If we were to create a list of the most misunderstood living creatures on our planet, piranhas would probably be placed towards the very top position. For decades, they were considered as voracious pack predators, hungry for human flesh.
But today, they actually make amazingly unique additions to any aquarium. And not only. These remarkable fish feature individualistic personalities, and they can also become extremely shy in front of their humans.
If you are eager to find out more about these mesmerizing creatures, here comes our fully verified list of 10 fun facts about piranhas.
Piranhas are omnivorous creatures, meaning that they eat both meat and greens. In fact, they can feed on basically anything that fits into their mouth- from fruit seeds and small crustaceans to birds and algae.
That should come as a huge surprise to those who thought these animals feed on live flesh only. Moreover, they are opportunistic scavengers. Therefore, they will often turn to food sources deriving from dead animal bodies.
And yes, they can smell blood, but they mostly use such sense to detect any dead fish or mammal or bird, instead of hunting them down and killing them as a bloodthirsty pack.
Adding to that, some particular piranha species are actually herbivores. The Tometes camunani has been discovered only recently, less than a decade ago, around the densely vegetated areas of the Amazon rivers.
2. Sharp Teeth
When it comes to vertebrates, piranhas are among those with the strongest bite ever. Indeed, they are designed to tear meat and plant matter apart, all thanks to their super-powerful jaws and their razor-sharp set of teeth.
Each jaw features one teeth line, and those teeth are all interlocked between each other thanks to tiny cusps. This makes them the ideal weapon for not just cutting through their meals, but also to literally tearing them apart as they move their heads left and right.
Furthermore, their teeth are so sharp that many tribes around the Amazon basins have been using them as their own tools for many years now. Piranha teeth are traditionally used to carve wood.
3. Large Size
Even though most piranha species are schooling fish that need to live in groups in order to survive, they can actually grow to a remarkable size. The largest type is the black piranha, a fairly solitary creature that can grow up to even 20 inches in length.
But piranhas are not just large. Indeed, they are quite strongly built and feature massive bodies. An adult piranha can weigh around 7 pounds.
The megapiranha, which is now extinct, is believed to have been double in size when compared to the black piranha.
4. Long Lifespan
For many years, piranha fish have been thought to have a lifespan of around 10 years, which is true. However, modern research indicates that their life expectancy should actually be quite long.
Some species can survive up to 15 years in captivity tanks. Other experts swear that the specimens they were observing in their wild habitats have been alive for 25 years.
Therefore, this is still to be fully confirmed, but it is definitely clear that these outstanding fish can live for much longer time periods than we believed they could.
5. Schooling Fish
The public opinion about piranhas for many years has been that these fish present voracious and overly intelligent predators which hunt in packs and tend to kill every living creature which they meet on the way.
In fact, they are schooling fish, and schooling behavior usually develops from a necessity of survival and protection. Indeed, fish which live and migrate in schools are much safer from large predators, and it becomes more difficult for them to become someone’s meal.
Obviously, a school of piranha fish can still attack their pray in a synchronized action, but this is usually the last resource they head to when feeling extremely hungry.
The black piranha, as an exception, is a fairly solitary species which prefers living alone.
6. Big Tank Size
If you are planning on adopting such a noteworthy fish as a piranha, you will certainly need to adapt to its special needs and ensure a massive home to your pet. Or, more precisely, multiple pets.
Indeed, unless you want to keep a black piranha, you should ensure a functional group of at least 4 or 6 specimens. And each of your fish will need at least 20 gallons of water, so the math is quite simple here.
7. They are Fast
These peculiar aquatic speeders are fast! And a general rule states that the bigger the piranha is, the faster it can move around water. For instance, red-bellied piranhas which are one of the smaller species, can move around 15 miles per hour.
Their larger relatives, black piranhas, can achieve a fascinating speed of up to 25 miles per hour.
8. Fast Reproduction
Not only can piranhas move fast, but they can also reproduce at a quick pace. Adult females which are willing to lay eggs can perform such action even 2 times per year, when the rainforests are flooded and rich in great nesting places. And, once they do, they can lay thousands of eggs per spawning.
Once such cycle begins, both male and female specimens will circle around their nesting areas and making sure that no predator thinks of ever getting close to their precious eggs.
Babies require just a couple of days to hatch, and they will shily stick around the plants until they are large and strong enough to defend themselves.
This behavior has mostly been observed in large aquariums, as it is sadly not fully understood how they act during their breeding seasons around their natural habitats.
9. They Bark
Obviously, not in the same way as dogs, but piranha fish do have the capacity of emitting quite similar sounds. Scientists believe that these amusing fish can “bark” thanks to the sonic muscles they own, which basically contract between each other surrounding the cranial sac of their swim bladder ventrally.
People who ever heard such sounds have mostly had the opportunity of witnessing such amazing behavior while either handling piranhas in their hands or even when having them caught inside nets. Therefore, it is believed that such sounds are emitted as a form of a warning sign.
Moreover, a recent study conducted on red-bellied piranhas shows that these fish are actually able of producing 3 different sounds, thanks to their swim bladders as well as to their powerful jaws.
10. Do NOT Eat Humans
And finally, one more myth is to be debunked: piranha fish do not tend to eat humans. Yes, they do eat meat and yes, they are attracted to the smell of blood.
However, they are not the human killing machines that many movies like to present. Such species probably live around movie stories only.
In fact, piranha fish are extremely strong and potent aquatic creatures and feature razor-sharp teeth. This means that they certainly have the ability to injure a human, and there have been hundreds of such reported cases.
Also, there have been a couple of deadly outcomes, but mostly because of people falling out of their boats into huge schools of feeding fish. But killing people in organized pack attacks? Not really. They are actually more likely to ran away from such large “prays”.
If you were fearing piranha fish for many years, we hope that this list of 10 fun facts about piranhas has managed to ease your mind and place you on a closer level with these truly exceptional creatures. And perhaps, even to adopt some eventually.
Piranhas are exceptionally strong and are naturally designed to protect themselves quite well in this cruel world. But they are worth of human love and attention just as any other tropical pet.