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.

Serrasalmus rhombeus
Serrasalmus rhombeus
(white piranha)

Copyright Info
Serrasalmus rhombeus (Linnaeus, 1766)

Common name: white piranha

Synonyms and Other Names: redeye piranha

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Serrasalmus rhombeus represents a geographically widespread complex of closely related species in need of systematic review. A key covering piranhas from many regions of South America was given by Géry (1977); however, that work is dated and should be considered incomplete. Recently published keys cover fishes only from single regions or drainages (e.g., Nico and Taphorn 1986). Jégu (2003) published a list of currently recognized species in the subfamily. Photographs of S. rhombeus have been provided by Géry (1977), Goulding (1980), and Nico and Taphorn (1986). A few distinguishing characteristics were given by Fink and Machado-Allison (1992) and Taphorn (1992). Live Serrasalmus rhombeus have red eyes; body color changes from silver in juveniles and young adults to black or dark purple in large adults.

Size: 40 cm SL.

Native Range: Tropical America. The species complex is widely distributed in lowland areas of South America east of the Andes, including the Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo basins and various coastal drainages of the Guianas and northern Brazil.

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

Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species was stocked in Florida in an isolated sinkhole pool at Monkey Jungle, a tourist attraction in the Miami area of Dade County in 1963 or 1964. Those fish reproduced and sustained the population for 13 or 14 years until all were killed with rotenone or removed alive by state personnel in September 1977 (Shafland and Foote 1979; identified as Serrasalmus humeralis) (museum specimen). Two specimens were taken from an abandoned swimming pool in South Miami, Dade County (Courtenay et al. 1974). A single fish was taken from a pond in Gainesville, Alachua County in 1985 (museum specimen).

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 Serrasalmus rhombeus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL196219853Florida Southeast Coast; Oklawaha; South Atlantic-Gulf Region

Table last updated 6/13/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: All fish were probably aquarium releases. A small number of live fish were intentionally stocked at one locality in Florida in the early 1960s (Shafland and Foote 1979).

Status: Failed and/or eradicated in Florida. A locally established population south Florida was exterminated in 1977.

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: Similar to Pygocentrus nattereri, Serrasalmus rhombeus is one of the more aggressive piranha species; however, most experts consider its danger to humans to be greatly exaggerated. The Florida population at Monkey Jungle survived the winter of 1976-1977, one of the areas' coldest periods on record for this area (Shafland and Foote 1979). Preserved specimens from the Miami area deposited at UF were determined by W. L. Fink (personal communication) to be S. rhombeus. Import of piranhas is prohibited in many southern states (e.g., Florida, Texas).
Voucher specimens: Florida (UF 87975, UF 97059).

References: (click for full references)

Courtenay, W. R., Jr., H. F. Sahlman, W. W. Miley, II, and D. J. Herrema. 1974. Exotic fishes in fresh and brackish waters of Florida. Biological Conservation 6(4):292-302.

Fink, W. L., and A. Machado-Allison. 1992. Three new species of piranhas from Brazil and Venezuela (Teleostei: Characiformes). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 3:55-71.

Géry, J. 1977. Characoids of the world. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Goulding, M. 1980. Fishes of the forest: explorations in Amazonian natural history. University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA.

Jégu, M. 2003. Serrasalminae (Pacus and piranhas). p. 182-196. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.). Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil.

Nico, L. G., and D. C. Taphorn. 1986. Those bitin' fish from Venezuela. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 34(4): 24-27, 30-34, 36, 40-41, 56-57.

Shafland, P. L., and K. J. Foote. 1979. A reproducing population of Serrasalmus humeralis Valenciennes in southern Florida. Florida Scientist 42:206-214.

Taphorn, D. C. 1992. The characiform fishes of the Apure River drainage, Venezuela. BioLlania (Guanare, Venezuela), special edition 4. 537 p.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, and Bill Loftus

Revision Date: 4/30/2018

Peer Review Date: 7/10/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, and Bill Loftus, 2024, Serrasalmus rhombeus (Linnaeus, 1766): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=431, Revision Date: 4/30/2018, Peer Review Date: 7/10/2012, Access Date: 6/14/2024

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.


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. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/14/2024].

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 general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.