Do not sell piranhas, Dubai authorities warn petshops

The authorities are clamping down on pet shops stocking and selling piranha fish as they have a dangerous bite and are commonly known to eat other fish.

Piranhas sold illegally
Image Credit: Guillermo Munro/Gulf News
Piranhas are very aggressive. They are known for their voracious appetite for meat and are also known to eat each other when hungry. The authorities have warned pet shops against stocking and selling carnivorous fish.
Gulf News

Dubai: The authorities are clamping down on pet shops stocking and selling piranha fish as they have a dangerous bite and are commonly known to eat other fish. A recent raid conducted by Dubai Municipality confiscated piranhas worth Dh2,000.

However, the carnivorous tropical fish popularised by films like Indiana Jones in which the action hero crosses piranha-infested waters and survives, are still widely available in pet shops here, say aquarium enthusiasts.

Ranging from Dh10 to Dh200 for a red-bellied piranha originally from South America, the fish is still available around the city.

Richard, 32, from New Zealand said he bought two piranhas last November for Dh200 from a shop at Airport Road. Initially, when he started looking for this type of fish some pet shops told him they were not available in the country.

"Some pet shops were reluctant to advise me where to go. But no one ever told me it was illegal or banned, they were openly on display," he said.

"I had wanted an exotic fish that would do more than just swim around. They are difficult to keep because they need a lot of attention. Because of what they eat, the tank gets dirty quickly and it can get expensive. As a treat I would give them a live goldfish once a week which puts a lot of blood in the tank. Otherwise I gave them frozen bloodworm which clogs up the filter," said Richard.

"In the end one ate the other and when I decided to get more, I found a shop in Satwa that sold them for Dh10! In the end I found them quite boring and a lot of hard work. They eat everything in the tank, including each other."

The Veterinary Services Section of Public Health Services Department in Dubai Municipality has launched the campaign on stores that sell tropical fish and pet birds to ensure that they are not stocking the carnivorous fish.

Dr. Essam Sharaf, Head of Veterinary Services Section said piranhas valued at Dh2,000 were seized and offending shops were given a warning.

Keeping piranhas as ornamental fish in residential premises is not allowed.

Pygocentrus nattereri, the Red Belly Piranha, is the most dangerous popular piranha, Sharaf added. Piranhas have a bulldog-like face with a very large lower jaw and many razor-sharp teeth.

What are piranhas?

The piranha is a member of a family of omnivorous freshwater fish which live in South American rivers and lakes. They are known for their sharp teeth and a voracious appetite for meat. There are 20 species of piranha but only five types are considered dangerous, while the remaining species are herbivores only.

All piranhas have a single row of sharp teeth in both jaws; the teeth are tightly packed and interlocking used for rapid puncture and shearing. Individual teeth are typically broadly triangular, pointed and blade-like. The most common piranha is Pygocentrus nattereri, the red-bellied piranha. They should not be kept in pairs but in groups of four or more, since aggression among them is common.

Members of the public are being urged to report any petshops stocking piranhas by calling the Municipality's toll-free number 800900.

Have your say
What is the weirdest pet you have ever had? Should there be a list of which pets people are allowed to own? What would be on that list? Tell us at or fill in the comments form below.




The authorities should not ban these fishes on petshops, instead the petshop should have a waiver which has to be filled up by the buyer just in-case he was bitten. Piranhas are dangerous like other wild animals like snakes, hawks etc. which was sold as exotic pets. Some countries banned piranhas to avoid these dangerous fish will be released accidentally or intentionaly to freshwater lakes
Posted: August 11, 2009, 18:05

Keeping "pets" which can be dangerous should be banned.
Posted: August 11, 2009, 14:41

I really had a big laugh at this, cause thank god piranas dont walk on the streets, their just in tanks, and their not an easy pet to keep, high expense and alot of tank cleaning makes it hard to keep. and i dont think it needs any restriction
Sasan Kamali
Posted: August 11, 2009, 12:54

The concern is very valid and there are cases of pirahnas being sold . But generally most fish that are sold as piranha is a fish that is related to it and not a harmful one.
Posted: August 11, 2009, 12:33

piranhas are sold with a certificate @ dhs. 1000/- per fish, the Dhs. 10/- to 200/- variety are pacus who are coloured like the piranhas for defensive purposes.but are not aggresive. Piranhas do not attack humans and are not the only carnivorous fish.
From A Reader
Posted: August 11, 2009, 10:32

Becareful with this type of fish if you have them in your tank.
Mohammad A.H. Barwani
Posted: August 11, 2009, 10:30

my weirdest pet was def a hedgehog that used to sleep in our beds and with our cats.
Ras Al Khaimah,UAE
Posted: August 11, 2009, 10:18

If such market is there that means there is a demand....can someone explain to us what is so cool about having a wild pet like a pyranha in one's home ?! Wild
Posted: August 11, 2009, 10:14

I like fishes and have 7 fishes at home in 2 tanks. I have Oscar (tiger) which are from a agressive family. I have had 3 piranhas but they died within 9 months from the time I bought thems. Piranhas are amazing fishes and they cost high for fresh water fish. The reason why people buy such fish is because marine fishes are expensive and very tough to maintain. Fresh water fishes are cheap but the color and beauty is not there. Piranhas are very popular and even a person who does not take much interest in fishes would stand by and watch when you feed them. Today I got to know they are banned. But I do not understand why so. Fishes are in tanks not in open. And if you don't have children at home or the aquarium is big there is no problem in keeping piranhas. No wonder I could not find piranhas laterly.
Posted: August 11, 2009, 09:52

One would have to be weird to enjoy watching fish cannibalize themselves. That is a dangerous animal and the only place for such gilled fish are in the depth of the jungle and not in an aquarium in ones living room.
Posted: August 11, 2009, 09:22

I owned piranhas for years when I lived in the states, the truth is these fish are not anything near what they are depicted to be in the movies, they only feed in the dark, and they are not as aggressive as people think they are, piranhas will not bite your finger of or even get near you. Sadly Indiana Jones has done to the piranhas what Jaws did to the shark.
Posted: August 11, 2009, 09:05

These kinds of fishes shouldn't be kept for pets, they are not suitable for beginners and shops should not just sell them to anyone who wants them for display, they are extremely dangerous particularly during breeding seasons and handling and caring for them are quite risky.
Eliezer Panesa
Posted: August 11, 2009, 07:49

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