Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Characidae (Characins)
Subfamily: Serrasalmidae

Genus/species: Piaractus brachypomus

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Body is deep and laterally compressed, with silvery sides (becoming darker approaching the dorsum) and red coloration on the belly, chin, pectoral fins, and occasionally the leading rays of the anal fin. As in other characin species, a small, unrayed adipose fin is present approximately midway between the dorsal and caudal fins. The remaining rayed fins are uniformly dark-colored.

Length up to 88 cm (34.65 inches) Weight up to 25 kg (55.07 lb)


DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropical. South America: Amazon and Orinoco River basins in open water of large rivers and seasonally flooded forests. Pacu are a popular aquaculture species around the world.

DIET IN THE WILD: The dentition is comprised of 2 series of molariform incisors located on the premaxilla and 1 row of dentary teeth. The Red-bellied Pacu feeds on insects and decaying fruits and vegetation that fall in water.

REPRODUCTION: External fertilization. Although parents abandon their eggs, Pacu are brood hiders, minimizing the chances of the clutch being discovered by predators.

PREDATION: Humans and possibility Pirarucu (Arapaima gigas) and Black caiman (Melanosuchus niger).

Lifespan up to 25+ years.

CONSERVATION: IUCN Red list; Not evaluated CITES No special status

REMARKS: Because the Red-Bellied Pacu are closely related to Piranha, sharing their coloration and shape, Hollywood producers have been known to use the Pacu as a stand-in for piranha. Actors are appreciative of the Pacu’s preference for vegetable matter.

Pacu’s dentition allows them to crush fruit, nuts and seeds. Their teeth are cusped and resemble human molars, and they also have very powerful jaw. P. brachypomus can cause serious human bites of protruding anatomy.

Like the Tambaqui the Pirapitinga, is an important aquacultured food fish in South America.

All Pacu species are known for being able to adjust to unfavorable environmental conditions, such as depleted oxygen levels. Protrusion of the lower lip, all of which facilitate the use of surface water in respiration.


California Academy of Sciences Steinhart Aquarium Amazon Flooded Tunnel 2018

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 Animal Diversity Web ADW  counts/Piaractus_brachypomus/