Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: April 29, 2018
Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

If you are thinking of having a pet piranha, pay attention to this AnimalWised article about this very special exotic fish that requires a certain care and diet.

It is a well-known fish, popular for its appearances on the big screen - especially in horror films. However, you shouldn't let yourself be influenced by their gory fame, as not all piranhas are as aggressive and fierce as they are always portrayed.

Find out about more about keeping piranhas as pets in this article and ask yourself if this is really the pet you want to adopt with the help of our guidelines and general tips.

You may also be interested in: Stoats as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

Aquariums for piranhas

Unlike the rumors that you can read in some corners of the internet, piranhas do not attack humans except in two instances. The red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) and the redeye or black piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus) may attack on rare occasions if there is presence of blood or excessive movement in the water.

When preparing an aquarium for your piranha, you need to bear in mind that it is a cold-blooded fish and needs a constant temperature of around 22°C to 28°C (71.5º F to 82.5º F).

These fish require quality freshwater and because of their size you can't add another specimen without having a bigger aquarium. You need a minimum of 120 liters for a single piranha, as they can grow beyond 30 centimeters (12 inches).

Inside the aquarium there needs to be hiding places and some natural aquatic plants, without overdoing it so they can move around easily. Soft lighting will suffice, as it is comforting for pet piranhas.

There are many different piranha species and most are not compatible with other fish or even individuals of the same species. You must be properly informed if you're thinking of getting one.

Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Aquariums for piranhas

Diet of piranhas

The dietary habits of piranhas make all the difference in their quality of life; this is very important and something you must think about before adopting a piranha.

A piranha's diet consists of other fish that live in its environment, a feast that involves tearing and chewing, keeping its teeth healthy. You can also offer crustaceans, freshwater invertebrates, insects and even pieces of raw meat without salt or additives.

You should keep in mind that its diet should be based on live fish in order for it to keep its natural hunting instinct, and although there are specific feeds available, it is not advisable to offer pre-prepared food.

Even so, as seen in the wild, piranhas can feed on plants. That's why you can occasionally offer lettuce or fruit, always in small portions.

Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Diet of piranhas

Should you have a piranha?

At AnimalWised we don't recommend piranhas as pets. If you really must have one, we recommend going to a shelter where there are piranhas that have been given away due to their size, ignorance, or ineptitude.

Remember that a piranha grows to a considerable size and needs specific care that cannot be dismissed. You must be responsible and think about the long-term, including veterinary costs, transportation, aquarium maintenance and so on.

Red-Bellied Piranha

Also known as the red piranha or Pygocentrus nattereri, this is a type of piranha that can cause serious injury due to their powerful teeth. They are likely to attack in warm waters, and have attacked people while bathing in cities like Rosario (Argentina).

Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Red-Bellied Piranha

Redeye Piranha

Just like the previous example, the redeye or black piranha or Serrasalmus rhombeus is another type of territorial and predatory piranha famous for its aggressiveness and speed. Its coexistence with other species is complicated, but it may accept other fish in your aquarium if it is well fed.

Piranhas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Redeye Piranha

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I need some help finding out whats wrong with my 2 rbp? Is there anyone still on this site with and expert advice? Ive had my 2 rbp for about a year now and suddenly they just stay in the same spot. Wont eat and they have always been so active? I dont wanna lose my babies! I checked the water woth these 5in1 strips everything has been the same and within normal range. Only thing i have done differently is added a piece of drift wood but i woyldnt imagine that to be the cause, but i dont know what else it could be?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi April,

You seem to be on top of testing the water, so we are sorry if this seems like an obvious question, but have you checked the temperature range? It should be around 73ºF. We can't see why adding the wood could have much effect, unless it was treated with a chemical which might be contaminating the water.

Stress is often a factor when fish stop eating, so you should make a thorough assessment over whether there are any stressors present. Even interacting with the water too much can cause them to be stressed.

Finally, did the 5 in 1 strip have an ammonia reading?
A few years ago I bought 2 red bellied piranhas to put in my 110 gallon tank which was already home to 4 black convict cichlids and 2 Jack Dempseys. The piranhas were slightly larger than my cichlids so I didn't think much of it. They lasted 2 days before they turned into 90 dollars worth of fish food for my other fish.
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