These piranhas have two sets of razor-sharp teeth to kill prey and, as their name suggests, have red bellies – the male’s more intense than the female’s. They can grow up to 33cm long.
Piranhas have very good hearing. In the wild, the sound of splashing (potentially from a struggling animal), or the presence of blood in the water triggers them to start looking for food. With a special line of sensors down the sides of their bodies, they can pick up changes in water pressure, currents and the movements of other animals in the water.
Young piranhas are situated on the outside of a given shoal, where they are able to feed easily. Young red-bellied piranhas are omnivorous foragers. They eat a combination of fish, insects, crustaceans, worms and plant material.
Adult piranhas hunt in a shoal and are carnivorous. In the wild, they do not show co-ordinated hunting behaviour but will go into a feeding frenzy if they are starved and a large prey item becomes available.
These fish can be found swimming in freshwater rivers, streams and lakes in South America. They live is shoals, creating a feeling of ‘safety in numbers'. Young piranhas spend their time feeding and hiding amongst the weeds, joining a shoal once they attain a length of 5cm.
Red-bellied piranhas are currently not threatened in the wild. However they are sometimes kept as pets or dried out and used as souvenirs.
The red bellied piranha has a reputation for being a dangerous carnivore, however, it is actually primarily a scavenger and forager. They tend to feed on weak, injured, dying, or dead animals in the wild. The red-bellied piranha shoal to protect themselves from predation rather than to pack-hunt.
Breeding occurs during the rainy season and the female can lay around 5,000 eggs on newly submerged vegetation, often in bowl-shaped nests built by the male.
You can find our red-bellied piranha in the Aquarium, next to the Reptile House and Bug World
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