Sam Barros’ Exotic Fishes!

The Piranha is hungry 🙂

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One day my girlfriend suggested that I got a TV for my dorm room, since there wasn’t much to do here besides using the computer.

I did eventually buy an USB TV Tuner for my notebook, but since I am not a big fan of television the first thing I got to serve as in-room entertainment was a fish tank. I’ve always been a big fan of fish, and I had a very small aquarium back home with little neon tetras that lasted about a week before they died. I didn’t know much about fish when I got started, and like most beginners I thought that setting up an aquarium was as simple as filling it with water and dumping fish in. I have come a long way since then, but I did make some pretty expensive mistakes; I figured if I was going to go through the trouble of keeping a fish tank, it might as well be something spectacular. Since sharks were not an option I decided to keep Piranhas and a Freshwater Stingray. Here are a few photos of my tanks:


My original 10 gallon fish tank

Here is a photo of my first fish tank ever. It was a 10 gallon tank with two red belly piranhas, one tiger Oscar fish, one blue African Ciclid, a pleco and a blue lobster (actually a crayfish).
One piranha killed the other, than proceeded to kill the blue Ciclid. I added a second pleco to the tank, and the Yellow African Ciclid on the photo. Having two plecos seems to make them more active as they compete for food. The Ciclic is highly territorial and chased the piranha around all day, making it less aggressive towards the oscar, which was getting fins bitten off all the time.
The piranha then proceeded to kill one of the plecos. I got an Albino pleco to take its place, and planted two Amazon Swordplants to give the piranhas hiding places. I bought a second piranha, which became food within a couple of minutes… I also bought a flying fox, which was supposed to be O.K. with piranhas… That “disappeared” completely overnight. Guess you can’t believe everything you read…

20 gallon fish tank

A more recent photo of my fish tank shows how quickly the oscar grew. The lobster shedded its exoskeleton twice and grew a bit also, along with the piranha. All the fish were moved to a 20 gallon tank. I added a second, smaller Oscar to the tank, and a Pacu, which was supposed to become food. The piranhas would not eat the Pacu so I gave it away, along with the yellow ciclid which was becoming a nuisance as it harrassed the piranha all day. A week later the piranha killed and ate more than half of the Oscar fish, which was at least 5 times bigger then it! That was a real shame because the Oscar was one of my favorite fish: It would jump out of the water to grab food from my hand, and let me pet it after it was done eating.

Piranha close-upLobster close-upHere is a close up of the Piranha. Notice the teeth it has. I one time hand fed it by holding a worm above the surface of the tank, but I never tried that again after I saw what its teeth did to a fish 5 times its size. You can also see a photo of the blue lobster, climbing on the heater. The piranha recently tore the lobster to pieces, consuming every last bit of flesh in less than an hour. It was quite upsetting as this was actually rather expensive! It also killed a 3rd piranha I put in there which was slightly larger than itself. To date, this piranha has consumed (intentionally or not): A frog, an Oscar Fish, a crayfish, a flying fox, a pleco, a ciclid, 3 other piranhas, a beta fish, tetras, and countless goldfish. I normally feed it carnivore food pellets, worms, or feeder goldfish. It puts on a real show when it is eating, but is quite shy and quiet during most of the day. I suspect that this is a Red Throated piranha (Serrasalmus spilopleura), as opposed to the common red belly (Pygocentrus Natteri) found in most fish tanks; its teeth are visible and it is extremely aggressive, even towards other piranhas.

Freshwater Stingray:

After I saw the sting rays at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago I knew I had to have one. My newest aquarium is a 30 gallon given to me by my girlfriend. It houses one Potamotrygon Motoro freshwater stingray. The ray is currently 20cm (8″) in diameter, but specimens from this species are known to reach over 2 feet, so whilst this current aquarium is adequate for the young ray, I will probably end up settling for a 100 gallon tank, should the ray make it that far:)
This ray produces a LOT of waste, so after having to change the tank’s water every week I ended up buying an Aquamaster 400 filter for the aquarium: it filters 400gallons of water an hour through two filter elements. This seems to have solved the water change problem for now.

Currently, aside from a couple of tetras that are bound to become food sooner or later the only tank mate for my ray is this pleco. Plecos are sometimes not recommended for stingrays due to problems with the pleco attaching to the ray and eating its slime coat; I have yet to experience any of these problems (If I do, the pleco goes back to the piranha fish tank it came from).

Here is a photo of the ray swimming. Stingrays swim by undulating (is that a word?) their disks, and can also “walk” along the substrate using their rear fins. My ray loves to play in the bubbles and is always found swimming on them when not looking for food at the bottom of the tank.

Hand feeding a worm to the ray.

Here are some photos of the ray being hand fed. It is not recommended to feed sting rays since they are poisonous animals and can sting if threatened, but I found that my ray is very willing to accept food from my hands. I feed it once a day, either red worms or black worms. The substrate is also populated with black worms, and the ray spends most of its time blowing the rocks in search for these worms.


When I got started with aquariums all I knew about them was what the guy at the fish store I bought my fish from told me. These books helped me learn more about fishkeeping and fish in general.

I highly recommend anyone getting into the fish hobby to read as much as possible about fish tanks and fishes, particularly about the specific fish you are planning on getting. I disencourage beginners to start with piranhas or stingrays like I did, as those are expensive and hard to keep fishes. I also recommend obtaining the largest tank you can get, preferably over 30 gallons as most fish will grow fast and require a bigger tank. Bigger tanks are also more stable and less prone to lethal temperature or ph changes when you mess something up. Likewise, you should obtain a filter that is sized for a tank larger then the one you have: this will make it easier to maintain the water quality in the tank.