How to Care for a Red-Bellied Piranha

Are you considering creating an aquarium for a red-bellied piranha? Although the piranha tends to have a bad reputation when it comes to its vicious temperament, it can actually be a great fish for a single-species aquarium. The red-bellied piranha is one of the most well-known varieties of piranha with its red or orange and yellow underside and blue, silver, or silver body. It’s a beautiful fish that can be a real treat to watch swimming about in your aquarium. It can fight with others of its species if there are too many in the aquarium, but this species is actually happier when it’s with others of its own kind.

If you’re interested in keeping your own piranha aquarium then take a look at the following tips to help you choose the right aquarium, set up a proper substrate, maintain a healthy water temperature, and discover what foods your red-bellied piranha will enjoy.

The Aquarium

The aquarium that you will need for your red-bellied piranha should be sizeable as this type of fish needs plenty of swimming room in order to be happy. It is recommended that you start out with a 55 gallon tank and move upwards from there if you decide to have more than one piranha. The smallest tank size that would suit a piranha would be 20 gallons, but when it comes to this species the more space you can offer it the healthier and happier it will be. The average adult red-bellied piranha reaches a maximum length of around 13 inches and can weigh just under eight pounds at maturity. As you can probably guess, you wouldn’t be able to have more than two of these fish in a 55 gallon aquarium. Another thing to bear in mind is that the aquarium should be rectangular-shaped rather than the tall corner model as this provides less room for the fish to swim in a direct line and will make the tank feel smaller. Try to set the tank up in a location where it will not be exposed to direct sunlight which can promote excessive algae growth. A water filter, a heater, and an aerating system will be necessary to keep the tank clean, warm, and oxygen-rich.

Substrate and Water Temperature

The substrate is the elements that you use to create a natural environment inside the aquarium. For a piranha aquarium the best substrate materials for the “floor” of the tank are either gravel or sand. There are pros and cons to each material; for instance, sand looks fantastic and very natural but it can make it very difficult when it comes time to clean or move the tank. Rocks have a colder appearance but are easy to clean and cheap to replace. You should also have plenty of little hiding places to accommodate your piranha when it wants to be alone. Driftwood, large rocks, and live plants are excellent options but you can also purchase sculptures made specifically for home aquariums at most pet supply stores.

As far as the temperature of the water is concerned, piranhas are happiest when the water is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Most water heaters are able to be programmed to an exact temperature by simply turning the dial to the desired temperature. You could get by with keeping the temperature on the cooler end of the ideal range if the temperature in your house runs warm.

Selecting and Caring for Your Piranhas

Selecting the piranha(s) for your tank is important as you don’t want to end up choosing a sick or elderly fish. Be sure to inspect the fish before purchasing it and keep an eye out for any signs of bad health, such as scale discoloration or flaking and injured fins. Sluggishness is a bad sign. Your ideal piranha will be a bit skittish when you approach, as these are naturally active fish. The older red-bellied piranhas become the more their scale color tends to fade. Young piranhas—which are what you want—have a bluish-grey colored back with green areas towards the rear sides.

As you might already know, piranhas are carnivores, and in fact they will eat almost any other fish that they come across. Piranhas are illegal to keep as pets in many states due to the large occurrences of owners releasing this species into local lakes where it causes drastic population decreases in other local fish species. Be sure to double-check that your state doesn’t have a prohibition on piranhas before you purchase one. If you’re good to go on setting up your piranha tank then you’ll need to know what food to stock up on. Some piranhas are particular about the types of food that they will eat, so sometimes it can be a case of trial and error to discover what your fish prefers best. You can start out with chopped beef heart or liver at first. You can also feed them fish pellets and vegetables. If your piranha prefers live food then other fish, earthworms, frogs, insects, and even mice can be given.