are Fish…But Not Typical Fish

Eels are fish, and they’re closely related to other types of fish like carp and salmon. In one way, all fish are similar: they’re aquatic vertebrates that breathe oxygen from water through gills. However, from there, the similarities end.

Eels have distinct characteristics that are different from other fish species. Some of the features that distinguish eels include:

  • Slim, snake-like bodies
  • Lack of scales on their skin
  • Lack of pelvic or pectoral fins
  • Pair of pointed, pectoral fins behind the head
  • Large jaws and mouths

Where Do Eels Live?

Eels live in both saltwater and freshwater environments and are found in oceans all over the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean. Eel habitats vary greatly, ranging from shallow coastal waters to the deepest chasms of the ocean and even the dark, muddy depths of freshwater streams.

How Do Eels Survive?

Eels spend most of their lives swimming and searching for food. They feed on a wide array of prey, including fish, shrimp, crabs, and other small aquatic creatures.

Eels’ snake-like bodies also give them an advantage in the water. For example, some types of eel can quickly curl up and hide in tight spaces and crevices when threatened.


Eels are unique creatures that are often misidentified as either fish or snakes. In reality, eels are classified as fish, albeit fish with unique features and behavior. Eels swim and search for food in both saltwater and freshwater habitats across the world. They are predators that feed on a wide array of prey, and their slim, snake-like bodies also allow them to hide in tight spaces and crevices as needed.

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