Breeding red bellied piranhas

Breeding Piranhas

(Focussing on red bellied pirhanas – serrasalmus nattereri)

Equipment Needed to Breed Red Bellied Piranhas

  • 6 foot long aquarium or a 4 by 2 foot aquarium.
  • separate 3 foot breeding tank
  • Obtain 6 fish and raise them together before they become of breeding age.
  • Normal gravel or sand substrate.
  • Some plants
  • external power filter

General Care for red bellied piranhas

They are actually characins and they come from the Amazon river. However unlike their more friendly cousins the tetras, they are highly predatory and can attack as an individual or as a group. Another difference from tetras is that they have cichlid like breeding behaviour where the pair will build a nest and the male will guard the nest of eggs and fry.
Slightly acid and fairly soft water is best for piranhas but they are not overly fussy over water conditions. They are messy eaters and their diet can either by live fish or scraps of meat. They need good filtration because of their high protein diet. Always clean up any bits of uneaten food. Remember piranhas reputation. They may look boring and docile but can attack in the right circumstances. Fishes up to 2″ can bite and draw blood. But, fish bigger than this can cause serious injury. Make sure the top of your aquarium is inaccessible to children and in any case keep a good tight lid.

Preparation for breeding red belly piranhas

When the piranhas are 5 inches or bigger then start feeding them well with live food such as baby fish, etc. To encourage them to breed try 25% water changes to simulate the rainy season. This usually triggers them to come into breeding condition.
Select a breeding pair of piranhas by watching their behaviour. When they darken to a black or dark brown colour and just have a speckle of sparkling scales on their sides then you know they are ready to breed. Remove any pair that look interested in each other to a breeding tank. Raise the temperature to as high as 84F.

Breeding behaviour of red bellied piranhas

The male and female will create a slight depression in the gravel by using their mouths to remove gravel or sand. They will also bite bits of plants and lay them near the nest depression. He will entice the female near the depression and they will mate by coming side to side maybe with some head butting to each other’s the side. There will be tail flicking at each other. When they lay eggs and milt, the pair try to press their lower ends closer together in the shape of a V. When eggs and milt are released the pair shudder together. This process of releasing egg fertilisation carries on many times. Other fish are usually chased away from the site and end up huddling together in corners to escape. Eventually the female has laid all her eggs and the male will stand guard over the nest.

Raising the fry of the red bellied piranha

Remove the female after mating because she usually doesn’t guard the nest. Start a preparation of baby brine shrimps before the fry hatch. The eggs will hatch in about 4 days but will not be free swimming. After a further 4 days they will be free swimming and start to feed.
Remove the male at this time. Feed them 3 -5 times a day with brine shrimp. They will grow fast. So feed them with larger live food or scrape of meat.
After 2 months the fry will be 2″ long and will be of a saleable size. At this age the young fish have a silver colour with a speckled black pattern over it. At this age they become piscivores and can be fed with livebearer fry. They can also start to pick on and eat smaller or weaker brethren.
At 8 months they should be about 5″ long and will be starting to become mature.

4 thoughts on “Breeding red bellied piranhas”

  1. At the top of the page, you mention “Serrasalmus nattereri”. The RBP are in the Pygocentrus genus and not of the Serrasalmus genus.


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