Red-bellied Piranha

(Pygocentrus nattereri)


Red-bellied Piranha IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

The red-bellied pirhana reaches a total length of 28-33 cm and a body-weight of up to 3.5 kg. It is famous for its very sharp teeth that are specialized to take mouth-sized chunks of flesh out of organisms. The colour varies with location, population, and age. Adults are grey on the back and reddish-orange ventrally. The flanks are silvery with a creamy brown ground colour. There may be a blackish spot behind the gills, or the anal fin may be blackish at its base. The pectoral and pelvic fins are red to orange, the dorsal and adipose fins are black.

The species is restricted to tropical freshwater and is typically found in white water streams, where it swims in shoals.

It is an opportunistic carnivore which feeds mainly on fish and aquatic invertebrates, including molluscs, insects, crustaceans, but may feed on other animals it encounters, including terrestrial species, and on algae and other water plants.

The red-bellied pirhana is oviparous. Spawning females produce about 5000 adhesive eggs once every two weeks, which are placed in the sediment, in bowl shaped nests. During the time of egg-laying the males are very aggressive, not letting other fish get to the clutch of eggs. The juveniles are free swimming in about a week after spawning and will inititally eat predominantly insects.

Did you know?
that in spite of stories telling the contrary piranhas generally pose little threat to humans? Indeed, attacks on humans are extremely rare and there are no documented reports of someone being killed in a piranha attack. Local people frequently swim in piranha infested water without being bitten.


Name (Scientific) Pygocentrus nattereri
Name (English) Red-bellied Piranha
Name (French) Piranha rouge
Name (German) Roter Piranha
Name (Spanish) Palometa
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Gregory Moine



Range South America, introduced to the USA
Habitat Rivers
Wild population Unknown, but quite common.The red-bellied piranha has not yet been classified by the IUCN.
Zoo population 1'040 reported, but this fish is frequently kept by privat aquarists

In the Zoo

Red-bellied Piranha


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.

Fish must be unpacked carefully and under low illumination.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Luc Viatour

Why do zoos keep this animal

The red-bellied piranha is not threatened in the wild. Zoos and aquariums keep the species primarily for educational reasons. Piranhas have the reputation of attacking humans and large animals like horses and cattle, but although they are unquestionably voracious carnivores, most of the reports on their potential threat to people and livestock, are exaggerated, which the visitors should be told.