Red-bellied Piranha

Theme area:  Amazon
Scientific name:  Pygocentrus nattereri
,  Fish
,  Vertebrates
,  North America
,  South America
,  Central America and the Caribbean
Habitat:  Rivers and lakes
Diet:  Carnivorous
Weight:  600 - 1200 g
Size:  25 - 30 cm

With razor sharp teeth and a greedy appetite, the red bellied piranha is often feared by humans as being an aggressive predator. Schools of piranha will sometimes join together and go into a ‘feeding frenzy’ where they can strip a large item of prey clean within minutes; this behaviour plays a huge role in their fearsome reputation. However, these feeding frenzies are often the result of starvation or feeling threatened.

Regardless of its formidable reputation, the red-bellied piranha is primarily a scavenger and mainly feeds on insects, fish and invertebrates e.g. crustaceans, as well as fruits, aquatic plants, seeds and algae. They may also feed on small animals and with their razor sharp, triangular shaped teeth, they are extremely efficient at biting through such prey. They have extreme force when attacking; they have a flat, blunt snout, a powerful jaw arrangement and their teeth interlock when their mouth is closed.

Piranhas usually reach sexual maturity at one year old. The female will lay around 5,000 eggs, usually during the rainy season, on newly submerged vegetation which the eggs stick to. The male then fertilises the eggs and after just two to three days, the juvenile piranhas hatch and hide in the plants until they are big enough to defend themselves.

Red bellied piranhas can be found in the Oceanarium’s Amazon display. Visitors can watch the piranhas being fed – check the feeding schedule for times. 

Conservation status
Extinct in the wild
Critically endangered
Near threatened
Least concern
Insufficient data
Not evaluated


Piranhas have powerful jaws with teeth that interlock to help them grasp their prey.
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