The Rubber Eel is a species of caecilian called Typhlonectes natans.
It belongs to the family Typhlonectidae and is found in Colombia, Venezuela, and possibly Trinidad and Tobago.
They live in a variety of habitats, such as dry savanna, subtropical or tropical dry shrubland, moist shrubland, seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, and rivers.
People often keep them as pets in aquariums, and they are sometimes sold as fish in stores.
What Do Rubber Eels Look Like and How Big Do They Get?
Rubber Eels grow to be about 18 to 22 inches (45 to 55 centimeters) long. Their color ranges from dark grey to black.
Their body is limbless and has fleshy segmented folds along it. They have a wider head than the body, sharp tooth tips, and nine anal denticulations.
How Do Rubber Eels Breathe?
Although Rubber Eels can breathe air at the surface, most of their respiration happens through their skin.
This is because they are mostly found in water and have a unique way of getting oxygen.
How Do Rubber Eels Reproduce?
Rubber Eels are ovoviviparous, which means they give birth to live young in water. The gestation period for these animals is about 220 days.
A mother can give birth to three to seven fully developed young at a time.
In just one year, young Rubber Eels can grow to almost half the size of an adult, reaching about 10 inches (25 centimeters) in length.
Where Are Rubber Eels Found in The Wild?
In their native range, Rubber Eels are found in the Cauca and Magdalena River drainage basins in Colombia, the Maracaibo Basin in Venezuela and surrounding areas, and perhaps Trinidad and Tobago, although this needs confirmation.
They prefer warm freshwater marshes, ponds, streams, and rivers as their habitats.
What Do Rubber Eels Eat?
Not much is known about the wild diet of Rubber Eels, but they have been observed eating fish entrails. This suggests that they could be scavengers and predators.
In captivity, they are often fed earthworms, crickets, beetle larvae, frozen fish, crustaceans, and commercially available amphibian pellets.
What Is the Behavior and Ecology of Rubber Eels Like?
Rubber Eels are elusive creatures, so not much is known about their behavior and ecology.
They are believed to be fully aquatic and live in burrows, under rocks, in aquatic vegetation, or in open water. They have poor eyesight and are mostly blind.
Female Rubber Eels usually have two to 10 offspring per litter, and larger females tend to have more and larger offspring.
How Did Rubber Eels Get to Florida?
In 2019, a Rubber Eel was found in Miami-Dade County, Florida, making it the first caecilian collected in North America.
It’s likely that this animal was introduced to Florida through an aquarium release or escape.
Rubber Eels are often exported from Colombia and are widely available in the pet and aquarium trade. Hobbyists also commonly breed them in captivity.
What Is the Status of Rubber Eels in Florida and The Great Lakes?
The status of Rubber Eels in Florida is currently unknown. There is no information available about their impact on the Great Lakes.
What Are Some Tips for Keeping Rubber Eels in Aquariums?
Rubber Eels can be kept in aquariums, but there is no consensus on the exact requirements for temperature and water parameters.
It’s thought that water with a hardness of more than 150 ppm could cause skin irritation, lesions, and even death in these animals.