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Red Belly Piranha

Red Belly Piranha

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Pygocentrus nattereri




Note: Due
to variations within species, your item may not look identical to the image







Pygocentrus altus, P. ternetzi, Rooseveltiella
nattereri, Serrasalmo ternetzi, Serrasalmus ternetzi






Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador,
Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.



Sexual Dimorphism



In mature fish, the females tend to be larger and
fuller bodied.



Maximum Size



Up to 50cm (20") although 35cm (13.8")
is more usual.






23-27 deg C (73-81 deg F)



Water Parameters



pH: 5.5-7.5, dH: up to 18 degrees.






Species-only aquarium.






No special requirements
















The Red-bellied Piranha has a wide area of natural
distribution, throughout much of the Amazon and Paraguay-Paran? River basins,
and is also known from coastal rivers in north-eastern Brazil, the Essequibo
River basin, and the Rio Uruguay. Here, it may be found in a variety of
different habitats, including main river channels and smaller tributaries,
floodplain lakes, creeks, and interconnected ponds. The aquarium must be
exceptionally voluminous, with oversized filtration to match, as these fish
attain a large size and produce a lot of waste. Juveniles grow quickly, so a
spacious aquarium is required from the outset. The fearsome man-eating
reputation is a falsehood that has been hugely over-exaggerated and perpetuated
over the years, with various unsubstantiated anecdotes being spread, horror
films being made, and public aquaria displaying the so-called bloodthirsty fish
alongside plastic skeletons, inferring a 'stripped to the bone' effect. To
date, there is not a single genuine report of any human being having been
killed by piranha. The legend has perhaps come about from sightings of when the
fish have become trapped in pools during the dry season, and have had to feed
on the other fish in the ever receding waters in order to stay alive. This may
appear quite frenzied in the shallow waters. They have been known to attack
obviously sick or dying fish though, and will scavenge on animal carcasses that
they come across, but there is no evidence to support these fish ganging up on
otherwise healthy animals that enter the water. Indeed, they rarely exhibit
group hunting behaviour, generally preferring to hunt alone, ambushing smaller
fish in heavily vegetated areas. In reality, this species can be somewhat
nervous in the aquarium and is best kept in groups of 5 or more of its own
kind. Some aquarists prefer to maintain piranha in a bare-bottomed arrangement
for ease of maintenance, but they will be much less skittish if kept over
gravel or sand. Decor is really down to personal choice, but hefty chunks of
bogwood and some large rocky caves will be appreciated. Plants, even robust
species, are likely to be eaten - so if vegetation is desired, it may be better
to opt for plastic or silk varieties. As mentioned above, Red-bellied Piranha
are messy eaters that produce a lot of waste, and require excellent water
conditions at all times. To this end, filtration must be powerful and the water
well-oxygenated. Frequent partial water changes are essential as these fish
will not tolerate an elevated nitrate level. Canister filters can be employed,
but sump filtration may be better as then equipment such as heaters can be kept
in the sump and out of the main tank where they could be easily damaged.
Red-bellied Piranha are best maintained in a species-only set-up, as within the
confines of the aquarium, other fish will be at risk as they do form part of
the natural diet and won't be able to escape as they would in the wild.
Juvenile piranha exhibit fairly marked schooling behaviour, whereas the adults
tend to form looser aggregations with a complex social hierarchy. A good sized
group is essential for their long-term wellbeing, with all individuals needing
to be of similar size and introduced simultaneously. Do take care when carrying
out routine maintenance on the aquarium, as although accidental bites are
unlikely, they are possible if the fish feels threatened/defensive - and they
possess powerful dentition.
















Omnivorous, but with a preference for meaty foods. Smaller
specimens can be offered bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched
brineshrimp, Mysis shrimp etc, and larger specimens will enjoy krill, prawns,
mussel meat, cockle meat, lancefish, pieces of white fish flesh etc. Some
occasional vegetable matter will also be taken.















The Red-bellied
Piranha has been bred in the home aquarium. Where a group of well-conditioned,
mature fish are present, spawning may be initiated by performing a large,
slightly cooler water change. Male fish will become territorial and create a
pit in the substrate, often near to roots or vegetation, and this is then
vigorously defended. If a female is receptive, there will be a short circular
courtship dance, with both male and female displaying heightened colouration
before eggs and milt are released in several batches within the pit, often on
plant roots. The eggs are subsequently guarded by the male and should hatch
within 48-72 hours (temperature dependent) with the fry becoming free-swimming
just a few days later. In order to raise a good number of young, it is prudent
at this point to siphon them into smaller growing-on tanks with matching water
parameters and gentle air-driven sponge filters. The fry will require very
regular feedings with baby brineshrimp (Artemia nauplii) and microworm, and
this means that small regular water changes are needed on a frequent basis.
Unfortunately, the fry can become cannibalistic as they grow, so be sure to
observe carefully and move similar sized fry in together, so that their smaller
siblings are not eaten by much larger individuals. These fish always reproduce
in large numbers. Therefore, if taking on such a breeding project, it is
important to have a homing plan in place for (potentially) hundreds, if not
thousands, of juvenile fish - as they can quickly overwhelm an aquarium