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Serrasalmus sanchezi as a pair (now a group) in the home aquarium

By Frank Magallanes

All photos by Frank Magallanes







David M. Schleser originally wrote about S. sanchezi in his book, Piranhas A Complete Pet Owner's Manual. At that time, the fish was listed as a member of the spilopleura complex of species and Dave called it a red-throated or diamond piranha. The fish is common in Peru. According to Dave, at the Dallas Aquarium he kept several of this species together with one Pygocentrus species. What made his experience unique, the fish did not bite each other very much, but while he had success, he considered it a rare occurrence. Probably because the fishes were kept in a 500 gallon aquarium with plenty of space. He also remarked in his book that it is normally impossible to keep Serrasalmus species together or even with Pygocentrus because of the Serrasalmus diet of feeding on fins. So in the interest of exploring this species, I have placed 2 specimens in a 55 gallon aquarium and allow them to establish whatever relationship they can under these conditions.


Photo by Frank MagallanesOn February 16, 2005 in a 55 all glass aquarium I put two (2) Serrasalmus sanchezi together. These two fish were part of a larger group that were originally 10 members. There was extensive fin biting and since I was short of containers, three (3) were put into this 55g. Unfortunately, the fin biting was severe toward one of the smallest S. sanchezi So I removed it and placed it in a 10g holding tank where it has remained since. The 55g was clear of any gravel and basically is a bare tank with just some spawning material left in there from a previous pair of P. cariba.



Dangerous of mixing Serrasalmus species! Photo by Frank MagallanesI kept the fish well fed but that did not deter the larger of the two from continuously fin biting the smaller one. It got so bad the fish was left with most of it tail and especially the anal fin bit down to the flesh. I could not move it into another container because there was none available. So I left the smaller one there, kept feeding them daily in hopes that it would stay alive and hopefully get less fin bit. Instead what happened is, the smaller fish began to regenerate its fins. While the tail fin seems somewhat trimmed off and the anal fin bares the scars of constant biting both fish now seem to tolerate each other well. There are the occasional chases. Sometimes in the early morning hours before the lights are turned on. I can spot the fishes going around in a small circle almost like a dog chasing its tail. I cannot be certain there is a male or female there, despite the size differential. But with these pirambebas, they are not sexually dimorphic.  The fishes have pretty much determined their territories. The larger one stays between the glass in the middle of the tank and the spawning material. The smaller one stays near the corner, near the filtration system. Occasionally, they will swim together, often times they just stay apart. They feed well together and while the smaller one has  a bit lower lip, the larger one is intact of any bite marks, almost I would say, pristine. While the photograph to the upper left was taken about a month ago, the upper fish is in actual better shape now and can both can be seen as of today, April 23, 2005 in the photo above the introduction and below here.




In the above photo you can see some minor damage to both fish. Most of it regenerated.


SANCHEZIWhile some hobbyists may think this is some type of proof that S. sanchezi can be kept together, I would not trust that logic or opinion too far. They are still prone to fin bite and for whatever reason they are presently getting along (more or less), the risk remains that one of them could suddenly be mutilated or killed by the other. For now, these two fish are doing well and I will keep OPEFE readers updated as time goes on should anything changes including if anything goes wrong.


May 24, 2005, both species are still in the aquarium and the bites to the fins are limited to the smaller S. sanchezi. The caudal fin of the smaller S. sanchezi is forming a dark "V" and a very thin faded black band (see top photo, opening). I suspect the appearance is originating from constant fin bites and the pigments are not growing back. Much of the present fin damage seems to be limited to the anal fin. The anal fin is a favorite spot to be bitten by this larger S. sanchezi Both species continue to stay apart from each other. Sometimes they occupy separate ends of the tank, but most of the time, the large S. sanchezi stays midway behind some spawning material near the bottom. The smaller one is always seen to hover about 10 to 12 inches from the larger one at mid-water. During water changes, they swim together for short periods of time. Then return to their territories as described above. Before this return to territory occurs, they do engage in chasing, with the larger being the aggressor.



The diet is primarily finely chopped shrimp (rather than chunks) which they prefer and finely diced catfish and cod fillet. They also enjoy an occasional night crawler that is chopped into small pieces. S. sanchezi for some unknown reason seems to ignore large chunks of food that it can not put into its mouth. Rarely will it take a large piece in a swallow it. Instead it bites dainty portions for its consumption.


Water temperature is kept moderate at 78F, pH 6.8. Water changes are done once per week.  When the water is not changed as frequently, the fishes seem to be less aggressive towards each other.




A single 20w florescent wide spectrum light is being used and this light is kept on for a 12 hour period.






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