information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Conger eel (Conger conger)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Conger conger is a long, powerful fish with scaleless, smooth skin. They are usually grey-blue or grey-black in colour with a white or pale golden coloured belly. In deeper water they have a light brown back with grey sides and belly. The dorsal, tail and anal fins are fused making a complete fringe around the body. The dorsal fin starts just behind the tip of the pectoral fin and the anal fin terminates midway along the underside of the fish. Conger eels can grow to 2.75 m in length but are more commonly seen at around 2 m long.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Conger conger is found predominantly on the south and western coasts of England, Wales and Scotland and all around the Irish coast. There are a few records on eastern coasts of England and Scotland though the conger is less numerous in these areas.

Global distribution



During the day Conger conger are found in holes or crevices on rocky or sandy bottoms and in wrecks and other artificial environments. Conger eels become more active at night when they leave their resting places to hunt. Many Congers are found down to depths of 500 m but descend to as deep as 4000 m to spawn.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Dorsal, tail and anal fins fused forming a complete fringe with a pointed tail.
  • The pectoral fins are pointed with the dorsal fin beginning just behind the pectoral tip.
  • The eyes are eliptical and the upper jaw is longer than the lower.
  • Nostril openings face forward on the snout.
  • Grey-blue or grey-brown in colour with black margin around dorsal and anal fins.
  • Long snake-like fish that grow up to 2.75 m in length.

Additional information

Conger eels spend their entire life in marine waters. Once they reach maturity, which takes between 5 -15 years, they migrate to deep water in the mid-Atlantic to spawn. Conger conger spawns only once and dies straight after. The larvae drift north eastwards until they reach shallower waters where larval development is completed (Wheeler, 1969). Conger conger could be confused with the common eel Anguilla anguilla. However, the conger eel has pointed pectoral fins, the upper jaw overhangs the lower and the dorsal fin originates from further forward on the body.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  4. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland,

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. Naylor, P., 2000. Marine Animals of the South West. Plymouth: Sound Diving Publications

  7. Picton, B.E. & Morrow, C.C., 2000. Encyclopaedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland., 2003-09-18

  8. Picton, B.E., & Costello, M.J., 2001. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats and fauna of Britain and Ireland., 2001-06-01

  9. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  10. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Reeve, A. 2007. Conger conger Conger eel. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 14-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 14/03/2007