Pacu Facts and Hearsay

Scientific Name: Colossoma brachypomus (silver) or colossoma macropomum (red-bellied)
Family: Characidae
Origin: Upper Amazon
Adult Size: 18-30 inches (76+ cm)
Social: Peaceful, but grows very large
Lifespan: 10 years
Tank Level: All levels
Diet: Naturally Herbivore, eats plants (will eat smallfish or shrimp)
Breeding: Egglayer - not bred in aquariums
Care: Difficult
pH: 4.8 - 6.8
Hardness: 15 dGH
Temperature: 73-82 F (23-28 C)

Facts, Observations, and Hearsay Regarding Pacu

Observation: Interaction with other fish

There is definitely a pecking order with fish. When we first started and the Pacu were small they didn't care what anyone else did. They just swam around. At this stage of the game, they definitely use their size to get their way. They are playful and will run other fish around. However, they never actually bite a tank mate, especially if it is another Pacu. They love to place chase. 

Instructed: Pacu cousins to Piranha

A man in a pet store informed me that Pacu are related to piranha but are not considered piranha. They are a vegetarian version and are cousins in a sense. They have teeth that could resemble a piranha and will eat other fish. However, they are much more docile and their facial features are a bit different. The jaw and the mouth size are different than most piranha. 

Found on the net: Origin

Pacu are a species that originate in the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They can be found in Central and South America and other areas. They are now more wide spread in tropic areas because of dispersion by humans.

Experienced: Watch out for the water heater

Recently, a man at work found interest in this site and began to tell me stories about his son's Pacu. He said that one day the family left for a couple of hours and when they came back all five fish in their 200 gallon tank were floating dead at the top. Alarmed, they began to investigate. They noticed the water heater glass had broken and they believe the current electrocuted the fish. Well, a week later I was in my living room where the fish are and heard a loud bang and splash come from the tank. I noticed that the fish were swimming rapidly around in the tank and wondered why they wouldn't stop. As I got close to the tank, I could see a weird shaped piece of glass at the bottom of the tank. Then it dawned on me, so I unplugged the heater and they all stopped moving around so quickly. I looked at the thermometer and noticed that the tank was warm enough that the heater wasn't on when it was broken but that a minimal amount of current was still traveling in the water. I wonder if my fish would have had the same fate of my friend's fish had I not been around. As a precaution, when I go to get my next heater I will look for a way to shield it.

Found on the net: Known to have firm tasty meat

In certain markets, particularly in the Amazon region, they are in high demand because of their qualities as an entrée. Some fish companies will focus heavily on fishing Pacu. 

Found on the net: Taxidermy difficult

Because not a high enough demand of people tend to taxidermy their pacu they are unique to taxidermists. They must be carved before the skin can be stretched over them. (see link #6 below)

Instructed: Salt is like gatorade to a fresh water fish

A Petsmart worker explained that the correct amount of salt is provides necessary electrolytes to a fish. They are able to breathe better because of the effect of the salt on the gills. Too much salt can make a fish ill and kill it. For Pacu about 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons does fine. Be sure to account for evaporation. As the water evaporates the salt content rises. 

Instructed: They can become very friendly

They say the fish will eat right out of the owner's hand. My fish will rub against my hand while I clean the tank (unless they are spooked). It is not healthy to handle the fish a great deal because human oils can be dangerous.

Observation: Pacu are somewhat trainable fish

I have found that the Pacu are trainable. In doing some research, I found that fish generally have a memory span of 10 seconds to one minute. They work on pure instinct and familiarity to their surroundings. When we moved our fish from the small tank to the big tank they would not use the whole tank even though the conditions were idea. They would only swim the length of the old tank and turn around. They were used to bumping up against the glass after a short distance. However, our pacu learned over time. They also wouldn't eat siclid sticks for the longest time because they were so used to their flakes. Soon, however, they would eat as many as I would feed them. It was the same way with the lettuce and other small amount of greens I would add to the water. They soon learned to love it. One thing to keep in mind...I talked to an experienced pet store owner and he mentioned that Pacu do well with a vegetarian diet and to not feed them feeder fish. They will gain an appetite for them and not eat other essential portions of their diets.



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