Red Bellied Piranha in an aquarium tank

How Much Do Piranha Cost? A Cost Ownership Guide

When investigating whether to keep Piranha as a pet, it’s a reasonable to try an ascertain the the cost of ownership. There are both setup costs and ongoing pet costs, like any animal you wish to keep.

So what is the cost of keeping Piranha? In short, if you are starting from scratch the cost of 10 Red-Bellied juvenile Piranha will be around $80, the equipment needed (60 gallon aquarium, heaters, pumps, filters, decoration) can be from around $800. Ongoing monthly food costs can be varied, but $20 to $30 per fish per month is a rough guide. The full start up costs will be around $1500 to $2000 for a year and each additional year might be around $1000 or so in food. Depending upon where you live you might also need to purchase a permit. Comparatively they might be the same as pedigree cat.


Piranha’s, being from Latin America, and being indigenous to that region are not the easiest fish to take care of from a beginning aquarist point of view, but neither should it be intimidating.

While there are a large number of Piranha the most popular by far are the Red-Bellied Piranha, which this article will mostly focus on. If the subject of keeping Piranha is of interest to you, then how much they cost to purchase and maintain will be of interest.

They have a relatively long life in captivity, somewhere between 5 to 15 years is not uncommon so it is a commitment you should be fully aware of.

The Cost of Piranha Fish

Not unsurprisingly, asking for a price of Piranha is a bit like asking ‘what’s the price of a car?’.

Nevertheless, there are some guidelines to help you decide. Although the most common factors that affect price are species and size, here are some common Piranha prices that you may encounter;

Broadly speaking, and depending upon size and breed, a typical price might range from $5 for a single fish or $70 for a small school of around 10 or so.

Although not a ‘true Piranha’, the Wimple Piranha, can be purchased or just under $20 for a juvenile fish of around 3 inches or so. They are well known for liking premium food stuffs as well.

The Black Piranha (or Red-eye Piranha) which is a solo Piranha and does not school as a preference, are relatively common for home aquarium. They are very tolerant of harsh water conditions and for a single juvenile fry fish it will be around $30 to purchase.

Another common solo Piranha is the Hollandi Piranhas. They are quite aggressive can be purchased for a similar price for a single fish of 3 inches as the Black Piranha. Around $30 or so.

Typical Cost Of A Red-Bellied Piranha

The breed of Piranha is not only the most famous but the most commonly kept as  a pet by fish keepers. They are quite shy and timid despite their reputation.

A typical cost of Red-Bellied Piranha is $5 to $20  for a single fry fish and around $80 to $100 for a small school of up to 10 or so.

It’s important to realise that this is for small fry or juvenile Piranha, with 5 to 15 years of growing ahead of them. A large 10-12” Red-Bellied Piranha can easily fetch around $500 or so.

4 red bellied swimming

The Main Factors That Affect The Price Of A Piranha

When selecting a Piranha for purchase it’s important to know what factors most affect the cost. Largely, it’s a matter of common sense.

With some 30 to 60 species, depending upon how you classify Piranha there are many factors that can affect the cost, although here are the tree common ones;


  • Variety: While the most common, the Red-Bellied Piranha is probably the cheapest at about $8 per juvenile Piranha, there are some rare species, that more uncommon. One of these can go for $200 plus. The very rare like the San Francisco Piranha can go for around $1500 if they are large adults.


  • Size: Quite understandably, the larger the Piranha, the more it will cost. Red-Bellied Piranha, up to a few inches will be around $20, but a large adult around 10 to 12 inches will be nearer $500, if indeed you can find them


  • Pet Store: Depending upon where the pet shop is, can make a difference to the price. Some states require permits and some don’t. This has an impact, as does a more remote location. Also, legitimate breeders tend to more expensive than general stores.

Additional Piranha Owning Costs

Relatively speaking, Piranha are one of the cheaper pets you could own. There are much more expensive things you can own out there. That doesn’t mean, you can neglect them. They require care like any other animal you own.

If you are considering owning them though, there are a few costs that you may need to consider.Such as;


  • Shipping Cost: Assuming you can’t drive and purchase your Piranha, you will have to get them shipped. Depending upon how many you might want, it could be in the region of $20 or so.


  • Aquarium: A basic 60 gallon tank to begin your Piranha ownership will be from $250 upwards. You can get tanks in the $1000s of dollars but if you budget $300 to $500 just for the tank, you should get one that will fulfil your needs.


  • Food: Although mostly thought to be carnivorous, they are actually omnivores and you will need to feed them a varied diet. Shrimp, bloodworms and insects can be used, or meat pellets can be used more cheaply. They require feeding once a day, more so when they are young, so budget around $30 to $50 per month per Piranha.


  • Licenses: Piranha are not allowed in every state. California has an outright ban, but others require a license to be purchased. You may need to acquire a license.

Equipment Needed

Getting the right equipment will assist you in keeping your Piranha in good condition and stop them getting sick, or stressed and aggressive.

Maintaining their health levels is good fish-keeping.

Here are a rough estimation of additional costs;


  • Aquarium: For a basic setup, you will require a 60 gallon tank. This may be good enough for a shoal of 3 to 6 juvenile Piranha before they grow towards adulthood. A good proper tank and set piece setup (including stand)  can be around $700. On ebay, or getting a good deal you may be able to just pick up a tank for $300 to $400 or so.


  • Decoration: Your Piranha will require their environment to look like their natural habitat. You will need some places where they can hide from lights, and escape aggression. They naturally seek cover so you will need a mix of plastic and live plants, as well as perhaps some piping or wood decoration. Individually these can be $10 to $15 but you will need a few bits so $100 should be budgeted for kitting out the tank.


  • Gravel: Used to cover the floor of the aquarium, it isn’t expensive but enough premium gravel for a 60 gallon tank will be around $20.


  • Filter and Pumps: A basic filter for a 60 gallon tank with a pump will be around $50. You can buy better and quieter ones, that produce a slight stream of water to simulate a slow moving river. A basic one will suffice though.


  • Heater: Piranha require a temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit so it most places around the world you will need to regulate the water temperature. A water heater that will suffice are around $30 to $40 or so.


  1. Aquarium Lights: – You certainly don’t want a very brightly lit tank with Piranha as this is not their natural habitat. If your Piranha are staying under cover too uch, it may be because the light level is too high. So these aren’t always necessary, but a light strip and bulb are around $50.


  • Ancillaries: Other necessary bits you might need are tank cleaners, pH test kits, water cleaners, mesh gloves, gravel vacuums, and thermometers. Budget around $100 for all the extra bits you might need.

Red-bellied piranha in a tank

Consumables and Necessities

As well as the more obvious costs, listed above you may have to consider electricity and permits.

Electricity probably won’t be too much, compared to the rest of the house, maybe $20 per month in electricity.

Permits are an ever changing target. Some States you are not allowed and some have no regulation at all. Contact your local representatives and enquire about how you go about owning Piranha in your state for home use.


Once the fish have been purchased and the equipment obtained the only real ongoing cost becomes feeding your Piranha. Contrary to popular belief it’s not a good idea to feed them live fish or animals, quite apart from the ethical questions.

They will eat shrimps, worms, insects, vegetable matter, frozen meats, dried meat pellets, flakes, fruits, potato, and crabmeat.

As you can see that’s quite a lot, and you should provide a balanced diet and keep them fed once a day once they are beyond juvenile fish.

Depending on how much ‘prime beef’ you feel like dropping in the tank, costs can vary but a budget of $25 to $40 per fish per month might be a good estimate. Quite frankly you can go quite a bit either side of this range as well. Potato or Zucchini isn’t that expensive.

Finding Piranhas For Sale

First, you should consider that Piranha are not legal in some States in the US and you could quite easily be breaking the law. Piranhas in 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 State should not be sold there.

Where To Buy Piranha

Once you’ve decided that you can purchase Piranha an easy option may be online. While going into a pet store with a qualified expert might be the best option, you can, rather strangely by live Piranha online.

If you want to have a look around, please consider these sources;




For all other ancillaries and decorations, will do just fine.

Aquarium of Piranha

Tips Before You Buy a Piranha

Before you decide to embark on this adventure as a prospective Piranha owner, please consider that this a commitment, not a whim. The Piranha is a live fish that will last anywhere from 5 years to 15 years in your tank with care.

While your image of Piranha may be a bloodthirsty killer that will just be waiting for you to put a finger in the tank, in reality they will be quite shy and retiring fish. With a lot of movement around the tank, they can act very nervously.

Make sure you buy healthy Piranha and insist on this with the vendor. They should be alert and responsive not slow and sluggish. Look for injury and bite marks. Small nipped fins are fine, but severe bite marks are not the sign on a healthy fish. If they are swimming irregurlary that could be a sign of disease.

You should buy around 3 to 5 juvenile Piranha as a beginner for the 60 gallon tank. The Red-Bellied Piranha is a schooling fish and will require tankmates ideally.

The tank should be of the right proportions, placed in a quiet corner of the home if you want to own this fish.

The Final Tally

If you have never owned Piranha before and want to go for a tank setup that is healthy and a good environment for Piranha, and this should be your goal you will need to purchase all the requisite items from scratch.

The actual Piranha themselves, should be around $50 for 5 fish. The entire aquarium setup, that will include the aquarium, heaters, pumps, decorations, filters, gravel, and all the ancillaries should be around $750.

The ongoing cost of food might be around $20 – 30 per fish depending upon what you feed it per month.

Thus a setup might be around $800 for the initial start up costs and around $100 per month for the life of the fish.


Compared to other pets, Piranha are not really expensive to keep. Piranha can grow quite quickly, and thus it’s wise to get the big tank right from the start. Getting a small tank and trading up as they grow is quite unnecessary if you have prepared beforehand.

High quality filtration is a must as they are very messy eaters and tear things to pieces as a school.

So, the best of luck. With the proper care and consideration Piranha ownership can be a real joy and are certainly a talking point when there are visitors to your home.

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