By William Berg
of Sweden, for aquaticcommunity.com
Piranhas are unique creatures that have gained popularity not just because of their
appearance, but also due to the many myths that are told about them. Unfortunately only a
few species of piranha have been bred, including Serrasalmus nattereri, S.
spilopleura, S. gibbus, S. rhombeus. Another that is considered relatively easy to
breed is S. maculatus.
Whichever of these species you choose, you should have an aquarium of at least 100
gallons. A group of 5-6 piranhas is quite appropriate; however if you want them breeding
it is best to keep a pair only, so that there are no other fish to bother them. To find a
mating pair select two adult piranhas, one thick and the other thinner - in most cases
thick piranhas represent females and thinner piranhas represent males. Just make sure you
are not looking at them after they have been fed. Although having found a male and a
female doesn't automatically mean success, it is a step on the way.
The ideal temperature is between 73░-83░F. Standard fluorescent bulbs are fine for
the lighting. Piranhas also like some protective cover, and you should also make the
lighting of half of the aquarium darker than the other. Piranhas are hardy fish but it is
a good idea to maintain the water clean and clear. In their original Amazon River habitat,
the rainy season is when most fish spawn. Frequent and bigger water changes seem to have
an immense effect on the success of breeding (as they simulate the rainy season) and are
most helpful in getting the piranhas into breeding condition.
When your piranhas lose all their colour and turn almost completely black, they are in
breeding condition! Both of them may start to protect a certain spot; chasing off other
piranhas that come too close. When they start picking up gravel in their mouths as if
digging, it usually means they have already begun the mating process. Be careful not to
disturb your piranhas during this time! The female will release eggs into the pit, and
then leave the nest (but might stay close by it). The male is usually responsible for
guarding the nest and eggs. The number of eggs laid varies from 700-4000. The eggs hatch
in 2-3 days.
If you are lucky enough to have reached this stage, then it's time to take care of the
fry. Prepare a 10 to 15 gallon tank with heater and undergravel filter. Water should be
from the parents' tank. Be very, very careful when transferring the fry, as the parents
can be extremely protective and aggressive. The fry will quickly absorb their yolk sacs
and you can start feeding them live baby brine shrimp as food.
One thing you should be aware of is the legal issues. Some states do not allow the sell
or ownership of piranhas at all. Other states require that you obtain a permit to sell or
own a piranha. Be sure to check to see if any local restrictions apply before purchasing