Scientific Name:
Pyocentrus piraya (Cuvier 1819)

Common Names:
Piraya, Piraya Piranha, Rio São Francisco Piranha, Black-tailed Piranha.

This species is only found in the Rio São Francisco, Brazil.

Maximum Size:
It is said that this species can reach up to 60cm. (24"), although there are no records of specimens of this size. In the home aquarium, this rare and expensive species has been grown up to at least 35cm. (14"), but it never reached its full potential size yet.

Body Characteristics:
P. Piraya looks very similar to the other members of its genus: bulldog-like face, high and steep forehead, and powerful lower jaw with very sharp teeth. The large eyes are silvery, with a dark diagonal 'band' for camouflage, and are positioned in front of the head. A feature unique among piranha's, is its tufted adipose fin. The coloration of the face, belly-region, anal and pectoral fins ranges from light yellow to deep red, with all possible colors in between. Another distinctive features that sets it apart from the other two members of the genus Pygocentrus is the fact that the belly coloration flames up, and may even extend to above lateral line.

Distinctive/unique features:
• Rayed adipose fin.
• Silvery eyes.
• Coloration on the flanks (also known as 'flames') extend above the lateral line.
Locality map

Piraya can be raised in a tank following the general 20-gallons-per-fish rule, but eventually this will not be sufficient. For largen adult specimen (10-12"+), at least 40 gallons (160 liters) per fish is recommended, because this species can be very territorial and violently aggressive.
A well-planted tank will be appreciated, but according to owners of this species, it tends to be less shy than the far more common Red Belly Piranha. The Piraya can be very aggressive towards it's own species, especially sexually mature specimen.
Being a species that is only available as wildcaught fish, a very good water quality is required to achieve maximum growth rate and good health (as with other wildcaught species), but unlike some claim, there is no solid evidence that this species is more vulnerable to bad water conditions than it's relatives.

15°C 24-30°C 35°C

5.0 5.5-7.5 9.0
 Ideal conditions
 Suitable conditions
 Unsuitable conditions

Compatible Species:
Pygocentrus nattereri, Pygocentrus cariba.

This species accepts the same foods as most other piranha's: fish (fillets, frozen fish and live feeders *), shrimp, prawns, mussel, squid and other sea fruits, earth worms, meal worms and other insects, flakes, pellets, granules.
Mamalian meat/organs, small live mamals, reptiles, ampibians, poultry meat, dog- and catfood and even cheese are also often accepted, but should be fed very sporadically, if at all. Reason for this is that these food items are very rich in fat and protein, which makes it rather unhealthy sources of food. These food items at best only make up a tiny portion of this species' diet in the wild. This means that its digestive system is not designed to process these food items, and feeding these kinds of foods may also lead to digestive problems, obesity, decreased resistance against diseases and parasites, and possibly even fatal conditions.

* Live fish need to be quarantained first, so they are safe to feed (containing no disases or parasites). Goldfish, minnows and other members of the Cyprinid family (Carp-like fish) should be avoided, as these fish contain growth-inhibiting hormones (Thiaminase/Vitamine B1 inhibitors) that could negatively affect the fish's health and development.

Like the other Pygocentrus-species, P. piraya catch living prey by active chase. They will charge a group of fish, snapping at anything they can get a hold of and will chase individual prey until caught. This may take some time, because although they are fast swimmers, they can only sustain high speeds for short bursts.
They also sometimes practice the ambush method, but often only get a fin or mouth full of scales rather than the whole fish.

The Piraya is the unchallenged king of all Pygocentrus piranha's (and of all carnivorous piranha's, only S. manueli and possibly S. rhombeus can reach similar sizes), it is one of the largest members of the piranha family known. The Piraya is very similar in appearance to the Redbelly, with the exeption of a tufted adipose fin, unique to this species only, the more abundant, flame-like coloration on the sides, its massive, far more powerful lower jaw, and its silvery eyes (as opposed to P. Nattereri's red eyes). And it can grow almost twice as large as P. Nattereri.
Because the Piraya only lives in one river (ie. Rio São Francisco), a river where fish catching for the pet industry occurs very infrequently, it is quite a rare sight in home and public aquariums alike. The prices paid for this species are very high (approx. $75-100,- for every 2" in size).

A final warning: in captivity this species may appear timid and shy, but keep in mind that underestimating what these animals are capable of can have severe consequences. A cornered or threatened piranha will not hesitate to bite, and an adult specimen can remove a finger with ease.

!!! So treat these animals with the utmost respect at any time !!!

Some pictures of Pygocentrus piraya

Baby P. piraya, measuring approx. 1 inch
Baby P. piraya, measuring approx. 1 inch
Photo by: Raptor

Sub-adult Piraya, about 4,5" in length
Sub-adult Piraya, about 4,5" in length
Photo by: Bob Hare

Adult P. piraya, about 12 inches in size
Adult P. piraya, about 12 inches in size.
Photo by: Raptor

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