Home Tips Pet Piranha 101 – Do Piranhas make good pets?

Pet Piranha 101 – Do Piranhas make good pets?

Piranha Red Bellied Tropical Tank Fish Aquarium GeoZoo

animal world piranha GeoZoo.orgPiranhas are one of the coolest pets you can own (If you know what you are doing of course)! And the best part, you don’t need to be a villain to keep a fish tank of full gnarly pet piranhas.

Pet fish ‘conosures’ all over the world raise Piranhas regularly, and they happily report how they’re exciting animals to keep as pets.

There are dozens of different types of Piranhas in the wild, however, only a few are kept as pets due to their reduced aggressiveness and easier handling in captivity.

If you’re wondering how difficult they are to keep as pets, check out this article and you’ll learn everything you need to know to make the right choice!

Are They Dangerous?

The first issue that most people have with piranhas is the widespread fear of injuries they can cause.

Piranha GeoZoo.orgYou must keep in mind that they are indeed dangerous and could bite you if you’re not careful, but the common portrayal in horror movies of schools of piranhas devouring people in seconds is a myth.

Piranhas are actually shy, timid, and very nervous creatures. They prefer staying far away from large predators and, for the most part, they stay in their schools, not for hunting… but to feel safe and protected.

There are cases of Piranhas attacking humans in South America, however these are rare cases, caused by habitats changes due and alterations in environments. The provoked fish either felt threatened by humans or were stuck in a place without food for days.

Some species are more aggressive than others but as a general rule piranhas in an aquarium can cause small injuries with their biting but they won’t be fatal.

Is it Legal to Keep a Pet Piranha?

It mostly depends on your country or state regulations and laws.

Keeping a Piranha is illegal in the Philippines, Malaysia, Germany, Mexico, Australia, and some states of the USA, so ask your local authorities before buying one or you could face a steep fine or possible jail time!

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What’s the Best Species of Piranha to Keep as a Pet?

There are over 20 different species of piranhas, each with different characteristics and behaviors. The most common and the best type of piranha to keep as a pet is the Red Bellied Piranha.

The Red Bellied Piranha is considered ‘affordable’, easier to maintain, and they’re the least aggressive of the Piranha family. Plus, their colors are amazing – ranging from silver and gold fins and the eponymous red bellies.

For those seeking a more exotic species of piranhas, take a look at the Black Piranha (Serrasalmus Rhombeus) or the Ruby Red Piranha (Serrasalmus Maculatus)!  Both are similar in behavior to the Red Bellied but breeders are scarce, so it’ll be harder to find them for sale.

Any other species that you can find of piranha is most likely caught in the wild and will be more difficult to raise if you’re not experienced.

What to Feed Them?

Red Bellied Piranhas are omnivores, in the wilderness, they mostly eat other smaller fish, crustaceans, and plant matter.

It’s true that piranhas kept in captivity can and do eat other fish!

Although you might find it interesting watching them slowly eat a larger fish – to keep them healthy you should feed them frozen fish or meat (also prevents a nasty big mess every time they eat).

Also, most ‘feeder goldfish’ are not very nutritious for your Piranha, and they might carry diseases or parasites that can harm your pet.

Piranhas rarely like normal fish tank ‘fish food’, but give it a try. If yours like it, it’ll benefit significantly from the nutrients they provide.

Otherwise, keep your piranha healthy with a balanced diet of frozen fish, small crustaceans, and small pieces of vegetable to replicate their wilderness environment.

Lone Piranhas and Potential Partners

If you’re going to keep a pet piranha you should know that they are normally very aggressive towards other species of fish, and in most cases… to other piranhas.

Keep your Piranhas in a separate tank to prevent them from eating your other fish.

Whether you keep the piranha completely isolated, or a small school, depends on the size of your fish tank. A fish tank requires over 25 gallons of water per adult Red Bellied Piranha, and it’s recommended to have them in groups of three or more, since having only two may result in them fighting each other frequently for the dominant position.

The Serrasalmus species of Piranhas are better kept in solitary confinement, since they are very aggressive towards other fish, including other Serrasalmus.

The Black Piranha is especially lethal as it’s bite is much stronger than the others, making it extra dangerous.

Where to Keep Them?

Because they require such large tanks, the main problem you might encounter with where to keep your pet Piranha, is finding the space in your home.

You need at least 25 gallons of water per adult Red Bellied Piranha, and their tank must be adequately acclimatized, have plants, and ample places to hide.

For Black Piranhas and Ruby Red Piranhas you’ll need even bigger tanks, with each one taking over 40 gallons of water per adult fish.

Like all fish, to keep them healthy, you’ll need to make adjustments to the water to make it similar to their natural environments.

Piranha Care & Maintenance

Despite their dietary requirements, piranhas are relatively low-maintenance fish when compared to other species.

Fish tank maintenance is very similar to that of other more common fish. The exception, however, is that if you feed them live fish, you’ll need to change their water and filters frequently to adapt to the bloody mess they make.

Bottom Line, Should You Keep a Pet Piranha?

Mirror Piranha Colors GeoZoo.orgIf you’re looking for an exciting adventure with an exotic pet, Piranhas will surprise you and keep you entertained for many years. However, keep in mind that they require special treatment and shouldn’t be treated lightly.

Once you have raised a Piranha successfully, you’ll see they’re amazing creatures with fascinating behaviors. And they are ALWAYS great conversation starters for anyone visiting your place.

What do you think about Piranhas? Do you have a pet Piranha and would like to share your experience? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.


  1. The Red Bellied Piranha is actually the MOST aggressive breed of Piranha according to most sources. This article said its the LEAST.


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