Red Belly Pacu, also known as vegetarian piranha, is a large Pacu fish found loitering between aquatic plants in freshwater bodies. It is a fairly peaceful fish species and perfect for fish enthusiasts with a moderate level of experience in fish keeping. This guide is designed to give you all the information you need to make informed decisions about Red-Bellied Pacu.

Quick Stats: Important Information About Red Belly Pacu

Some basic facts about Red-Bellied Pacu are as follows. If you are interested to know more about Pacu, you can go over these stats:

Common Name Red Pacu
Scientific Name Piaractus Brachypomum
Size 12 to 24 Inches
Temperature 24 to 27 C
Care Level Required Moderate to Difficult
Lifespan 5 to 15 years
Habitat South America, Amazon River
Aquarium Size Large (946 Liters or More)
Diet Herbivores
Fish Disease Freshwater Fish Disease
Similar Species Characins

Red Belly Pacu: Description, Habitat, and Diet

Locally known as Pirapitinga, the Red-Bellied Pacu do not fail to mesmerize people. These fish are observed mainly in two river bases: Rio Orinoco and the Amazon River basins near Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.

– Where Are Red Belly Pacu Found?

Red-Bellied Pacu fish prefer living in peaceful surroundings, so they are primarily found in shallow waters with vegetation and slow-moving water. These fish species shift to flooded forests between November and February to raise their young in the rainy seasons.

– Description

Young Red-Bellied Pacu is similar to red-bellied piranha in appearance, so many people confuse the two species. Both these fish consist of a red chest and belly. However, the distinctive feature that a Pacu possesses is a set of strong teeth that look identical to human molars.

Red-Bellied Pacu is of a dark grey shade with a round mouth and shiny grayish scales. The belly and chest area of these fish is orangish-red. The tail ends have a black pigment, and the fins are short with red hues. Red-Bellied Pacu has a robust set of square teeth that helps them chew, and they fit the category of large Pacu fish as a full-grown Pacu is said to reach up to 30 inches.

They are not aggressive fish species, but they own powerful jaws and sharp, crushing teeth that can harm those they bite.

The male and female Red Belly Pacu size are similar in appearance and size; the only difference is that female fishes have more rounded bellies. The juvenile Red-Bellied Pacu has brighter colors to their body, but they become more reserved and lose their red bellies as they grow old.

How to Take Care of a Red Bellied Pacu

To take care of a Red-Bellied Pacu, you need to ensure that the water they are kept in and the food they eat is all healthy, clean, and rich in nutrients.

The aquarium should have clean, warm water of about 79 F. You can keep an aquarium heater or a thermometer with you to make sure that the water is just right. Keeping the fish in warm water for long periods can lead to oxygen deprivation, and leaving them in cold water can slow down their immune system.

Secondly, keep your red belly Pacu fish in a large tank. A minimum of 30 gallons of water should be maintained for a Pacu to stay healthy.

Additionally, observe a 10 percent to 15 percent water changing routine so that the waste inside the water is filtered and the water is clean.

If we talk about food, then make sure that the Red-Bellied Pacu receives a balanced diet. They should not be solely dependent on processed food. Provide fresh vegetables and fruits to the fish such as spinach, zucchini, potato, etc.

It would help if you fed your Pacu fish once a day. Providing them more than once will lead to overfeeding and harm the fish’s health. A proper supplement diet will increase the life expectancy of the fish and fasten their immune system.

Lastly, when setting up the tank for red belly Pacus, make sure you do not have any sharp or rough objects in it. The fish may get hurt or even die out of stress. Decorate the tank with live and artificial plants and keep decorations that can also hide these fish.

Therefore, taking care of a Red-Bellied Pacu is simple, but if you want to take care of a Pacu fish efficiently, follow the steps mentioned above.

– Feeding Red Belly Pacu: The Right Way

Red-Bellied Pacu boasts different diets depending on their surroundings and what food is readily available. In the wild, these fish are herbivores which means they forage on vegetation, fruits, plants, and seeds. Their Red Bellied Pacu teeth are straightened and stiff, designed to crush seeds and nuts.

They will feed on whatever they find quickly. If these species get an opportunity to eat food sources apart from plants, they will go for it. Moreover, Red-Bellied Pacu also loves to consume small fish, zooplankton, and insects.

If the Red-Bellied Pacu is kept in an aquarium as a pet, they will naturally be fed packaged food. Their diet will then change accordingly to this new diet, depending on the stick or pellet food. Baby Pacu fish can survive on packaged fish flakes; however, adult fish requires a proper heavy diet.

If you’re feeding your red-bellied fish packaged food, then make sure you provide them with a range of fresh food items. A balanced diet is essential to keep the fish healthy. Fresh fruits and vegetable options suitable for red belly Pacu are:

  • Spinach
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Apple
  • Grapes
  • Banana
  • Cashews

Red-Bellied Pacu should be fed once a day. It is a basic rule to provide as much as the fish can eat within two to three minutes. Skim the leftover food from the tank and throw it away in the case of packaged food. If you leave the food in the tank for long, the water quality may deplete. However, fresh fruits and vegetables can be kept in the tank for a few hours before it decays.

Red-Bellied Pacu serve a crucial role in the ecological system of their habitat. The seeds they consume from different types of seeds, fruits, and nuts pass through their digestive system and spread across areas where they travel.

– Ideal Tank Mates

Red-Bellied Pacus are large fish species which is why very few tank mates are recommended for them. It is vital to keep them with other large fish, and for that, you might need a big 350-gallon tank to provide for their needs.

These fish are not aggressive, but keeping them with other fish belonging to their species is recommended. Some suitable tank mates for these large Pacus are Oscars, Arowana, and Datnoids. These types are perfect because red Pacus tend to indulge in small fish.

Red-Bellied Pacu may even squabble over other species kept with them, so a big tank is crucial to avoid overcrowding, disputes, and murder.

Keeping red Pacus as pets can be great. These friendly fish survive well in freshwater aquariums. Before purchasing these fish, fish owners must research Red-Bellied Pacus and the aquarium conditions they prefer to live in.

Even though red belly Pacus are friendly creatures, they still have sharp jaws that can cause pain to you or other fishes in the tank.

Breeding: How Do Red Belly Pacu Reproduce In Captivity?

Breeding is a process standard in almost all animals. Similarly, fish also reproduce by the process known as spawning. Red-Bellied Pacu does not breed like regular fishes. Instead of mating, the female Pacu produces the unfertilized eggs in the water. The male fish then releases sperms to complete the fertilization process.

Red-belly Pacu fish discharges 150,000 to 200,000 eggs altogether. Additionally, some females can also release a million eggs at one time. The babies that hatch is independent and do not rely on their parents for survival.

This process takes place naturally and mostly in large spaces. If you want to breed your Pacu fish via artificial hormones, you need to make sure that the tank is large enough, and you will also have to keep the eggs and the parent separate because Pacus tend to eat their eggs before they hatch.

Moreover, if you have adult Red-Bellied Pacus in your tank and are interested in breeding them artificially, then you can follow the following procedure:

  1. Inject the female fish with carp pituitary extract, a half teaspoon every 2.2 pounds of fish weight.
  2. Make sure that the liquid is injected into the shoulder area of the fish where there is heavy muscle mass.
  3. A second dose of a pituitary extract was injected into the same female fish after a 5-hour gap. Two and a half teaspoons will be given per 2.2-pound weight.
  4. Once the second dose of female fish is completed, you will inject the male with the first dose of a half teaspoon per 2.2 pounds.
  5. Post-six hours, the female will get visibly heavy with eggs.
  6. Remove the fish from the water into a wet towel, and with the help of a soft cannula tube attached to a syringe, pull out the eggs from the vent using a syringe plunger.
  7. Place the eggs into a petri dish with dechlorinated water.
  8. Remove the male fish from the tank and gently squeeze its abdomen to get the sperm out of his vent.
  9. Catch the sperm in milt and squeeze to drops of milt over 150 cc of eggs with a clean pipette.
  10. Use something soft and gentle to mix the eggs and milt on the dish.
  11.  Pour the fertilized eggs in a small jar with water obtained from the adult fish’s tank.
  12. The eggs with then hatch in approx. 48 hours.


A well-maintained tank ensures that the Red-Bellied Pacus are safe from any disease. Here is a summary of this species’ lifestyle and preferences to keep them safe and healthy:

  • Young Red-Bellied Pacu is similar to red-bellied piranha in appearance, but the former possesses a set of strong teeth that look identical to human molars.
  • Some popular types of these species are red-belly parrot, small-scaled, black, and black-fined Pacus.
  • The best tank mates for these large Pacus are Oscars, Arowana, and Datnoids as they tend to indulge in small fish.
  • The aquarium should have clean, warm water of about 79 F. Keep an aquarium heater or a thermometer with you to ensure that the water is just right.
  • Be mindful of the decorations and food that you use for the tank. Its environment should be similar to the wild habitat to feel comfortable and less stressed.
  • Baby Pacu fish can survive on packaged fish flakes; however, adult fish require a proper heavy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • The female Pacu discharges 150,000 to 200,000 unfertilized eggs in the water. The male fish then releases sperm to complete the fertilization process.

Owning this species will surely make you the envy of other aquarists. As long as you have a large tank to house them, then you are good to go!

5/5 - (17 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here