Another red-bellied pacu (Piaractus brachyomushas) been pulled out of Texas waters.
Two men catfishing in the Concho River near San Angelo hauled in the 8-pound exotic fish this past weekend. The pacu was 21 inches in length.
Often mistaken for their well-known cousin, the piranha, red-bellied pacu are turning up more and more often in Texas waters. Though pacu pack a powerful bite, their teeth are very different in appearance from those of their more voracious cousins. The teeth of the red-bellied pacu are flatter and straighter than those of piranha and used for crushing seeds and nuts and cutting through aquatic vegetation. The teeth of the red-bellied pacu are actually quite human-like in appearance.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials stated the obvious when they said the red-bellied pacu had likely been a pet that grew too large for its tank and was released into the river by its owner.
Michael Price, of the San Angelo Nature Center, is quoted in the San Angelo Standard-Times as saying, “People who buy these fish don’t realize how big they can get."
Indeed, red-bellied pacu can grow up to 35 inches in length and weigh as much as 55-pounds. These fish grow quickly and it doesn’t take long for them to get too large for most aquarium enthusiasts to handle. Many, thinking they are being humane, release the fish into the wild rather than euthanizing them. This is a big mistake as red-bellied pacu have no natural enemies in Texas and can cause real problems for local ecosystems. In addition, releasing any kind of exotic animal into the wild is illegal. Violators are subject to stiff fines and possible jail time.
Please report any illegal dumping of exotic animals to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department immediately. If you have an exotic pet that you no longer want or can care for do not just release it. Contact TPWD instead. They should be able to direct you to someone who will take the unwanted animal off your hands.