Piranha Care (Tank Setup, Diet, Tank Mates)

By September 9, 2018Fish Care

Origin: Red bellied piranha is a common aquarium species which originates from the Amazon basin of South America. They are also widely found in the freshwater rivers, streams and lakes of Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and other countries.

Max Size and Age: An adult piranha in the wild can grow up to a size of 13 inches or maybe even more. However, in captivity it’s common that they stay smaller in size. The average age for a piranha would be approximately 10-15 years. But, in some cases piranhas have been reported to live up to 20 years.

Types of Piranha: There is very minimal information available for the various types and categories of Piranhas. This fact and many other myths or stories associated with this fish makes Piranha a mysterious creature.


Red bellied piranha is the most common aquarium species with a reddish tint in their fins and the abdomen area. However, the bright coloration fades with old age and very old piranhas turn completely black or pale gray in color. So, their age can be assumed by looking at their body color. Some varieties have a golden hue on their body and are known as “gold dust piranhas”. There are several other unidentified varieties of Piranhas that differ mostly in shapes and coloration.


Piranha Tank Size and Setup

The ideal tank size for a group of 3-5 piranhas would be at least a 100 gallon tank but the perfect tank size would be a 150 gallon tank. A good filter for such a large tank is a primary needed to clean up the water from the fish waste and uneaten food debris.

Also, a powerhead can be a great addition as it will provide additional current and flow of water inside the tank. Piranhas are generally shy in nature so they might need a place to hide. Adding natural driftwood, plants, and rocks would be a nice accommodation to include in your tank.

The pH level of the water should be kept in the range of 6 to 7. Also, temperatures should be controlled with a heater below 28 degrees Celsius as piranhas in the wild are used to with tropical weather conditions. A dim aquarium light and a dark background create the best atmosphere for Piranhas. The moderate care and the smaller tank size make Piranhas a favorite among hobbyists.

Piranha Fish Feeding & Diet

Below is a video of how piranhas feed on live fish. Contains a little bit of swearing.

Piranhas are not fussy about their diet so you can feed them wide varieties of live, frozen or ready-made fish meals. Many breeders avoid live fish as food due to the increased risk of contamination or infections.

Frozen fishes, poultry meat, worms, and shrimp make an excellent meal for your piranhas with close to no health risks. Pellet foods are highly recommended as they provide the daily nutrients needed plus it doesn’t break your wallet.

How to Keep Piranha Healthy and Other Care Tips

Piranhas are mostly known for their attacking and aggressive nature. They have predatory instincts that make them attack smaller species.  But contradictory to the popular myths about them, they are extremely shy and nervous species. To avoid predator’s attack, they usually remain in groups in the wild.

It’s best to keep them in groups in the aquarium too, otherwise they might act extremely shy and feel insecure. This might turn them aggressive to defend any possible threats of a predator attack. You must also be careful about what you feed your Piranhas. You can feed them almost everything but rotten fish or meat should be avoided in any case.

Piranha Tank Mates

Piranhas are renowned for their aggressive nature and they will certainly not be gentle with smaller fishes. Even for larger fishes, the piranhas might bully them off and possibly kill them. However, there are instances when piranhas showed no signs of aggression to other tank mates. But, that is an exceptional case.

Piranhas might be kept with other larger species of fishes having bony spikes and scales on their skin that would protect them against a possible attack. You can always experiment but until you are sure about the temperament of the Piranhas, it’s recommended to not keep them with other species in the tank. It is always best to keep a small group of 3 to 5 piranhas together in your aquarium.

Final Thoughts

This species of fishes might be timid in nature but if challenged, they can be dangerous. If they are scared or attacked, Piranhas might attack with their razor-sharp teeth that can injure a human severely. An adult has the capacity to chop off your fingers. So, you might take proper precautions while tank maintenance and must not allow minors to put their hands inside the tank. Also, Piranhas are recommended for expert breeders and experienced aquarists only.