Rare piranha photographed for first time

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A Venezuelan fish collector has obtained the first live, colour photograph of a rarely-seen piranha.

Ivan Mikolji shot Serrasalmus nalseni for the first time during a recent trip to the Uracoa River, an Orinoco tributary in Monagas State in the north east of Venezuela.

The species, which is known as the Caribe Pintado, was first described in 1969 by Agustin Fernandez-Yepez, and was shown as a line drawing in the original description.

Although a dead specimen has been photographed before, Mikolji's photographs and underwater video footage is the first to show the live colouration of the species.

Mikolji told Practical Fishkeeping: "From what I have seen it is not as common as other mid-Orinoco piranhas. It's pretty hard to come by, and where I was fishing, it's quite rare."

Mikolji, who runs the company Mikofish providing videos of Venezuelan fish in their natural habitats, had been intentionally trying to track down to the species to film.

He added: "I set out to find it and had it in my hands 10 days after. I have been trying to make my "Piranha Two" DVD for around a year-and-a-half, which will include almost all other piranhas found in Venezuela that didn't get filmed in my first DVD."

"We first do research on where to look for a fish and then prepare the trip. I think we have found all the fish that we set out to look for. I am fortunate enough to go with very good fishermen and helpers, with tons of devotion, who make a very effective team."

Serrasalmus nalseni was found in a blackwater area with a pH of around 5.6 and deeply stained water.

Mikolji said: "The habitat is densely packed in underwater plants and hundreds of water lilies. It's the typical Morichal biotope, which is completely different than any other aquatic biotopes in nature. They are fascinating.

"To get the best view of what a Morichal underwater natural habitat looks like you would need to see our Morichal Largo River DVD, which was filmed 50km away from the Uracoa River and I'm positive that it must have Serrasalmus nalseni in it. It lives together with Serrasalmus rhombeus."

You can read more about Serrasalmus nalseni on the OPEFE website.