Meet the electric eel who is literally powering his own Twitter account

Published 9:53 am Saturday, January 17, 2015

“I tweet about whatever sparks my interest.” That’s the Twitter bio for Miguel Wattson, the electric eel at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

What sparks Miguel’s interest? Food. Fear. Kids tapping on the glass. Pretty much any stimuli will send sparks through his tank to help him find his way around or fry up some dinner. 

Or, these days, to share his feelings on Twitter. 

Miguel’s tank is rigged to capture to the electricity he generates. When that electricity reaches a certain level, he zaps out a tweet. 

Sure, the aquarium staff helps him craft his message well in advance, but this is way more than one of those anthropomorphic animal novelty accounts, à la the Bronx Zoo Cobra.

Miguel’s voluminous voltage was already powering an array of LED lights and piping a snap-crackle soundtrack through overhead speakers. But since he has the potential to light up 20 40-watt DC light bulbs with a single shock, there’s plenty of power to go around. And that sparked an idea.

“If an Electric Eel’s energy can be monitored and represented on a display in the Aquarium, why not harness this flow of extra electrons to spark conversations about eels, freshwater fishes and energy conservation with a worldwide audience via Twitter?” reads the press release the Tennessee Aquarium issued Friday. 

The aquarium brought the idea to some local college students, and the rest is hashtag history. 

“This was a really fun project for our multi-disciplinary team,” said Kevin Liska, director of the Business Media Center at Tennessee Tech University. “They combined electrical engineering and emerging business communication to give the eel a voice.”

However, considering the constant current he produces, Miguel’s voice can get pretty loud. So the Tennessee Tech team included in the code for the application a sort of “fuse-box” that will keep him from spamming his followers. 

Miguel’s first shocked his way into social media on Dec.15 with “Hello, world! I’m so amped to be on Twitter! #letsdothis.”

You can follow him at @EelectricMiguel.