Serrasalmus manueli – Manuel’s Piranha

Although Serrasalmus manueli – Manuel’s Piranha is not overly aggressive, with a maximum length of around 55 centimeters it gets too big for most home aquariums.

Serrasalmus manueli – Manuel’s Piranha

Serrasalmus manueli was officially described in 1967 by Fernandez-Yepez and Ramírez. Their common name is Manuel’s Piranha. Juveniles are often referred to as Tiger Piranha or Green Tiger Piranha (see below).

Synonym: Pygocentrus manueli.


This species is one of the largest piranha species of all, and according to the locals and fishermen can reach a length of well over 60 centimeters. However, so far, there is little evidence to support such claims: the largest known specimens to date were confirmed at about 55 centimeters.

In private aquariums this species is a very rare appearance: most of the fish that survive transport from South America are wild-caught (due to lack of captive bred species). They are extremely difficult to transport, especially larger ones. They usually have a size of between 10 and 15 centimeters, with an occasional outlier towards 20 centimeters. The largest known specimen in captivity measures about 35 centimeters, so it is still a long way from its potential maximum size.

Body Characteristics

Juveniles and semi-adults are easily identified by a number of traits that they do not share with any other species: first, the body shape is very elongated, almost similar to Serrasalmus elongatus: this physique suggests that this species is a fast and agile swimmer: something that is confirmed by owners of this species. In addition, juveniles have a very concave head with a very long and pointed lower jaw, and extremely large eyes that give the fish a deceptively peaceful appearance. The flanks have a greenish tinge and faded vertical bands, which have given this species the name Green Tiger Piranha.

As the fish gets older, the shape of the head changes from concave to convex: very large specimens look more like Pygocentrus than Serrasalmus piranhas. The eyes hardly grow along, so adult fish have better proportioned eyes than younger ones. The greenish cast and bands slowly fade, only to disappear completely.

All specimens with the exception of very young fish (less than 5-7 centimeters) have brightly colored gill covers, which vary in color from yellow through orange to deep red, and a clearly visible black spot on the shoulder, which grows larger with age.

Distinctive / unique appearances

Young / semi-adults:
• Very elongated body shape (somewhat similar to S. elongatus).
• Disproportionately large silver, later slowly reddish-orange eyes.
• Vague vertical bands on the sides.
• Greenish cast on the flanks.

• Convex, Pygocentrus-like head shape.
• Silver-gray color on the flanks.
• Black V-shaped coloring of the caudal fin: terminal band is bright in color.


Llanos in Venezuela, Rio Amazonas, Rio Negro in Brazil.


The diet of this large species largely corresponds to the other species in the genus Serrasalmus. That means fish (fillet, frozen or live *), shrimp, krill, crab, mussels, worms and other insects, in some cases even dry food (pellets).
In the wild nuts, seeds and fruit are an important part of the daily diet, but in captivity this species almost exclusively accepts meaty food.

* When feeding live fish, a number of things should be considered: First, all fish can introduce diseases and/or parasites into the aquarium, including goldfish, windes and other commonly used cold water fish as well as tropical fish. It is therefore also advisable to keep food fish in a quarantine aquarium for a week or 2, in order to ‘flush out’ the sick and weakened specimens. In addition, it should be taken into account that goldfish and close relatives are not particularly nutritious. A diet that usually consists of live fish is therefore not recommended. All the more because goldfish and other Cyprinidae (carp-like) contain hormones – so-called “Thiaminase / Vitamin B1 inhibitors” – that paralyze the production of certain growth-stimulating substances in predatory fish. A very one-sided goldfish diet can therefore lead to growth and development disorders!

It may take a while for the fish to accept prepared food: if this is the case, make sure the fish is well fed with live food and then introduce a fasting period of a week to 12 days. During this period, provide the desired prepared food while the lighting is dimmed or turned off. If it doesn’t work the first time, supplement with live food and try again. Piranhas can go without food for a number of weeks without any problems, so the fish is not in any danger during this “cure” (with the exception of specimens smaller than about 8 centimeters!).

The Aquarium

Small specimens, up to 8-10 centimetres, can be temporarily kept in aquariums of 60-80 centimeters in length. As they get bigger, a larger aquarium should be provided: up to a length of about 20-25 centimeters, an aquarium of 100-120 centimeters in length and 40-50 centimeters in depth is sufficient. Larger specimens require even larger aquariums: starting point for an aquarium tailored for life is 5 to 6 times the maximum size in aquarium length (minimum two meters), and minimum 70 centimeters in depth and height.

Temperature: 24 – 30 degrees Celsius.
pH: 5.5 – 7.5

Compatible Species

Although this species can be relatively peaceful towards other fish in the aquarium, it is practically impossible to keep multiple specimens together: the size of the aquarium required for this is simply too large and expensive for the average hobbyist.

Breeding Serrasalmus manueli – Manuel’s Piranha

Breeding Serrasalmus manueli in captivity has not yet been successful. All fish present in the hobby are wild caught specimens



Jonas Hansel –

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Jonas Hansel –


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