Red-bellied Piranha

Pygocentrus Nattereri

Red-bellied Piranha at the New England Aquarium
Red-bellied Piranha at the New England Aquarium Photo: Vanessa Kahn
Piranhas have a fearsome reputation, but most are actually vegetarians. The red-bellied piranha, which is one of the fish we care for at the Aquarium, is one of the few carnivorous piranha species.

Animal Facts


Up to 12 inches long and about three pounds


Feeds opportunistically on fish, aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, insects, algae, and aquatic plants; may also nip at mammals and birds that swim or stand in the water


10+ years


Lakes and rivers throughout South America

Threats to Survival
  • Habitat loss

Are Red-bellied Piranhas Dangerous?

They can be! However, typically, piranhas are not dangerous to people. Amazonian natives commonly bathe in lakes or streams that these fish also inhabit. Piranhas become more of a risk in the dry season when the lower water level concentrates them within a smaller space and food becomes scarce.

Red-bellied piranhas
Red-bellied piranhas
See poster image
Piranha Feeding

Piranhas are often misconceived as man-eating monsters, but in reality the majority of piranhas are herbivores! Join Educator Taylor and Aquarist Allison as they show you what a piranha feeding actually looks like here at the Aquarium.