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The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.




Piaractus brachypomus
Piaractus brachypomus
(pirapatinga, red-bellied pacu)
Fishes
Exotic
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Piaractus brachypomus (Cuvier, 1818)

Common name: pirapatinga, red-bellied pacu

Synonyms and Other Names: Colossoma bidens (Spix and Agassiz 1829), C. brachypomum (Cuvier 1818), Myletes paco Humboldt 1821; cachama blanca

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Machado-Allison (1982) revised the pacus and provided distinguishing characteristics for Piaractus brachypomus. Many Piaractus taken in U.S. waters have been misidentified and reported as the red piranha Pygocentrus nattereri or as other common pacu species: tambaqui Colossoma macropomum or small-scaled pacu P. mesopotamicus. Species descriptions provided by Britski (1977) and Machado-Allison (1982). For photographs, see Machado-Allison (1982), Géry (1977, identified as Colossoma sp. on pages 252 and 256) and Goulding (1980, identified as C. bidens).

Red-bellied pacu can be distinguished from piranhas primarily by dentition (single row of serrated incisor-like teeth in piranhas vs. two rows of molariform teeth in pacus). This species can be distinguished from tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) by the adipose fin (rays present in C. macropomum vs. absent in P. brachypomus) dentition (triangular space between premaxillary tooth rows in P. brachypomus vs. no space in C. macropomum; teeth on maxillary bone in P. brachypomus vs. no teeth on maxillary in C. macropomum), and opercle shape (short and not semilunate, height/width ratio >2.0 in P. brachypomus vs. semilunate, h/w ratio ~1.5 in C. macropomum). Piaractus brachypomus can be distinguished from P. mesopotamicus primarily by the number of lateral scales (<110 in P. brachypomus vs. >110 in P. mesopotamicus)(Goulding and Carvalho 1982; Ruiz-Carus and Davis 2003)

Size: 85 cm SL and 20 kg.

Native Range: Tropical America. Orinoco and Amazon river basins, South America (Machado-Allison 1982).

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Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Piaractus brachypomus are found here.

StateYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Alabama198820145Guntersville Lake; Lower Coosa; Lower Elk; Middle Tombigbee-Chickasaw; Mobile Bay
Arizona200620184Aqua Fria; Lower Gila; Middle Gila; Upper Santa Cruz
Arkansas199520163Dardanelle Reservoir; Illinois; Ouachita Headwaters
California198720166Coyote; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; San Jacinto; San Pablo Bay; Upper Cache; Upper Tuolumne
Colorado200320146Cache La Poudre; Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Middle South Platte-Cherry Creek; Uncompahgre; Upper Arkansas; Upper South Platte
Connecticut200720071Thames
Florida1965201813Cape Canaveral; Choctawhatchee Bay; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Kissimmee; Lake Okeechobee; Oklawaha; Peace; Sarasota Bay; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns
Georgia1982201611Apalachicola Basin; Etowah; Lower Savannah; Savannah; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Upper Chattahoochee; Upper Coosa; Upper Flint; Upper Ocmulgee; Upper Tallapoosa; Withlacoochee
Hawaii200420041Oahu
Idaho201120111Payette
Illinois198820128Big Muddy; Des Plaines; Lake Michigan; Lower Sangamon; Shoal; Upper Fox; Upper Illinois; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau
Indiana2002201511Chicago; Driftwood; Eel; Kankakee; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower East Fork White; Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion; Mississinewa; Muscatatuck; St. Joseph; Upper White
Iowa200920132Maquoketa; Middle Iowa
Kentucky199120104Lower Cumberland; Lower Levisa; Middle Fork Kentucky; Upper Cumberland-Lake Cumberland
Louisiana200220116Bayou Pierre; Bayou Teche; Black; Castor; Cross Bayou; Loggy Bayou
Maine201020101Aroostook
Maryland199520064Gunpowder-Patapsco; Lower Susquehanna; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; Patuxent
Massachusetts199019942Charles; Quinebaug
Michigan200220166Flint; Huron; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake St. Clair; Lower Grand; Manistee
Minnesota199620146Buffalo-Whitewater; Little Sioux; Lower Minnesota; Rainy Headwaters; Rush-Vermillion; Twin Cities
Mississippi198220127Black; Bogue Chitto; Lower Leaf; Lower Yazoo; Mississippi Coastal; Pascagoula; Upper Leaf
Missouri199520113Peruque-Piasa; Sac; The Sny
Montana199419952Flathead Lake; Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar
Nebraska198820082Blackbird-Soldier; Salt
Nevada200820081Lower Virgin
New Hampshire200520051Merrimack River
New Jersey200420155Crosswicks-Neshaminy; Hackensack-Passaic; Lower Delaware; Middle Delaware-Musconetcong; Mullica-Toms
New York199020127Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Middle Hudson; Mohawk; Oneida; Rondout; Sandy Hook-Staten Island
North Carolina199120136Lower Neuse; New River; Northeast Cape Fear; Upper Catawba; Upper Dan; Upper Neuse
North Dakota200620061Upper Heart
Ohio200520147Black-Rocky; Lake Erie; Licking; Mohican; Raccoon-Symmes; Sandusky; Tuscarawas
Oklahoma199920188Black Bear-Red Rock; Lake Texoma; Lower Cimarron; Lower Cimarron-Skeleton; Lower Verdigris; Middle North Canadian; Polecat-Snake; Upper Washita
Oregon198819954Lower Willamette; Middle Columbia-Hood; Middle Snake-Payette; Upper Willamette
Pennsylvania200120135Lower Allegheny; Lower Delaware; Lower Susquehanna; Schuylkill; Upper Ohio
South Carolina200320105Carolina Coastal-Sampit; Saluda; Seneca; Tyger; Upper Catawba
South Dakota200120052Lewis and Clark Lake; Lower Big Sioux
Tennessee200820122Holston; Stones
Texas1980201226Austin-Travis Lakes; Chambers; Elm-Sycamore; Leon; Lower Angelina; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower Trinity; Lower Trinity-Kickapoo; Lower West Fork Trinity; Middle Brazos-Lake Whitney; Middle Brazos-Palo Pinto; Middle Sabine; Navasota; North Concho; North Galveston Bay; Sabine Lake; Salt Fork Brazos; San Marcos; South Concho; South Laguna Madre; Spring; Upper Angelina; Upper Clear Fork Brazos; Upper Neches; Upper West Fork Trinity; West Fork San Jacinto
Utah200620173Escalante Desert; Upper Virgin; Utah Lake
Vermont200920091Otter Creek
Virginia198820134Conococheague-Opequon; Middle Potomac-Anacostia-Occoquan; North Fork Shenandoah; Upper Roanoke
Washington199820133Little Spokane; Palouse; Stillaguamish
West Virginia200920112Lower Kanawha; North Branch Potomac
Wisconsin200620104Castle Rock; La Crosse-Pine; Lake Winnebago; Lower St. Croix

Table last updated 10/4/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.


Ecology: Red-bellied pacu are mainly vegetarian and frugivorous, consuming fruits and nuts from a variety of floodplain forest trees during the flood season and are major seed dispersers (Anderson et al. 2009). Red-bellied pacu undergo seasonal spawning migrations, moving from marginal lagoons and ponds at the beginning of flood season and migrating upstream to spawn in headwaters. Larvae are transported downstream to floodplain forests and savannas, consuming plankton (Machado-Allison 1992).

Means of Introduction: Most records likely represent aquarium releases, although some Florida and Georgia records may have resulted from fish farm escapes.

Status: Reported from 43 states; failed in all. Although some larger individuals have been captured, no instances of spawning or successful reproduction have been documented. Most reports are of single or few specimens.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: This species is a popular aquarium fish and is sold in most pet stores as juveniles. In warmer climates such as south Florida, it is also a popular pond fish. It is a prized food fish in South America. Colossoma bidens and C. brachypomum are junior synonyms that have been widely used in the aquarium literature and in most past reports concerning fish introductions. To date, records maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on introduced foreign fishes show pacus identified as either Colossoma bidens (= Piaractus brachypomus) or as unidentified pacus. No C. macropomum have yet been taken in Georgia. A fish taken from the Snake River in Oregon (OS 13217) was originally identified as C. macropomum by Logan (1994), but one of us (LGN) examined this specimen and it more likely represents a hybrid between C. macropomum and Piaractus (also see Logan et al. 1996). All Texas specimens were taken by anglers and later identified by biologists of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Selected voucher specimens: Alabama: (UF 98946); California (CAS 217067, 217648); Florida (UF 42782, 87879, 94136, 107100); Georgia (UF 98944); Illinois (SIUC 19835); Kentucky (SIUC 22241); Massachusetts (MCZ 96096); Mississippi (USM 14134, 14160, 14637); Montana (uncatalogued); North Carolina (NCSM 58972, 59640); Oregon (OS 11491); Texas (TNHC 11037).

Voucher photographs: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Texas (video film), and Virginia.

References: (click for full references)

Anderson, J.T., J. Saldaña Rojas, A.S. Flecker. 2009. High quality seed dispersal by fruit-eating fishes in Amazonian floodplain habitats. Oecologia 161:279-290. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-009-1371-4.

Anonymous. 1988. Mighty Mississippi is full of secrets. Randolph County Herald Tribune. Chester, IL. 1988 (September 21).

Anonymous. 1994. Water body records. Texas Parks & Wildlife News 1994(February 25):1-19.

Anonymous. 2001a. Piranha caught at Lake Herman. KELOLAND TV. Sioux Falls, SD. http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/piranha-caught-at-lake-herman-/?id=12795. Created on 08/14/2001. Accessed on 08/20/2013.

Anonymous. 2001b. Lake Herman fish may not be piranha. KELOLAND TV. Sioux Falls, SD. http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/lake-herman-fish-may-not-be-piranha/?id=12860. Created on 08/17/2001. Accessed on 08/20/2013.

Anonymous. 2004a. Beware of unwanted exotic fish. Summit Daily News. St. Frisco, CO. August 24. http://www.summitdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040824/SPORTS/108240011. Created on 08/24/2004.

Anonymous. 2004b. Pacu fishing records. http://www.hotspotfishing.com/records/fish-records-Pacu.asp. Accessed on 08/19/2004.

Anonymous. 2005. Piranha caught in Missouri River. WOWT Channel 6. Omaha, NE. http://www.wowt.com/news/headlines/1649296.html. Created on 06/18/2005. Accessed on 08/20/2013.

Anonymous. 2006a. A piranha in the UP? WLUC TV6. June 21. http://www.wluctv6.com/Global/story.asp?S=5062066&nav=81AX. Created on 06/21/2006.

Anonymous. 2006b. Man catches pacu fish in Mississippi. KSDK-TV. July 28, 2006. http://www.ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=101082. Created on 07/28/2006. Accessed on 02/26/2010.

Anonymous. 2006c. Fishy scare at Utah Lake was only piranha look-alike. Deseret News. Salt Lake City, UT. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/640194089/Fishy-scare-at-Utah-Lake-was-only-piranha-look-alike.html. Created on 07/12/2006. Accessed on 07/12/2006.

Anonymous. 2008. Mixed Bag: Unusual catch. NebraskaLand Magazine. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Lincoln, NE. 2008 (December):11.

Anonymous. 2009a. South American fish found in Otter Creek. Vermont Daily News. Burlington, VT. http://vermontdailynews.com/2009/10/south-american-fish-found-in-otter-creek/. Created on 10/23/2009. Accessed on 10/29/2009.

Anonymous. 2009b. Toddler reels in piranha cousin from Northwest lake. KHQ Q6. Spokane, WA. http://www.khq.com/story/10972545/toddler-reels-in-piranha-cousin-from-northwest-lake. Created on 08/21/2009. Accessed on 08/22/2013.

Anonymous. 2009c. Unique catch. The Cumberland Times-News. Cumberland, MD. http://times-news.com/archive/x46892059/Unique-catch. Created on 08/28/2009. Accessed on 08/22/2013.

Anonymous. 2011a. Man catches piranha-like fish at Mountain Island Lake. WBTV. Charlotte, NC. http://www.wbtv.com/story/14890904/piranha-related-fish-caught-in-local-lake. Created on 06/12/2011. Accessed on 08/12/2013.

Anonymous. 2011b. Fish similar to piranha found in Buckeye Lake. WBNS-10TV. Columbus, OH. http://www.10tv.com/content/stories/2011/08/11/buckeye-lake-pacu-pirahana-fishing.html. Created on 08/11/2011. Accessed on 08/19/2013.

Anonymous. 2013. Piranha-like fish found in White River in Indianapolis. WTHR. Indianapolis, IN. http://www.wthr.com/story/23145529/2013/08/15/piranha-like-fish-found-in-white-river-in-indianapolis. Created on 08/15/2013. Accessed on 08/21/2013.

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Bostian, K. 2011. Piranha-like fish found at Keystone Lake. The Tulsa World. Tulsa, OK. http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110928_11_0_Apairo223553. Created on 09/28/2011. Accessed on 10/18/2011.

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Bowman, D. 2009c. Want a Washington Park pacu? Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, IL. http://voices.suntimes.com/sports/stray-casts/want-a-washington-park-pacu/. Created on 06/05/2009. Accessed on 08/06/2013.

Bowman, D. 2011. This week's field notes: another pacu. Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, IL. http://www.suntimes.com/sports/outdoors/6763943-452/this-weeks-field-notes.html. Created on 07/30/2011. Accessed on 08/06/2013.

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Brown, S. 2007. Local angler reels in what appears to be pacu. Spartanburg Herald-Journal. Spartanburg, SC. http://www.goupstate.com/article/20070725/NEWS/707250345. Created on 07/25/2007. Accessed on 08/20/2013.

Burr, B. - Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.

Carney, J. 2010. Deadliest catch? Not really. But girl gets bragging rights. Akron Beacon Journal. Akron, OH. http://www.ohio.com/news/deadliest-catch-not-really-but-girl-gets-bragging-rights-1.190016. Created on 08/03/2010. Accessed on 08/19/2013.

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Chinwah, L. 2005. Second piranha in 3 days caught in Wauconda lake. Daily Herald. Arlington Heights, IL. http://www.dailyherald.com. Created on 07/22/2005. Accessed on 07/25/2005.

Clark, C. 2009. Piranha caught in Lake Winnebago? WLUK FOX 11. Green Bay, WI. http://www.fox11online.com/news/strange/local_wluk_fonddulac_piranha_caught_in_lake_winnebago_200909161700_rev2. Created on 09/16/2009. Accessed on 08/22/2013.

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Dyches, C. 2010. Fish with 'human-like' teeth found in Lake Wylie. WBTV. Charlotte, NC. http://southcarolina.wbtv.com/news/urban-wildlife/50962-fish-human-teeth-found-lake-wylie. Created on 09/13/2010. Accessed on 08/12/2013.

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Pearson, L. - Austin, Texas.

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Richie, K. 2004. Amazonian fish caught in Caney Lake. Minden Press-Herald. April 28, 2004.

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FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 10/22/2013

Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Piaractus brachypomus (Cuvier, 1818): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=427, Revision Date: 10/22/2013, Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016, Access Date: 12/13/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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URL: https://nas.er.usgs.gov
Page Contact Information: Pam Fuller - NAS Program (pfuller@usgs.gov)
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Disclaimer:

The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [12/13/2018].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted. For queries involving fish, please contact Pam Fuller. For queries involving invertebrates, contact Amy Benson.