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Redbellied Piranha

Scientific name:

Pygocentrus nattereri


Kner, 1858


Pygocentrus ternetzi, Pygocentrus stigmaterythraeus, Rooseveltiella nattereri, Serrasalmo piranha, Serrasalmo ternetzi, Serrasalmus nattereri, Serrasalmus ternetzi.

Common namen:

Piranha, Natterer Piranha, Red Piranha, Red Breasted Piranha, Red, Redbelly, RBP.
The indigenous population call this species (Redbelly variation) Piranha Vermilla in Brazil, and Piranha Roja in Peru, both names mean Red Piranha.

The yellow-bellied variant is also known under the names: Gold Dust Piranha, Yellow King Emperor Piranha, Ternetzi Piranha, Ternetzi, Tern.


They are found in the rivers of central and southern South America east of the Andes and including the coastal rivers of the Guiana's and Brazil. In the northeast region of Brazil, there have been introductions into the small human-made lakes common there. Although ecological details are often lacking from collections, it appears that the species is extremely rare in black water rivers (FINK, 1993).

For a map of the distribution of this species, click here.
For a detailed interactive map showing the distribution of all piranha species, visit the Interactive Piranha Map.


Morphology (Body Characteristics)
Body shape similar to Pygocentrus cariba and Pygocentrus piraya.
Red-orange-yellow color forms, the coloration of the belly does not extend past the flank lateral line. Head and lower jaw shape is blunt, bulldog appearance.

Color of Life
Extremely variable in belly coloration, body spotting (includes reticulated pattern and non-spotting within same regions). Eye color normally has reddish tint to none, dependant on locality.

A quick visual reference to identify this fish
· Usually red eyes (some forms have clear eyes)
· Belly coloration never extends above lateral line
· Convex headshape

Maximum Size
Approx. 40 cm. (16") TL.
Specimen over 30 cm. (12") TL are very rare.

Not sexually dimorphic: males and females look similar.


Minimum tank size
For a group of 3-4 fish, you need a tank of at least 120x50x50 cm. (48x20x20").
Each extra fish requires an additional 6-8" in tank length, with 6 fish or more a tank depth of 60 cm. (24") is highly recommended.
Juvenile fish can temporarily be kept in smaller tanks.

Tank Requirements
Plants, drift wood or rocks provide hiding places, the tank lights should be dimmed.
Heavy filtration required to deal with the large amounts of waste this fish produces. A powerhead can be added to provide currents.
Extremely dangerous to hands and other extremities. Care is required in handling.

Water temperature
24-29 degrees Celsius (76-84 degrees Fahrenheit).

Water chemistry
pH should be between 6.0 - 8.0, ideal is slightly acidic to neutral water: pH 6.5 - 7.2
Soft water is preferred.

Compatible Species
Extremely dangerous. May shoal with same species and in few instances with members of same genus.

Few instances of captive breeding. Probably one of the more prolific species of piranha, especially if tank raised.
For more information, see:
- Breeding Pygocentrus nattereri
- Pygocentrus nattereri from Egg to Adult

Fish (whole, fillet or feeders *), shrimp, cockles, mussels, squid, insects, earth worms, pellets.
Food items such as poultry, mamal meat and organ meat should be fed sparcely: once or twice a month at most. Meat needs to be unseasoned and trimmed of any fat.
On rare occasions this species accepts vegetables, nuts seeds or fruit as well.

* Live fish need to be quarantained first, so they are safe to feed (containing no disases or parasites). Goldfish, minnows and other members of the Cyprinid family (Carp-like fish) should be avoided, as these fish contain growth-inhibiting hormones (Thaiminase/Vitamine B1 inhibitors) that could negatively affect the fish's health and development.


Pictures of Pygocentrus nattereri

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