Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fish Profile: Red Bellied Piranha

Red-Belly Piranha Juvenile. Auditor and a Gentleman Photo.
Among the many fish species that never fails to get an excited response from child and adult alike are the Red-Bellied Piranha. They seem to be a staple of fish shops in the area, but they are poorly understood at bed. Pygocentrus nattereri have some special care requirements that are belied by their apparent simplicity at the store.

In spite of the small size at which they are purchased (usually on the order of about three inches), these fish can reach 13 inches in length with a weight of about 8 pounds. Close relatives of tetras, they do best in groups - a group of 4-5 can be kept comfortably through adulthood in a 70 gallon tank, though this tank would likely have to be a species tank, as these fish are carnivorous.

The terrible reputation of the red-bellied piranha for violence is overstated - even large ones are more likely to swim away from a human intruding on the tank than to attack them. Having said that, it is preferred to feed them live food wherever possible. I feed an alternating pattern of live insects and frozen blood worm, though it is possible to keep them plenty healthy on a diet of predator sticks. Resist the urge to feed such as mice or larger fish as neither, kept as pets, are nutritionally balanced for these animals.

Adult of the same species. Wikipedia Commons.
These tropical fish prefer waters of 78-79 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH between 6 and 7, and moderately soft. They are, after all, amazonian fish.

These fish have a terrible reputation that is largely unearned. Though oft-feared, they are just as docile a pet as any snake, reptile, or rodent I've ever handled, and more docile than quite a few of the latter - hamsters spring to mind.

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