Before you run to your local fish store to buy your first pet piranha, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
1. Piranhas are amazon river fish – Making them feel at home in your basement and keeping them for a long time will require a fair amount of effort on your part. The right lighting, the right water chemistry and the proper maintenance will go a long way.
2. They don’t eat table scraps – Don’t think that you can just scrape off the leftovers from your plate every meal hoping that’s enough to keep them going. They are meat lovers and require a steady high-quality diet (brine shrimp, daphnia, beef heart, shrimp, etc.) And no, a meat lover’s pizza does not count! Owners have been known to get rid of their piranhas based on the grocery bill alone.
3. The bigger the better – The fish tank that is. Lots of people try to cram piranhas in smaller tanks and wonder why they don’t survive. Of course sometimes it can work but you have higher chances of success when you go bigger. Now, having said all that, there are a lot of pros to having a pet piranha. Having the right set up can be an amazing experience.
The next step is to decide what you want and then get the appropriate supplies.
1. Determine the type of piranha you want to get.
I’ll keep it simple. Piranhas are freshwater aquarium fish and there are many different types of piranhas you can choose from, so it’s important that you do your own research. I can tell you that the most popular one on the market is the Red Belly piranha (aka: Red Bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri), so my suggestion is to start with these charming little creatures if you are first starting out. The main reason is that there is a ton of information on the Web on these guys if you run into trouble.
2. Piranha Tank (Aquarium)
The average Pygocentrus can grow up to 7-10 inches, which is why picking the right size of aquarium is extremely important. If you cheap out and go for a smaller tank, you may (not always) spend more money when you end up replacing your piranhas more often. Yes, there is plenty of debate over what size of aquarium you should get, and plenty of proof that smaller tanks can work, so it’s really a “risk vs reward” type of decision you have to make. The general rule though is to have 20 gallon (80 liters) per adult fish.
My personal preference is go big or go home! It is way more awesome and fun to see pet piranhas in action in bigger, well decorated aquariums, rather than seeing them crammed into smaller 20 to 40-gallon aquariums. But hey, that’s just me. Try to start off with at least 60-75 gallons if you can. It’s not going to be cheap, but you can always sell the tank later without losing too much money.
As for the number of piranhas to get, that’s also a personal preference. If you like the shy and bashful type of piranha, then stick with one because they tend to hide most of the day. (Hint: Not much fun for the fish or you!) The general rule of thumb when dealing with red belly piranhas is to keep 3 or more at a minimum. This is because they are shoaling fish, which means they like to hang out in gangs, and aren’t really thrilled with being alone. Some people have tried to keep two together, however that’s a little risky since one may try to dominate the other (I.e.: possibly slit the other’s throat while it’s sleeping at night.)
3. Aquarium Supplies
This is where you can keep things simple or go crazy. It all depends on what you want the end result to look like and how much $$$ you are willing to spend. I’m giving you the basic list below, but it comes down to personal preference since there are so many supplies available, so it’s really up to you to do your research. One great way to do this is looking at hundreds of aquarium pictures on-line to see what you like.
Filtration system – Absolute must for keeping your piranha healthy. Piranhas are filthy eaters and require more filtration that other fish, so pick wisely. There are canister filters, power filters, under gravel filters, inside box filters, wet/dry filters and sponge filters. Suggest that you talk to your local rep for the pros/cons of each.
Heater – Needed to keep the water temperature at a steady level. Some people actually keep an extra one at home just in case the first one decides to kick the bucket. Useful if you don’t have a store nearby.
Thermometer – Unless you are willing to dip your finger in the piranha-infested water to see what the temperature is like (I like my fingers just the way they are thank you), you should probably get one of these.
Power head – Good for extra water circulation which piranhas love, but you may not need one if your filtration system gives you enough water flow.
Decorations – This is where things can get crazy. Possibilities:
- Aquarium lights – Piranhas hate bright lights so try to keep the lighting to a minimum if possible.
- Plants – You can go for real plants which make the aquarium more natural looking; however there is more maintenance involved. Fake plants will do the trick as well.
- Driftwood, gravel, rocks, shells, coral, etc. – Again, it all depends on what you want the end result to look like. Important note – some accessories like certain coral and rocks will change the chemistry of the water in your aquarium and be harmful to your piranha, so talk to your local rep and do your homework before buying them!
I hope this gives you an idea on what you will need to get started.