piranha feeding in an aquarium

Piranha Food? What Do You Feed Pet Piranha?

One of the big questions asked by new Piranha owners is what to feed them, and how often? They are widely thought to be carnivores, but are in fact omnivores. So what exactly should you know about your Piranha?

So, what do you feed your pet Piranha? While the Piranha have a wide variety of edible foods available to them, a diet consisting of white fish meats, fruits and vegetables will keep them healthy. All foods should be frozen to kill off parasites and organisms, and then thawed out prior to feeding. Avoid processed junk food like hamburgers and hot dogs. Worms and larvae (maggots) should be bought from a bait shop or pet store to avoid pesticides entering the water.


Piranha are omnivorous in nature. Whether they are in the Amazon river or the oxbow lakes of Latin America, their diet is varied and consists of all types of available food, including other fish. Humans are not on the menu.

In truth there is a wide variety of food sources available to the Piranha, the Amazon being one of the most diverse ecological systems on the planet. Typically Piranha, when food is plentiful during the wet season, will consume all manner of foodstuffs, such as fruits, seeds, insects, small mammals, crustaceans, worms and other fish.

While in the wild the Piranha have to make do with what is available, the home hobbyist Piranha owner can provide a diet that best replicates their natural food intake at any time.

There are no hard right or wrongs though, these are suggestions and best practices for feeding Piranha. You might have to experiment, and try different foods in rotation to see what your Piranha prefer. The list is quite varied, and Piranha should eat most things if they are hungry.

3 red bellied piranha

Initial Piranha Behavior When Introduced To A Tank

Whilst it is easy to assume that a fish with the reputation of a bloodthirsty killer us forever ravenous for food, a problem for new Piranha in a tank is precisely the opposite. There refusal to eat once they are put into an aquarium.

They are rather shy, timid and retiring fish in a hole aquarium environment, and it isn’t unusual for them to refuse food for a few days while they become accustomed to their new home.

You shouldn’t worry too much, as anecdotal evidence suggests most Piranha can survive without food for 8 weeks, and some have been food deprived for 3 months or slightly longer.

In the wild, the dry season produces food scarcity so the Piranha have naturally adapted to this reality, and store food in the form of body fat, to live off should it become a necessity.

Thus it is quite common for newly housed Piranha to refuse to eat. They are typically just readjusting to their new environment, and should start eating when they are good and ready.

Things To Think About When Feeding Piranha

White meat fish based meals are a good bulk meal for your Piranha. While the diet should be varied, and to include, other meats, fruits and vegetables, a staple diet of white fish is good for Piranha. Bass and halibut, or similar produce a healthy meal. They are very nutritionally dense.

Fish such as trout are considered pink fish meat, and are normally good provided the meat is fresh. Red fish meats like tuna, along with the pink fish meats though, are considerably oily in nature. Often when feeding, oils and blood often go into the water, so oil films on the surface can be observed.

If you are going to feed your Piranha fish, pick white fish based meats in preference.

6 piranha in an aquarium

Piranha Should Have a Varied Diet

The diet of natural Piranha, while trying to avoid becoming prey themselves is exceptionally varied. They will feed off falling fruits, insects, small mammals, birds, seeds, nuts, plant matter, crustaceans, worms and other small fish.

Your goal should be to provide a round and varied diet, not just meats or fruits. This will keep you Piranha healthy.

How Often Should You Feed Piranha?

Feeding Piranha is pretty much like any other fish, you don’t want to overfeed them, and neither do you want to under feed them.

When they are young, juvenile fry on their way to becoming adult fish, twice a day is about right.

As they reach more adult stages, and their growth slows you can feed them once a day.

There are no hard and fast rules, but if you drop feed into the tank and put in as much as they can consume in 3 minutes or so, you should help your Piranha keep healthy.

Again, make sure the diet is varied, rotate around fruits, meats and vegetable matter.

Worthy of note is that when Piranha are hungry, they will chomp their mouths repeatedly. If you see them doing this, try feeding them more, or more often.

small piranha in an aquarium

What Foods Can You Give Your Piranha?

There are many different foods, but for the purposes of feeding Piranha, they should be broken up into frozen foods, freeze dried foods, fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and live foods.

Frozen Foods

Finding frozen food should be relatively easy, as they are quite widespread. Frozen foods can be found at most food centers, pet shops and bait stores. They are a good option for Piranha as, like cooking, freezing kills off parasites, diseases and harmful bacteria. Good frozen foods should keep your Piranha healthy.

As they are healthy and safe, it is quite possible that these types of food could be the bulk of your Piranha’s diet. Frozen food should not be dropped into the tank while frozen or chilled. That the food first and allow to get to room temperature before placing in the tank.

Frozen cubes: As the name suggests these are frozen feed cubes, which are mainly fish or meat based used to feed the Piranha the meat diet they require.

Frozen fish: More commonly bought from bait shops, there are numerous types of frozen fish. You could even buy fresh fish and freeze it yourself but that is usually more expensive. Various sea creatures such as squid and mackerel, to freshwater fish like bass and minnows, as well as farmed foods like shrimp can be frozen for your Piranha. If the food stuff is from bairshops, make sure there are no preservatives of colorings. You just want the fish, unadulterated.

Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze dried foods shouldn’t make up the bulk of your Piranha’s diet but they can be a great way to vary the diet, and keep the required nutrients  getting to your Piranha.

Pellets/ Flake food: Good for raising small Piranha, and can be used with other fish but not all pellets supply all the nutritional requirements for Piranha.

Directly freeze dried: A wide variety of natural food can be freeze dried. It’s a good way of keeping longevity into their diet. Fresh meats have shelf lives, but dried worms will last longer. Typically, it’s meats and fish that are high in protein, like shrimp and worms.

Fresh Meats

Although slightly more expensive these are excellent feeds for your Piranha. Despite the fact that you might buy them fresh, it is recommended you freeze them first for 24 hrs to kill off any parasites or disease.

Fish based meat: As fish are a natural part of the Piranhas diet, any fish based meat you might be reasonably entitled to think, would be a good meal for your fish.  Contains a lot of the nutrients your Piranha will need.

Meat based: Both beef and beefheart are recommended for Piranha.

Of the two, the fish based meats are a better option as they are more natural for a Piranha meal.


As the Piranha will naturally eat plant matter, especially as the dry season encroaches, part of your Piranhas diet ought to contain something similar.

Therefore, occasionally, offer your Piranha a variety of vegetables. Almost all can be good depending upon what is available to you but raw zucchini, spinach, or potato are said to be good.

Try to get vegetables not doused in pesticides, so organic based vegetables are better. It’s also an option to cut up the raw vegetables, dice them and freeze first to kill off any organisms.

Additionally carrots or peas can be used but if the Piranha do not eat them, or at least all of them, they may need removing from the tank after a few hours. Vegetables will decay and rot.


It’s largely similar with fruits. Fruits are considered part of a Piranhas natural diet. So why not dice up an apple, pear or peach. Place them in the freezer to kill off any bugs and see if your Piranha appreciate your efforts.

single red bellied piranha

Feeding Your Piranha Live Food

There’s quite a bit of controversy about feeding Piranha live foods. Mainly centering around either cruelty or health. As some live foods are harmless and barely sentient, then these arguments are an individual choice.

It should be stressed, that there is no benefit to your Piranha, feeding them live food as opposed to frozen. It’s simply a matter of variety more than anything. You can keep Piranha without ever having to drop live food in the tank.

In general though a lot of Piranha owners seem to agree that feeding your fish a goldfish brings unnecessary risk to your pets. The same nutritional risk can be gained from frozen food.

Fish or shrimp: Many Piranha owners with the desire to feed their fish with live food keep a feeder tank with either goldfish or guppies. It’s not uncommon to keep the feeder tank in much poorer conditions and thus introduce a higher risk of contaminating your Piranha with parasites. If you must feed you Piranha live fish, make sure they are healthy, and free from typical diseases, like Ich. It’s a good idea to keep the tank healthy, for the good of your Piranha. There is often little nutritional value in goldfish.

Rodents: Slightly more unusual, but not unknown is the propensity to feed your Piranha, either mice or other rodents. This would certainly be an unusual meal for a Piranha, and not at all typical. Remember, rodents have teeth and claws, so it is just possible that in the melee, your Piranha could get injured, and rodent fur is not typical for the digestive system of a Piranha. It can be done, but their are better choices.

Insects: Almost all of the insects designed for feeding reptiles can be used with Piranha. It’s largely better to buy them, where they have been raised clean, not sprayed with insecticides. Larvae of various bugs can also be eaten by Piranha.  

Worms: Worms from either bait shops or pet stores, rather than from your own garden, where they might be contaminated with pesticides are the best live food that Piranha owners can give their fish. They are also cheap, nutritious and can be bought from almost anywhere. Similarly, maggots can also be used.

All is all, it is worth considering the additional health risks associated with feeding your Piranha live food.

What Foods Should You Not Give Piranha?

While live fish are not recommended, they are at least a possible source of food for your Piranha.

The type of foods you should never give Piranha are largely the processed meat type products.  These contain far more than the meat, and as such could possibly harm your Piranha. Typically, hotdogs, fried chicken from fast food restaurants, burgers and preserved meats like ham slices contain the preservatives. Spicy foods should also be avoided.

These types of foods contain man-made preservatives and chemicals that are not conducive to your Piranhas health.


Piranhas are an amazing fish. They have survived millennia in the wild nature of Latin America by being a hardy fish. The climate and environment can be fierce in the Amazon basin but Piranha have survived.

They have adapted to their surroundings and feed on whatever food they are able. They can survive long periods without food if necessary and have an omnivorous diet to be able to sustain themselves.

To keep your own Piranha healthy, a varied diet consisting of white meat fish, fruits and vegetables, leaving out feeding them live foods and processed junk food, will ensure your Piranha live healthily for their entire lives.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *