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Aquatic Nuisance Species Profiles

Pacu (exotic fish species)

Pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, also known as pirapatinga, are native to South America (Amazon and Orinoco river basins). These fish have also been known as, and described in the aquarium literature as, Colossoma bidens and Colossoma brachypomum.  They are fairly commonly sold aquarium fish that can grow quite large (up to 85 cm or 33 inches). It is also a prized food fish in South America. 

These fish are often confused with, and misidentified as, red piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri). No actual piranha have ever been collected or reported in Georgia waters. Pacus have been collected from the wild in Georgia waters and most likely were the result of aquarium escapes or intentional, but misguided, releases by aquarium owners (when the fish outgrew their tanks). Reports of these fish increase as the weather warms, with the peak reporting period is usually around early July each year. Typically two or three pacu reports are received each year statewide. They are usually caught by anglers or collected by Fisheries staff while doing routine sampling.

The photos below show a pacu that was caught by an angler in Bartow County Georgia and reported to DNR in July 2003. It weighed 1,804 grams (approximately 4 pounds) and was 455 millimeters (approximately 18 inches) in length.   

The photo below is a close-up view showing the lower jaw and teeth of the Bartow County pacu.

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