Meet & Greet: the Eelpout (Zoarces viviparous)

© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez

Author: Michael Michalitsis
Date: July 26, 2013



I’ve spent over a year analyzing hours of expedition videos taken by our underwater robot (the ROV). I have to say that you quickly start recognizing the usual suspects of fish and algae. One of the fish that is most commonly seen is the eelpout (Zoarces viviparous).

It is a slimy skinned fish with lots of colour variations, but dark-light brown patterns are most common. 

Although it looks like an eel it’s totally different. It reaches a maximum length of 52cm, and is benthic, which means that it resides on the bottom of the sea.  The eelpout lives in marine and brackish water along rocky shores, under stones and around algae. It feeds on small animals like crustaceans, insects, and gastropods. Most of the literature available states that eelpouts can be found at a the maximum depth of 40m, which I find a bit strange because Oceana has documentation of the fish at a depth of 213m!

Here’s another really interesting fact: this fish has a pretty exciting secret that I think every marine biologist would be excited about. While, the eelpout is one of many fish that gives birth to live young and not eggs, it is the only fish known to actually suckle its offspring – if you’d like to learn more about that, we delved into it in a previous blog here.  

Mating takes place in August /September with the internal fertilization of the eggs. The females give birth to 30-400 developed young that range from 35 to 55mm in length.

The eelpout is not commercially fished but often ends up as bycatch.