Piranha bites off side of man's finger


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Piranha bites off side of man's finger


A fishkeeper has suffered a severe injury to his finger after a large piranha bit a chunk out of it while being transferred to a new aquarium.

Mike Rizzo of East Lansing in Michigan was transferring his sub-adult Diamond rhombeus piranha, Serrasalmus rhombeus, to its spacious new aquarium when the fish tried to leap from the net. To prevent the 25cm/11" long fish damaging itself by hitting the ground, Mike put out his hand to block the the fish, but the piranha, which is known as Markov, sunk its teeth into the side of his right index finger.


Markov the piranha in his new aquarium.

Rizzo told Practical Fishkeeping: "I was in the process of moving the piranha from a 55 gallon to a new 125 gallon tank I was setting up for him. I had caught him in a 10" net that wasn't quite big enough and had him out of the water, and as expected, he was flopping around in it. He went to jump, and out of instinct, I tried to stop him with my hand. It so happened that his mouth was right where my hand was and he bit down, but immediately let go.

"He got a hold of my finger damn well. He bit all the way down into my knuckle and broke the capsule my knuckle is in and chipped a piece of bone off it. The bite also went through the nerves and other stuff in my finger.


The piranha sunk its teeth right down to the bone.

"At first it was extremely painful. I think that a lot of it was due to the initial shock as well as seeing the skin and flesh dangling off and seeing blood literally spurting out as my heat beat, and just forming a large pool on the floor."

"None of the doctors at the ER had ever seen a piranha bite, let alone a bite from an almost 11" piranha with a mouth the size of a golfball. It took them quite a while to decide what to do, but eventually they put three stitches in to hold it together and are waiting to see if it becomes infected."

Rizzo, who has had the piranha for three months, says the fish is still growing and could reach as much as 45cm/18" in length. The fish has not previously bitten before.


Surgeons used three temporary stitches in case they need to operate at a later date.

Rizzo added: "While doing maintenance, I used to actually push him around the tank with my hand and he is always very mellow and never shows any aggression. I am now taking precautions though, and have fabricated a small box of out of egg-crating from Home Depot to put in his tank to keep him cornered in one area while I clean the tank.

"Most of the doctors were surprised to hear that I was going to keep the fish and not either sell him or eat him."

The doctors who treated the wound are unsure as to whether the fish has caused lasting damage to the finger. Rizzo says that they were glad to see that he was still capable of moving the finger but said that due to the severity of the bite, it was likely that most of the nerves in the tip of the finger had been damaged. It could take as long as two years before all the feeling comes back, but it should eventually heal.


Despite the wound it inflicted, Rizzo still intends to keep the fish.

Serrasalmus rhombeus is a member of the characid subfamily Serrasalminae and is found across a wide area of South America extending from Brazil, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana, Colombia, Peru and Suriname to Venezuela.

It is one of the larger carnivorous piranha species, reaching a weight of up to 3kg. Like most piranha species, S. rhombeus is a timid fish and is typically not aggressive.

It is classed as tramautogenic as it can inflict terrific wounds if cornered or handled incorrectly.