name = Pacu

image_width = 250px
image_caption = Large pacu (Serrasalminae) at the Shedd Aquarium
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Actinopterygii
ordo = Characiformes
familia = Characidae
subfamilia = Serrasalminae

Pacu (IPA2|paˈku) is a common name used to refer to several species of South American freshwater fish that are closely related to the piranha. They are mainly herbivores, but will also eat small fish, insects, and meat on fishing lures [cite news | url = | title = Toothy fish caught on White River is piranha cousin | publisher = Carroll County News (Arkansas) | last = Lucariello | first = Kathryn | date = 2006-07-13 | accessdate = 2007-01-28 ] (see omnivorous). Their teeth, which may resemble human teeth, are used to cut through vegetation and crush seeds that fall into the water. Pacu and piranha are distinguished from each other by their teeth and jaw alignments; piranha have pointed, razor-sharp teeth in a pronounced underbite, whereas pacu have square, straight teeth in a less severe underbite, or a slight overbite.cite news
last = Lucariello
first = Kathryn
title =Toothy fish caught on White River is piranha cousin
publisher= Carroll County News, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
] Additionally, full-grown pacu are much larger than piranha.


Pacus are a characin fish, meaning they belong to the Characiformes order. The ongoing classification of these fish is difficult and often contentious, with ichthyologists basing ranks according to characteristics that may overlap irregularly (see Cladistics). DNA research sometimes confounds rather than clarifies species ranking. Ultimately, classifications can be rather arbitrary.cite web
last = Magallanes
first = Frank
title = Subfamily Serrasalminae
url =
publisher = Oregon Piranha Exotic Fish Exhibit
date = 2006-04-06
format = Website
] Pacu, along with piranha, are currently further classified into the Serrasalminae family. Serrasalminae means "serrated salmon family" and is a name which refers to the serrated keel running along the belly of these fish. However, dental characteristics and feeding habits further separate the two groups from each other.

The common name "pacu" is generally applied to fish classified under the following genera:

*"Mylesinus (Mylopus)"
*"Mylossoma "

Each of these groups contain one or more separate species. For example, the fish often found in pet stores known as the Black Pacu and the Red-bellied Pacu belong to the species "Colossoma macropomum" and Colossoma brachypomum, respectively. A species popular among aquaculturists is the "Piaractus mesopotamicus", also known as Paraná River Pacu.

pecies of Pacu

*"Colossoma brachypomum" - Red-bellyed Pacu, Common Pacu or Red Pacu
*"Colossoma macropomum" - Tambaqui, Black Pacu, Black-finned Pacu, or Gamitana
*"Colossoma oculus"
*"Colossoma Mitrei" = "Piaractus mesopotamicus" - Black Pacu, Caranha Pacu or Pantanal Pacu.
*"Colossoma orbignyanum"
*"Acnodon normani" - Sheep pacu
*"Acnodon oligacanthus"
*"Ossubtus xinguensi" - Parrot pacuand they look like Gladys alvarez mendoza

Importance to humans


Pacu are commonly sold as 'Vegetarian Piranhas' to home aquarium owners. With the proper equipment and commitment, pacu have been known to make responsive pets. One such example was Swish, a 30-inch pacu owned for over 20 years by a Chinese restaurant (Kau Kau) in the Chinatown district in Seattle, Washington; one aquarium technician said of Swish, "He'd rub his body on your arms, kind of like a dog."cite news
title=Chinatown fixture Swish was "part of the family"
publisher=The Seattle Times

However, the fish are a poor choice for the typical hobbyist. While they are not aggressive carnivores like the piranha, their crushing jaw system, used primarily for eating seeds and nuts, can be hazardous. One toddler needed surgery after a pacu (misreported as a piranha) bit her finger at Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World in Scotland. Commenting on the incident, Deep Sea World zoological manager Matthew Kane warned, "Pacus will eat anything, even children’s wiggling fingers."cite news
title=Girl needs surgery for piranha bite to finger
date= 2004-06-12, Scotland

Additionally, profit-driven pet stores which ignore long-term fish welfare, sell pacus as small as 2-3 inches long and neglect to warn customers that fish growth is not inhibited by tank size, contrary to popular fish lore.cite web
last = Magallanes
first = Frank
title = Pacu, Tambaqui, Piratinga, Silver Dollars
url =
publisher = Oregon Piranha Exotic Fish Exhibit
date = 2006-04-06
format = Website
] "Most UK dealers now refuse to stock this species due to the large size and expensive aquarium requirements it demands," according to Practical Fishkeeping magazine's Matt Clarke.cite news
title =Angler catches fruit-eating piranha
publisher = Practical Fishkeeping, Peterborough UK
date = 2005-08-10
url =
first = Matt
last = Clarke
] Indeed, pacu should be raised in very large aquaria, they can quickly grow over 30 inches long and need enough space to live healthily. cite web| url= |title=PACU: Finesse of the Tropic |publisher= |accessdate=2006-12-03 ] Overwhelmed hobbyists are suspected of illegally releasing their pacu into wild waterways.

Though they may be acting out of a sense of benevolence, home aquarists releasing their pacu are misguided: as tropical fish, pacu will die in cold weather; as newcomers to an ecosystem, pacu may out-compete native species for available food, habitat, and other resources, or displace them by introducing exotic parasites or diseases. Most wildlife resource authorities prohibit releasing exotic fish, including pacu, into the wild. Officials of one Texas lake have put a $100 bounty on the pacu caught there.cite news
title = Mystery Fish Caught At Buffalo Springs Lake Identified
publisher = KLBK news (CBS Affiliate), Lubbock, Texas
date = 2006-07-19
url =

As exotic species

Pacu have been illegally introduced as exotic species into freshwater habitats throughout the world.cite news
title = Scientists dispel fears of piranha invasion in Cat Tien Reserve
publisher = Viêt Nam News: The National English Language Daily, Vietnam
date = 2003-06-30
url =

In the United States

Discoveries in the United States have been reported in Alabamacite news
title=Fish Thought To Be Record Bream Is A Pacu
publisher=WTVM News, Columbus, Georgia
] , Arizonacite news
title=Woman catches piranha relative in Yuma area (Associated Press)
] , Arkansas, Coloradocite news |url=
title=Foreign Creature Found In Cherry Creek Reservoir
date=2006-07-12, Denver, Colorado
] , Idahocite news|url=
title=Pirhanna-like Fish Caught in Lake Lowell Nampa, Idaho
] , Marylandcite news
title=Dundalk fish tale loses its bite: Experts conclude catch in local pond is pacu, not piranha
publisher=The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland
] Massachusettscite news
title=Rare Fish With Teeth Caught In North Attleboro, Boston, Massachusetts
date= 2006-07-27
] , Michigan [cite web
title=Pacu Caught In Local Lake
] , Minnesotacite news
title=Lifelong St. Croix River angler reels in a big surprise
publisher=Pioneer Press, St. Croix, Minnesota
] , Missouricite news
title=Man Catches Pacu Fish In Mississippi
] , Missouricite news
title=Man Catches Pacu Fish In Mississippi
] , Nebraskacite news
title=Amazon River fish caught in western Nebraska lake
publisher=Omaha World Herald, Nebraska
] , New Hampshirecite news
title=Frightening Fish Doesn't Have Piranha's Bite
publisher=WMUR, New Hampshire
] , New Yorkcite news
title=A Kid in Rondout that looked like Huck Finn said they caught one in Upper Rondout
] , North Carolinacite news
title=Wildlife Experts Don't Bite On Tale Of Piranha In Lake Gaston
date=2006-09-27, Raleigh-Durham and Fayetteville, North Carolina
] , North Dakotacite news
title=South American freshwater fish caught at Patterson Lake
publisher=The Minot Daily News, Minot, North Dakota
] , Ohiocite news
title=Boy Hooks Piranha-Like Fish From Ohio River
publisher=WLWT News, Cincinnati
] cite news
title=Ten Year-Old Catches Toothy Fish
date=2007-06-04, St. Louis, Missouri
] , Oklahomacite news
title= Experts Say Fish Resembling Piranha is a Pacu
publisher=KOSU, Oklahoma Public Radio (Associated Press)
] , Pennsylvaniacite news
title=Local fisherman reels in a piranha
publisher=Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
] , Texascite news
title=Exotic fish caught in Lake Texoma
publisher= Herald Democrat, Texoma, Texas
] cite news
title=Texas Man Catches Fish With Human-like Teeth
date=2006-07-19, Lubbock, Texas
] , Utahcite news
title = Piranha-like fish caught in Utah Lake was a pacu
publisher= The Salt Lake Tribune (Associated Press), Salt Lake City, Utah
] , Wisconsincite news
title=Wrong type fish biting: Man catches exotic Pacu from Black River
publisher=La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse,Wisconsin
] , and Wyomingcite news
title=A Brazilian fish out of water
publisher=Casper Star Tribune, Casper, Wyoming
] .

State wildlife authorities typically advise home aquarists who wish to get rid of overgrown pacu to cut the heads off the fish and dispose of them as garbage. However, Habitattitude, a US national initiative led by the Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force, recommends humanely disposing the fish through a veterinarian or pet retailer, returning them to retailers, or donating them to a local aquarium society, school, or aquatic business.cite web
title= Habitattitude
publisher= An Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force initiative sponsored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service
format= Website
] Additionally, aquarium-raised fish can be eaten (see note in "Pacu as food" for cautions and instructions).cite web
last = Candelaria
first = Heather
title = To Serve Fish
publisher = Greater Seattle Aquarium Society, Seattle, Washington
date = January 1999
url =
format= Website

Game fish

In Appendix B of "Through the Brazilian Wilderness"cite book
title = Through the Brazilian Wilderness
last = Roosevelt
first = Theodore
authorlink = Theodore Roosevelt
publisher = New York: Charles Scribner's Sons
date = 1914
] (see also online versioncite web
last = Roosevelt
first = Theodore
authorlink = Theodore Roosevelt
title = Through the Brazilian Wilderness
publisher = New York: (2000)
accessdate = 2006-07-22
url =
] ), Theodore Roosevelt advised, "For small fish like the pacu and piranha an ordinary bass hook will do." Concerning the pacu, he added:

More recently, South American rivers including the Amazon have become a popular destination for recreational anglers, who go to fly fish for pacu. The [ International Game Fishing Organization] has sponsored fly-fishing courses for native Brazilian fishermen, typically accustomed to subsistence fishing, so they can work as guides to fishing tourists.cite web
last = Valerio da Costa
first = Marco
title = Fishing Adventures along the Xingu River – Pará, Brazil
publisher =
date = 16 March 2006
url =
accessdate = 2006-07-22

When bait-fishing in pacu-stocked ponds, anglers in Malaysia are advised to use circle hooks, size 2 or larger, and braided leather rather than nylon leaders which are easily broken by the pacu's teeth. Since pond pacu often nibble at the bait before taking it, anglers should let them swim away with the bait. If the angler simply allows the line to tighten, the circle hook will slide to the side of the fish's mouth and embed its point there.cite news
title=Hooking the fish
publisher=The Star, Maylaysia
coauthors=and Anthony Geoffrey

Food fish

Theodore Roosevelt wrote of catching and eating pacu in his book "Through the Brazilian Wilderness". He described them as "good-sized, deep-bodied fish," and noted, "They were delicious eating."

Today, the Amazon river is experiencing a crisis of overfishing. Both subsistence fishers and their commercial rivals compete in netting large quantities of pacu, which bring good prices at markets in Brazil and abroad.cite news
last = Rohter
first = Larry
title = Big Fish, Little Fish Battle Over the Amazon's Bounty
publisher = New York Times
date = 26 October 2004
url =

Aquaculture may relieve the overfishing crisis, as well as improve food security by boosting fish supplies. Various species of pacu are increasingly being used for warm-water farm fishing around the world. Pacu are considered ideal for their tolerance of the low-oxygen water in farm ponds. They also don't require a lot of expensive protein in their diet, and can be raised year-round in warm or temperature-controlled environments.cite news
last = Kulier
first = Jennifer
title = Farming with Fins
work = Perspectives
publisher = Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
date = Fall 2000
url =
accessdate = 2006-07-22

Research shows that the "flavor of (farmed) pacu is comparable to that of hybrid striped bass, tilapia, and rainbow trout, but superior to catfish."cite paper
author = Sharma V. S. Pullela
title = Aquaculture of Pacu (Piaractus mesopotamicus) and a Comparison of Its Quality: Microbiological, Sensory and Proximate Composition
publisher = Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
date = 03 February 1997
url =
format = PDF
accessdate = 2006-07-22
] In South America, pacu are prized for their sweet, mild flavor.

[Note that aquarium-raised pacu can be cooked and eaten, but care should be taken to ensure that no chemicals or medicines were used in the aquarium. Heather Candelaria provides [ a recipe and preparation instructions] on the [ Greater Seattle Aquarium Society] 's website.]


External links

* [ Habitattitude] , an advertising and marketing campaign to raise public awareness of what to do with unwanted aquarium pets and plants. The national initiative was developed by the [ Aquatic Nuisance Species (ANS) Task Force] in partnership with several US government agencies including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Sea Grant Program, as well as the pet and aquarium trade and the nursery and landscape industry.

*" [|A Texas man caught a fish with a mouth full of teeth] ", [Online video] KAMC reporter Mark Kennedy interviews Scott Curry at Buffalo Springs Lake, Lubbock, Texas. CNN, 2006-07-18.

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