Subfamily Serrasalminae

Fascinating Facts

  • Their name comes from the Portuguese piro for “fish,” and sainha for “tooth.”
  • They most likely got their grizzly reputation from Theodore Roosevelt’s book Through the Brazilian Wilderness.
  • They have a single row of sharp, triangular, interlocking teeth, that are replaced as they are lost.
  • Piranha predators include caimans, water snakes, turtles, birds, otters and people.
  • Piranha parents patrol their nest site to protect their offspring.


Piranhas are omnivorous freshwater fish that move in schools. Despite their vicious reputation, these fish school for protection, not cooperative attack. They will feed on any young or injured land animal that ventures into the water, as well as aquatic animals of any size.

Status in the Wild

Not yet assessed by IUCN


Native to South American Rivers. They have also been spotted in China and Bangladesh, most likely introduced.

Location in the Zoo

Fish and Amphibians Zone in the Sculpture Learning Plaza

Animals & Exhibits