Piranha Habitats in Venezuela
Piranha habitats in Venezuela are extremely diverse because they are found in most aquatic biomes and ecosystems around the country. The most abundant and wide spread piranhas in Venezuela are Pygocentrus cariba, followed by Serrasalmus irritans and S.rhombeus. They inhabit white water, black water, green water, blue water, and clear water… all the waters.
All piranhas in Venezuela live in a pH under 7, except Serrasalmus neveriensis, whose biotope waters are mostly alkaline year round due to the presence of limestone in their ecosystem geology.
Piranhas: freshwater’s canary in a coal mine
Piranhas in their habitat are very susceptible to poor water quality and low oxygen levels. They are one of the first fish to die in highly fish packed seasonal pools in the dry season. If something is wrong or affecting an ecosystem, they are the first affected. In this sense, they are like the canary in a coal mine. Piranhas are great biological indicators of a habitats’ well being.
Piranha: Predator or prey?
One of the most incredible piranha things I have seen in the wild are how Olivaceous cormorant birds (Neotropic cormorant) prey on piranhas. You can see them swimming in white water, which resembles a cappuccino coffee. All you can see are their necks and heads sticking out of the water, like submarine periscopes. All of a sudden, they submerge. And then, after a minute or so, their periscopes emerge again from the silty river. This time they have a Pygocentrus cariba or Serrasalmus rhombeus in their mouths. I am sitting there on the Orinoco River bank with a skeptical look on my face. I think to myself… “They are not going to swallow that thing alive! It does not make any biological evolutionary sense to put your body at such risk. There is no way… OH MY GOD! They ate them, whole and alive!” I stand up and start clapping, giving them a standing ovation, just like a great perilous circus act. I keep standing on the river bank, observing how they keep on catching and swallowing live piranhas. After eating their fill, they fly to a nearby tree, to take a nap. Now that is an all you can eat challenge, right?
So, the next time you find yourself at the pet store looking for your next fish, even if you are very tempted, do not buy the flying, explosive piranha species. They could fly out of your aquarium and blow up your television.
This article has been published at:
- Practical Fishkeeping Magazine – Spring 2015