Piranah at Louisville Zoo

Piranha, Black

Amazon and Orinoco regions of South America.

Various bodies of water including: large rivers, streams, lagoons, ponds, lakes and reservoirs.

Length: Up to 14 inches.

Wild: Unknown.
Captivity: Up to 19 years.


  • Breed during the rainy season.
  • Both males and females exhibit mating coloration (usually black with gold or purple flecks) during breeding season.
  • Males may guard the egg mass until it hatches.

Wild: Fish, dead animals, crustaceans, plants, seeds, fruit, small mammals, insects.
Zoo: Fish, shrimp, scallops and pellet diet


  • Mainly diurnal.
  • Young piranhas hide among the stems and roots of water plants.
  • During the dry season, adult piranhas “disappear” from many of the smaller waterways. It is believed they head to deeper water until the rainy season returns.
  • As streams and ponds dry up, smaller piranhas are forced into tight quarters with one another. Here they may attack each other.
  • Piranhas are attracted to the smell of blood and frantic splashing like that of an injured animal.
  • Piranhas in large groups may leap into the air during feeding.

Common, but may be threatened by the destruction of the rain forest.


  • Piranhas will stay in groups of like size individuals to avoid being attacked/eaten by the larger fish.
  • Piranha upper and lower jaws fit together like scissors, shearing off chunks of meat which they swallow whole.
  • They often swim in one direction at the same time, avoiding having another piranha directly behind.
  • Piranha will bite each other in a feeding frenzy.