What to feed baby piranhas

What Do piranhas Eat? A Guide to Feeding Your piranha

To be honest, piranhas have always been in the limelight but, for the wrong reasons; Hollywood especially, portrayed these fishes as vicious creatures that are constantly on the lookout for prey and are waiting to pounce on another animal to satiate their appetite.

This infers that most of the piranhas are omnivores and depend on both meat and fruits and vegetables for their survival.

If you are looking forward to finding out more about their diet, read on.

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What do piranhas eat in the wild?

For those of you who might now, the piranhas are also sometimes referred to as “opportunistic carnivores” primarily because of its tendency to feed on land and aquatic animals whenever there’s a chance.

President Teddy Roosevelt, in his visit to the South African jungle, revealed that he witnessed a piranha tearing apart and devouring a whole cow within minutes.  

Nevertheless, let us here bust a myth for you. In movies, you will often see a piranha eating man in unparalleled wilderness and aggression but, the real picture presents something completely different.

We cannot steer away from accepting that piranhas indeed have intense cravings but, rarely do they attack large animals or spring on man.

As carnivores, they are drawn towards insects, birds, amphibians, rodents, small fish, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and the like.

Coming to their herbivores variants and the omnivores such as the Red-Bellied Piranha, they mostly survive on plant matter, fruits and seeds.

Piranhas also find the fins and tails of the other animals very delicious; this is why they sometimes take a bite from their body when they pass by such potential prey and thus, exhibit signs of cannibalism when going through a dry spell.

We must also clarify here that a piranha will not consider a human as its food until they are certain that the latter has died or is heavily injured. Nevertheless, this wild fish can bite swimmers when there’s a shortage of sustenance, or their nests are laid vulnerable when breeding.

Despite the fact that they have been blessed with notched teeth and muscular jaws, one shouldn’t simply assume that they are only fond of meat; interestingly, Piranhas’ affinity towards vegetation is as much as towards meat.

This more or less elucidates why the grey-bodied fish is alarmed whenever some fruit or branches from the nearby trees fall into the water.

What do piranhas eat in captivity?

Because Piranhas are classified under that category of fishes that hardly change their disposition when held captive, you should strive to give them a life and diet in the aquarium which reflects the habits in the wild.

Also, as we have mentioned in the preceding section, most piranhas are omnivores, you should curate a diet that is an amalgamation of variable nutrients to keep away dietary deficiencies and severe health issues.

Bear in mind that the fish doesn’t like being left hungry; situations where they are stimulated by loud noise, scarcity of food or dry season, they will turn to communal feeding and inevitably develop feeding frenzies and this inclination can surface itself during any part of the day.

If you are searching for a detailed list, in the following segment, we will lay down one for your better understanding.

What do you feed a pet piranha?

Feeding a pet Piranha shouldn’t be very difficult because in the wild too, they are exposed to innumerable diversities of food and that is what they should have inside an aquarium.

There are essentially five different types of food that a Piranha can devour and they are namely live foods, frozen foods, dried foods, meaty foods, and vegetables.

  • Live foods

Shrimp or fish:

The first and the most important part of a Piranha’s diet should be shrimp and fishes; but, remember when they are kept with other fishes in the tank, and the area is more crowded than it normally should be, the feeder fish can actively start dispersing disease and parasites to the others in the reservoir.

Therefore, we would recommend you to first isolate the feeder fish for some time after procuring it and then diligently treat it to eradicate germs and parasites, if any; this will help you ensure that the chances of latent diseases are reduced to the minimum.

According to experts, the feeder fishes must be always cultivated in healthy environments and rightfully so. You can resort to brine shrimp for feeding young piranhas as they are relatively softer and easy to digest.


Despite the fact that a lot of people would suggest you feed mammals like mice to your Piranha, we are of the opinion that you should avoid it as much as possible because (a) living mammals can attempt to bite the fish back, and (b) their furry skin can encourage choking or make way for indigestion.

If at all you must feed your pet a mammal, you can opt for dead mice merely because they aren’t messy.


Insects like crickets and mealworms are great recourses that can be inculcated in a Piranha’s diet.

You can stock up on the farm-bred and store-bought ones or foster them at your home just to be on the safer spectrum of things because the former alternative can contain herbicides that are hazardous for all the fishes in the tank.


Generally speaking, worms are the safest food that you can offer to your piranha because apart from being disease-free, they are cost-effective and dexterously available in all pet stores.

Never try to give your fish worms that are freshly picked from the garden because of that way, there will always be a lingering chance of contamination from dirt.

  • Frozen Foods

Frozen cubes:

Frozen cubes, as the name suggests, are minuscule bits of shrimp, beef heart, daphnia and bringing shrimp that are suitable for both juvenile and adult Piranhas but, try to feed furnish these to the mature ones only occasionally.

Frozen baitfish:

Most of the fish baits obtainable at pet stores are scented to allure your pet to finish his meal quickly. If you can get your hands on a bunch of these, you can be assured that their meal-time will be sorted and hassle-free.

  • Dried foods

Flakes and pellets

Flakes and pellets are the most sought-after food when it comes to serving fishes in an aquarium and here, the piranhas are no exception.

Nonetheless, these supplements contain a limited amount of calcium and protein and thereby, should be made available to the fish only in the form of add-ons with or after a complete meal.

Frozen dried foods:

The grouping of frozen dried foods includes animal proteins derived from krill, shrimp, planktons, daphnia, bloodworms, and tubifex. They are fulfilling for the young piranhas and can be also supplied to the adults as adjuncts.

Fresh meaty food

Meaty foods that are acquired from pet stores are normally frozen to safeguard them against conceivable organisms and bacteria that can ruin the health of your fish.

Therefore, if you are trying to craft a platter of meaty foods for your little munchkin, you should freeze it for a few days and then drop the bits inside the tank.

Meaty foods like shrimps and fishes are rich in calcium and their shells, in turn, comprise high portions of carotene, a compound known for its ability to improve the coat color of the Piranha fish.

Do not forget to chop off the tail and head of the fishes because that way, it will be easier for your domesticated fish to digest its food.

Additionally, as fishes do not necessarily need high-fat foods, if you present them with animal meats such as beef or chicken, only incorporate an extremely small fraction of it in their diet.

  • Vegetables

Green leafy veggies:

Greens, for instance, cabbages, spinach, and kale are favorable for proper nutrition in Piranhas; but, the catch is, your fish might not eat the entire portion served to them all at once.

There’s nothing to worry about though because vegetables take time to rot when in water and hence, you can be assured about the verity that till the food survives without showing signs of depreciation, the Piranha will have it.

Why do piranhas eat so fast?

The reason why Piranhas eat so fast is that they don’t chew their food; they take one bite of their food and gulp it down.

Thereby, unless the whole serving is finished, they will keep shutting and opening their jaw.

When caught up in a feeding frenzy, in particular, the piranhas constantly change their position and take turns to tear up the victim in implausible speed, opening doors to the “boiling water” or multiple bubble effect on the surface of the water.

How often do Piranhas eat?

Unlike in the wild, where the Piranhas eat whenever they are hungry and there is food readily available in front of them, the ones that are stuck in the aquarium should be fed once or twice a day.

The juvenile and the young Piranhas, on the other hand, will look for food two or four times a day.

The feeding habits of this stout fish are influenced by the food you are subjecting it to; meaning, if you overfeed your fish not only will its digestive system get disrupted but, there will be nibbles of it floating in the water for long and the piranha will consume them too.

Making sure that you are offering your fish a healthy and balanced diet will aid in increasing its longevity and enhance its immune system.


Interesting facts about Piranha
  1. Although Piranhas’ reputation is built around their chiseled teeth, they are not permanent. Authentic piranhas have tricuspid teeth that have a pronounced crown and each of them is 4 millimeters tall. Whereas the adults have just got a single row of interlocking jaw on the periphery of their jaw. Their teeth get substituted in multiple quarters throughout their lifetime and can reach up to 8 years of captivity.
  2. It is only in the case of humans and capybaras that a piranha will feed on when they are either dead or about to die.
  3. When they make their mind to hunt their prey, they first go for the eyes and tail of the animal to immobilize them.
  4. As per the assertion of researches, piranhas are attracted to loud noises, sounds of fruits and leaves splashing on water and the smell of blood. The sense of smell is so mighty in the piranhas that can detect the whiff of a drop of blood in around 200 liters of water without mistaking it for anything else.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do Piranhas attack humans?

Technically, yes, Piranhas do attack humans but, only when they sense that the being is dead or about to die, otherwise not.

You will never see a piranha scrapping a living human into pieces, not even when they reach their frenzy. Moreover, if they find human swimming in their territory, they can wage a bit here and there but, will never swoop on him/her as a shark would.

Are Piranhas dangerous?

Even if piranhas can pose danger for other water animals, they are considered safe for humans. Its powerful jaws and prickly teeth make it perilous but, they typically feed on other fishes and wounded animals.

The red-bellied Piranha attack surges chiefly during the dry season when the waters are low and food is rare; even so, the strikes in this dry season are limited only to the hands and feet of the human beings.

Are Piranhas legal?

Albeit piranhas lurk little danger to humans, they can be threatening for the other fish species and this supports the constriction of importing, breeding and even thriving them in aquariums illegal in many states.

When people toss off their piranhas into the water bodies such as rivers and lakes, they fail to realize that the fishes will cause a massacre amongst the fish species that live there and consequently, ring in an imbalance in the overall ecology.

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Piranha Fish Care Sheet: Setup, Feeding, & More

Piranha fish are world famous at this point and a popular culture icon. Their very name conjures images of muddy waters full of small freshwater fish that have razor-sharp teeth and a thirst for blood, like sharks in miniature. The truth is both less and more impressive than this.

While they are very much meat eaters, Piranha care is not at all what you might be thinking! In fact, many of the most common species are downright skittish! Still, you’re better off keeping your fingers outside the tank at all times…Let’s talk more about Piranha care.

About Piranhas

In the aquarium, many Piranha fish are quite timid and yet still very dangerous, for reasons we’ll get to soon. The truth is that they do have seriously sharp teeth and true to the legends, they can effortlessly shear flesh from their prey, tankmates…or your hand if they decide to try. Piranha aquarium maintenance is more delicate than is typical for fish tanks but not as scary as you might think.

Piranhas are actually very closely related to Tetras and many live in the same native habitats. They used to be classified in the same family (Characidae) but have since been moved to their own family (Serrasalmidae). Neon, Cardinal, and especially Black Skirt Tetras have more than a few passing resemblances and habits.

Like their tiny cousins, Red-Bellied Piranhas tend to hang in loose shoals rather than true schools. They spend most of their time displaying to one another, giving short chases, and waiting for food to appear.

There are over a dozen genera of piranha in the wild and many species. However, there are only a handful that ever make it into the hobby. And of those, only three are common enough to be readily identifiable by non-Piranha keepers and ichthyologists.

Piranha Species Profiles

There are dozens of Piranha species in the wild but these are the only two you’re likely to ever see. Speciality warehouses and distributors may carry other species on rare occasions. Their care requirements are generally identical to either of these two species, depending on whether they are shoaling/social or solitary/loners.

Red-Bellied Piranha

If you’ve ever stumbled upon a Piranha species at a local pet store or even a museum, chances are you were looking at Red-Bellied Piranhas. 95% of the Piranhas in the trade are this species. Their brilliant red bellies and somewhat social character make them the most appealing Piranhas to care for.

Red Bellies are medium-sized as adults, with 8-10 inches being standard for them. They are also the easiest species to keep with other fish so long as they are kept well fed.

  • Scientific Name: Pygocentrus nattereri
  • Origin: Amazon Basin, South America
  • Length: 8-10 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 75+ Gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive; Shy
  • Ease of Care: Moderate
Black (White) Piranha

Black Piranhas, also confusingly known as White or Red Eye Piranhas, are the second most common Piranha species. Unlike Red Bellies, they are aggressive, solitary predators that aren’t skittish at all. Since they live alone they don’t group into feeding frenzies.

In fact, they have very cichlid-like confidence that can be intimidating with their razor-sharp teeth. Also, you should know how large they get – up to 20 inches! They will watch you as you move around and may even try to nip at cleaning tools that enter the tank.

One should always keep Black Piranhas alone or with fish too small for it to bother trying to eat, like Guppies and Tetras. They are slow-growing, on the order of an inch per year. But they have a subtle coloration and are incredible show fish, assuming you have the space for one.

  • Scientific Names: Serrasalmus rhombeus
  • Origin: South America
  • Length: 16-20 inches
  • Aquarium Size: 180+ gallons
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Ease of Care: Moderate

Are Piranhas Legal to Keep?

Here’s something you may not know: Piranhas aren’t legal in many US states. They require warm, tropical temperatures to survive and would not be able to live year-round in all but the warmest climates.

A Piranha population can’t survive in most of the country. But they’ve captured the popular imagination enough that a significant number of states have banned them despite there being no danger of wild Piranhas naturalizing.

Many times a “Piranha” found in local waters is actually a Pacu, as this article by the Guardian found.

Piranha Fish Care

So long as you’re aware of the challenges involved, caring for Piranhas is fairly straightforward.

Piranha Fish Tank Size

A spacious aquarium is paramount for Piranhas for several reasons. One reason is that their sharp teeth make them very messy eaters that require a carnivorous diet. Meat-eating fish that chew their food release tons of flesh particles into the water that decay and contribute to ammonia and nitrates. A mature, well-cycled aquarium with a powerful canister filter is mandatory for their health.

Aquarium size is even more important for the Black Piranha, which reaches 20 inches as an adult. Fortunately, they are extremely slow-growing fish. They may only grow one inch per year, so you have at least a decade before you’ll need to go beyond 100 gallons.

Red-Bellied Piranhas, on the other hand, can be found as youngsters as small as an inch long! They do grow quickly but can live comfortably as adults in tanks as small as 75 gallons. Just remember that they are shoaling fish and should be kept in groups of 3-12 whenever possible.

Another important reason Piranhas require space is because they are extremely skittish fish! Far from the ultimate Amazonian predators (except for the Black Piranha), Red-Bellied Piranhas are very easily frightened by sudden movements because many things, including people, love eating them.

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In fact, you should avoid using standard glass heaters in a Piranha tank as they are likely to dash against it, shattering it and potentially electrocuting your fish. Expert Piranha keepers use either heater guards or in-line heaters to avoid fatal damage.

Water Conditions for Piranha Fish

As I mentioned earlier, Piranhas are messy carnivores. So heavy filtration and frequent water changes are essential to keeping their water free of ammonia and other nitrogenous waste products.

For parameters, you’re looking at standard tropical South American conditions, which range from a pH of 5.5-7.0 and temperatures from 75-85℉. Piranhas require extremely warm waters as they are found in the shallow, slow-flowing portions of rivers and streams.

Piranhas inhabit waters in South America that are stained a dark tea color by plant tannins and humic acids. These chemicals can drop the pH very low. While they don’t require a blackwater aquarium they do need a pH that’s on the moderate to low side to stay healthy.

You may already be thinking about how to perform water changes in a Piranha tank. Some aquarists decide they aren’t intimidated by their fish and simply go in and wash the glass and vacuum the gravel normally. While they are unlikely to be bitten, it’s also not out of the realm of possibility.

The problem with Red Belly Piranhas isn’t that they are aggressive, it’s that they are unpredictable. When feeling threatened, they both flee and bite. So if your arm is in their way, and they are seriously fast fish, they may snap at it in self-defense. It’s better to attach your siphon hose to a pole or use a siphon long enough to not require you sticking your hands into the tank.

Black Piranhas are much bolder, making cleaning a real challenge. They will even bite at magnetic glass cleaners and are often waiting at the surface to feed when you open the lid for water changes…

Plants and Decorations

Plants are an important part of Piranha care. They are very plant safe for such large fish. In fact, plants are highly recommended for Red-Bellied Piranhas because they provide nearby cover, helping them feel less exposed and thus, skittish.

Since they are fairly large, active fish, they may bowl over thickly planted or loosely rooted plants. And their love of extremely warm temperatures may be too much for many plants, which prefer being kept below 80℉. Any of the plants recommended for Discus and Angelfish are great choices for Piranha aquariums as they thrive in hot, acidic conditions.

You need to be very intentional with choosing your decorations because Piranhas will crash into them when startled. Sharp edged rocks and pointed driftwood should be avoided in favor of smooth edged pieces.

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Driftwood also provides a slow-release source of plant tannins, which buffer the pH towards acidity. If you’re looking to provide true blackwater conditions for your aquarium fish, consider also using a blackwater extract formula. This way, water changes won’t remove what few tannins your driftwood leeches over time.

Tank Mates for Piranha Fish

Choosing tank mates for Piranhas is one of the more challenging aspects of keeping them. Unfortunately, your best bets are either other Piranhas or freshwater fish that you don’t mind losing if your Piranhas decide they look tasty.

Well-fed Red Belly Piranhas are fairly tame towards their tank mates and can be kept alongside other fish their size or larger. Large Cichlids like Peacock Bass, armored Catfish, and related fish from South America like Pacus and Silver Dollars are your safest choices. However, you can also try keeping them with tiny fish that are beneath their notice. Guppies, Zebra Danios, and other fish species are often too small to be worth chasing if your Piranhas are fed often. No guarantees, though.

Good Tank Mates for Red Belly Piranhas:

  • Other Red Belly Piranhas
  • Peaceful to Semi-Aggressive Community Fish (Cichlids, many Catfish, large Barbs, etc)
  • Guppies, Danios, and other small Community Fish
  • Armored Catfish

Poor Tank Mates for Red Belly Piranhas:

  • Gouramis, Platies, Mollies, Rainbowfish, Angelfish, and other medium-sized Community Fish
  • Territorial, Aggressive fish (Certain Cichlids, Catfish, etc)

Black Piranhas must be kept solitary or again, with aquarium fish that are beneath their notice. They are likely going to take a chunk out of any sizable tank mate that’s around if you miss a feeding. Or they may bite just because they felt like it.

Feeding Piranha Fish

Feeding Piranha fish, on the other hand, is just about the easiest aspect of keeping them! As you might expect, Piranhas eat any sort of live or dead meat you offer them. But that doesn’t mean that you really should give them anything.

While it’s okay to offer it to them occasionally, birds and mammals aren’t too good for them. Their meat is much fattier than aquatic animals, which can lead to fat building up in their body cavity and especially the liver. Piranhas evolved to eat mostly aquatic fare with the occasional fruit and nuts dropped from overhanging trees.

Chunks of thawed shellfish and white fish are the best thing you can feed them. Frozen mussels, squid, shrimp, and any cheap white fish from the seafood aisle will do. Feeder fish are a poor choice because they are starved, nutritionally speaking. They are fed poor-quality flakes for their short lives and are loaded with bacteria and parasites that get passed right onto the Piranha.

They also don’t need to be fed every day. One hearty feeding every other day is enough for Piranhas. They will eat heavily during a single feeding and then digest for a day.

Breeding Piranha Fish

Breeding is one aspect of Piranha care that you may be fortunate to witness if you manage to succeed at everything discussed here! They spawn occasionally but not very often in home aquariums. It takes the right temperatures, age, pairs, and water conditions to pull it off.

Red Belly Piranhas aren’t sexually dimorphic – meaning, you can’t tell them apart by looking. The fish somehow know; likely through behavioral and hormonal cues. Females will swell slightly when gravid and preparing to spawn.

Captive spawnings almost always take place when groups of 6 or more fish are kept together in tanks larger than 150 gallons. They pair off and the male will dig a shallow pit; a soft substrate like sand makes his job much easier. The female deposits her eggs, the male fertilizes them, and then drives her and any other fish that approaches off until they hatch.

The eggs take around 4 days to develop and hatch. Once the fry emerge, they subsist solely on their yolk sacs for another 4 days, though. Once they run out of yolk they are free-swimming and able to feed on brine shrimp nauplii, micro worms, and other small, live prey.

You should siphon them from the male’s nest into a fry rearing tank at this point or sooner since he will stop caring for them and the fry will be eaten by other fish or sucked into the filter. Red-Bellied Piranhas grow quite rapidly, around ½ – 1 inch per month, and are ready for resale to local aquarists and pet stores in just a few weeks!

Piranha: Conclusion

Most of these care tips apply to both the Red Bellied Piranha because it is by far the most common species of Piranha fish in the hobby. However, if you want to try keeping a Black Piranha, you are still going to be well informed by this care guide.

Just remember that the Red Bellied Piranha is a skittish fish that needs special care and a meaty diet. And try not to reach into the tank too often and few mishaps should occur.

More Frequently Asked Questions about Piranha Fish

Still not sure if Piranha fish are right for you? Then let’s talk about a few more facts surrounding piranha fish and piranha fish care.

Can Piranha Fish Eat Humans?

Yes, they can. Piranha fish have powerful jaws and large, razor-sharp teeth that they use to slice chunks of flesh from other animals. They don’t usually eat animals larger than them but if hungry or frightened they can quickly dash in and bite. This behavior can then trigger other Red-Bellied Piranha fish to follow, causing feeding frenzies to erupt.

Is Piranha Fish Aggressive?

Red-Bellied Piranha fish and other Piranha species are usually not very aggressive. But Black Piranhas are very aggressive and will kill most other fish in the same aquarium as them.

Can You Keep Piranha Fish as Pets?

Piranha fish belong to the family Serrasalmidae, which includes many popular aquarium fish from South American rivers, like Pacus and Silver Dollars. They can be kept as pets but they are moderate to difficult to care for. Red-Bellied Piranha fish are very skittish and unpredictable, which makes them sometimes dangerous. But when well fed and kept in stable conditions they calm down enough to make beautiful and long-lived pets. Black Piranhas are much calmer but have to be kept alone because they are large and very territorial.

How Fast Can a Piranha Eat a Human?

Experts from Popular Science found that between 300 and 500 Piranha fish would decapitate a human in around 5 minutes. In Piranha-infested waters, the fish will enter a feeding frenzy where they quickly strip a body bare of flesh within mere minutes. And since they swim in schools it’s entirely possible for them to completely eat a person.

In South America, this is most dangerous in the dry season when the water levels are very low. The piranha fish have likely eaten everything else in a body of water and are starving. A person suddenly jumping into those waters may then be attacked by a school of Red-Bellied Piranha.

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Piranhas in the aquarium - keeping, feeding

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  • Carp-tooth predators: features of the subspecies
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  • Is it possible to breed piranhas at home?

Carp-toothed predators: characteristics of the subspecies

Piranhas are fish from the characin family, order of carp-tooths. They live in the fresh waters of South America. Their most famous habitat is the Amazon River. These predators are found in Latin America, the USA and Spain. These are not too big fish (from 20 to 50 cm), usually black or silver in color, with an orange, yellow or reddish belly. Their weight is usually about 1 kg.

Their main feature is the presence of sharp teeth. The lower jaw is slightly pushed forward, this allows you to compress your teeth so that there are no gaps at all. The teeth are lamellar and very sharp, with their help predators can easily bite a thick stick.

Thanks to the efforts of Hollywood directors, the Amazon jungle seems to be almost the most terrible place in the whole world. The average person is in for a lot of dangers. It can be attacked by huge crocodiles that feed exclusively on people, anacondas and man-eating sharks that can smell blood for many kilometers. Probably, there is no person who has not heard terrible stories about small critters that can gnaw a large animal in a few seconds.

The word "piranha" is of Indian origin. Its translation options are quite frightening - “saw fish” or “demon fish”. Since ancient times, the Indians believed that this small creature was sent by evil spirits to punish people.

With all the demonism, one should not forget that nature is harmonious, there is nothing superfluous in it. Piranhas play the role of orderlies: they regulate the number of small inhabitants of reservoirs and purify water from carrion. If not for their work, epidemics would have occurred much more often in South America.

An interesting fact - toothy fish are quite shy, when carrying an aquarium they can faint, however, they cope with stress quite quickly. Only large flocks pose a real danger; loners and small groups of such fish are not terrible for humans. In addition, waterfowl predators are not always equally aggressive and prone to attack. Their behavior depends on several factors:

  • water temperature;
  • seasons;
  • ebbs and flows.

At high tide, the fish are calm and not aggressive, but at low tide, they can gnaw on a small animal at such a speed that only bones will sink to the bottom. They are sensitive to the smell of blood, they can smell it several hundred meters away. But the flock is dangerous only at low tide.

Keeping piranhas in an aquarium

The tradition of keeping these predators in a home pond appeared not so long ago, but now they are becoming quite popular. Many breeders want to boast that they have real exotic inhabitants of the Amazon living in their homes, which look spectacular and attractive. Toothy exotics have an ideal powerful muscular body, phenomenal streamlining and large beautiful eyes that help to view the victim from great distances.

Incredibly, there are also vegetarian piranhas. A prime example is the colossoma (or herbivorous pacu). The main part of its diet is algae, while the size of the colossom is not inferior to ordinary representatives of its species. Tourists are often afraid of this completely harmless fish.

At home, two types of vegetarians are bred - red and brown pacu. Also popular are several types of predatory piranhas that can live in domestic waters:

  • slim;
  • lunar;
  • flag;
  • dwarf.

In order for toothy fish to feel comfortable and not die, breeders must comply with several basic conditions:

  • purchase a spacious aquarium;
  • adhere to a stable temperature regime of water;
  • to provide a small amount of live vegetation.

These fish need space - about 100 liters of water per fish. A flock of 10 individuals needs a 1000-liter aquarium.

By the way, it is in flocks that they prefer to live in natural conditions. Traditionally, these fish have a rather strict hierarchy (they have a matriarchy). The leader is easy to identify - it is the largest and most aggressive, eats first and tirelessly guards the habitat of the entire flock.

The water in the aquarium should always be clean, as oxygenated as possible and have a high acidity (above average). It is important to install external and internal filters and a compressor in the tank. These predators live in warm reservoirs, therefore they prefer water with a temperature of 24-26 ° C and a hardness of 5-20 units.

It is also important to take care of the interior of the aquarium. You can add decorations or plants, but be careful with the latter: piranhas of any kind, in the absence of food, will eat greens. Therefore, it is better to take artificial landscaping. It's a good idea to add a few grottoes or snags to the bottom of the aquarium in which the fish can hide.

Feeding piranhas in the aquarium

Toothy predators are unpretentious in food. Most live foods are excellent for them:

  • earthworms;
  • shellfish;
  • squid;
  • tadpoles.

Small individuals willingly eat bloodworms or tubifex. They can be fed with small fish (guppies, swordtails, barbs) or meat (for example, frozen chicken fillet). The main thing is to clean the aquarium from food debris after feeding in time. For this, a net is usually used. You can even stick your hand into a container for well-fed fish, but on condition that there are no cuts or wounds on the skin.

It is important to maintain diversity in the diet. You can not feed piranhas only with meat, their color fades. If you give a lot of meat to freshwater fish, they may develop various parasites and diseases.

Under natural conditions, the diet of these fish is all living or vegetable that they can find. The list of food includes fish living in the neighborhood, waterfowl, algae, and even fruits falling from trees into the water. An adult individual eats a mass equal to its own weight per day. In a flock, toothy rogues do not disdain cannibalism, they eat weak or wounded relatives.

Is it possible to breed piranhas at home?

Keeping these predatory fish comes with some difficulties. You will need a very large glass tank. Even to grow the offspring of one pair, you need an aquarium of 3000-4000 liters. The female lays up to 3000 eggs at a time, of which 70-80% survive.

A couple that becomes producers is usually resettled and heavily fed. To stimulate reproduction, you can raise the water temperature to 28 ° C. Spawning occurs 2-3 times a year, starting from 1.5 years (at this age, the fish are already considered sexually mature). The male, having chosen a mate for himself, digs a hole in the ground, where the female, after a period of courtship, spawns. After the spawning process is completed, it is better to return the parents to the general aquarium (to avoid eating the cubs).

Young animals are fed with daphnia, nauplii, cyclops. Gradually, you can add tubifex (preferably chopped) and bloodworms to their diet. At the age of three weeks, small piranhas are best sorted by size so that larger individuals do not eat small ones. After three months, the fish can be transferred to adult food.

If you want to have piranhas, contact the Aqua-Sto company! Our specialists will be happy to help you with the choice and give you useful advice on feeding and breeding and maintaining piranha aquariums.

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Piranhas, maintenance, feeding and breeding

Red-bellied piranha or red piranha (lat. Pygocentrus nattereri) is a predatory fish species. It belongs to the piranha subfamily Serrasalmidae which is one of the best known piranha species. Thanks to Hollywood films, he is known as a bloodthirsty predator, but are piranhas so dangerous? Further in the article you will find information about their habitat, how they hunt, how to keep fish in an aquarium and whether it is possible to keep piranhas along with other inhabitants of the aquarium.

Wildlife Habitat

Red-bellied piranha was first described in 1858. The Latin name is given in honor of the Austrian naturalist Johann Natterer. There is a lot of discussion and disagreement about the scientific name, so it is possible that it may change later. However, today this fish is called Pygocentrus nattereri .

The red-bellied piranha is found in the Amazon River and the Amazon Rainforest, the Paraguay-Parana and Northwest Brazil coastal river basins, and the Essequibo River basin. The basins of these rivers are found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Uruguay.

Fish have a wide range of geographic variations. Its population in the south is characterized by a golden yellow belly and is often referred to as P.nattereri "ternetzi", but this does not make it a separate species of piranha. This name came about when Steindachner described the damaged holotype and named it Serrasalmo ternetzi. It is also quite common to see the name "superreds". However, the color of the fish may change when kept in an aquarium depending on the conditions in the aquarium and the food received.

These fish live in huge schools that spend most of their time looking for prey. The fish are quite greedy. Therefore, she can only live in waters rich in fish. Most often, red-bellied piranhas can be found in some shallow waters, in deep and muddy waters. Again, as one of the most famous piranha species, it has a reputation as a freshwater predator that is dangerous to both humans and animals.

Are piranhas dangerous? Aggression in nature and in the aquarium

Based on movies and literature, we know that if we just dip our hand into piranha water, they will eat it in a minute. Well, maybe it's not so dramatic, but if there is some kind of injury on the arm and blood gets into the water, the piranha can smell it from miles away, and the whole pack will attack the person and leave behind only a skeleton.

Is this really so?

First, we need to understand if the piranha is really an extremely aggressive creature that will attack anything that moves in the water.

It may sound strange, but piranha is a very cautious fish that does not pose a threat to humans. There are many cases when a person swam harmlessly in water full of piranhas.

Jeremy Wade was the one who showed it to the fullest. He placed the piranhas in a small pool and swam there, while several dozen piranhas did not even come close to him. However, piranhas, thought to be flesh and blood predators, are actually quite timid fish.

They are known to prefer to live in large flocks, so if you see one piranha in the water, there are definitely more of them. However, they remain in schools not because it is easier to kill a person in this case, but because they themselves are part of the food chain for other larger fish species. In a school of ten fish, the chances of being eaten are pretty low.

Moreover, experiments have shown that fish do not feel as calm when they are alone as if they are surrounded by others. However, despite their peaceful demeanor towards humans, piranhas are veritable killing machines for other fish species lower down the food chain. Their strong jaws are built for biting and tearing, while their hard, muscular bodies are capable of moving and twitching incredibly fast underwater.

A piranha bite is between 67 and 320 Newtons which is quite a lot for such a small mouth. This is the strongest bite of all fish (corresponding to body size), and it is three times stronger than the bite of alligators of the same size.

However, this does not mean that these fish never bite people or animals that have fallen into the water. Almost always, this behavior is not due to their aggressiveness, but due to self-defense or abnormal weather conditions. Due to the change in weather, their behavior is radically different from usual.

By abnormal weather we mean the dry season, when the rivers become too dry and the fish are cut off from the main stream in water holes, many fish are left to starve. These hungry predators gradually begin to eat their own kind and may well attack any creature that has fallen into the water. Sometimes the piranha's propensity for aggressive behavior is discovered during the spawning period, when they attack people or animals as a self-defense. However, such cases are quite rare.


In the wild, the fish grows to about 30 cm in length, but in aquariums it is much smaller. The total lifespan of the red-bellied piranha is about ten years, but there have been cases where the fish has lived for more than 20 years.

Piranha is a silvery fish with a tall body, greenish-blue back, reddish-orange throat and belly. It seems rather harmless, but for its large head with a pronounced jaw with sharp, hard triangular teeth that leave no doubt that this is a dangerous predator.

The teeth on the upper jaw are slightly smaller than those on the lower jaw. At the same time, as a rule, they are covered with massive fish lips, and only their ends are visible. The special organization of the teeth and the movable lower jaw make it possible to tear rather large pieces of meat from the prey.

Predatory lifestyle has affected the size of fish eyes and nostrils. Piranhas have an excellent sense of smell, and they can find their potential prey even in complete darkness among dense vegetation.

The color of the fish depends on its environment. The color of the abdomen varies from yellowish to reddish, while the rest of the body is silver, golden or black. The shape of the head can be different, primarily it depends on the diet. Some species have a rather blunt head, and some have a slight concavity above the eyes, which may sometimes be absent. The size of the fin depends on the characteristics of the diet and habitat - sometimes the fin can be quite tiny.

In young fish, black spots are scattered over the silvery body. Their gill covers, pectoral and anal fins, including the abdomen, are bright red. The tail has a wide rear edge.

With age, black spots disappear, and the body becomes dark silver with small gold sparkles on the scales. At the same time, the red color on the fins and abdomen is preserved. There are no rays on the adipose fin, and from 14 to 18 branched rays on the dorsal fin. The caudal fin, which extends from the ventral to the anal, is covered with serrated scales in the form of teeth.

Piranha as a pet and difficulties in keeping

Due to the many myths about the bloodlust of fish, piranhas are quite rare in hobby aquariums, although they require minimal care.

The fish is not picky about food, so it is quite easy to keep it in the aquarium.

However, I cannot recommend this fish to inexperienced aquarists. The fish is large, predatory, so even when caring for an aquarium, care should be taken. There were cases when piranhas attacked and injured their owners. For example, when transporting fish to another aquarium.

Therefore, there is no point in fearing that one day your finger will be bitten off while cleaning the aquarium. Piranhas will always stay away from unknown objects. If the fish is not hungry, its first reaction to any item placed in the aquarium will be to hide.

However, you should not forget that you are dealing with a predator, so a cornered adult fish, when you try to catch it, is quite capable of injuring you. Given that most aquarists fish in an aquarium with a net, only they suffer.

If you don't feed the piranha for a month, and after that time they stop eating each other, any object that gets into the aquarium will provoke them to attack.

Aquarium size

Adult piranhas are quite large; even in the aquarium they grow up to 20 cm.

In the wild they live in large flocks, so it is better to keep at least 8-10 individuals in the aquarium. Fish swim in all layers of water.

For a group of 5 cm fish, a tank of about 150 liters will suffice to start with, but it is better to get a larger tank, because a school of adult piranhas needs a 500 liter tank.

Water parameters

The optimum water parameters in the aquarium are: T 23-28°C, pH 5.5-7.5, GH 4-15.

Aquarium decorations and substrate

Aquarium equipment does not play an important role in keeping fish. Sand or fine gravel can be poured onto the bottom, but they are often kept in an aquarium without a bottom substrate. Various elements can be used to decorate the aquarium: stones, driftwood, live and artificial plants. The main thing is that they do not have sharp edges. When a fish gets scared, it often starts swimming like crazy around the aquarium and can easily get hurt.

The best idea is a densely planted (with live plants) aquarium with a few open areas for fish to swim in and subdued lighting needed for the plants.

In these conditions, piranhas feel more comfortable, become more active and tend to display their natural behavior.


The most important thing when caring for red-bellied piranhas is to always have clean water. Check the ammonia and nitrate content of the water with tests every week and renew the water in the aquarium. The cleanliness of the water is critical because the fish leave quite a lot of residue when they are fed and the food contains proteins that start to rot fairly quickly. It is also important to have a powerful external filter in the tank.

The way fish are fed involves a significant load on the biosystem of the aquarium. Therefore, powerful external filters and weekly water renewal by 25-30% are needed. Other essential equipment you will need is an aerator, heater, and lighting system.

Water flow in the aquarium should be moderate. You will also need a powerful air pump to provide 24/7 aeration and a thermostat to keep the water at a comfortable temperature for this tropical inhabitant. You can choose the lighting that you like, as piranhas easily tolerate both dim and bright lighting.

Behavior in the aquarium

Piranhas do not really stand out in the aquarium. They have neither bright coloration (general body tone of adults is silvery with black tints with a reddish belly and spangles scattered over the body), nor an unusual body shape.

With the exception of tiny, extremely sharp teeth, the fish is unlikely to be of interest to many aquarists. In addition, the behavior of piranhas in an aquarium is not something special. Moreover, if a flock of fish (they should be kept in flocks of 10 or more species) are frightened by something, then the fish begin to rush around the aquarium like crazy.

In a panic, they hit the walls of the aquarium, try to hide in some kind of shelter, and even, it happens, pretend that they “pass out”, freezing in some unnatural position and lie down on the bottom of the aquarium.


Piranhas, like many other fish, are cannibalistic. And this can be done not only by adults, but also by slightly grown juveniles. Thus, it is better to get cubs from one offspring, which significantly reduces the likelihood of cannibalism in this case.

Cannibalism is usually caused by an insufficiently large aquarium or lack of food. If there are too many juveniles in the aquarium, they will inevitably bite each other. In this case, one part of the wounded fish dies, while the other part survives due to high immunity. In addition, their injuries heal quite well. Literally a few days later, the bite is almost invisible.

Aggressive behavior caused by misbehavior of the victim from the point of view of the pack. It can be a sick or injured fish, and it does not matter if it is of its species or another inhabitant of the aquarium.


The red-bellied piranha relies on speed and surprise to pursue its prey. Sometimes they wait for their prey and attack: the whole flock attacks the prey and eats it, with each fish acting on its own, independently of other members of the flock.

The fish is known for its sense of smell, which helps it locate its prey. Piranha easily smells blood next to him. In muddy water, they are dangerous for all animals that fall into the field of view of the fish. Fish that become prey start to panic and try to escape, but fast piranhas catch them anyway - they immediately swallow small ones, and tear off pieces from large ones and immediately swallow them to continue feeding.

A flock of adult piranhas eat everything that comes in their way. However, scientists have found that healthy catfish of the species Hoplosternum are not harmed by red-bellied piranhas. These catfish fearlessly approach piranhas and eat some parasites from their skin.

Piranha food is primarily fish; In addition, they attack any mammal when they swim or drink water, as well as birds that fly close to water. In addition to fish, their diet includes insects, crustaceans, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Some flocks of piranhas at certain times of the year live under the trees, where the birds build their nests. They patiently wait for the moment when the chick falls out of the nest.

In the aquarium, red-bellied piranhas eat protein-containing food - fish, fish fillets, frozen shrimp, squid meat, heart, earthworms, and sometimes even live mice. The daily diet of fish should not contain dry market feed, flakes or pellets. A meat-based diet (fish, shrimp, worms) should predominate, with some added plant/vegetable components. Care must be taken when feeding piranhas, as the fish may bite your hand.

Juveniles should be fed every day and adults every other day or every day. But to prevent obesity, they should arrange one or two unloading days a week.

When giving large pieces of food, they should be hung on a wire. When placed in an aquarium, at first the whole flock spreads in all directions. After some time, as a rule, the smallest fish decides to swim up to the stern and bite it. Convinced of safety, all members of the pack attack the prey, and in the blink of an eye, nothing remains.

It is often mentioned that fish can cut steel wire. However, the fact is that during feeding, if you want to eat something solid, the fish will try to bite off a smaller piece, and if this does not help, it will refuse to eat this food altogether.

When eating prey, the piranha cuts all soft tissues with its razor-sharp teeth and usually leaves the skeleton intact. However, when excited, she can cut large fish in half.

Piranhas eat quickly and randomly, trying to eat as much as possible for the future. Small pieces of food that have fallen to the bottom of the aquarium are usually ignored by fish. Thus, it is recommended to give them food in pieces that they can swallow immediately without tearing them.

Shrimps should be included in the diet of fish to maintain their red color.

Aquarium Neighbors

The question of whether piranhas can live with other fish is one of the most controversial. One says it's impossible; others have successfully kept piranhas in an aquarium with very small fish. This will most likely depend on many factors: the size of the aquarium, the number of plants in it, the number of piranhas in the aquarium, their temperament, diet, etc.

It is best to keep a school of 5-10 fish. Keeping one fish in an aquarium is undesirable, it can be stressful for her, and loud noise will make the fish swim away and hide. You can see a clear hierarchy in the school, with the strongest fish chasing the others and getting the best and tastiest bits of food.

Sometimes piranhas can get along well in the same aquarium with their close relatives, such as Brown Pacu (Colossoma macropomum) , Silver Metynnis (Metynnis argenteus) . However, conflicts are still possible here.

It is easiest to keep piranhas with large catfish species: Brocade pterygoplichthys (Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps), Platydoras armatulus, Plecostomus (Hypostomus plecostomus). They are ideal tankmates with red-bellied piranhas, as they inhabit the bottom water layers and are protected from attack by bone plates on the body. You can also try some other fish as piranha tankmates, but you'll never guess...

Sex differences

Distinguishing between males and females is quite difficult. Visually, the difference can only be seen through constant observation of the behavior of fish, especially during the spawning period. Males become brighter, and the abdomen of females is rounded.

The shape of the abdomen is a more reliable sign in this case. The front view of the male abdomen is V-shaped, while the female abdomen is U-shaped.

Breeding piranhas

The fish start breeding quite easily at 18 months, having a length of 5 cm. Since it is almost impossible to determine the sex of the fish, breeders buy about 6-8 fish and raise them together. In some cases, the male appears darker than the female, which also has a yellowish abdomen.

Piranhas grown in an aquarium do not require special breeding conditions. The minimum requirements are clean and warm water, a sufficient volume of the aquarium and a varied diet.

Spawning does not depend on the season. After the first spawning, the next ones usually occur about once or twice a month.

Piranhas retain their reproductive capacity for quite a long time. A change in their coloration and some changes in the aquarium environment may mean that spawning is about to begin. During this period, their color darkens and becomes almost black.

Acidity and hardness of aquarium water are not important for breeding. However, the water temperature should be between 25-27°C. Piranhas can breed both in a common aquarium and in a separate spawning tank. In the latter case, an aquarium with a capacity of 150 liters should be used. Water is purified using a powerful external filter, and several small pebbles are placed on the bottom of the tank as a substrate. The beginning of the spawning period is clearly visible as the fish begin to build a nest, their coloration darkens and they leave the flock. Spawning can be stimulated by adding some fish and fresh meat to the diet of piranhas and raising the water temperature to 28°C. some aquarists first lower the water level and then add some fresh water for the same purpose.

Spawning occurs in open areas. During the spawning period, the male builds a nest, removing gravel from the bottom of the tank, while the female simultaneously swims nearby.

Having finished with the nest, the male pursues the female until he reaches the area, which he cleared of pebbles. They begin to swim in circles, and the female lays eggs, the male piranha fertilizes her. In an hour, a clutch of 500-1500 eggs appears.

Spawning usually starts early in the morning. The female lays about 1500 bright orange eggs about 2 mm in diameter. On this, her work is completed, since all further care for the clutch is performed by the male.

The male piranha takes all care of his offspring – he guards the eggs, fanning them with his fins. It will attack your hand when it sees it through the tank wall and any other objects that appear within the boundaries of the nest.

The male covers the eggs with bottom substrate. From time to time, he makes sharp circular movements around the nest and flaps his fins, creating the necessary flow of water. For proper hatching, it is recommended to use sufficiently coarse soil as a bottom substrate in the spawning ground. Since the fine soil quickly gets into piles and the actions of the male only speed up the process. As a result, some of the eggs suffocate. The hatched larvae do not have the strength to get out from under the shallow ground.

Then the activity of the male in caring for the nest decreases day by day. The floating larvae are now on their own.

Two days after spawning, a larva appears, and a week later, the juveniles begin to swim. Juveniles are recommended to be transferred to a separate tank. Their starter food may consist of brine shrimp nauplii, and later you can feed them motel and other live foods.

With good nutrition, juveniles grow very quickly. At the age of one month, juveniles resemble small shiny coins with a dark spot at the beginning of the caudal fin.

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