Red-bellied piranha

Pygocentrus nattereri

The red-bellied piranha is a freshwater fish native to South America. Famed for its voracious appetite, this river-dweller's name derives from the Tupi-guarani language and means "toothed fish."

Red-bellied piranha behavior and facts

  • The red-belly is one of many piranha species, and is named for the crimson belly most visible in males.
  • Despite their fearsome reputation, red-bellied piranhas feed primarily on fish and invertebrates. They also opportunistically feed on small land animals as well as fruits, seeds and aquatic plants.
  • Piranhas are preyed upon by caimans, fish-eating birds, larger fish and humans.
  • Interlocking teeth and strong jaws give piranhas a very sharp and efficient bite.
  • Schools of piranha that form 'feeding frenzies' by converging on a prey item typically only do so out of provocation or starvation.

Reproduction and life history

  • Piranhas breed during the rainy season.
  • Females lay more than 5,000 eggs on submerged plants.
  • Lifespan: up to eight years

Vital statistics

  • Length: up to 12 inches
  • Weight: Up to 7 pounds


The red-bellied piranha has not been classified by the IUCN.

Red-bellied piranhas, the Oregon Zoo and you

You can see red-bellied piranhas at the zoo's Amazon Flooded Forest.