Piraya piranha, Pygocentrus piraya

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Matt Clarke takes a look at a large and colourful species of piranha.

Scientific name: Pygocentrus piraya (Cuvier, 1819)
Common name: Piraya piranha, Sao Francisco piranha
Origin: This large, colourful piranha is most commonly found in the Rio Sao Francisco basin in Brazil, South America.

However, museum records show that it’s also been recorded from rivers in Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela and Argentina, so it’s fairly widespread.

Size: This is one of the larger of the piranhas and can reach 45cm/18” and weigh several kilograms into the bargain.
Diet: This is predominantly piscivorous, so offer it dead fish.

There’s usually no need to offer piranhas live foods and when they are they tend to be hard to wean off it, so chunks of trout meat or similar are preferable.

Whole shrimp is also taken and this also contains carotenoids which can enhance natural coloration.

Water: It’s a widespread species, so is likely to be quite adaptable, but aim for something neutral or slightly soft.
Aquarium: Like many of the larger piranhas, piraya needs space. If you have an extremely large tank — and a sizeable budget — you might be lucky enough to get a group of these big fish to co-habit, but others who have attempted this have rarely been successful.

Cannibalism is fairly common with Pygocentrus, so a single specimen in a big tank on its own is best.

Notes: It goes without saying that large piranha need to be handled with care and respect, as they’re quite capable of inflicting serious wounds on a victim if they are cornered or netted.
Availability: These are rarely offered for sale. This one was photographed at Wharf Aquatics in Nottinghamshire.

Price: On sale for £120.00.