The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy, Utah is harnessing the electrical power of its resident electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) to light a Christmas display outside the eel’s tank. The display, which is in the Journey To South America exhibit, is being lit via the electric eel through a series of stainless steel electrodes that were put into the eel’s tank by Cache Valley Electric. The electrodes power a sequencer that then takes the voltage produced by the eel to operate the circuitry that flashes the light based on the level of electricity the eel puts out. When the eel moves, four strands of lights flash intermittently on the holiday tree.
“Visitors can visually and audibly experience the power of our electric eel and get a real sense of how amazing this creature is,” Angie Hyde, director of public relations & marketing said in a press release put out by the aquarium. “We thought we’d put a festive twist on it for the holidays which has been a huge hit with our members and visitors.”
Electric eels are native to South America and are capable of generating up to 600 volts of electricity. They can grow to more than 6 feet in length. The electric eel uses its electricity to avoid predation as well as a hunting mechanism. Even though they are called eels, they are not true eels but are members of the knifefish (Gymnotiformes) family.
The Living Planet Aquarium will open its doors to a new 136,000 square foot facility in December 2013. It will house a 300,000 gallon shark tank with a 40 foot walk through tunnel to view the animals below the surface. The first floor of the new facility will include freshwater, marine and rainforest exhibits as well as an amphibian and mammal display showcasing species native to the state of Utah. The aquarium will have between 42 and 62 exhibits and will hold more than a million gallons of water. The Sandy location is expected to close September 2013 to facilitate the transition to the new building in Draper, Utah.