Red-bellied piranhas One of the top predators of the fresh water world
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Type fish
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Length 33cm
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Weight 3.5kg
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Diet carnivore

Red-bellied piranha

Pygocentrus nattereri
  • Summary

    These piranhas have two sets of razor-sharp teeth to kill prey and, as their name suggests, have red bellies – the male’s more intense than the female’s. They can grow up to 33cm long.

    Piranhas have very good hearing. In the wild, the sound of splashing (potentially from a struggling animal), or the presence of blood in the water triggers them to start looking for food. With a special line of sensors down the sides of their bodies, they can pick up changes in water pressure, currents and the movements of other animals in the water.

  • Dietary

    Young piranhas are situated on the outside of a given shoal, where they are able to feed easily. Young red-bellied piranhas are omnivorous foragers. They eat a combination of fish, insects, crustaceans, worms and plant material.

    Adult piranhas hunt in a shoal and are carnivorous. In the wild, they do not show co-ordinated hunting behaviour but will go into a feeding frenzy if they are starved and a large prey item becomes available.

  • Habitat

    Freshwater

    These fish can be found swimming in freshwater rivers, streams and lakes in South America. They live is shoals, creating a feeling of ‘safety in numbers'. Young piranhas spend their time feeding and hiding amongst the weeds, joining a shoal once they attain a length of 5cm.

    Species range map

  • Conservation

    Red-bellied pirahas are currently not threatened in the wild. However they are sometimes kept as pets or dried out and used as souvenirs.  

  • Did you know...

    The red bellied piranha has a reputation for being a dangerous carnivore, however, it is actually primarily a scavenger and forager. They tend to feed on weak, injured, dying, or dead animals in the wild. The red-bellied piranha shoal to protect themselves from predation rather than to pack-hunt.

    Breeding occurs during the rainy season and the female can lay around 5,000 eggs on newly submerged vegetation, often in bowl-shaped nests built by the male.

  • Where to find us at Bristol Zoo

    You can find our red-bellied piranha in the Aquarium, next to the Reptile House and Bug World

    Bristol Zoo Gardens map with aquarium

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