Red-bellied Piranha

page header

Widely distributed in South America in the basins of the Amazon, Paraguay-Parana, and Essequibo Rivers, as well as coastal rivers in northeast Brazil

Creeks and interconnected ponds; prefers areas with dense vegetation

Distinguishing Characteristics
Can grow up to 12 inches long but more typically reach lengths of 6-8 inches. Have reddish underbellies but overall color can vary. They have powerful jaws with triangular, interlocking sharp teeth

Dietary Classification
Diet in the Zoo: trout

Diet in the Wild: insects, snails, worms, plants

Will scavenge & forage as well as ambush prey. Larger piranha will gather in groups of 20-30 individuals to wait for prey. Prey is attacked in a feeding frenzy that escalates with the presence of blood in the water.
Red-bellied piranhas are not as aggressive as once thought (although they are still aggressive). Humans are rarely at risk from piranha attacks unless they are in the water with a prey item or blood.
Piranhas are illegal to own in many states in the U.S. The fear is that irresponsible hobbyists will release piranha into local water sources which could decimate local populations and pose a threat to humans.

No special status