'Killer Folkestone piranha' not piranha at all

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The 'killer piranha' an angler in Folkestone claims to have caught has been misidentified, Practical Fishkeeping can reveal.

Folkestone angler Derek Plum told The Sun that the fish, which had been identified as a 'Red-bellied piranha', took his bait and ran off with 'over 500 yards of line' in a fight that lasted 15 minutes.

Plum told the paper: "I felt an almighty tug on my rod - next thing I knew it had dragged my line about 500 yards. It was going all over the place. It took me about 15 minutes to reel it in. When it emerged it was thrashing around and was going crazy.

"The other fishermen were yelling, 'You've caught a piranha'. I couldn't believe it. Luckily, the fishing hook had fallen out of its mouth otherwise I would had somehow had to remove it myself."

Not a piranha
However, photographs of the fish Plum claims to have hooked do not show a Red-bellied piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri, at all.

Instead, they show the bigger but largely herbivorous Red-bellied pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, a species that can reach over 80cm and weigh more than 25kg.

This largely herbivorous species was once a common aquarium fish, but the species has become less common as the keeping of larger-growing species has fallen out of favour and many shops have become unwilling to re-home fish purchased by fishkeepers unable to adequately meet their long-term needs. 

Illegally dumped

The Pacu is found in the large tropical rivers of the Amazon basin in waters with temperatures of 25-30C and it seems surprising that the fish would have been feeding in the comparatively cold waters of a Folkestone lake and that the fish fought so hard, as it would have probably been feeling very cold. 

It seems probable that the fish was probably recently dumped by an irresponsible fishkeeper whose tank it had outgrown.

It would be extremely unlikely for this species to overwinter in the UK or for it to successfully reproduce even during British summer temperatures.

According to reports, witnesses saw a man tipping a bucket of fish into Radnor Park lake within the last week. 

Practical Fishkeeping advises all fishkeepers to carefully consider all new fish purchases and to never illegally release any unwanted aquarium fish into the wild.