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Sparky the electric eel lights Christmas tree at Living Planet Aquarium (video)

Published December 13, 2011 6:25 pm

Sensors in the fish tank are tied to Christmas lights.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Forget Rudolph. The new animal symbolizing Christmas is Sparky the electric eel — at least if the staff at the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy has a say in the matter.

Sparky, so dubbed by the folks at Cache Valley Electric who sponsored the eel display at Living Planet, is providing the "twinkle" of lights on the 5-foot Christmas tree just outside of his aquarium. This is the second year Sparky has been "shocking" visitors to the aquarium.

"We heard about an aquarium in Japan that was doing it and asked Cache Valley Electric if we could do it," said Angie Hyde, with Living Planet Aquarium. "They said 'no problem.'"

Two stainless steel electrodes are placed in Sparky's tank. Whenever the eel — which is technically not actually an eel, but a fish that looks like an eel — produces an electric current it causes the five strands of lights on the tree to flash fast or slow depending on the strength of output from the fish.

There is another power source for the lights, so there is always at least one strand lit, but it is easy to tell when Sparky is emitting electricity because the lights get active.

"He is not necessarily powering the lights, but he is making them twinkle," Hyde said. "Each time he moves or attempts to sense anything the lights on the tree start flashing."

There is a sign outside the tank explaining Sparky's connection to the tree. Hyde said many people are "shocked" to hear a fish is providing their holiday cheer.

"He is very popular. We get people coming back to see him or people who say they came to see him all the time," she said.

If just seeing what Sparky is capable of is not enough, people who want more can experience what it might be like to touch an electric eel with a two finger touch pad for a little shock.

Sparky and the Christmas tree will be on display through the end of the year.






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