Side view if red-bellied piranha

The Piranha Ultimate Guide [Info | Facts | Pictures | FAQs]

The Piranha is a fish of fascination, myths and facts. There is a lot of information about them, with some widely held beliefs, of which some are accurate, some exaggerations and some outright falsehoods. So what is the truth?

In short, the Piranha is a freshwater wild fish that exists primarily in Latin American around the Amazon river. There are numerous species amongst the breed, only a few of which can be described as carnivorous. Mostly Piranha scavenge, in shoals for crustaceans, insects and plants. They are actually omnivorous. They aren’t overly large fish, existing up to 24 inches and the red bellied Piranha is considered the most dangerous, thus it’s the most famous. It’s the one that appears in the James Bond films. You can own Piranha, but you should check State laws as they are restricted in some places for fear of them being put in rivers and breeding. They will attack large animals, but normally only if they are already dead. Attacks on humans are exceedingly rare despite their reputation.

Red Bellied Piranha side on

What Type of Fish is a Piranha

Piranha fish fall in the subfamily called serrasalminae consisting of carnivorous and omnivorous fish and is related to the pacus fish.

They are known for their sharp teeth which are described as having a ‘chiselled rectangular shape’ and are used to catch, tear up and eat their prey.

They have one of the most substantial bites among the bony fish, this being attributed to the powerful jaws and the sharp teeth. It is a predatory fish whose mechanical advantage gives them a competitive advantage over other predators. Its prey includes small fish, and they are feared to attack a fishermans livelihood, as they destroy fishing nets and baits.

Most Piranha range between 12 cm and 35 cm depending on the exact species, although a few can grow longer. San Francisco Piranha are the largest true species which can grow up to about 35 cm.

Megapiranha is one of the extinct species which measured approximately 100cm.

Piranha are said to be ‘extremely dangerous and can eat their prey within a short time’, and while it is true that they love eating meat, they are more likely to feed on seeds and plants.

The fish are found in the Amazon forest and the tropical rainforests of Southern America, but a few have been put in aquariums, although you will most likely require a permit to keep the fish in an aquarium.

School of Piranha

The Piranha Species

There are only four families who are considered to be true piranhas. This includes pristobrycon, pygocentrus, pygopristis, and serrasalmus.

These four species have specialized teeth, and the total number of piranha fish species is unknown, and scientists continue to contest on what should be considered piranha and what should not.

New species, however, continue to be discovered. At the moment scientists estimate that the species is more than 30 but less than 60. Piranha fish are hard to categorize due to the diversity that exists with the species. These fish have been found to range from vegetarian, omnivorous to a carnivorous species.

Their physical characteristics vary immensely from one species to another posing a sense of complexity to the scientist.

The following genus (meaning taxonomic rank) have been identified as true piranha fish.

  • Genus Pygocentrus – This genius is considered to be a true piranha, and it contains four fish species which include cariba species found in Venezuela’s river basins.

The black spot piranha, red-bellied piranha, and San Francisco piranha belong here and it is classified as the predatory scavengers which are formed  from large schools of piranha.

The famous red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri) is one of the species in the genus and is found throughout the waters of South America.


  • Genus Serrasalmus – This genus of piranha fish contains approximately 31 fish species. They are distinguished from other piranha as they are not schooling fish and they hunt alone and exist in solitude. They have a rhombus shape.

The most common species in this genus is the red-eye piranha which is found along the Amazon, notably in the Orinoco river basins. Other notable species include branditi, rhombeus, ruby-throated diamond, green tiger piranha and Eigenmann’s


  • Genus Pristobrycon – This genus of the piranha fish contains unique species that are rare and less aggressive. The fish are monophyletic. They do not possess single morphological features that unite them to a common ancestor. Example of piranha species in this genius is maculipinnis, calmoni, striolatus and careospinus piranha.


  • Genus Catoprion – The wimple piranha the only species of the Catoprion genus. Historically the wimple was not considered as a Piranha, but recent research indicates that its DNA resemble those of the piranha fish. They are small aggressive fish which have one of the powerful bites among the piranha fish.4


  • Genus Pygopristis – These fish species have distinguished crenulated tooth structure; they are silvery blue with a pug nose and slightly protruding lower jaw. They are small in body but quite peaceful and less aggressive, they are mainly found in Brazil, Surinam, Guyana and Venezuela
A Man swimming with lots of Piranha

Piranha Characteristics

So what defines a Piranha?  You know one when you see one right?

While that may be true, here are a few defining features

Amazon River basin, in northeastern Brazilian and the Guianas contains the  highest concentration of piranha.

They are aggressive fish and do not mix with other species well.

The average piranha is around 12 inches long, weighing around 8 lbs and have an incredibly strong bite for their size with razor sharp teeth.

Aquarium of Piranha

Feeding Characteristics of Piranha

Despite media, both in TV and print showing the piranha to be a vicious and indiscriminate killer, the truth is piranhas are more ‘opportunistic omnivores’.

A piranha might eat many things, from other fish, to plants, seeds, fruits and insects.

They will hunt in groups, as a pack animal, hiding behind plants, waiting patiently for prey, which can be another school of fish.

Thus, the aggressive piranha is a pack ambush hunter.

Behavioral Characteristics

Most piranhas are considered non aggressive, while they are not hunting. They feed mainly during the dawn and the dusk.

Meat, in the forms of other fish, river animals, and humans are only attacked when food sources are scarce.

Thus, highly populated areas, where piranha are known to congregate, are most dangerous during low water seasons, when food stock is low.

These fish differentiate themselves from other aquatic species by being one of the most dangerous, aggressive fish species in the world.

Additionally a few interesting facts about them;

  • Piranha fish can be extremely aggressive with two rows of sharp teeth that are tightly packed in both jaws.
  • They most aggressive of the species, like the red=bellied piranha attack their prey in schools and can strip flesh from bodies of large animals in a short amount of time.
  • Piranhas mainly originate from the rivers of South America, and they are typically coloured in shades of green, brown, silver, blue, red and black.
  • The school is a means of protecting themselves from larger predators; they can also kill large animals in schools if necessary..
  • Piranhas can live in aquariums if there is ample space, with plants for hiding; they might start attacking themselves if they are kept in a small space.
  • Piranhas will attack other fish of a different breed in the same aquarium if they feel threatened or starved.
  • In the wild Piranhas lay their eggs in stagnant water and specifically in areas with mud. However, if you breed them, you should provide a separate breeding tank.
  • Red Bellied Piranha, Blacktail and black Piranha are a few species that are suitable for aquarium breeding.

Where Are Piranha Fish Found

Indigenously piranha fish are found in the Amazon basin, the rivers of Sao Francisco, Paraguay and the Guianas. The richness of the species in these rivers, however, varies according to the geographic location.

In short, they are found the length of the amazon and the surrounding lakes, more commonly known as subtropical South America.

Most species, however, are only present on a single river system. Some species like the red-bellied however are present in several river systems.

Piranha fish have been discovered in parts of Bangladesh and China, these fish are exotic to these places and are thought to have been released by fishermen who might have been escaping anti-poaching law forces.

It is still illegal to keep piranha fish in aquariums in most parts of the US without permission.

Aerial shot of winding Amazon river

The Piranha Habitat

While, they live along the Amazon, within the Amazon they congregate in specific areas, preferring certain types of water.

  • Piranha fish are generally found in fast flowing water where there is plenty of food as they are heavy feeders.
  • They live in freshwater and tend to stay together in shoals. They will live in rivers, dams, lakes and prefer living in deep waters. Schools of fish were initially thought to be a feeding mechanism, but it also is a defense mechanism as the fish are prey to larger fish, birds and other wildlife.
  • The fish, however, will stay in lagoons where they will easily breed during the rainy seasons. Here, the females lay eggs on water plants and on the sand where they will be fertilised by the male fish.
  • When spawning in the aquarium, they prefer having plants as they prefer hiding behind the plants.

Pictorial Amazon Basin

The Piranha School / Shoal

Shoal formation in Piranha fish is estimated to comprise of up to 1000 fish, but that depends on species. Some shoals have been seen consisting of just 20 fish, whereas the red-bellied piranha can be seen in packs of several hundred.

lots of piranha swimmingThese fish feel safe in schools. Piranhas are found to breathe easily in shoals; they can respond to attacks by predators calmly.

The Piranhas at the center of the school, are in a batter situation but the shoal as a whole gives size to a group of individuals, thus is a warning to predators. Moreover, they are rarely overwhelmed by predators; this is a survival tactic for the species.

Additionally, as a shoal, the fish can attack other large animals as they seek for food, they can strip off the flesh of large animals within minutes.

Piranha schools consist of fish of the same species and rarely mix with other fish of a different species as they feel threatened by strangers. The red-bellied is said to be highly organized, and you will find that during the attack they coordinate on how they bite their prey. Once the fish feed, they seperate and surround the victim so all the piranha can feed.

The Types of Piranha

It is believed that Piranhas are mostly carnivores, but you might be surprised to learn that some are omnivores, while others are entirely vegetarians. Their diet consists of insects, fish snail worms weeds and other aquatic plants, and they only eat large animals that are dead or that are sickly.

The red-bellied piranha, however, is exclusively carnivorous, and live in schools where they feed on small fish and can attack large fish and other animals eating their prey within a short time. The red-bellied piranha has a diet that consists almost exclusively of insects, worms, crustaceans, and fish.

About 30% of Piranhas are entirely carnivorous, although most of the Piranha fish have teeth as this distinguishes the Piranha fish from other closely related fish such as the pacu. Feeding frenzies can be triggered in these fish species if they smell a drop of blood in the water or when there is a food shortage. Some piranhas show the tendency of cannibalism especially when they are starved.

Some piranhas have been reported to be entirely vegetarians and are pretty docile as compared to others within the species. One of the vegetarian piranhas is the Tometes Camunani found in Brazil; they purely feed on aquatic weed.

Apart From the Tometes and the red-bellied Piranhas the rest of the piranha species are omnivorous who show a preference for seeds and occasionally eat meat.

Photo of school of Piranha

The Piranha Diet

Piranhas will typically feed on insects, fish and other crustaceans, worms, carrion, seeds and other plants. Scavenged scraps, crustaceans and bugs make a large percentage of the food for the Piranhas.

The dietary needs of the fish change according to the breed, age and the food sources at their disposal.

Although this fish is said to be mostly carnivorous, most species are omnivorous and survive on only plants and seeds. When the food is however scarce, they display cannibalism, where they eat piranha species whether alive or dead.

You should however not worry about being eaten by this fish as since they only feed on weak or dead large animals. They rarely attack humans, but if they are not fed, they could bite people. It all depends upon food abundantly available to them, which is determined by happenstance, location and season.

Piranha Reproduction

In the wild Piranha fish breed seasonally. This is made possible by the captivating environment created by the changes in the waters as the seasons change. Warm water agitates the fish making them likely to breed; the Amazon is prone to warm currents that are suitable to breeding.

Surprisingly, they breed in pairs.

The female will lay her eggs attached to water weed in the mud; the male will later fertilise the eggs. During the breeding season, the fish are more aggressive and the male will likely protect the eggs, they do this by biting other fish that might threaten the eggs.

The males, on the other hand, will increase their pigmentation as they are getting ready for the mating season. The female can scatter approximately 1000 eggs which will be fertilised to form the fry will be ready to move after a week and can be fed brine shrimp.

Piranha Bite

The Piranha has one of the powerful bites, with their teeth being strong, triangular and sharp. They are tightly packed in a row in the jaw giving a powerful bite. Their teeth are interlocking with the middle teeth standing above the rest by a few millimeters.

Piranha tooth enamel is compared to that of a shark, thus can tear the flesh off their prey easily and within a short time.

Researches in the Amazon say that Piranha can bite through steel and bulletproof material, their bites are so powerful such that it can cut through most protective gear. Fortunately, piranha fish are more scavengers than hunters and would not attack humans.

The Black Piranhas have one of the powerful bites as they have outsized muscles which allow it to exert a force 30 times the body mass.

This kind of force is unmatched in the natural world, other animals such the sharks and hyenas give powerful bites, but are much less impressive when compared to their body weight.

The record measured bite of Piranha is about 320 newton (N) and this is due to the complex muscles that make more than two per cent of Piranha’s body.

piranha Bite

Piranha Size

As there are many different breeds within the piranha family, it’s difficult to narrow down. Some are around 6 inches, whilst others are around 24 inches.

The average size of Piranha is around 10 to 12 inches.

  • Newly hatched Piranha fish are known as fry, and they weigh a few grams, they rely on yolk sacks for nutrition for the first days of their lives. With time the juvenile fish will start eating crustaceans, insects and worms. Young fry is being taken care of by adult fish, but as they grow independent, they start using seaweeds and plants as protection against attacks.
  • Normally Piranhas grow up to 15 to 15 centimeters (6 to 10 inches) depending on the specific breed. However, some peculiar species have been reported to grow to about 50 centimetres in length (20 inches).
  • The red-bellied Piranha grows to about 51 cm (20 inches)
  • The black spot Piranha can grows up to 28 cm (11 inches).
  • Most Piranhas are considered to be small fish. However, there are claims that the Sao Francisco Piranhas can grow to 60 cm (24 inches).
  • The extinct mega Piranha that is thought to have lived around 8 million years ago is estimated to have measured 100 cm (40 inches)

Pictorial size of piranha

The Piranha Bark

Observational research and anecdotes indicate that Red-Bellied Piranhas make some noise when a fisherman catches them.

Further research on the noise by the piranhas indicates that the bark-like noises have three different distinct vocalizations made in different situations. The fish make the sounds using either their teeth or swim-bladder. Contracting and relaxing the muscles of the bladder which is a gas-filled organ.

  • When fighting with other fish, the Red-Bellied piranha visually stares with the other fish. It makes a distinct noise that can be said to be ‘quick calls’. The fish summons other fish for help when they are threatened.
  • They are communicating direct threats to the other fish like “don’t mess with me buddy” with little thud sound or low grounds. They circle the or fight the fish thus creating dominance and threaten the other fish away
  • If the fish do not go away, the Red-Bellied Piranha fish will garnish its teeth together to chase away the rival fish or threat.

The Common Piranha Variants (Breeds)

Piranhas have the reputation of being flesh-eating. Surprisingly they eat plants more than meat, as a species.

Piranhas cannot be said to be completely carnivorous since carnivores survive on meat only. Some varieties of the fish can even survive on plants alone without having meat in their diets while most of them are omnivorous.

  • Carnivores: species like the Red-Bellied Piranhas are said to be carnivorous, but this is not true as they eat seaweeds and seeds. They will, however, eat more flesh than plants in their diet. Their food ranges from snails, insects, crustaceans to other fish and meat of dead animals.
  • Omnivores:  Most piranha species are omnivorous and will forage on seaweeds and seeds. They will also eat the meat of small animals, fish, crustaceans and amphibians.
  • Herbivores: Other varieties such as Trombetas which live in Brazil live only on seaweed, seeds and algae thus are entirely herbivorous species.

The Red Bellied Piranha

The Red-Bellied Piranha is the most common Piranha fish species occupying most of the river channels in the Amazon region. It is thought to be the most aggressive Piranha as it has one of the strongest jaws along with a powerful bite.

It has developed a reputation of an aggressive, ferocious predator. This, however, is not true as the fish is a scavenger rather than a hunter. It is naturally omnivorous and feeds on seeds and seaweeds it, however, has a preference for meat, and it will eat small fish, amphibians, crustaceans and small sea animals.

Red-Bellied Piranha travels in shoals as a defence mechanism against predators, they, however, hunt down food in groups also. The school of red-bellied fish is very organised, and they exhibit acoustic communication.

Side view if red-bellied piranha

Under attack, the fish at the centre of the school will respond calmly to the predator overcoming the threat. The fish is not a migratory fish, even though they live in schools, they are stationary and will live in a single river for a long time.

When feeding the fish on the outer part of the school will give way to those at the centre to take a bite. The fish can loves living in warm waters but can survive cold water below 10 degrees Celsius. Their bodies are grey with spots of red and black colouration on the fins and the tails.

They can grow to a weight of 4kg and around 20 inches in length.

Many myths surround the red-bellied piranha, the film Piranha produced in 1978, showed the fish as being aggressive. They are portrayed in Hollywood attacking humans and stripping off their flesh within minutes.

This has exaggerated their reputation as they are timid scavengers and they can be equated to the vultures of the sea. The species will not attack large animals leave alone humans; they only feed on dead carcasses and animals which are about to die.

They are not a threat to humans, and for the record, humans feed on the red-bellied fish. Most humans who have been eaten in the Amazon by the fish were probably dead.

The Black Piranha

The Black Piranha has one of the largest bites compared to prehistoric predators. The force compared to its body mass is very impressive. While other predators like the crocodiles exert a higher force, they cannot be compared to that of the black piranha as they have huge body masses.

This species has outsized jaw muscles which allow it to exert a force which is 30 times more than its weight.

They can live up to around 25 years, are around 12 inches long and weigh around 9 lbs.

It’s a very quick aggressive hunter. Its body is almost exclusively grey and black.

Their defensive bites have been used to measure the force they exert on various tools; they can tear steel rods; consequently, have been nicknamed a notorious biter.

The black piranha will rarely attack humans as they are known to forage their food, eating wild fruits, and dead animals.

When they are starved, they can bite other fish, and they have tendencies of cannibalism. Under an aquarium, you should ensure that they are well fed so that they do not attack your hand when you are feeding them closely as their bite is quite dangerous.

The Red Eye Piranha

Red Eye Piranha is mostly found in the Amazon region and is adaptable to diverse habitats such as the blackwater to the whitewater. This species, unlike most Piranhas, is very tolerant to different water chemistry. Scientists, however, dispute its occurrence as a single species as it has diverse morphological characteristics.

They are mostly grey with bright red eyes with diamond-shaped scales. Sometimes it is referred to as the rhombus Piranha due to its distinct striking shape. The fish can grow up to about 41.5cm and weight about 3kg.

This species is timid and less aggressive when compared to other piranha species, it is an omnivore and can feed on the seaweeds and sea creatures such as the crabs. Importation of the species is prohibited in many areas of the US as it can disrupt the ecology when released into the wild.

San Francisco Piranha

Piraya piranha or San Francisco Piranha is sometimes referred to as the man-eating piranha; this fish is large and very aggressive. It is found in the Brazilian basin and can grow to about 50cm.

This species is omnivorous but when feeling angry can be aggressive. This species has one of the most beautiful colourations with yellow markings on the belly, silver eyes and fibrous fins.

The species found in aquariums are mostly imported from North America since breeding these fish is prohibited in most states.

Frequently Asked Questions About Piranha (FAQs)

Can You Keep piranha?

Despite their aggressive nature, some people keep Piranhas as pets. In short, yes, you can keep piranhas as pets.

In the US, some States are legal, some are illegal and some you need a permit. Best to check with your own States rules on the issue.

People are fascinated by their aggressive nature, along with the ferocious reputation and consequently keep the fish for entertainment.

When one decides to take the Piranhas out of the wild and keep them as pets, they should be ready to treat them with respect and take good care of the fish.

The key issue is ensuring that the fish are well fed at all times to avoid incidents of cannibalism, and attacks on other fish species in an aquarium. When introducing Piranhas in an aquarium ensure that there is enough space with enough weeds where they can hide.

You should beware of their sharp teeth and the fact that they can bite you if they are not well feed. Before jumping into the idea of breeding a Piranha ensure that your state allows for aquarium breeding of Piranhas.

Some states restrict breeding of aquarium piranha since people will dump fish they do not want into rivers. Piranhas are known to be an aggressive predator which can feed on local fish and disrupt the ecology.

Does the Piranha Have Natural Predators?

Caiman eating a piranhaThere are times when the Piranhas are attacked by predators; young piranhas are prey for many animals such as eagles and other big fish.

However, during this stage of life, they are being protected by the adults; this can be seen as a way of the species surviving and a method of continuity of species. Piranhas can feed on herons that fall from trees, but during the dry season in the Amazon, Piranhas become vulnerable and exposed to attacks by the heron.

When the Piranhas are stuck in the mud during dry seasons they lack enough oxygen thus small alligators such as the Caimans will feed on the Piranhas. Moreover, bigger fish tend to feed on the Piranhas.

Consequently, they swim in schools to avoid attacks by big fish. Humans have been known to eat many kinds of fish, and the Piranhas are not excluded as they make a tasty meal.

Naturally however, and humans aside the biggest threats to Piranha are Caimans, the Amazon river dolphin, egrets, herons and storks.

Does The Piranha Attack Humans?

Hollywood movies have made us believe that Piranhas can attack and kill people, James Bond villain, as well as horror movies, have depicted this fish as being a deadly predator to humans.

The fish, however, is more of a scavenger than a hunter; it feeds on the meat of weak animals and dead prey that is drifting in the river.

So yes, in theory, but no in practice. It’s likely that you might have to be injured first and bleeding in the water to be attacked by Piranha,

However, if a shoal has been food deprived then that could be a very different story.

Moreover, the fish eats seeds, plant parts and seaweed more than meat. You cannot, however, rule the probability of Piranha attacks out. When they are very hungry, they can feed on anything, including having characteristics of cannibalism.  

The fish can eat bodies of dead people or weak and sickly people who might fall into water invested by the fish.

The fish can bite people when they are breeding, and during periods of food scarcity, You should be careful when handling this fish even if it cannot threaten to eat you, it can bite and injure you.

Can it Strip a Man to the Bone?

There have been incidences of human bodies being washed off-shore having been bitten by Piranhas.

During feeding frenzies, they will, however, attack any big animal that falls into the water and strips the flesh in a matter of minutes.

If a dead body or a sickly person falls in to waters infested by angry Piranha fish, flesh can be stripped off the bone, yes. Depending upon the breed.

Fish expert Dr Axelrod, however, says that Piranha cannot strip flesh of a person if they swim in waters infested by the fish. To prove his point he swam in a pond with a school of piranha and the fish did not attack him or strip flesh from his body.

The bodies that are washed offshore with Piranha bites still have pounds of flesh, but during feeding frenzies, the fish can eat a dead body to the bones especially during the periods when there is scarce food in their natural habitats.

If an attack was ever to take place, Piranha expert, Ray Owczarzak, an assistant curator of fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore has made the calculation for you.

He surmises that “it would probably take 300 to 500 piranhas five minutes to strip the flesh off a 180-pound human”.

Which Piranha is the Most Aggressive?

Most Piranhas are docile and harmless but some species are very aggressive, the most aggressive species according to fish experts is the Red-Bellied Piranha.

This fish will eat anything that comes on its way this includes other fish, sick cattle and it can bite people if hungry enough.

They attack their fish prey on the eyes and the nose making them weak and vulnerable to attack. They also attack fins in the first strike to immobilise the fish.

During frenzies, these fish can attack its prey and strip off its flesh within a short time. Red-bellied Piranha are found in shoals, which is a defence mechanism against predators that feed on them.

They are organised and have a sense of communication within a school. Under attack, the fish in the middle will also attack to overcome a predator.

Moreover, during feeding, the fish on the outer part of the school will give way for those at the middle to have a bite.

When angry, these fish show signs of cannibalism and will bite anything that comes on their way, they can even bite humans with their razor sharp teeth causing injuries to people.

Has Anyone Ever Died From Piranhas?

Piranhas are not as frightening as they are portrayed; Hollywood takes advantage of predetermined notions.

Although they have sharp teeth, it does not mean that they will immediately attack people who come close to them. The number of people who have died from a Piranha Attack is not easy to determine.

People drown in the Amazon, and they could be eaten by the Piranha once dead.

There have been reports only two cases in Brazil when the Piranhas killed people who had fallen in the water; however, experts say that these people would have died before they were attacked.

Thus it is not quite clear whether anyone has ever died from attacks by Piranhas. In Brazil, the report of a girl who had been attacked by Piranha remains sceptical as she might have died before the fish fed on her.

Unfortunately, deaths around the Amazon can be numerous and not always the result of animal attacks. Life is hard in the subtropics, and civilizations exist there whereby regular communication is not common.

There are no reports of the fish attacking a person and killing them when they are alive, as depicted in the films. But it is not safe to swim in waters infested by these fish as they might attack, especially if they are angry.  

a single piranha

How Common are Piranha Attacks

The US president Theodore Roosevelt in 1913 reported on an infamous Brazilian fish that was able to eat a full cow within minutes. He wrote of this powerful predator with sharp teeth that can ‘skeletonise’ huge animals in minutes.

The fish Roosevelt saw had been starved, but the image created caused fear of attacks among the populations.

The fish however rarely attack humans. In the Amazon basin there have been very few cases of attacks on humans. One of the notable attacks in history is that of a Brazilian girl whose boat capsized and had fallen into the water.

Her body later was found to be have been eaten by Piranha, but it is not quite clear if she had died before the attack or not. The Amazon area has had few human attacks, although the fish has lived in the region for millions of years.

Fishermen report that they are only bitten by the fish if they sense danger and they rarely attack humans unless they are feeling hungry.

But it is their nature to bite anything that comes on their paths when they are feeling hungry; they even show tendencies of cannibalism.

How Long Would it Take a Piranha to Eat a Person?

Piranha fish get a bad rap; people tend to think like they have a mouthful of scalpel-like teeth that could kill a person within minutes for a reason.

Incidences of the fish feeding on humans are rare as they are happily scavenging or biting other fish. The report of President Roosevelt indicated that he saw Piranhas feed on a full cow within a very short time.

Fish experts have argued that the fish must have been a large school of about 500 fish that had been starved to eat a full cow in five minutes. The cow might have been very small to be eaten by the fish in a few minutes according to fish experts.  

It could take longer to feed on a 180-pound human on a natural river with Piranha fish; in fact, bodies washed-offshore having Piranha bites tend to have some flesh left on them.

As noted earlier, Piranha expert, Ray Owczarzak, an assistant curator of fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore surmises that “it would probably take 300 to 500 piranhas five minutes to strip the flesh off a 180-pound human”.

How Many Deaths Are Caused by Piranhas?

During droughts, swimmers are warned against staying in the Brazilian waters as they risk being bitten by Piranha fish.

Unsuspecting swimmers who encounter the fish have had chunks of flesh being bitten from parts of their bodies. Luckily there have been few incidences where Piranha fish kill or injure swimmers.

The absence of natural food can make Piranhas opt to bite people; a school of fish can cause serious injuries to swimmers. The fish can smell blood from distance of two miles making them attack injured humans or any other animal in the water.

The fish move from shallow waters to the deeper water during drought biting swimmers, however, in Brazil, the report of a girl who had been bitten by Piranha fish caused a stir in the news as the fish was labelled a ferrous attacker.

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