Bolton Library and Museum Services

Red Bellied Piranha

Latin name: Serrasalmus nattereri

One of the most popular exhibits, due to their reputation, are the Piranhas. According to legend, anyone brave or foolish enough to enter the water in the Amazon region where these fish are found, runs the risk of being devoured in seconds.
This is far from the truth, Piranha are only very rarely a threat to humans.

Their main diet is other fish, and they will even happily eat fruit, although they certainly are capable of eating larger animals in distress.

Red Bellied Piranha

Red Bellied Piranha photographed in the Aquarium by Dave McNabb

Their teeth are extremely strong and sharp, and the jaw muscles are powerful, allowing them to quickly bite off a large piece of flesh and then retreat. Most injuries occur when Piranha are caught by humans as food and only then if they are handled carelessly!

In some areas Piranhas will congregate under trees where Herons and other birds nest in colonies, waiting for uneaten food or chicks to fall into the water. At this time Piranha are likely to attack anything, and the local people know this and avoid these areas.