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Characins / Serrasalminae / Red Pacu

Red Pacu, Red-bellied Pacu
Piaractus brachypomum

Synonyms: Colossoma bidens, C. brachypomum, C. mitrei, Myletes bidens, M. brachypomus, M. edulis, Reganina bidens
Physical description: A tall, laterally compressed fish that is shaped like a disk or plate.   It has small eyes and a slightly arched back.  The base body color is gray and belly is red. The pectoral and pelvic fins are also red, as is the front part of the anal fin.   The rear edge of the caudal fin is black.   The adipose fin is composed of only one ray.  The body is spotted irregularly with gray to black spots.  
Size/Length: To 36" (90 cm)
Similar species: Red-Bellied Piranha ( Serrasalmus nattereri), Black-eared Piranha ( S. notatus).
Habitat: South America; Upper Amazon Basin
S: bottom, middle
Water chemistry: pH 4.8-7.5 (6.0), 1-20 dH (8), 72-82°F (22-28°C)
Aquarium: 48" (122 cm) or 55 gallons (209 l) is sufficient for small fish, under 8" (20 cm).  As a fish grows, it must be moved to a larger tank.   Eventually, a   80" (203 cm) tank with 200 gallon (756 L) capacity should be adequate for a full-grown, adult fish.   The tank should have large, open swimming areas.   No live plants should be used as they will be eaten.  A powerful filter that creates a strong current and filters large amounts of wastes should be used.  Provide hiding places with large branches of wood and rocks.
Social behavior: A peaceful fish despite its large size.   This large fish can be kept with other large fish.  It is not recommendable to combine this fish with small fish, because they may be eaten despite this fish's herbivorous nature.
Suggested companions: Silver Dollars, Piranhas, Anostomus, Central and South America cichlids, Arawana, Pimelodids, Loricarids.
FOOD: An herbivore-plants; vegetables; lettuce, peas, spinach; fruits; oatmeal; pellets; chopped meat; live; fish, worms, crustaceans, aquatic insects.   Young fish will also eat vegetable flake food.
SEX: Dorsal fin has sharper extension in male fish.
Breeding techniques: Unsuccessful in aquaria.
Breeding potential: 10.  Breeding has not been accomplished in aquaria, most likely because of this fish's size.   This species has been bred in Florida fish farms.
Remarks:  Long lived, up to 15 years.  This fish is caught-using fruit as bait-and eaten in South America.
Difficulty of care: 6.  This hardy fish is difficult to care for because of the enormous size that it can reach.


By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com