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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

August 22, 2012

Yes, We Have No Piranhas at Our Pet Store

By Elizabeth Creith


There are hundreds, nay thousands, of fish available for the home aquarium, but the one we hear the most about is the piranha.

"Do you have any piranhas?” “When will you get some piranhas?” “What do you feed the piranhas?" And, of course, the all-time favourite, "If you stick your hand in the piranha tank, will they eat it?"

Really, it beats me why people want to keep piranhas. They have one thing in common with Oscars—another large South American fish—and also, come to think of it, with baby chickens. They're pretty when they're small, but they get ugly fast. Make that "big and ugly.”

The typical piranha buyer also owns a Y chromosome and the adolescent male's typical sensitivity and sophisticated sense of humour. Most of them, in short, want an impressively mean fish for macho street cred. It's kind of like having a big mean dog that doesn't need to be on a leash and won't leave poop all over the yard, and will also, bonus, skeletonize a cow.

The home cow-skeletonizer would do well to realize that piranha get big and need a lot of room. Three adult piranha are happy—or as happy as piranha ever are, I suppose—in an 80-gallon tank. You know, of course, that an 80-gallon tank will not hold a cow. Even a pig can trash an 80-gallon tank. If you're seriously into skeletonizing anything, you need a small tropical river full of piranha.

Besides, three piranha take forever to skeletonize anything bigger than a guinea pig. "Hey, come over and watch my piranha eat a cow!" loses its macho factor when you reveal that this means moving in for the month and taking shifts watching so some of the party can sleep while others eat pizza and say "cool!" with diminishing enthusiasm.

If you do skeletonize a cow in your home piranha tank, you'll be cleaning the filter three times a day for the next month, because piranha don't eat the whole cow. They don't eat the green wobbly bit, and they don't eat the hair. Cow hair clogs up a filter really fast. (The green wobbly bit is just gross to pick out.)

Piranhas have a dirty little secret. They're cowards. Yes, they are. Oh, a pack of them are scary enough, muscling down the Amazon looking for a cow on a Saturday night, punching each other on the shoulder, swaggering around in a big group in their own 'hood. But put them in a tank with a 6-year-old staring through the glass and they're all, "Where are the weeds? Ain't there no weeds in this place?"

They're also afraid of frying pans. Just like other things that are cute small, but get ugly fast—you remember them, Oscars and chickens, right?—they're good to eat. And they know it. You know what mommy piranhas tell baby piranhas?

"You go to bed right now, or the fisherman will get you. He can skeletonize a piranha in five minutes!"

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