Piranha (Pygocentrus Natteri)
Size: up to 30cm in the wild, but smaller in captivity
Range: native to Amazon River system of South America.
This was the first aquarium in New Zealand to house piranhas. The original piranhas were exchanged with the Cleveland Aquarium in US for New Zealand seahorses.
The piranhas teeth are so sharp and jaws so strong that it can chop out a piece of flesh from a man as neatly as a razor, or clip off a finger or a toe - bone and all - with the dispatch of a meat cleaver. Many species are vegetarian but these eat anything, feeding mainly on a diet of other fish and small animals.
Piranhas live in large schools and it is their sheer numbers that make them man-eating and dangerous.
There is an obvious pecking order, with one fish assuming dominance. They are one of the few fish species where this occurs. If one steps out of line the leader will discipline the wayward fish and others will join in the attack. They will often bite each other, sometimes viciously, but have the ability to recover and repair quickly.