Tag Archives: Serrasalmus

Serrasalmus cf. gouldingi

27. October 2021

It is indicative of the difficulties in piranha identification that this widespread species, which also occurs in an area intensively collected for the aquarium hobby (namely, the Rio Negro) was not scientifically described until 1992 and, moreover, almost never appears in the hobby. The terra typica is Anavilhanas, Río Negro, Brazil. 

The representatives of this species undergo a dramatic change of color and shape during their life. The fish, which grows to about 30 cm in length, is quite round-backed when old and then resembles a Pygocentrus. As a juvenile, it has a peculiar head shape reminiscent of Serrasalmus manueli, with a massive, nearly horizontal lower jaw. In contrast to S. manueli, which like S. gouldingi often shows vertically elongated body dots when young (but there are also specimens with a rounded dot pattern), S. gouldingi lacks the humeral spot (= a dark, conspicuous spot immediately behind the edge of the gill cover), which is always very prominent in S. manueli, at all age stages. 

Juvenile S. gouldingi have a transparent caudal fin with a black wedge at the base, making them very reminiscent of S. eigenmanni, which, however, has a prominent humeral spot. As they grow, the caudal fin becomes darker and darker and eventually is almost black except for a transparent fringe. This distinguishes S. gouldingi well from S. rhombeus, which also occurs in the Rio Negro, but always has a black fringed caudal fin. In older S. rhombeus, which, like S. gouldingi, tend to become very dark to black overall, eye color is a reliable distinguishing characteristic. S. rhombeus always has a red iris, S. gouldingi has a silvery iris. 

Serrasalmus gouldingi is widely distributed in the Amazon and Orinoco, our current stocked specimens were obtained via Manaus. Outside of the spawning season the adult fish appears silvery with smoky black fins and red or yellow coloration of the gill cover area, at spawning time the entire animal darkens considerably and then appears almost completely black. Any dot patterns are only indistinctly discernible on the body of adult live animals. S. gouldingi is a typical fin eater and therefore must be kept mostly individually.

For our customers: the animals have code 292105 (10-12 cm) and 292106 (12-15 cm) on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply wholesale.

Text & photos. Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus elongatus

11. November 2020

This very elongated Piranha can be confused hardly with other species because of its characteristic body shape. Type locality is the Rio Guaporé, Mato Grosso, Brazil. Aquaristic imports are mostly from Peru. 

Serrasalmus pingke from Venezuela was described from the Rio Apure. The holotype (54 mm long) is shown in MACHADO-ALLISON (2002); it has a black spot on the tail base. MACHADO-ALLISON evaluates this, as well as FERNÁNDEZ-YÉPEZ & RAMIREZ, 1967 as a juvenile pattern. S. pingke is a synonym for S. elongatus. This has been repeatedly contradicted and S. pingke is seen sometimes as a good species. The solution for this riddle can be found in the appendix of the “Piranha Book” by MYERS (1972). There are hand drawings of all piranha species from Venezuela by FERNÁNDEZ-YÉPEZ, which he distinguished. And there is a young specimen of S. manueli called S. elongatus. The assumption that S. pingke is a different species than S. elongatus was based on this confusion and S. pingke is surely a synonym for S. elongatus.

From about 8 cm length on S. elongatus develop a color pattern of vertical lines in the front part of the back and dots on the flanks. But some specimens are evenly dotted all over the body. A relatively small, roundish humeral spot is often present, but sometimes indistinct, the whole caudal fin is blackish up to the outermost edge, which is transparent. From about 10-12 cm length the iris is red, before silver. Sexually mature males seem to get a red belly and gill cover area. Striking and typical for S. elongatus is a dark eye mask. With a maximum length of about 30 cm S. elongatus is one of the largest piranha species. The species is considered to be very aggressive, is a notorious fin biter and should be cared for individually if possible to avoid losses. 

Possibilities of confusion exist actually only with Serrasalmus irritans (https://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/fish-archives/serrasalmus_irritans_en/), which is however more high-backed and has a dark band at the base of the caudal fin. 

The distribution area of Serrasalmus elongatus covers the entire entry of Orinoco and Amazon.

For our customers: S. elongatus has code 291804 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply the wholesale trade.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer


FERNANDEZ-YEPEZ, A. & M.V. RAMÍREZ (1967): Los caribes (serrasalmidos) de Venezuela y las pesquerías. Trabajos anexos a la Comisión Contribuciones al tema. Ier Foro Internacional sobre Planificación y Desarrollo Pesquero, Caracas: 1-25 + 18 Figs.

MACHADO-ALLISON, A. (2002): Los peces caribes de Venezuela: una aproximación a su estudio taxonómico. Boletín de la Academia de Ciencias Físicas Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela, 62: 35-88

MYERS, G. (1972): The Piranha Book. Trop. Fish. Hob. Publ., Neptune City, NJ. 125 pp.

Serrasalmus humeralis

2. November 2020

The identification of many Piranha species is difficult. One of the earliest described piranha species and therefore with many taxonomic problems is Serrasalmus humeralis. Valenciennes was the first descriptor in 1850, but there is no question that he had received the type specimen, for which he states “Amazon” as the type locality, from Castelnau. In Valenciennes ́ description no picture is provided. Castelnau made up for this in 1855 and at the same time corrected the type locality to “Araguaia”. It must therefore be assumed that S. humeralis is found in the Tocantins system. Castelnau’s drawing is very true to detail and there is no reason to assume that it does not correspond to nature in the essential details. 

The piranhas, which we now imported from the Tocantins as Serraslmus humeralis, correspond in all essential characteristics (shoulder spot, caudal fin pattern, body shape, coloration) to Castelnaus’ illustration, but have so far been identified in the aquaristic and scientific literature as S. eigenmanni. The latter species was described in 1929 on the basis of a specimen from Guyana. If S. humeralis and S. eigenmanni are identical, the valid name would be S. humeralis. However, we currently assume that both species are valid and only very similar.

Serrasalmus humeralis grows about 20 cm long. It belongs to the group of fin-eating piranhas, which are best kept individually in the aquarium on a long-term basis, if one wants undamaged specimens. For unpredictable reasons, Piranhas of the fin-eating behavior type – often after months of living together – look out and mob an individual of the group. The mobbed individual becomes marked with a bite mark directly before the  dorsal fin. Usually the mobbed fish is eaten after some days by the remaining herd, independently of the available food supply. The attempt of a group-attitude requires by the way really very big aquariums, in basins under 150 cm length, such attempts are hopeless from the outset.

For our customers: the fish have code 292254 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus immaculatus

22. July 2020

In great parts of South America there are large (up to 50 cm) piranhas, which usually become black when they are old. Another common feature of these piranhas is a red iris. It is currently common practice to refer to all these animals as Serrasalmus rhombeus because they are indistinguishable as adult fish. However, young and adolescent specimens look very different, depending on their origin. It is therefore not very likely that all of them are actually S. rhombeus. The “real” S. rhombeus comes from Guyana and is currently not available in the hobby due to the bad export situation of the Guyana countries.

There are some synonyms of S. rhombeus, but only one from the Peruvian Amazon: Serrasalmus immaculatus. This species was described by Cope in 1878 and in 1906 Fowler made a drawing of the type specimen. We have raised young Serrasalmus “rhombeus” from Peru and can now present here a development series documenting the various changes in colouration. These differ considerably from S. rhombeus from Guyana and are an excellent match for S. immaculatus. Therefore we think that it makes more sense to use the name S. immaculatus in future for the “Peru-rhombeus”.

Three specimens of 15-18 cm length from the experiment are now available for sale.

For our customers: the animals have code 292277 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply the wholesale trade.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus rhombeus „Tocantins“

15. June 2020

From the Rio Tocantins in Brazil we received wonderful, 11-14 cm long Serrasalmus rhombeus. This species grows 35 cm, maybe even 50 cm long, making it one of the largest piranha species of all. One can recognize adolescent S. rhombeus quite well by the combination of ruby red eye, a shoulder spot which is not substantially larger than the eye diameter, the yellow anal fin and two dark bands in the tail fin, one of which is at the tail root and one limits the fin behind. Adult animals are uniformly black, see https://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/fish-archives/gigantic_black_piranha_arrived__en/

The population from the Rio Tocantins is particularly colourful. In contrast to many other piranha populations, which are currently still assigned to Serrasalmus rhombeus, these animals have a beautiful red band on the gill cover.

These piranhas are solitary fish and feed in nature mainly on fins of other fish.

For our customers: the 11-14 cm long animals have code 292806 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply wholesalers. Only available in small quantities!

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus geryi

8. February 2020

If ichthyologists were superstitious, they would surely believe that Serrasalmus geryi was sent to them so that they would not despair. No other species of piranha can be identified at all stages of its life as reliably and unequivocally as this endemic (i.e. it occurs exclusively there) of the Rio Tocantins in Brazil. The reddish-brown eel-stripe makes S. geryi, which grows 20-25 cm long, unmistakable. 

In nature this species, like probably most Serrasalmus species, is a rather solitary fin-eater. But there are some aquarists who successfully keep this piranha in groups and even breeding has been successful.

So a Piranha-fan known to us has maintained a functioning group S. geryi for several years, which was gradually brought together. The eight animals first swam together for about 2 years in a 1,000 litre, very elongated aquarium. Swarm behaviour could not be observed. Afterwards the animals were between 17 and 24 (!) cm long.

Spawning occurred when the fish had to be temporarily transferred to a much smaller tank for four weeks due to a hospital stay, in which NO water change was carried out over the period of four weeks. Apparently these piranhas spawn in nature under dry season conditions. Only one pair was involved in spawning (no external sex differences could be seen), no brood care was exhibited and the fish acted as free spawners.

Currently we have some very nice wild catches of this species of 10-12 cm length in stock.

For our customers: the animals have code 291904 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply the wholesale trade.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus cf. sanchezi “Pará”

18. November 2019

When trying to identify piranhas, one often pokes in the dark. The differences between juvenile and adult forms are dramatic, both in terms of physical and color characteristics. Over the decades that we have imported young piranhas from all parts of South America, some characteristics have proved to be quite reliable in combination: 1- is a dark pigmented shoulder spot (= humeral spot) present or not? 2 – Are dark bands present in the caudal fin and where do they run (e.g. at the edge of the fin, through the fin or at the base); 3 – the colour of the iris (red or brass). With these few characteristics the species can be limited quite well.

Serrasalmlus sanchezi was only scientifically described in 1964. The type was found in Peru (“Caño yarina”, on the bank of the River Pacaya, tributary of the Puinahua Canal, arm of the lower Rio Ucayali). Now we have received 5-8 cm long piranhas from the Brazilian state of Pará, which best correspond to S. sanchezi in their combination of characteristics. However, since the region of origin is quite far from Ucayali (approx. 2,000 km), we have decided to call them S. cf. sanchezi “Pará”. S. hollandi has a very similar pattern, but has a much duller head profile. S. hollandi comes from the river system of the Rio Madeira.

With about 15 cm final size (this information comes from the scientific literature) S. sanchezi remains quite small; it is a very aggressive species, which is best cared for individually.

For our customers: the animals have code 292863 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply wholesalers.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus manueli

11. January 2019

This piranha, described from Venezuela, is easily recognizable by its characteristic pattern in connection with the head profile, but still causes great confusion, as the fish in the trade come from completely different areas and are still indistinguishable. 

S. manueli was described as Pygocentrus manueli from the Río Paraguaza, middle Orinoco, Venezuela. The first description was made in a journal which is not generally accessible and so it only became known to the scientific community through the work of Machado-Allison, especially Machado-Allison 2002. Therefore these piranhas were often misidentified before as Serrasalmus humeralis. 

Two characteristics make S. manueli very special: firstly the mostly vertically extended body points and secondly the head anatomy. Only S. gouldingi has the same head shape as a juvenile fish, with the lower jaw appearing very massive and rectangular. However, S. gouldingi has no humeral spot, which is always clearly pronounced in S. manueli. 

S. manueli is one of the largest piranha species with a maximum length of more than 35 cm. Adults of S. manueli have a round head profile, a blood-red head, a large humeral spot, a white-silvery body and a blackish tail fin. Apart from the population in Venezuela, there is also a population in the Rio Negro and the Rio Xingu in Brazil. Like all piranhas of the genus Serrasalmus, this species should normally be kept individually as it is a fin eater.

For our customers: the animals have code 292294 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply wholesalers.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer

Serrasalmus compressus – a very interesting piranha from Peru

8. October 2018

Recently we obtained a shipment of piranhas from Peru. The fish are 5-9 cm long. At the first glimpse the shipment could be told apart into two phenotypes. First, there were fish with comparatively small spots, a lot of red coloration in the anal fin and a comparatively thin black border on the caudal fin. The second form has comparatively large spots, almost no red in the anal fin – this fin also has a more distinct black seam – and a very broad black seam on the border of the caudal fin. However, „technically“ speaking both forms do not differ in any aspect that can be seen with the bare eye, like body shape etc.

The fish with the small spots fits very good to the piranhas we often obtain from Peru and which we have determined as Serrasalmus compressus in the past. The other animals belong for sure to the same closer relationship within Serrasalmus, but there is no scientifically accepted other species than S. compressus that fits. The only possible exception may be the Black Piranha (S. rhombeus), which we get from Peru from time to time (see https://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/fish-archives/gigantic_black_piranha_arrived__en/). However, Serrasalmus rhombeus is easily distinguished from other piranhas by the red eye, that should already be visible in 5-9 cm long animals (see https://www.aquariumglaser.de/en/fish-archives/piranhas_serrasalmus_niger_en/). As we could find no matching name for the second phenotype we now offer them all under the name of S. compressus, but we cannot exclude the possibility that two species are involved, maybe even a scientifically undescribed one.

For our customers: the fish have code 291332 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer