The Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is making good use of one of its residents.
Miguel Wattson, an electric eel that resides in the aquarium’s Rivers of the World gallery, not only tweets from his account, which currently has more than 38,000 followers — he earns his keep by powering a Christmas tree at the aquarium.
Joey Turnipseed, the Aquarium’s audio visual production specialist, attached sensors to Wattson’s tank that harnesses his natural electrical discharge to a set of speakers.
“The speakers convert the discharge into the sound you hear and the festively flashing lights,” Turnipseed explained in a statement.
“The rapid, dim blinking of the lights is caused by the constant, low-voltage blips of electricity he releases when he’s trying to find food,” explained Aquarist Kimberly Hurt. “The bigger flashes are caused by the higher voltage shocks he emits when he’s eating or excited.”
While navigating and searching for food, electric eels will typically only emit 10 volts of electricity, according to the aquarium. However, electric eels are capable of generating more than 800 volts of electricity. Electric eels will only emit that high of a discharge for defense or when they want to stun prey.
Electric eels have three electrical organs that are made up of electrocytes, which are electric generating cells. Even though they are called electric eels, the aquarium said that they are actually a type of knifefish and more closely resemble carp.