For those wanting to own Piranha, along with the accumulated knowledge of fish keeping, comes with having to deal with the legality of ownership.
So, are Piranhas legal in Texas? In short no Piranha are not legal to own for Texas citizens. Piranha have been caught in the wild in Texas from illegally owned sources. There is a fear that Piranha might be able to establish a population in the State because of the prevalent weather conditions. The law is specified under Title 31, Part 2, Chapter 57, SubChapter A. RULE §57.111(15)(F) and limits the possession of all species of the genera Catoprion, Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, and Serrasalmus. Despite this the Red-Bellied Piranha has been caught in the wild.
The Piranha And Texas Law
Piranhas are an omnivorous fish, but can prey upon other fish as part of their diet. It is only natural then that some legislators want to try and limit the importation of fish that could decimate an ecosystem.
Piranha require specific conditions to survive. The water temperature, and food supply as well as clean fresh water combinations need to be correct. The Piranha gets its body temperature from their surroundings and has no ability to regulate their own temperature.
Although challenging, it may be possible for Piranha to survive in Texas waterways, at least for a period of time so it is assumed a law needs to be enforced.
In Montana, there is an argument for relaxing the law as Piranha would not survive the weather conditions. However, in Texas, where the weather is warmer Piranha could prove to be a danger to the public is released into the local ecosystems.
The law that regulates and prohibits is found under Title 31, Part 2, Chapter 57, SubChapter A. RULE §57.111(15)(F)
The legal Texas page can be found here.
It defines Piranhas as;
(F) Piranhas: Family Characidae (Subfamily Serrasalminae)–all species of the genera Catoprion, Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, and Serrasalmus;
In reality, that seems to mean;
Piranhas and Pirambebas: Family Serrasalmideae, Subfamily: Serrasalminae–all species except pacus of the genus Piaractus.
Not that stops people sometimes.
According to Texas Criminal Lawyers Blog, in a description of the legal procedures undertaken when a defendant importanted Piranha into Texas cited the following law
Texas law includes piranha in its definition of “harmful or potentially harmful exotic fish.” 31 Tex. Admin. Code § 57.111(15)(F). It prohibits buying, selling, importing, possessing, or transporting any such fish within the state without a permit, and prescribes penalties under two different statutes. Id. at §§ 57.112(b)(1), 57.137. A violation may be a Class C Parks and Wildlife Code misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $25 to $500, Tex. Parks & Wildlife Code §§ 12.406, 66.012(a); or a general Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000 and maximum jail term of 180 days. Tex. Agr. Code § 134.023(b), Tex. Pen. Code § 12.22. None of the statutes or regulations seem to require proof that a person acted with knowledge, intent, or even recklessness.
They Have Been Found In Texas Waters
On October 2011, 5 year old Lindsay Schutte using a piece of hotdog as bait at the Tom Bass Regional Park near Pearland caught an unknown fish that turned out to be a Red-Bellied Piranha.
A black market Piranha had ended up in the local ecosystem.
Unsurprisingly, the catch resulted in a massive effort to electrofish the 23 acre lake to see if there were any more.
There weren’t. Luckily just the one Red-Bellied Piranha had been released. Authorities assumed it was a hobbyist who for some reason couldn’t care for it any longer.
Other States Where They Are Illegal
Texas is not the only State that feels Piranha in the ecosystem might be problematic for their citizens. Other States where it is illegal include;
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia or Washington
So, no, the good citizens of Texas are not allowed to own Piranha. Title 31, Part 2, Chapter 57, SubChapter A. RULE §57.111(15)(F) rules that all species of the genera Catoprion, Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, and Serrasalmus are prohibited.
The fear that Piranha might be able to survive, at least temporarily is given some credence by the fact that occasionally they have been caught in Texas waters.
One particularly cold winter might well kill all of them off though.
The Red-Bellied Piranha have been caught in the wild in 13 States and aren’t particularly prevalent, suggesting the Piranha are struggling to establish a population in the US.