2 red bellied piranha in an aquarium with prawn

Can Piranha Eat Prawns

The Piranha has varied diet in the wild, and any aquarium owner for Piranha should be trying to replicate the natural diet to oversee healthy fish. In the wild, Piranha eat many freshwater fish, as well as other crustaceans.

So, can can Piranha eat prawns? In short, yes Piranha can be fed prawns. The terms shrimp and prawn are often used interchangeably but they are actually two different species. Both are excellent sources of protein, as well as low in calories and fats, so are a great part of a varied and healthy diet. They should be frozen first, then thawed, and as a preference they should be peeled. While Piranha eat crustaceans in the wild, the shells offer no nutritional value.

2 red bellied piranha in an aquarium

What Is A Prawn (Is It The Same As A Shrimp?)

Both prawns and shrimp are familiar to aficionados of fine cuisine throughout the world. They are either caught, farmed and distributed to restaurants and food stores on every continent.

Depending upon where you are on the planet however, has a great impact on how you might use the term.

In the UK and some of its commonwealth countries, like Australia and New Zealand, the word prawn is a general term that describes true prawns and shrimps.

In the United States, it has a slightly different term, and the word prawn is used to describe the larger species of true prawns.

To complicate the matter even further, both the term prawn and shrimp are used interchangeably, sometimes making it difficult to know what you are buying.

piranha and prawns aquarium


They Are Actually Two Different Species

While common usage and farming methods seem to use both terms, the truth is they are actually two different species. They are both crustaceans.

There is actually a suborder of decapoda, under crustaceans that both shrimp and prawns belong to. They are quite closely related. Decapoda means ‘10 footed’, so both prawns and shrimp have 10 legs. 

All this means it is more confusing to learn that the term ‘spot prawns’ are actually a shrimp and the ‘ridgeback shrimp’ is actually a prawn.

An easy way to tell generally is that prawns have claws on 3 of their 5 pairs of legs, and shrimp only have 2 on their 5 pairs of legs.

2 red bellied piranha in an aquarium with prawns

So It’s OK To Feed Piranha Prawns?

As far as Piranha food goes, prawns and shrimp are virtually interchangeable. Both prawns and shrimp are great for Piranha.

Prawns, as well as shrimp are a great source of high quality protein for your Piranha, and provide many minerals and vitamins that would assist a healthy diet for your fish. 100 grams of prawns contains around 25 grams of protein, which is on par with chicken or beef, but prawns have much lower calories.

While Piranha eat crustaceans in the wild, shells and all, there is some debate on feeding shells to Piranha. They can certainly crush through the shell, but there is little ability to digest, and of course there is no nutritional value.

Many people worry about bringing out the ‘red belly’ of the Red-Bellied Piranha and shells provide no aid to this. 

So, unpeeled prawns are probably best, and they should be frozen to kill parasites before thawing and feeding.

Vary The Fish Based Diet

While shrimp and prawns are a good addition to the diet of the Piranha, you should keep the diet varied, with fruits, vegetables as well as fish based meats.

Frozen white fish is best, as it’s not oily and contains the lowest amounts of fats.

piranha face on


Many people feed frozen, unpeeled prawns to their Piranha without incident. Piranha also seem top love them as a food source, so that is a plus.

Both prawns and shrimp should both be frozen to kill off harmful threats, and then thawed before feeding. Other whitebait fish are also recommended as part of their varied diet.

While prawns might be loved by Piranha, feeding them the same thing everyday might not be interesting for them.




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