The Red Bellied Piranha originates from the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America.
Due to color variations and similar fish as far south as Argentina, this species is also known as the Gold Dust Piranha,
and the Yellow King Emperor Piranha. It was formerly known by the
scientific name Serrasalmus nattereri. The Red Belly is the most
common of all piranhas. It has very powerful, sharp teeth that
continually replace. Although Red Bellies have a reputation for fierceness
(started by a prank pulled on President Theodore Roosevelt while visiting
they are actually fairly timid, nervous and inactive, except when hungry.
They will play dead when frightened. The distinctive feature is the red
belly, highlighted against a silver/grey body. They are very similar in
appearance to the Red Pacu, which is not a piranha. Piranhas grow very
When feeding, the Red Bellied Piranha is an aggressive meat eater that swarms on prey in large schools.
They often nip fins and flesh without killing their prey. If they are
hungry, they will attack your fingers. The tank should be about 100 gallons
and should hold about 5 piranhas (2 gallons per inch of piranha). The tank
should have driftwood and dim lighting. Soft, acidic water preferred.
Live plants will likely be destroyed. A strong filter is
Red Bellied Piranha is strictly a meat eater. Care should be taken to ensure feeder fish are free of disease.
Placing meat products in the aquarium will be appreciated by the piranhas, but
will quickly foul the water.
This species can be bred in captivity. Eggs are laid in plants in pits in the substrate.
The male guards the eggs, which hatch in 2 – 3 days. Fry must be separated and fed live foods.
Juveniles have black spots and lack the distinctive red color on the belly.
The piranha is banned in more than 20 US states, due to concerns over the
possibility that they will survive in the wild and threaten other living
populations, including humans. For more information, visit The
Law and Piranhas by Frank Magallanes.
23 -27 C; 73 - 81 F
5.5 - 7.5
30 cm; 12 inches
Pygocentrus cariba, Pygocentrus piraya and other Red Bellied