Pet Piranha: Before you go to your local fish store to buy your first pet piranha, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Piranhas are fish from the Amazon River – making them feel at home in your basement and keeping them for a long time will require a lot of effort on your part. The right lighting, the right water chemistry and the right maintenance will go a long way.
2. They don’t eat table scraps – Don’t think you can just scrape scraps from your plate with each meal, hoping it will keep them going. They are meat lovers and need a regular and quality diet (brine shrimp, daphnia, beef heart, shrimp, etc.) And no, the pizza of a meat lover does not count! The owners are known to get rid of their piranhas on the grocery bill alone.
3. The bigger the better – The fish tank that is. Many people try to stuff piranhas into smaller tanks and wonder why they don’t survive. Sure, it can sometimes work, but you are more likely to be successful when you increase the size. Now, having said all of this, there are a lot of benefits to having a pet piranha. Having the right configuration can be an incredible experience.
The next step is to decide what you want and then get the right supplies.
1. Determine the type of piranha you want.
I will keep it simple. Piranhas are freshwater aquarium fish and there are many different types of piranhas, so it is important that you do your own research. I can tell you that the most popular on the market is the Red-bellied piranha (aka: Red-bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri), so my suggestion is to start with these charming little creatures if you are just starting out. The main reason is that there is a ton of information on the web about these guys if you are having problems.
2. Piranha tank (aquarium)
The average Pygocentrus can reach 7 to 10 inches, which is why it is extremely important to choose the right aquarium size. If you save money and opt for a smaller tank, you can (not always) spend more money when you end up replacing your piranhas more often. Yes, there is a lot of debate about the size of the aquarium you should be getting, and a lot of evidence that small tanks can work, so it’s really a risk for reward decision you have to make. The general rule, however, is to have 20 gallons (80 liters) per adult fish.
My personal preference is to go big or go home! It’s much more fun and cool to see pet piranhas in action in larger, nicely decorated aquariums, rather than seeing them crammed into smaller 20-40 gallon aquariums. But hey, it’s just me. Try to start with at least 60 to 75 gallons if you can. It won’t be cheap, but you can always sell the tank later without losing too much money.
As for the number of piranhas to obtain, it is also a personal preference. If you like the shy and shy type of piranha, stick with one as they tend to hide most of the day. (Tip: not much fun for the fish or for you!) The general rule of thumb when dealing with red-bellied piranhas is to keep 3 or more at a minimum. This is because they make fish, which means they like to hang out in gangs and are not really thrilled to be alone. Some people have tried to keep two together, but it’s a bit risky because one can try to dominate the other (that is, maybe slit the other’s throat while it sleeps at night.)
3. Aquarium supplies
This is where you can keep it simple or go crazy. It all depends on what you want the end result to look like and how much you are willing to spend. I give you the basic list below, but it depends on your personal preferences as there are so many supplies available, so it’s up to you to do your research. A great way to do this is to look at hundreds of aquarium photos online to see what you like.
Filtration system – An absolute must to keep your piranha healthy. Piranhas are dirty eaters and require more filtration than other fish, so choose them wisely. There are cartridge filters, electric filters, gravel filters, filters inside the box, wet / dry filters and sponge filters. Suggest that you speak to your local representative for the pros / cons of each.
Water heater – Necessary to keep the water temperature at a constant level. Some people keep one at home in case the first one decides to kick. Useful if you don’t have a store nearby.
Thermometer – Unless you want to dip your finger in piranha-infested water to see what the temperature looks like (I like my fingers as they thank you), you should probably get one.
Power head – Good for additional water circulation that piranhas love, but you may not need it if your filtration system offers sufficient water flow.
Decorations – This is where things can get crazy. Possibilities:
- Aquarium lights – Piranhas hate bright lights, so try to dim the lights as much as possible.
- Plants – You can opt for real plants that give the aquarium a more natural look; however there is more maintenance involved. False plants will also do the trick.
- Driftwood, gravel, rocks, shells, coral, etc. – Again, it all depends on what you want the end result to look like. Important note – some accessories like some corals and rocks will change the chemistry of the water in your aquarium and be harmful to your piranha, so talk to your local representative and do your homework before buying!
I hope this gives you an idea of what you will need to get started