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Southern Company River Scout

Red piranha

Red piranha

(Pygocentrus nattereri)

The red piranha is a South American freshwater fish widely distributed in the basins of the Amazon, Paraguay-Parana and Essequibo rivers. This species prefers areas with dense vegetation, such as creeks and interconnected ponds, where it can easily hide and ambush its prey. Adults can grow to 8 to 12 inches.

Piranhas feed communally in groups of 20 to 30 individual fish and exhibit a “lurking, then dashing” sequence of behaviors during the day. The group may attack prey in a feeding frenzy that is further stimulated by the presence of blood in the water. However, not all feeding is violent; the red piranha also scavenges for food such as insects, snails, worms and plants.

You can see a school of these well known carnivores in the River Scout gallery.

Fun Facts

  • The red piranha is a common food fish for local communities and is also caught for use as bait for larger fish.
  • Predators of this piranha include crocodiles, some birds, large catfish and large mammals, such as jaguars.
  • Its powerful jaws house sharp, triangular, interlocking teeth, which are replaced if lost.
  • The male red piranha makes a nest and guards the fertilized eggs until they hatch.
  • Attacks on humans are rare, unless blood is present in the water.
  • Download full fact sheet

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