Red Bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) are a sharp-toothed fish that have a reputation of being a ferocious predator that can strip flesh from bone in seconds. In reality however, the red bellied piranha are mostly harmless. Mostly.
The story goes that the piranhas got their fearsome rep during a Presidential visit from Teddy Roosevelt to the Amazon in Brazil in 1913. Leading up to his arrival the local fishermen had netted off a section of river and caught hundreds of piranha and isolated them in this one small area. When the president arrived he were warned to not enter the water or they would be eaten alive by the fish. The locals then placed food into the water for the piranhas, which then caused a feeding frenzy to the starved and trapped fish, leading to stories of a terrifying flesh-eating fish.
In general this feeding frenzy behaviour is only seen in exceptional circumstances, where the fish are found in smaller pools in higher numbers, usually in periods of drought or low rainfall, or in times where there is limited food. Red bellied piranhas do have sharp pointed teeth which are used to puncture and tear meat, but they are also able to eat other foods such as fruit and nuts, as well as scavenging on carcasses. Young fish are generally omnivores, eating anything they come across where the adults tend to be more carnivorous and hunt in shoals.
Our piranhas are kept well fed all year round, and peacefully live with a few smaller species in the same tank.
As their name suggests they have a red belly, which is a more intense colour in females than males. One of their truly stunning features however, is the golden, almost glittery scales on the sides of the adults. The red bellied piranhas are one of the smallest species of piranha, reaching around 30cm in length.
What do they eat?
Fish, insects, crustaceans, small mammals and birds, fruit
Freshwater river systems
Where are we?