Fish That Look Like Eels & Eel-Like Fish That Aren’t True Eels

Fish That Look Like Eels & Eel-Like Fish That Aren’t True Eels

Image of Eel fish

Fish that look like Eels are:

  • Bichir,
  • Pangio Kuhlii,
  • Cutlassfish,
  • Eel-Tailed Catfish,
  • West African Lungfish,
  • Aenigmachanna Gollum,
  • Reedfish, and
  • Rock Gunnel.

Let’s take a detailed look at each of these fish now.

Fish That Look Like Eels

Eels have an elongated body. However, you will be surprised to know that Eels are not the only ones with elongated bodies.

There are many other fish that resemble their body structure.

Following are the fish that look like Eels.



Bichir belongs to the Polypterus family native to western and central Africa’s freshwater lakes and rivers.

Bichirs are also known as Dragonfish, Swamp Dragons, and Dinosaur Eels.

These fish are often mistaken as Eels due to their elongated, thin Eel-like body. Even their jaw structure is somewhat alike.

Besides, both Bichir and Eels are ray-finned fish species. Both of them also prefer shallow waters to reside in.

Although Bichirs look similar to Eels, they have certain differences that set them apart.

For example, Eels don’t have finlet series that are present on Bichirs’ bodies.

Besides, Bichirs are mainly freshwater fish, whereas Eels can live in freshwater or saltwater.

Another difference is that Bichirs have thick, bonelike, and rhombic scales. In contrast, the Eels’ skin is slippery.

Pangio Kuhlii

Pangio Kuhlii
Pangio Kuhlii

Pangio Kuhlii is a freshwater fish belonging to the Cobitidae family, native to Asia (mainly Southeast Asia).

Pangio Kuhlii is also known as the Leopard Loach, Coolie Loach, and Cinnamon Loach.

These fish have slender body similar to Eels. Besides, they have anal and dorsal fins like Eels.

Another similarity between the two is that their movement is very similar, and both have a snake-like body.

However, the difference between the two is that Pangio Kuhlii is smaller than an Eel.

Besides, these fish have around 12 to 15 dark brown vertical bars on their body. On the contrary, Eels don’t have such vertical bars.


Check out how Cutlassfish look over here.

Cutlassfish belong to the Trichiuridae family and inhabit the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

Cutlassfish have a distinctive appearance similar to Eels. For example, most of them don’t have caudal and pelvic fins, just like Eels.

Another similarity between the two is that Cutlassfish don’t have scales like most ocean-living Eels.

However, you may find small, oval-shaped scales embedded in the freshwater Eels’ skin.

The difference between Cuttlefish and Eels is that their jaw structure varies.

Also, Cutlassfish are found in saltwater, whereas Eels are found both in freshwater and saltwater.

The average length of both these fish also varies.

The average size of Cutlassfish is around 3 feet, whereas Eels vary between 3 to 5 feet, depending on the species.

Eel-Tailed Catfish

Check out how Eel-Tailed Catfish look over here.

Eel-Tailed Catfish belong to the Plotosidae family and are native to the Murray-Darling River system of Eastern Australia.

Other names of Eel-Tailed Catfish are Freshwater Catfish, Jewfish, and Tandan.

Eel-Tailed Catfish have an elongated and tapering tail similar to Eels. Besides, the lower half of their body is like Eels.

Eel-Tailed Catfish also have a cylindrical body and dorsal fins similar to Eels.

The difference between the two is that even if their lower body is similar, their upper body differs in appearance.

Another difference is that the pectoral and dorsal fins of Eel-Tailed Catfish are lethal, unlike Eels.

West African Lungfish

West African Lungfish
West African Lungfish

West African Lungfish belong to the Protopteridae family. They are found in the freshwater habitats of West and Middle Africa and the northern half of Southern Africa.

West African Lungfish look similar to Eels. They both have elongated bodies.

Also, both these species are found in freshwater, though some species of Eels are also found in saltwater.

The most significant difference between the two is the pectoral and pelvic fins.

West African Lungfish have very long and thin pectoral and pelvic fins. While Eels don’t have pelvic fins, their pectoral fins are either very small or non-existent.

The scales on the West African Lungfish are cycloid, while that of Eels are oval-shaped.

Also, Eels have gills, whereas West African Lungfish have true lungs in addition to gills.

Aenigmachanna Gollum

Check out how Aenigmachanna Gollum looks over here.

Aenigmachanna Gollum belongs to the Snakehead family. They are found in southwest India, abundantly in Kerala state.

Aenigmachanna Gollum fish is a genus of ray-finned fish, just like Eels. Also, both these fish have elongated bodies.

Another similarity between the two is that they both lack pelvic fins. Also, their swimming pattern is alike.

Both these fish undulate their fins while swimming in the water.

The difference between the Aenigmachanna Gollum fish and Eels is that while the former has a large pectoral fin, the latter either has a tiny pectoral fin or none at all.

Another difference is that Aenigmachanna Gollum fish are small compared to Eels.



Reedfish belong to the Bichir family and are native to Central and West Africa.

They are also known as Ropefish or Snakefish.

Just like Eels, Reedfish also have elongated bodies with slippery skin.

Another similarity between the two is that both these fish look like snakes.

Reedfish use their pectoral fins to make an Eel-like swimming form for fast swimming.

Also, both of them lack the pelvic or ventral fins.

Although Reedfish and Eels have similar looks, there are also differences between the two.

The most significant difference between them is that while Reedfish have fan-shaped pectoral fins, the pectoral fins of Eels are either very small or nonexistent in many species.

Reedfish are also smaller compared to Eels.

Moreover, Reedfish have a pair of lungs in addition to gills, whereas Eels don’t have lungs.

Rock Gunnel

Rock Gunnel
Rock Gunnel

Rock Gunnel or Butterfish belong to the Gunnels family, native to the Atlantic Ocean.

A Rock Gunnel is often mistaken as an Eel due to its flattened, elongated body.

Also, both these fish are ray-finned species having flat and long body shapes.

Another similarity between them is that their anal and dorsal fins are similar. In addition, both these fish have slimy skin.

However, a Rock Gunnel has small pelvic fins, whereas an Eel doesn’t have the same. They are also much smaller than Eels.

A Rock Gunnel can grow up to about 12 inches which is less than half the average size of an Eel.

Eel-Like Fish That Are Not True Eels

True Eels are elongated bony fish with snake-like slimy bodies and are a member of the fish order Anguilliformes, while other Eel-like fish are not.

Another characteristic of true Eels is that their anal, dorsal, and caudal fins are fused into one long fin.

Pelvic fins are absent in true Eels, and all of them breed in the ocean, including the ones that inhabit the freshwater.

Also, true Eels swim by making waves with their body, which allows them to swim forward and backward.

There are numerous fish that are termed Eels, but not all of them are Eels in the true sense.

Here are some fish that are Eel-like but are not true eels.

  • Fire Eel,
  • Dragon Eel,
  • Zigzag Eel,
  • Asian Swamp Eel,
  • Peacock Eel,
  • Electric Eel, and
  • Spiny Eel.

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