Serrasalmus spilopleura

The Gold Piranha (aka Serrasalmus Spilopleura)

Piranhas get a bad rap because they are known far and wide as one of the world’s most fearsome fish. However, what most people don’t know is that piranhas make great aquarium fish – provided you take the right precautions and know how to care for them properly. One example of piranha that does well as an aquarium pet is the Gold Piranha.

One Fish, Many Names

Although its scientific name is “Serrasalmus spilopleura”, the Gold Piranha has a bunch of cool nicknames so you if stumble across any of these when you’re doing your research, don’t worry, they’re all referring to the same piranha. These are:

  • Ruby Red Piranha
  • Purple Spilopleura
  • Spilo
  • Yellow Piranha
  • Black Diamond Piranha

How is a Ruby Red or Black Diamond Piranha the same thing as a Gold Piranha? Glad you asked! There are quite a few regional variations of this breed of piranha that make specific classification a very tough job. These “odd-man-out” variations can have a bright-red underside of the body or purple sheen (large speckled flakes) on the flanks or head – hence a Black Diamond Piranha or Ruby Red Spilo nickname.

Defining Characteristics
  • A Golden Piranha isn’t easy to identify when they’re young because they are silver in color with dark spots. However, once they are fully grown they are much easier to identify.

    • Mature Gold Piranha’s are gold in color with a grey dorsal and adipose fin, and faded gold fins on the lower side of the body.
    • Their most distinctive feature is a clear terminal band on the tail fin.
    • Gold Piranhas have red eyes.
    • Gold Piranhas with red undersides or a purple sheen (with large speckled flakes) are most often found in the Rio Araguaia area.


    Amazon River Basin
    (Taken from


    Aquarium 411

    Gold Piranhas are dangerous meat eaters, so it’s not recommended for the inexperienced. They are also known as fin-nippers and usually do best as the lone fish in the tank. Golden Piranhas grow to be about 12 inches in length so an adult Gold Piranha needs a tank that is at least 48x18x18”. It may seem like a lot of space for a single fish but like I said, these little buggers are fin-nippers and can be pretty aggressive so you want them to be as comfortable as possible and this means no tank mates.
    A water temperature between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius with a pH balance between 5.8 and 6.8 is recommended.



    Serrasalmus spilopleura piranhas dig eating other fish (fillets or frozen), earth worms, shrimp, pellets, muscles, squid, and other types of meaty seafood. Feeding a Gold Piranha can be expensive (and a little nerve wracking) so unless you have at least five years-experience under your belt, the Gold Piranha is not recommended as a first-time piranha pet.
    When you have a sec, check out our SHOP for interesting piranha-related products. I’ll keep adding more in the upcoming months. Also, you can sign up for our NEWSLETTER to keep up-to-date on the latest information about our friendly neighborhood tough guys. PiranhaGuy Out.

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