Red-Bellied Pacus, Also Known As ‘Vegetarian Piranhas’ With Human-Like Teeth And Testicle-Eating Tendencies, Are Now Being Found Multiple Times In Michigan Waters

Red-bellied pacus (piaractus brachypomus) are found in Michigan again. The “vegetarian fish” with human-like teeth and testicle-eating tendencies have been caught multiple times in Michigan waters.

According to a report by Fox News Insider, fishermen in Michigan have been catching the red-bellied pacus, which are native to South America, recently. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed several instances of the fish being caught in local lakes. For those wondering how such a fish native to South America ended up all the way up in Michigan, it is believed that either a Michigan native or a U.S. native near Michigan waterways had the red-bellied pacus as a pet and released them into the waterways. Pet shops can import the red-bellied pacus for sale by pet stores for aquariums, thus how the fish was able to traverse such a far distance.

The red-bellied pacus do have the aggressive tendencies of its cousins, the red-bellied piranhas, the South American fish notoriously known for hunting in packs and ripping apart its prey in a matter of minutes which may also include human beings. Ergo, pet shop owners, not wanting to risk any liabilities, will seek to get rid of them.

Despite this fact, red-bellied pacus are constantly imported into the United States. Reportedly, the fish is just part of the reason why the U.S. leads the world in importing ornamental fish. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed this while also bringing up the fact that red-bellied pacus are a popular aquarium fish in a recent statement.

“The red-bellied pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, is a popular aquarium fish imported from South America. The U.S. leads the world in importing ornamental fish, supporting a worldwide aquarium industry that tops $1 billion annually.”

That is a lot of coin for a fish that has human-like teeth and testicle-eating tendencies. And if you were wondering about the teeth, they are not a result of genetic experimentation. The fish naturally developed the teeth to consume nuts and seeds. This fact also brought up the belief that the red-bellied pacus have a reputation of eating testicles because, well, they look like a pair of nuts. This is far from the truth and simply a myth. According to an article by National Geographic, Peter Rask Møller, a fish expert at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, made it known there are few incidents of the red-bellied pacus biting people. Even the news that the fish targets people are overblown.

It should be reported that red-bellied pacus were previously found in Michigan waters. Previously, they were also found in bodies of water located in Illinois and New Jersey too, two locations where it is believed were the sites of pet owners of red-bellied pacus dumping the fish into them.

Today, red-bellied pacus are no longer reported in those bodies of water because they were most likely killed off due to the temperature. According to an article by Live Science, red-bellied pacus are native to tropical climates thus their temperature requirements of such. Ergo, they do not survive the winters. This also means the red-bellied pacus are not invasive, or they do not spread harmfully. Still, there are other fishes dumped into waters that are invasive such as goldfish. Nick Popoff, a biologist with the Fisheries Division at the Department of Natural Resources, provided a closing statement on such.

“Invasive species are extremely damaging — to Michigan, the Great Lakes, even globally. But the message here is more about individual responsibility. Releasing that fish into the wild — you’re killing it, even if you don’t think you are.”

[Image via Nisamanee wanmoon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons]