Serrasalmus medinai – Medina’s Piranha

Serrasalmus medinai lives in the wild by feeding on the scales and fins of Pygocentrus cariba. It is therefore better to keep it solitary in the aquarium.


Serrasalmus medinai – Medina’s Piranha

Serrasalmus medinai was officially described in 1965 by Ramírez. Their common name is simply Medina’s Piranha.


Juveniles have a silvery ground colour, with only a little red on the gill covers. The flanks are covered with small black dots, and the head is pointed (concave). The dots fade as the fish ages and eventually disappear completely.

The dots are replaced with iridescent silvery scales. The red colour on the gills extends to the entire gill covers and abdomen. In some fish, the red colour extends all the way to the anal fin, in others the colouration is limited to the head and gills. The anal fin itself is red, as are the pectoral fins. The pelvic fins are transparent grey with sometimes a red tinge. The dorsal and adipose fins a dark transparent grey. The caudal fin is dark grey to black, with a vertical white band down the centre. The eyes are yellow, and in adults, a dark “humeral spot” forms behind the gill covers.

Adults can grow up to 20 centimetres long.

Deviating / Unique Appearances:
• Yellow eyes.
• Shoulder patch.
• Black caudal fin with white vertical band in the centre.


Deeper rivers, lakes and pools in Venezuela.


Fish (fillets, frozen fish such as smelt, live *), shrimps, mussels, earthworms and mealworms, insects, pellets.

* 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 so 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 so, make sure that the fish is well-fed with live food, and then fast for a week to 12 days. During this period, feed the desired prepared food with the lighting dimmed or switched off. If it doesn’t work for 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 at risk during this “cure” (except for specimens smaller than 8 centimetres!).

The Aquarium

Young Serrasalmus medinai can be kept in an aquarium of at least 60x30x30 centimetres. For adult specimen, an aquarium of at least 120x45x50 centimetres is required.

Temperature: 24 – 30 ° C
pH: 5.5-7.5

Compatible species

Aided by its similar appearance, Medina’s Piranha is often found in the wild near schooling Pygocentrus cariba, and lives to a large extent on the fins and scales of this species. In addition, this species also feeds on the fins of other fish species, as well as small fish, crustaceans and insects. For this reason, this species should be kept solitary: due to its parasitic lifestyle, no other fish, let alone other piranhas, can be kept in the same aquarium, with the possible exception of nocturnal Catfish such as Plecos and Thorny Catfish.


In pet shops, piranhas are regularly offered under the name Medina’s Piranha: however, these are almost always a different species, Serrasalmus sanchezi (known in the past as Serrasalmus spilopleua CF – CF = complex form). True Medinai are extremely rare, as the area where they live is rarely commercially fished and the export of tropical fish from Venezuela is strictly regulated.



Jonas Hansel –

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Additional information




Common names



Min. aquarium length in cm




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