Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The red-belly piranha (Pygocentrus Nattereri)

I have been interested in piranhas for a long time. It is not the media or film hype that has influenced me, but it’s the sheer mystery that these species of fish portray.

I have kept many fish species from cold, tropical and brackish waters, but none other than the piranha has fascinated me more. It has often been asked of me why these fish interest me more compared to the hundreds other that have elegant shapes and colours, I have never fully been able to explain why, but it’s a certain attachment to these fish that I believe only piranha enthusiasts will be able to understand.

It is quite common for shoaling piranhas to inflict bites on each other. The ones that I have seen are the Pygocentrus Nattereri (red-belly piranha). I will start with brief details on the origin of the red-belly piranha, their behaviour and feeding method followed by the short study on their bite. The information I have provided is supported with that I have read from other sources and publications.

Origin of the Red Belly Piranha:

The Red Belly Piranha originates from the Amazon River Basin around Brazil and spreads across several other neighbouring basins.

They are one of the most popular breeds of piranhas kept in homes as aquatic ornamental fish. The red-belly piranha is generally a cheaper piranha to purchase from aquatic stores due to their wide spread availability through successful breeding progress.


The red-belly piranha is found in shoals compared to some of the other solitary piranhas which are very territorial, such as the Serrasalmus Rhombeus (Black/Red Eye piranha). The red-belly piranha is a very timid piranha, but they are feared in their native countries due to their ferocious feeding method. They attack their prey in large numbers and it is know that they can strip a large farm animal to the bone within minutes.

The red-belly piranha can grow up to 13” in length and weigh 3.5kg in the wild and as an average 9” in captivity. Their growth in aquariums is often influenced by the tank size, water quality, size of shoal kept in one tank, feeding and several other factors all which could highly influence their growth in captivity.

Now coming to my reason for writing this blog, I would like to share some photographs I took during a short study showing bites inflicted on each other by red-belly piranhas. It is believed that a hungry shoal of piranhas will even hunt and feed on the weaker ones within the shoal. Hunger is often the main reason red-belly piranhas may turn on each other. The other reason could be they accidently bite each other during the frenzy when feeding on prey. My photographs in this blog show how quickly bites tend to heal on captive red-belly piranhas.

Piranhas are a robust species of fish and generally can tolerate injury more, compared to other fish species. The following photographs were taken over a three week period. They show how quickly and well the wound heals.

The photographs are just snap shots for reference and not taken with composition or quality in mind.

Day 1 – Bite first observed

Day 10 – Bite first observed

Day 13 – Bite healing

Day 23 – Bite heading

If you have any information that you would like to share, please contact me through my website www.ghatahora.co.uk