Red-bellied Piranha

Creature Feature – Red-bellied Piraña

This week is the letter ‘P’, and today’s featured creature is the red-bellied piraña.

A piranha is any of a number of freshwater fish species that within the tetra family, Characidae. The word piranha literally translates to “tooth fish” in the Brazilian language Tupí

red-bellied piranha


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Order: Characiformes

Family: Serrasalmidae

Genus: Pygocentrus

Red-bellied Piranha Fact File

? Size: Individuals typical grow up to 30cm long and weigh up to 1.8kg

? Distribution: This species, like all species, are natives of freshwater rivers that flow through South American nations. They can be found in other locations, e.g., China, where they are considered an invasive species, due to release by humans

? Diet: Unlike the portrayal of their diet by the media, red bellied piranha’s are scavengers and foragers. They often consume fruit and leaves. However, if they come across dying or dead animals, they will enjoy a meal of insects, molluscs, carrion, and other fish

? Behaviour: They tend to live in massive shoals, sometimes with hundreds of other fish! This is for protection. Piranhas are capable of making different vocalisations, including a sound similar to a bark. They do by using its swimbladder, contracting and relaxing muscles around the swimbladder to make noises of different frequencies

? IUCN Status: Not yet classified by the IUCN Red List, it is thought that this species is very commonly found throughout it’s range. The collection and trade of the species to aquariums may locally present a low risk to the red-bellied piranha in the future. See the red list status for species that have been evaluated here