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Piranha Population by Country 2024

Piranhas, also known as caribe or piraya, are known for their razor-sharp teeth and predominantly carnivorous diet, though some species are omnivorous. These fish are native to rivers and lakes in South America. Despite the dramatic portrayal in movies, out of the sixty species of piranhas, only a few are actually considered dangerous to humans. These dangerous species are primarily found in the Amazon basin.

The red-bellied piranha, one of the more notorious species, usually feeds on worms, mollusks, and other fish. They often travel in groups of thirty or more and can pose a threat to humans, though deadly attacks are extremely rare. Most people who venture into the Amazon basin waters come out unscathed from piranha encounters.

Piranhas are also found in other South American rivers, such as the Orinoco River in Venezuela, the Paraná River in Argentina, and river systems in the Guianas. However, their presence is not limited to South America. In the United States, piranhas have been discovered under unusual circumstances.

For instance, red piranhas were found in the University Lakes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The prevailing theory is that they were introduced into the ecosystem when someone released their pet fish. As a result, Louisiana State University now faces an unexpected piranha issue. In Louisiana, catching a piranha necessitates killing it, as it is illegal to possess one.

A similar situation occurred in Texas, where pet piranhas are believed to have been released into Tom Bass Park Lake, spreading to other water bodies. Non-native red piranhas have also been found in Lake Michigan and Hawaii, where owning and releasing them into the wild is prohibited.

The government of Bangladesh had to enforce a ban on piranha fish farming, production, fry production, breeding, selling, and purchasing. This action was taken to prevent commercial fisheries from introducing more piranhas into the country. While piranhas typically do not pose a threat to humans, they can be highly destructive, especially when introduced into non-native ecosystems.

  • Precise piranha populations are unmonitored in most countries. Species and habitat lists shown should be considered non-comprehensive examples rather than exhaustive.
  • The exact number of piranha species is as-yet undetermined, but is believed to be between 30 and 60.
  • The common term 'piranha' applies to several species of freshwater, pelagic fish native to South America, most of which reaches a maximum standard length of 12-38 cm (5-15 in).
  • Piranhas are famously omnivorous, but their pop-culture reputation as voracious eating machines with a taste for human flesh is highly exaggerated. Piranha diets can be quite varied, and can include not only other fish, but also invertebrates, seeds and fruits, leaves, small animals, and detritus. But piranhas rarely initiate contact with humans or large mammals unless starving or threatened.
  • Piranhas are popular targets for commercial fishing between the months of January and April, during the rainy season.

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Sample Species
Example Habitats
ArgentinaPygocentrus nattereriParaná River, Paraguay River
BangladeshKaptai Lake in Bangladesh is known to have a small population of piranha, which are believed to have been dumped there by poachers illegally transporting the fish into the country.
BoliviaPygocentrus nattereriParaguay River
BrazilPristobrycon striolatus, Pygopristis denticulata, Pygocentrus nattereri, Pygocentrus piraya, Serrasalmus geryi, Serrasalmus rhombeus, many moreBahia, Sergipe, Minas Gerais, Alagoas, Pernambuco, São Francisco River, Paraná River, Paraguay River, Tocantins and Araguaia Rivers
ChinaPygocentrus nattereriPiranhas have been found in the Lijiang River, though they are believed to be an artificial introduction (likely released by aquarium hobbyists) and the numbers are unknown.
ColombiaPristobrycon calmoni, Pristobrycon striolatus, Pygocentrus cariba, Pygocentrus nattereri, Pygocentrus palometa, Pygopristis denticulataOrinoco River
EcuadorPygocentrus nattereri
French GuianaPygopristis denticulata, Serrasalmus rhombeus
GuyanaPygopristis denticulata, Pygocentrus nattereri, Serrasalmus rhombeus
ParaguayPygocentrus nattereriParaná River, Paraguay River
PeruPygocentrus nattereri, Serrasalmus sanchezi
SurinamePygopristis denticulata, Serrasalmus rhombeus
UruguayPygocentrus nattereri
VenezuelaPristobrycon calmoni, Pristobrycon careospinus, Pristobrycon maculipinnis, Pristobrycon striolatus, Pygocentrus cariba, Pygocentrus nattereri, Pygocentrus palometa, Pygopristis denticulata, Serrasalmus manueli, Serrasalmus neveriensis, Serrasalmus rhombeusOrinoco River