Nick Tobler is a 25-year-old aquarium retailer supervisor in Kentucky, however you would possibly know him higher as TikTok’s eel pit man.
Greater than 380,000 folks observe his TikTok account @cowturtle and have stored up with Tobler’s completely wild journey of turning a creepy, unused rainwater cistern beneath his storage into an excellent creepier 5,000-gallon pond match for a dozen eels.
This week, he lastly crammed the pond with 12 American eels, and all of us watched with a combination of curiosity, pleasure, and, frankly, concern. Followers pitched names for the eels — like Bathtub, Crunchwrap Supreme, Eelon Musk, Steely Dan, Mentally Eel, Eelissa, and Neel. A crayfish named Mayonnaise can be contained in the spooky pit.
Naturally, we had questions. Tobler obtained on the cellphone with Mashable to reply every thing from “are your eels in your will” to “why have not you launched them to a canine?”
Mashable: Have you ever at all times appreciated eels?
Positively. I’ve at all times wished American Eels. It is not truly a fish anyone’s actually retaining — like there is a couple outdated discussion board posts about them, however it’s not one thing that is generally stored or offered in shops like aquarium shops or something. So I at all times had the intention of sooner or later catching one myself and simply taking it residence with me and retaining it. However then once I noticed the pit, I used to be like, properly, that is nearly as good because it will get for a bunch of eels.
Do folks fish for eels? And seize them as pets?
For the longest time, I used to be truly setting out traps. Nicely, I did it for 2 weeks two years in the past. However I’ve at all times been catching native fish and stuff like that for my aquarium. And that was at all times one of many coolest oddball, bizarre fish that you could find.
You stated you had been at all times form of into them. How do you are feeling about eel illustration in trendy media? The one occasions I’ve ever seen them are because the henchmen and The Little Mermaid.
Oh, they’re actually cool [in real life]. I am positive you’ve got seen among the movies. They do tame down, and in aquariums, they make nice pets. They’re much more interactive than most fish simply because they’re going to eat out of your hand.. I’ve had fish and eels the place you possibly can simply choose them up they usually do not care in any respect. They’re truly actually relaxed laid again fish for essentially the most half.
Do you personal some other pets?
Oh yeah. I’ve obtained countless quantities: a bunch of fish tanks, tortoises, lizards. Caiman lizards are most likely my coolest lizard. We’re truly breeding Indian star tortoises proper now. Three hatched yesterday.
Have any of those different pets met the eels?
No. Later this yr I am gonna order three of the largest eels that [the person I bought the eels from] catches this season, which will likely be round three toes. After which I’d take the 2 smallest eels out of the pit and truly hold them in my aquarium inside. I am establishing a 500-gallon aquarium inside proper now. Eels truly combine very well with different fish, too.
Principally simply aquatic animals, then?
I used to be enthusiastic about bringing my Chihuahua down. I simply suppose it would be humorous.
I’d like to see that interplay. What’s your chihuahua’s identify?
Have you learnt the frog military man?
I’ve seen a video right here and there. I have not gone in-depth on it.
I feel the followers would like to see some form of crossover.
Oh yeah, I see plenty of that on Twitter.
Is it true that we don’t know how eels reproduce?
We haven’t seen it in the wild, but we pretty much know. They breed out thousands of miles… They breed out in the Caribbean from the rivers. They migrate back out, breed, and die.
Will any of your eels reproduce?
No. When you keep them in captivity or contained in something like this where they can’t migrate, they won’t reproduce. But they’ll actually, like, live forever. American eels have hit 80. European eels have lived to be 155.
What’s your plan if they outlive you?
We’re in it for the long haul… I’ve got a ton of long-living animals that me and my brother are doing together. And then, worst-case scenario, we both die, and it all just gets donated to a public aquarium somewhere. A lot of our animals are rare enough that there is a demand in zoos and stuff for stuff like this.
Are you saying you have to put the eels in your will?
No, I think, outside of me and my brother, nobody else wants them.
Are there eel conservation efforts you’re interested in?
I wish, but no, not really. American eels are [regulated] by state: they’re protected in Florida, but then they’re still used as fishing bait in Maine. But some of the other species, like the New Zealand longfin I believe, are protected. It’s the same family. The European is the one that’s really crashing, because they actually collect the babies, farm them in Asia, and then ship them as a food fish for sushi and things like that. So they are becoming rarer because of that.
What are you going to do with the pit if you move?
I’ll take the eels with me and I just put the manhole cover back on and won’t acknowledge it. That’s what it was when we got there. The pit was already there. I just added cinder blocks and gravel.
Did you expect all this TikTok fame?
Not off of this. I think I do way cooler stuff. If you go back just a year to what I was doing – I was always exploring the Cincinnati subway, catching all different types of animals.
Does it change the way that you approach this eel project?
As far as taking care of them, this was the exact plan from day one. I haven’t changed anything there. I’m definitely posting more because people wanna see. I’m trying to get at least a post a day, but ideally two or three just because there’s interest right now.
What kind of questions are you getting in your DMs?
Definitely, like, why don’t I have plants? Why don’t I get better lighting? Just different things like that. I want it to be a cave for the first year, at least. And then maybe down the road, if somehow I get paid from all this, I’ll upgrade the light and add plants and make it a swamp.
Is there a reason that it’s so dark down there?
Oh yeah. They prefer the dark, but I’m trying to train them to, when I turn on the light, they’ll be actively swimming around looking for food.
Because you wanna be able to hang out with them?
Yeah. I wanna see them when I’m down there. I wanna see them swimming.
How much does it cost to take care of the eels?
Honestly, super cheap. It’s probably one of my cheapest animal setups, really. It was gravel, cinder blocks, and a filter that was maybe US$150 and that was probably my biggest expense.
Are the eels themselves not particularly expensive?
No. They’re still used as fishing bait in Maine. That’s where these came from, so they were pretty cheap.
Do you have any tips for folks who want to have eels for themselves?
Do it. It’s really easy. It’s fun. Aquariums are awesome.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.