How Much Do Piranhas Cost? (Legalities and Care Guide)

piranhas fish

The scary reputation of piranhas. To the normal and the average person, the word piranha brings to mind the image of a bloodthirsty flesh-tearing type of fish.

Obviously, many of us have heard of or witnessed piranhas in the wild attacking an unsuspecting swimmer or fisherman. Well, while piranhas might have a scary reputation and the appearance of an angry-faced, sharp-toothed monster, they are actually not that bad.

In fact, piranhas are omnivorous fish and are now being kept in some places as aquarium pets. As an aquarist, it also ranks as one of the types of fishes that many consider quite scary to keep.

In fact, it is somewhat rare to find them in aquariums, because they are considered wild and selling them in a good number of states in the United States is outright illegal. But then, the sale of piranhas is permitted in some states, but are however quite pricey to buy.

The Average costs of Piranhas According to Sizes

How Much Do Piranhas Cost? The average cost of 2- 2.5” Piranhas is around $30.  Experts suggest that this is the ideal size of Piranhas to introduced into an aquarium. Piranhas species smaller than 2” can cost between $5 and $15.

The costs of Piranhas will also depend on their species, age, and size. You need to keep in mind some legal issues when it comes to keeping and trading in Piranhas.

Facts to Know Before Buying a Piranha

Therefore, if you really like to own a piranha in your tank, there are a number of things you need to know about them, in order to be fully prepared of the task, and also to clear the myths from the facts.

It is also important that you know how to take care of them properly and give them a good lifespan in your aquarium. Firstly, you might wonder why they cost so much compared to other regular aquarium fishes.

Well, let’s face it. A piranha is not your regular aquarium fish. It is a naturally wild fish that is known to come from the Amazon river in South America and also from Africa. And the fact remains that piranhas ARE wild and aggressive.

They love to eat meat and are known to have caused serious attacks on other fishes both in the wild and in confinement, and even humans in some cases.

Thus, as a result of the harms involved, the government has, in many states banned them from being sold, bought or kept. In other places where they are permitted, it is only expected that they cost so much.

In any case, keeping a piranha is very possible, and many experienced aquarists have been known to successfully do so. Many have even asserted that they are not quite as difficult or dangerous to keep if this is done right.

In fact they do not have fussy demands regarding food or water conditions, as long as you know what they require. In fact, there are about twenty known piranha species and just about four or five of them known to be harmful. T

he red-bellied piranha which is one of the most common is known to be harmful, the whimple piranha, the Brazilian black piranha, Hollandi piranha, the Tiger Striped Silver Dollar, the Marginatus piranha, amongst others are different species of the piranha.

How much does a red-bellied piranha cost?

The price of getting a red-bellied piranha ranges from supplier to supplier and from place to places. It also depends on the size of the red-bellied piranha at the time of purchase. But on the average, a fairly big piranha of about 4 inches would cost $20.

Some suppliers would sell it for more, and this is because the red-bellied piranha is known to be the most ferocious kind of piranha. This might cause it to be somewhat scarce and thus expensive. Some places have the red-bellied piranha priced at as much as $500.

However, it is also possible you get it for less, perhaps if the owner is trying to do away with it. Before buying a red-bellied piranha, ensure you know how to take care of it and stay safe while doing so. Also, ensure you have the capability to provide its required diet.

This is obvious, knowing that it would require a good amount of meat as part of its diet, and you might occasionally have to feed it with live food. It would also require you getting a new much bigger tank since they grow to be quite big.

However, the cost of maintaining a red-bellied piranha isn’t so daunting to many, because people prefer keeping just one at a time anyway.

Are piranhas good pets?

Well, if you’re quite daring, or if have been exploring fishkeeping for a while, then a piranha could be a good pet for you.  But this can be quite a task, especially if the specie you have is the wild, ferocious type and you’re trying not to get bitten. Many people consider this incredulous, but it’s really quite possible if you fancy them.

You however can’t have them as pets in the literal sense, since they definitely can’t be held or cuddled as your typical cuties. But they do look quite beautiful, and you might find some entertainment in watching them display their natural ferociousness.

They can be quite exciting to have, and might even stay nice and beautiful in your tank if they’re well fed and are in favourable water conditions. You only need to be careful in avoiding their bites while feeding them and also prevent them from harming your other pets by keeping them in solitary tanks.

Red-bellied piranhas

Can you legally own a piranha?

As a result of the danger, they pose, not only in an aquarium, but to other wildlife and also to people, the importation, sale, purchase and keeping of piranhas are legally banned in a number of states in the United States.

If you own piranhas in any of the following states, you’re doing something illegal. These states include; Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia or Washington.

None of these states are legal to own a piranha. However if your state doesn’t fall among the illegal states, then you can keep one, as long as you’re prepared to pay for it and provide what is needed to maintain it.

States like Iowa, Oregon, Tennessee, Illinois, and Indiana are legal places where you can own a piranha.

Can you own piranhas in California?

California is one of the states where piranhas are illegal. You cannot legally keep a piranha in California. In fact, piranhas are not found in California, and the state has a history of the authorities finding and recapturing piranhas that have reportedly been wreaking havoc in the surroundings.

Over time, they have been eradicated from the state and you wouldn’t find them anywhere in California. If you do find one, it would be best you immediately report this.

Thus, all species of piranhas are prohibited from importing, transporting or keeping in California at all without a permit.

Can you own piranhas in Florida?

You equally cannot own a piranha in Florida. This would be illegal. Their presence has been removed by the government authorities due to the harm they pose to their environment.

Many states do not permit the keeping of piranhas, mostly because they can survive on their own in warmer climate conditions. If you have a piranha in Florida, then it means you have a special permit to do so.

Piranha owners who release their piranhas into the wild either by mistake or intentionally put other organisms and unsuspecting people in danger. This is why the existence of piranhas in random places is highly prohibited, so as to prevent attacks in the environment.

How to Successfully Take Care of your Piranhas

How do you take care of a type of fish that naturally go out in schools of ten or more and attack their prey by eating them alive? Well, don’t be worried yet. You can avoid being eaten by your pet piranha in the following ways.

You should give attention to your piranha care, knowing that they are quite expensive to buy and maintain.  You wouldn’t want to waste your money in buying a piranha and watching it die as a result of poor care.

Tank conditions

Piranhas are better kept alone when they are matured. Having your piranha amongst other fishes is simply disastrous if you aren’t looking to get yourself in a pool of blood. Literally. As soon as piranhas begin to grow over one inch, they tend to take a lunge at the fins and tails of other fishes.

So essentially, piranhas are not the nice guys you want to bring into your community fish tank. In fact, you shouldn’t have the matured piranhas and their young ones together. They can very easily eat them without any warning.

They prefer tanks that have lots of aquatic plants, especially when they are young. They also do well in a stable temperature of about 75° to 80°, and a sandy substrate to mirror the natural habitat.

They should not be kept in too warm or too cold temperatures, or else they might not survive. The too warm temperature would lead to a lesser degree of oxygen in the water. Too cold water might affect their immune system and make them susceptible to diseases.

It is important that water conditions be kept stable and clean at all times. You shouldn’t expose their tank to direct sunlight as this would increase the rate of bacteria growth.

Piranhas are quite messy and need to have their water changed often. Accumulation of their waste makes the water toxic and thus harmful to their health.

It is very important to have a good water filter in the tank, to help purify the water and also provide more oxygenation. One small filter won’t be quite sufficient here, and you should rather opt for a big water filter or many small-sized filters. Also, ensure you have enough aquatic plants where they can hide and swim about in.

Diet

Well, contrary to popular opinions, some true and some myths, piranhas don’t just eat by hunting down prey as an unstoppable, hungry shoal of monsters that only feed on flesh.

They are in fact omnivorous fishes that feed on plants and meat. In your aquarium, you should feed them with foods that would provide them with nutrients for healthy growth.

You can feed your piranhas with frozen meat bought from the store, or other live foods such as feeder fish and small shrimps. They would also eat dried pellet foods.

You should just feed your piranha once in a day, so as to avoid overfeeding it or causing it to have even more waste matter, thus messing up the tank all the more. You should avoid giving your aquarium piranha just anything you pick from the environment.

These might be infected with chemicals or pesticides that would harm your piranha. Also, be careful of putting a goldfish within the reach of your piranha or using it as feeder fish.

A goldfish as a diet would be toxic to the health of your goldfish and may cause it to die. But on the average, piranhas would eat anything they are served with, and a varied diet in medium proportions would be appropriate.

Which Piranha is the most aggressive?

Despite the bad reputation they have, not all piranhas are aggressive.  Some are known to be docile and shy and even easy to frighten when kept in an aquarium.

Some aquarists who buy them to get entertained or excited by their ferociousness often end up disappointed when they are kept in home aquariums and they only watch them move around normally and hide from attention.

However, popular species are known to be very aggressive. Out of the 20 known species, only a few are known to be dangerous. The most aggressive piranhas are the red-bellied piranha (Pygogcentrus nattereri) and the black piranha.

They are so aggressive to the point that you cannot keep more than one black piranha in a tank. If you put a number of them together, you would soon have yourself just one left.

Also, keeping an aggressive piranha in a home aquarium requires caution. This is because you wouldn’t want an exciting audience to get too close or try to play with them. Some piranhas are known to slam themselves against the glass side of an aquarium when a finger or hand linger there for a while.

In addition, you wouldn’t want to put your hand into such a tank either to feed them or for anything. Piranhas are known to take a bite at a stray finger or any nearby fish.

Piranha Tank Mates

However, note that it is not impossible to have a few piranhas together when they are very young. They prefer the companionship and protection of a group until they get matured.

They would then need to be separated as they get a bit older. These dangerous piranhas are known to attack as a group in a shoal when they are in the wild.

They take on animals that are bigger than them and bring them down aggressively in a matter of minutes. A red-bellied piranha and a black piranha should totally not be kept together.

Although it is known that very experienced aquarists can successfully keep smaller sized fishes like guppies and tetras with piranhas, when closely monitored. They can stay in a peaceful environment, but this can change very quickly.

What size of tank does a piranha need?

A piranha must be kept in a single tank without other fishes being brought in contact with it. Thus, the tank must be really big so that the piranha can grow to its full length while having ample space to swim around.

Having one piranha in a tank requires 25 gallons of water. Any additional fish would require an additional 20 gallons.

They are quite large and can grow to 4 to 8 inches upon maturity. Thus, the tank should be big enough to accommodate the number of fishes you want to have. When kept in a proper tank condition, your piranha can live for up to 10 years in confinement. The larger they grow, the older they tend to live and the bigger a tank they require.

Finally, you should be aware that the reputation the piranha has is quite harsher than what reality has proved. Many people keep piranhas successfully in their aquariums.

As long as you have the skills, legality and patience to handle them, they make fine aquarium organisms and would not harm humans or any other pets except they are challenged or hungry or threatened.

Your aquarium would definitely look more exciting if you can pull off keeping a piranha and nurturing it to maturity. This is vital, seeing as the cost of keeping and maintaining piranhas is too high to have them die or live in unsuitable conditions.

Saurabh Kumar

I am a passionate fish keeper, with years of experience. You will find some really useful tips and information on this blog about Freshwater Aquariums.

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