goldfish hiding in cinder blocks under water (l) man in room with rocks and water (c) hand reaching into a cooler to grab live eels (r)


‘We have eels’: TikTok is emotionally invested in this man’s eel pit

He finally has the eels.


Audra Schroeder

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 15, 2022

Nick Tobler, who posts as cowturtle on TikTok, is basically a fish nerd. He recently posted footage from an Everglades expedition and regularly includes educational videos about different reptiles and fish from his store, Reef Life Aquatics, in Kentucky. Tobler also captures incredible footage from cave systems and night hikes in the woods.

But what TikTok has become fixated on is his eel pit project, which has been evolving since March.

@cowturtle New life in the eel pit! Eels come very soon! #eelpot #eelpond #fishtanks #fishtok #aquariums ♬ original sound – cowturtle
@cowturtle Goldfish for the eel hole. #eelpond #eelhole #aquariums #fishtok #rarefish #rivermonsters #aquariumsoftiktok ♬ original sound – cowturtle

Obviously, the eel pit is quite creepy: It’s a dark, claustrophobic hole that is filled with eels. It was originally a rainwater cistern under his garage but Tobler was able to get the water clear enough for the eel pit. 

And TikTok is invested, despite comments about how the pit looks like a “bad dream” or something out of A Cure for Wellness. Tobler now has more than 337,000 followers and the patience of a saint to be able to keep answering the same question over and over: When are the eels coming? He tells the Daily Dot he’s “very surprised” by all the attention, and it has changed how he posts.   

“I definitely make actual posts now,” he says. “Before I was always more concerned with the quality of what I was posting. Now I’m going quicker and [doing] more frequent posts to keep up with everyone’s interest.” 

This “interest” has even crossed over to Twitter, as people waited for the eels to arrive. A viral tweet from writer Julia Glum spelled that out; she collected various tweets from the last week of people wondering where the eels are, including one claiming they need to know when it happens even if they’re on their “deathbed.”

The eels are “currently in transport” as of Wednesday morning and Tobler says their diet will consist of tilapia filets a few times a week. As for additional fish for the eel pit, he wants “oddball North American fish. I’m thinking of albino channel catfish, Burbot, possibly sturgeon, as well as koi and goldfish.” Tobler’s ultimately looking for a “diversity of fish that can live with them.” 

@cowturtle EEL PIT EEL PIT EEL PIT EEL PIT EEL PIT #eelpit #eelpond #aquariums #reeftank #fishtok #aquarium #fishtanks #rivermonsters #monsterfishkeepers #monsterfishkeeper ♬ original sound – cowturtle

On Wednesday afternoon, he posted video proof: “We have eels!” Tobler exclaimed before letting them into the water. There are already some names for the eels, including Crunchwrap Supreme, Bathtub, and Neel.

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*First Published: Jun 15, 2022, 1:47 pm CDT