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Piranha Problem

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There's food in the water! GATHER THE TROOPS!

"I'm more worried about piranhas. Did you see that movie where they send a nuclear submarine to fight the piranhas, and one of them swims right down the periscope and bites the guy in the eye, and he goes, 'Aah! Aah! Aah!', and that old lady told him it would happen!?"

It's generally agreed upon that sharks can turn most any situation from bad to worse... and then there's piranhas. Piranhas are portrayed as vicious mindless eating machines that can tear through anything and leave nothing but bones. In other words, thinking of nothing except whatever "food" happens to fall in the water.

Piranhas provide an alternative to sharks for the Shark Pool, where the villain will always walk in with a bloody dripping leg of chicken or ham, dip it in the tank for two seconds, and then remove it to show a bare bone.

In Real Life, the viciousness of a piranha school is not nearly as pronounced as media exaggerations would have you believe. When they're not hungry or are asleep, they flee from anything that disturbs them. Their famous schooling behavior is not done to attack prey, but to protect themselves from predators like caimans, giant river otters, and freshwater dolphins. Piranhas are omnivores and mostly carrion-eaters and rarely attack bigger animals, they may eat smaller animals but are in general very cautious when dealing with something that might attack back. Piranhas are also very shy and are as much afraid of humans as any other fish and would swim away if a human (or any other large animal) drops into water near them. Pet piranhas are even known to hide when humans are around, but they may bite larger animals, particularly wounded or dying ones.

Actual deaths from piranha attacks are questionable at best, but they've been known to feed on human corpses post-mortem, and they do tend to be rather bite-y fish which commonly nip at the hands and feet of waders and swimmers (being opportunistic feeders), particularly during conditions in which they have not eaten in a while. All supposed piranha "attacks" which have caused deaths are potentially dubious, as the suspected victims could have just as easily drowned before piranhas arrived to eat their bodies, which may also contribute to the myth.

Whether piranhas can reduce a body to bones, yes, it is possible, but scientists believe that it will require among 300 to 500 piranhas in 5 minutes to reduce a human body to bones, and depends on the piranhas to be starving (well fed piranhas would only take a couple of bites). While U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt did once observe Amazon piranhas reduce a cow to a skeleton in a few minutes, this occurred under artificial conditions. The locals had blocked off this portion of the tributary with nets, dumped hordes of extra piranhas in there, and starved them for days before throwing the cow in, all in the name of making a spectacle for the visiting president. Dropping the cow into a pit full of starving humans would have had a similar result, as anybody who's seen a zombie movie could tell you.

That said, we do not advocate jumping into hungry piranha-inhabited waters just because we've told you they haven't been known to kill people. They have sharp teeth and you still might lose some fingers or toes (which has been confirmed to happen).

Not to be confused with piranha solution, a very, very dangerous Real Life chemical cocktail that can scrub nearly anything organic off of a surface (which is named after this trope).

Sub-Trope of Fiendish Fish. Compare Pike Peril.


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  • A commercial for Energizer batteries features the Energizer Bunny in a cage above a tank of pirahnas, the cage being triggered by a Lie Detector that an Energizer scientist was hooked up to. Whether or not the Bunny took a dive depended on the scientist telling the truth about whether or not Energizer outlasted Duracell in digital cameras.
  • Dumb Ways to Die: "Use your private parts as piranha bait." Still not recommended in Real Life.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Digimon: Comes in two flavors; Piranhamon, and MetallicPiranhamon, which came first, and is a cyborg. True to the depiction, they attack other Digimon in swarms and eat them. Did we mention MetallicPiranhamon is a Mega level?
  • Dragon Ball: Ninja Murasaki ran across a pond to get away from Goku. Goku was about to swim across when Murasaki warned him there were piranha. Goku didn't know what piranha were, so Murasaki threw a large fish in the water to demonstrate. Understanding, Goku simply jumped over the water.
  • Excel♡Saga: The title character was dropped at least once into a pit full of piranhas, among other things.
  • Gon: A swarm of piranha try to get an easy snack out of the titular baby T. rex. Too bad he's Made of Iron and an Implacable Man (dinosaur). Gon decides to make a meal out of them instead.
  • GTO: The Early Years: Hazuki Misato has a tank full of piranhas at her apartment, which Eikichi doesn't find out until he's already stuck his hand in. They end up biting his face too.
  • Smile Pretty Cure!: When the girls travel around the world in episode 30, Akaoni turns a piranha into a Super Akanbe. It is also the last Super Akanbe in the series.
  • In the "Mandorado" saga of Space Adventure Cobra, the hero is tasked with finding a legendary plant within a hazardous giant tree with help from a group of mercenaries. As soon as they wander in, they encounter inexplicable JET piranhas and minefields of explosive mushrooms.
  • Speed Racer: In "Crash in the Jungle," the villain threatens to lower Trixie and Spritle into a tank of piranhas, then demonstrates how dangerous they are by throwing a lion into the tank. The lion is reduced to bones in seconds.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Rando hangs Yusuke over a pond of piranha-like fishes.

    Comic Books 
  • Alan Ford's recurring villain known as the Royal Hunchback keeps piranhas as pets, and feeds enemies or incompetent henchmen to them. An earlier villain and drug smuggler also has a school of pet piranhas he can release in his swimming pool to dispose of his enemies, but ends up eaten by them by the end of the episode.
  • Aquaman: The comic book explanation for Aquaman's hook hand is that his real hand was eaten by piranhas. Considering this is the guy who commands fish, that had to be retconned so that he doesn't command, he just suggests.
  • Archie Comics: Mr. Lodge is having his fish tanks cleaned and dumps his collection of tropical fish into the swimming pool for the interim. Archie wishes to help and finds two fish that were left behind. It is only when he dumps them into the pool that he learns that they're piranhas. Archie and Mr. Lodge are horrified to see that the pool is now empty, save the two piranhas. Mr. Lodge is so furious at the loss of his collection that he prepares to throw Archie into the water, shouting "Bon appetit, my pets!". Veronica stops him, saying that she had the fish moved to an aquarium, as the chlorinated water was bad for them. Mr. Lodge states that he should apologize — and apologizes to the fish for nearly feeding them Archie.
  • The Batman Adventures: Mad Love: The Joker comes up with a Death Trap he calls "Death of a Hundred Smiles" that involves feeding Batman to a tank full of piranha. However, he abandons as unworkable because he he couldn't get the piranhas to smile. He is not pleased when Harley comes with a way to make the plan work.
  • EC Comics: In the Tales From the Crypt story "The Bath", a servant fills a corrupt mine owner's bath with piranhas, with predictable results, as retribution for the owner killing the servant's family.
  • In Groo the Wanderer, Groo comes across a stilt village with piranhas guarding the waters. After many mishaps he finally manages to reach the village on stilts. The villagers explain that the piranhas are their first line of defense against invaders, as their archers can easily take care of any attack by boat. Wanting to help, Groo finds a tank with two enormous fish and dumps them into the water. It turns out these fish were the piranhas' only natural predator, and they devour all of the piranhas, and then kill each other. Groo is banished for his stupidity, but the villagers then realize that so long as nobody knows that the piranhas are gone, they are safe from attack. The story ends with the villagers ready to ambush Groo to keep him silent, not realizing that he's already unwittingly blabbed the secret to the village's enemies...
  • In the Justice League storyline "The Hunt for the Cheetah", Arc Villain the Cheetah is defeated when Wonder Woman throws her off a cliff and into a river with Aquaman and a huge school of piranhas waiting to capture her.
  • Marsupilami: Rivers in Palombia are infested with piranhas. It's not so much a problem for the marsupilamis themselves, though, since they're fond of eating them.
  • Punisher: In one story, Frank is being chased through the New York zoo by Mooks. He uses the surrounding wildlife to his advantage, such as holding one mook upside down in the piranha tank (and pulling out his picked-to-the-bone skeleton a short while later).
  • Robin: During the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time! tie-in, when Tim suddenly finds himself working alongside a fellow Robin, a time-displaced young Dick Grayson, a jewel thief they're chasing tries to flee by faking having been killed and stripped to the bone by piranhas at the Gotham Aquarium. Tim knows something's not right and, upon reading what kind of piranhas are in the tank, realizes the body definitely isn't their thief since they're not flesh eaters.
  • Sub-Mariner foe the Piranha is a piranha fish mutated by radiation into a semi-humanoid being with sub-human intelligence. He has the power to command other fish telepathically, and frequently control schools of piranha to do his bidding and attack his enemies.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side:
    • As always, the standard unit of hungriness in piranhas is stated to be one cow: "These little fish have been know to skeletonize a cow in less than 2 minutes."note  Of course, the strip has a cow note this fact.
    • Another Far Side comic shows the interior of a pet store. The focus of the comic is a cat with wooden pegs for its forelegs, and a piranha swimming in a fishbowl nearby.
      Prehistory of The Far Side: I thought for a long time about what caption to put on this one, then realized it didn't need a caption at all.
    • A third has some (human) explorers wading across a tropical river, while down below a piranha is saying to the rest of his swarm "OK, just nibble at first, but once they yell 'Piranha', let 'em have it!"
    • Another strip has a school of piranha exiting the water in a miniature bus, heading towards a camp where people are sleeping. The caption is "When piranhas dine out".
    • Another strip has a scientist being attacked by the results of one of his experiments - a crossbreed between piranhas and flying fish.
  • Garfield:
    • This comic, Binky the Clown is bitten by a piranha in his show.
    • This comic, Garfield is watchin a show named "Wild Life" in which the presentors assistant Bubba gets eaten by piranha's. Garfield doesn't mind as he never liked the guy.
    • This comic, somehow thousands of piranha are spawning in the toilet of Jon's house due to a plumbing backing up. Judging by Garfield's response, it's not the first time.

    Films — Animated 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: Carface threatens to lower Killer into a pit full of piranhas.
  • Hotel Transylvania: Transformania: Johnny and Dracula get transformed into a dragon and a human (respectively) and have to go to the Amazon to retrieve a crystal that will allow them to change back. Johnny (an experienced traveler) warns Dracula about being careful with strange bodies of water. Dracula has to deal with piranhas when he doesn't pay attention.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: Scrat the squirrel was chased by piranhas at one point during his pursuit of his acorn. However, he manages to fend himself and his beloved nut from the hungry fish, using martial arts.
  • The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea: Morgana's minion Undertow, who is really a giant tiger shark, spends most of the film trapped in a piranha-like form thanks to King Triton's magic. However, as he is the only piranha in the movie, he doesn't do much in the way of swarming and devouring.
  • Rio 2: During the Amazon Audition scene, five capybaras get eaten by piranhas.
  • Tarzan: Young Tantor mistakes a swimming Tarzan for a piranha, only to be told that piranhas don't live in Africa. This then completely derails the elephants' conversational topics: "There are no piranhas in Africa." "Don't tell the kid that! Of course there are piranhas in Africa!" "No, she's right, they're native to South America..." That said, it's probably for the best to avoid thinking too hard about how African elephants (even sapient ones) could even know that piranhas or the Americas existed in the first place.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, the second victim in the 'tiger murders' is a criminology professor who is dumped into a tank of piranhas, a.k.a. 'tiger fish', in the San Francisco aquarium.
  • Cannibal Holocaust was going to have a scene involving piranhas, but it was cut due to difficulties with the camera and the fish themselves.
  • Holy Virgin Vs The Evil Dead (a 90s action film starring Donnie Yen) has the protagonist infiltrating a mansion used by cultists, with a pond filled with piranhas in it for good measure. At least one unfortunate mook gets flipped into the water by Yen's character, who then flinches in shock when the water starts turning red.
  • In Jungle Cruise, Frank catches piranha to eat using a rodent as a lure. Later on, he's attacked by a school of piranha (payback? You be the judge). He survives because he's immortal, but it's clearly an unpleasant experience.
  • In Killer Fish, loot from a diamond heist is placed in a dam lake with introduced piranha as its protector.
  • The Last Dragon: The bad guy has a tank of piranhas. Bruce Leroy shoves his face into the tank for half a second, long enough to scare him and his ditzy moll. Arguably subverted as, rather than a school of small fish, it’s one large but very vicious fish.
  • Loaded Weapon 1 features an aquarium of red-bellied piranhas in a normal house. William Shatner's villain character views them with bemusement, sticks his head into the tank (with billowing water to simulate an attack), and then lifts his head up with a piranha in his grinning mouth, to the other characters' shock. Later, a Funny Background Event occurs as a police officer has his arm in the tank trying to get something out of it during an investigation, with water billowing and him screaming in pain.
  • Now You See Me: Piranhas' reputation is used as Henley sets up an escape act where piranhas will be released into a water tank that she's locked in after 60 seconds. They appear to churn and devour her alive... only for her to appear in the crowd decrying the sadism of whoever thought of such an act. This is her Establishing Character Moment.
  • Piranha:
  • Speed Racer: One of the bad guys has a tank full of them in his office in a moving truck. It gets a hole shot in it, and he forces one of his Mooks to stick a finger in to keep the tank from draining. The fish all gather around with fascination.
  • In You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Zohan and his arch-nemesis Phantom are seen on the Lebanon beach competing about which one is the tougher, letting themselves get bitten by a piranha to prove their point. It's presence is a two-fold mistake, because a) piranhas are found in South America, and b) they are fresh water fish.
  • You Only Live Twice: Blofeld kept a piranha pond in his underground lair — handy for getting rid of failed employees, as Helga Brandt learns the hard way.

  • Downplayed in Able Team #4: Amazon Slaughter. One man is attacked by piranhas while swimming a river, but they only give some nasty bites (at the time, he's more worried because he thinks the pain means he's just been shot).
  • The Bad Guys has Mr. Piranha, known in his rap sheet as "The Butt Biter". He and his over 900 thousand brothers and cousins form a gang in the Amazon River, and are known for eating tourists. Despite this, Mr. Piranha himself ends up switching to the side of good in the end, proving the stereotype wrong.
  • Bless the Beasts & Children: A character makes a point by telling the story of a friend and his pet piranha, a vaguely charming beastie with a fondness for live goldfish. The friend was unable to keep the piranha, so he put it in a goldfish pond to spend the rest of its days feeding happily. The piranha got greedy, "turned into a goldfish gourmet," and lived entirely on the bellies of the goldfish (apparently the tastiest part.) Then the pond's owners noticed all the belly-less goldfish floating at the top of the pond, moved the survivors to another pond, and dumped in poison. Moral: if you start something (say, eating a goldfish), better finish the job!
  • In the Destroyermen novels, set on an alternate Earth where the K-T extinction event never happened, the seas are teeming with voracious "flasher fish", essentially saltwater piranhas the size of tuna. Falling overboard is pretty much a death sentence, which contributes greatly to the setting being a Death World.
  • The Discworld Atlas, in its description of S'Belinde, mentions that the B'Ware River is home to particularly vicious piranahs, and quotes an explorer who sadly lost most of his extremities before realising that even piranahs wouldn't be able to bite their way through dwarf bread.
  • Doc Savage: In Land of Long Juju, the Island of Long Juju sits in a river surrounded by tiny flesh-eating fish that can strip the flesh off a human in seconds. (The fish is never specifically said to be piranha, thereby averting Misplaced Wildlife, as piranha are not native to Africa.)
  • In Fortunately, the Milk, hungry piranhas are one of the many obstacles the protagonist claims to have faced on his trip down to the corner store to get a carton of milk.
  • In It, the eponymous monster at one point takes the form of a school of piranha... or maybe a character just imagined it. Since the character in question had never seen an actual piranha, they looked more like a child's imagined version of them than the real thing.
  • James Bond: In You Only Live Twice, Doctor Shatterhand has piranha pools on his grounds, all the better to dispose of people who have not yet succumbed to the other lethal attractions of his gardens.
  • Piranhas Dont Eat Bananas features Brian the piranha, who just wants to eat fruit, and tries to get the others to enjoy it, too. Unfortunately for him, they'd rather stick to eating people, and are honestly just annoyed with his offers.
  • Trickster's Duet: The Royally Screwed Up rulers of the Copper Isles sometimes throw dissidents into a specially-prepared pool of piranha and allow any survivors to go free. Unfortunately, they've figured out not to offer this opportunity when the ratio of dissidents to piranha is too high. Eventually, the fish die from being used to cover up murder by poisoning.
  • In Animorphs book 11, the Animorphs wind up in the Amazon rainforest. Jake and Rachel have to throw themselves into the river to avoid being eaten alive by ants...and then have to get out of the river to avoid being eaten alive by piranhas.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 1000 Ways to Die: One way combines piranha with candiru for a rather gruesome death — especially if you're male.
  • The Addams Family: One of the family pets is a piranha, the Addams' equivalent of a goldfish.
  • On Boy Meets World when Cory and Topanga are honeymooning at a tropical resort this is used as a background gag heard over the P.A. system: "Attention guests, will the couple who left their dog in the piranha tank please come claim his collar?"
  • Cliffhanger: One episode featured the Plucky Girl reporter dangling six inches over a stretch of the Amazon river teeming with piranha.
  • CSI: In "Table Stakes", the killer disposes of a body by feeding it to piranhas.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Face of Evil", the Test of the Horda is a land-dwelling version. Hordas are small predators that resemble long, armoured fish with large heads. Although they only crawl around slowly, they can strike quickly and ten of them can devour a human's arm in seconds. Those submitted to the Test would be put on a board above a pit of Hordas. The board would be pulled into the walls with a boulder attached to a rope. The criminal would have to Shoot the Rope with a crossbow, stopping the board and saving his or her life.
  • Dragnet: In one of the Sixties episodes, a burglar is discovered to keep his stash of stolen jewelry in a piranha tank to discourage searching by hand. To the show's credit, the piranha will strip the living meat off of bone, but only because the robber intentionally keeps his piranha hungry, feeding them only once a week.
  • Jacques Cousteau: In one special concentrating on the Amazon River, a diver hand-feeds a chicken leg to piranha. As the divers joke afterwards, the piranha did not bite the hand that fed them, but the one that filmed them, with the cameraman getting a single bite on his knuckle that didn't require any real medical attention.
  • Defied in The Lost World (2001), when Edward is worried that a river the party are crossing might have piranhas in it.
    Agnes: Oh, piranha aren't dangerous. That's a myth. It's the snakes you have to watch.
  • Monster Warriors: In "Day of the Piranha", the Monster Warriors are trapped in a cabin in the woods and being attacked by a school of mutant man-eating flying piranhas.
  • In The Most Extreme, it was the misconception of the piranha that gave it second place in the "Monster Myths" category.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 Season 12 episode Killer Fish. As the film is set in South America, quite a bit of riffing was done about what the titular fish could possibly be.
  • Penn & Teller Tell a Lie: Referenced and debunked, demonstrated by Teller going for a swim in a tank containing thirty of the little fish — who are less hungry, and more terrified of "big fish" Teller. As Penn Jillette would explain for Vanity Fair, this was done to demonstrate how piranhas artificially inflate tension as they're much more controllable and potentially safe than the general preconception, but ironically, one actually did bite Teller's toe during the stunt.
  • QI: In the "Killers" episode of the "K" season, Stephen discusses the Pacu fish. From Papua New Guinea and a relative to the piranha, it eats seeds and nuts. It also goes for a different kind of nut, hence its nick name of the "Ball-cutter fish", which goes for the gonads if you are swimming naked near it. There are two recorded deaths by castration from this fish.
  • River Monsters:
    • Jeremy doubted this until he dipped a dead duck in a piranha-infested river for a few moments. When he pulled it out, the submerged part had been devoured all the way to the internal organs. However, piranha are by nature opportunistic feeders, so of course they'll go after a carcass. Later in the episode, Jeremy jumps into a pool that had been filled with piranha and spent several minutes up to his chest in the water, and exits unharmed. In the River Monsters: Unhooked commentary, he says that shooting that scene was one of the least pleasant things he'd ever done on the show and had wanted to get out of the water much sooner, but the director wouldn't let him.
    • A later season episode once again ends up investigating the possibility of piranhas attacking humans, this time in Bolivia with at least one reported fatality. In this case, however, it was because another fish, the arapaima, had been introduced to the river and the presence of a large, non-native predator had thrown the river's ecology out of balance and left the piranhas much more aggressive than usual due to lack of food.
    • Jeremy's biggest problem with piranha is that; when searching for other fish in South America, he'll always end up catching piranha or have them steal his bait.
    • As noted under Real Life, below, piranhas often learn to associate anything splashing down in the village "garbage dump" as food. At the end of the episode dealing with the disaster of the Sobral Santos, Jeremy comes to the conclusion that the hundreds who died did so because the constant dump of waste from the fish processing plant had caused every predator in the river, from piranha to bull sharks, to associate that spot with an endless supply of food. And that was exactly where the ship sank.
    • The worst piranha problem Jeremy ever encountered wasn't in South America and wasn't with a (normally) carnivorous species. It was in Papua New Guinea and involved the pacu, a larger relative of the piranha that has a diet consisting mostly of plant matter. They'd been introduced to the rivers in New Guinea and, thanks to the absence of their natural predators, had flourished to the point that they devastated the local ecology. With their normal food becoming scarce, they'd reached the point where they'd begun attacking humans, which caused quite a scare among locals as the pacu's flat, squarish teeth left bite wounds that looked disturbingly like they were made by humans. Equally disturbing was their habit of attacking the scrotum of their victims. Several people were confirmed to have bled to death from the attacks, while others were mutilated for life.
  • Survivor: In the Amazon season, a simple fishing excursion resulted in a nice lovely little bite at the men's camp.
  • Tales of the Gold Monkey: In "Cooked Goose", Princess Koji insists our heroes enjoy the benefits of a hot bath. Then when they say something to annoy her, she unveils a nearby bowl of piranhas and threatens to empty it into the tub.
  • Wednesday: After Pugsley is bullied by the high school boys' swim team, Wednesday retaliates releasing two bags full of piranhas into the school swimming pool during their practice. The captain of the swim team is subjected to a Groin Attack and Wednesday gets expelled.

  • According to Yello and their song "Great Mission", both The Amazonas and the town of Manaus are "full of piranhas".

    Other Sites 
  • A Deviantart piece titled Lucky the Cat features the ghosts of the nine lives of the titular, ironically named feline, all showing how that particular life ended. Death number four shows Lucky with numerous piranha biting onto his paws and tail.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Deliberately invoked by the design of the Piranha BattleMech from BattleTech. One Piranha alone is capable of shredding entire platoons of infantry in seconds thanks to its twelve .50-cal machine guns. An entire Star of these things working in concert? That's the kind of chattering death that will bring down some heavy and assault 'Mechs via Death of a Thousand Cuts, or utterly annihilate a small city's worth of people in bare minutes.
  • Dungeons & Dragons includes stats for piranhas and giant piranhas in some editions. The original 1st edition Fiend Folio also has "quippers", piranhas adapted to cold-water environments so that players couldn't accuse a DM of having Misplaced Wildlife in a typical pseudo-European fantasy world. 5th edition retconned this, using "quipper" to refer to real piranhas instead.
  • Pathfinder: Onwu azu, meaning "flying death" in the local languages, are fish native to the coasts of the Mwangi Expanse that are essentially identical to saltwater piranhas, but are four feet long and able to fly. They feed on land creatures by preference, attacking in swarms and trying to bleed them to death.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The monster card Piranha Army features a school of piranha devouring a T. rex. Its effect doubles the damage it inflicts when it attacks directly, imitating the viciousness of a piranha attack.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disney Theme Parks: On Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride, one stretch of the river is infested with animatronic piranha that leap out of the water toward the boat.

    Video Games 
  • The Amazon Trail: Piranha are mainly encountered in the fishing minigame, and might bite your character if you catch one and decide to keep it. In the original game, if you get capsized you might get news that "You've been badly bitten by a piranha."
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery: There's a certain location where you need to pass through a pool of piranhas-on-crack that will probably kill you in two or three moves if you try to swim across. Fortunately the game provides you with ways to build a bridge if you know where to look.
  • Animal Crossing: You can catch piranha; the Player Character lampshades this trope when they do ("Which river is this, anyway?"). And after you've donated one to the museum, you can see it bashing itself against the wall of the tank... but the description for it claims, correctly, that piranha are actually quite timid.
  • In ARK: Survival Evolved, giant piranhas based on the real-life Megapiranha (see the "Real Life" folder) are a common hazard in the game's rivers and coastlines. Fortunately, they're pretty easy to kill if you have a spear and are able to strand them in shallow water.
  • Banjo-Kazooie:
    • The original game has Bubblegloop Swamp, the water of which is infested with piranhas that take your health away anytime you entered the water. The only way to safely traverse the water was to wear wading boots, or have Mumbo Jumbo turn you into an alligator (because piranhas are afraid of alligators). There's even a piranha-like enemy found in various areas of the game called Chump.
    • In Banjo-Tooie, one of the sidequests in Jolly Roger's Lagoon involves Banjo and Kazooie meeting Chris P. Bacon, a pig who wants to take pictures of the paintings on the wall below him, but the vicious fish that resemble pink piranhas keep attacking him. He requires Banjo and Kazooie's help specifically because he was only able to afford a camera, and didn't have enough doubloons left to buy a spear gun. If Banjo and Kazooie can protect Chris from the vicious fish for 60 whole seconds, he will reward them with a Jiggy.
  • Bubble Trouble: Avertedl; Chombert the Piranha is The Goomba of the game.
  • Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters: Piranhas serve as enemies in underwater sections.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: At one point, Angie and Himiko put on a magic show in which the latter has to escape from an aquarium filled with piranhas. Himiko manages to escape unharmed, but Ryoma's corpse, which was hidden inside the piranha tank above the aquarium, gets reduced to a freaking skeleton.
  • Darius: Fatty Glutton, a Humongous Mecha piranha. His name may sound laughable, but don't be fooled- he's usually one of the hardest bosses of the games he appears in.
  • Digimon: Piranimon is a ferocious fishlike Digimon that snares other creatures with its fishhook-like tail to drag underwater and devour with its crushingly strong bites. They attack in schools, and not a single scrap of data is left of their prey when they're done feeding. And then there's Metal Piranimon....
  • Disney's Kim Possible 3: Team Possible: Many bodies of water have piranha that injure Kim and Ron.
  • Donkey Kong Country:
    • Donkey Kong Country has Bitesize, a piranha enemy who inhabits the game's underwater levels. Like many of the game's underwater enemies, the Kongs cannot harm him by themselves, but can harm him by charging Enguarde the Swordfish at him.
    • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest has two different types of piranha enemies; Lockjaw and Snapjaw. Lockjaws are common enemies in underwater levels, they charge at Diddy or Dixie when they get near them, and can be killed by Enguarde. Snapjaw is an Invincible Minor Minion who inhabits two levels; "Slime Climb" and "Arctic Abyss". In the former level, he lurks in the rising water, chasing Diddy and Dixie down if they fall in it, and in the latter, Diddy and Dixie have to use Clapper the Seal to freeze the water and cross it before it thaws.
    • In Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, a piranha-like fish called Nibbla appears in two levels; "Bobbing Barrel Brawl" and "Kreeping Klasps". In these levels, he patrols the waters and serves much of the same function as Snapjaw from the previous game.
  • Endless Ocean: The second game (Blue World in the US) has them in the Amazon area. You can distract them with food, but they won't react to the pulsar. If you do agitate them, they'll bite you and make your air meter drain faster. It is apparently possible to steer clear if you're careful.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, Piranhas (or Opinicus Fish in later revisions) are the main foes that Sabin and Cyan fight when they take a dive down Baren Falls to escape The Empire. A purplish piranha called R(h)izopas serves as the boss battle after a few waves of Piranhas are defeated, and it uses powerful elemental attacks.
  • Giana Sisters DS: Black-and-red Piranhas will jump out of the water to chomp Giana. They are invulnerable to any kind of attack.
  • Golden Force contains piranhas as recurring enemies in underwater areas, and they're surprisingly tough to kill despite their size.
  • In Guild Wars 2 there is an underwater spell that summons piranhas to deal damage over time. There is also a specific underwater level where you have to use bioluminescent plants to get from volcanic vent to volcanic vent because as soon as you leave the safety of a light radius you get eaten by super death killer piranhas and die in a couple of seconds.
  • Every underwater level in Hands of Necromancy contains gigantic green piranhas who immediately tries chewing you to the bone.
  • House of the Dead 2 has the Mofish, which resembles a mutant piranha. These foes are found in water and leap at the players to take bites out of them. They are also seen during the fight with the Hierophant.
  • Jaws Unleashed has piranha schools in the second level, set in a flooded Sea World-like amusement park/research complex. The little bastards can drain Jaws' health incredibly fast if he doesn't keep swimming. How the tiny fish can get through the shark's hide and why they're not terrified of the thirty-five-foot great white is a mystery.
  • Kid Pix Studio: One of the "Moopie" stamps is a piranha that leaps out of the water, snapping its teeth.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places): Failing a specific timing puzzle results in Larry falling into waist-deep water. He notes that there's a weird tingling sensation, then climbs out of the river to find that piranhas have stripped everything below his waist to the bone. Notably, the game ends not because he dies, but because he lost his manhood and can't go on.
  • Let's Go Jungle: One of the types of Mook. Very irritating, because they're hard to hit and attack in swarms, and if even one gets to you before you can kill it, you lose up to about a third of your lifebar!
  • In The Lucky Dime Caper Starring Donald Duck, Piranhas serve as common enemies in the Great American Forest. They come in two types. The first jump out of the water in a vertical fashion, but Donald can bounce off of them to reach higher places. The second are underwater, and move either horizontally or in diagonal zig-zags. As Donald cannot attack underwater, he has to avoid these ones.
  • McKids has a highly dangerous and persistent piranha enemy that lurks in nearly every body of water. It cannot be defeated by any means and kills the player on contact. Stay out of the water, if you can.
  • Metal Slug 3 has the Flying Killer enemies, piranha-like fish infesting the jungle water that would strip your character to the bone if they fell in. Like their name suggests, they also can jump out of the water and fly straight at the player!
  • One of the mini-games in the PC adaptation of Monopoly Junior involves catching rubber ducks that slide down a water slide in a net. In the third level of the mini-game, there are piranhas that jump out of the water and eat through your net if you catch them.
  • Natica and Sandy: Underwater Rescue: These are the main enemies. You use Natica to kill piranhas with a spear to keep them from taking a bite out of Sandy while she's Chained to a Rock. Since both girls are underwater, taking damage from the piranhas also depletes their Oxygen Meter faster.
  • In Octogeddon, robotic piranhas are featured among the enemies Octogeddon comes across in the underwater levels. These annoying foes circle at high speed around it before lunging at the octopus.
  • Inverted in the old PC game, Piranha Panic, where you are the piranha. Specifically, you're tasked with collecting various piranha eggs from several lakes filled with hostile marine life, and repopulate the piranha population.
  • Pokémon:
  • The Punisher features piranha tanks that you can use to threaten enemies into giving you info by holding them just a few inches from the water's surface. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from dunking your victims — Frank sticks the enemy's head in for a few seconds and pulls it out, revealing that most of the guy's face has been eaten off.
  • In Rayman 2: The Great Escape, about half of all the water in the game is infested with these.
  • Savage Halloween have piranha enemies in underwater levels. They take only one shot to kill, but tends to show up in large schools.
  • Sheep, Dog 'n' Wolf has piranhas that swallow the player in one gulp.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Sonic the Hedgehog has Chopper, a robotic piranha that inhabits Green Hill Zone and jumps out of the water in a vertical fashion. The same game also has Jaws, a robotic piranha that inhabits Labyrinth Zone and swims back and forth in a horizontal fashion.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has Masher, who acts as Chopper's successor, having a similar apperance and attack pattern and inhabiting Emerald Hill Zone. The same game also has Chop Chop, a robotic piranha that inhabits Aquatic Ruin Zone. He swims underwater and charges towards Sonic and/or Tails if they get close to him.
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (8-bit) has Flying Chopper, a robotic piranha who inhabits Crystal Egg Zone. He flies through the air and attempts to chomp at Sonic.
    • Sonic 3 & Knuckles features Mega Choppers, robot piranhas that inhabit Hydrocity Zone. Rather than damaging Sonic normally, they latch onto him and start draining his rings until you can shake them off (or if playing in Sonic and Tails mode, Tails destroys them).
  • Spelunky: Piranhas appear in jungle areas. They chase any unfortunate spelunker who jumps into a body of water, but they can kill other enemies as well. And there are also large piranhas!
  • Early in SPY Fox in: Dry Cereal, Mr. Udderly first appears tied up over a tank of piranhas. SPY Fox quickly points out how odd it is to have such a tank in the middle of a feta cheese factory. To rescue Udderly, SPY Fox must first lower the tank's temperature until the water is frozen, at which point he can lower Udderly, who will land on the ice and escape.
  • In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the Midday Gardens world has a level called Spooky Swamp. The water there is full of piranhas! And they will kill you if you so much as land in it, let alone try to swim, unless you get. The hell. Out of there. At least there are warning signs.
  • Strider (Arcade) sees them in the Amazon level: they infest the Amazon River but are actually harmless, simply clinging to Hiryu's sprite if he walks close by. If Hiryu falls into the water, however, the (still harmless) piranhas will rush him en-masse as he slowly sinks into the bottom of the screen.
  • Super Mario Bros.: Invoked with the Piranha Plant enemies. While they are Venus flytrap-like Man Eating Plants rather than fish, they are obviously named after piranha fish, and are equally aggressive, biting and chomping anything they can get their pointy teeth on.
  • Super Mario Fusion Revival: Deep in the Amazon River basin (World 2-S4: Rebel River), Marco Rossi found a contingent of Rebel Army forces. However, the only clear way to it is to first traverse a stretch of the Amazon infested with piranha. There is a giant piranha fish nearby with a taste for flesh; contact with it will prove fatal!
  • Super Pitfall: There are piranhas (and sea snakes) in the underwater sections that can kill Harry. Because they are underwater and normal handguns don't work underwater, they are basically invincible.
  • The aptly-named Piranha Jungle stage in Tadpole Treble features a school of piranhas that pursue Baton as she makes her way through. They can be staved off if you knock fruit from trees just above the water's surface.
  • Piraniant from Temtem, as its name suggests, is a giant piranha that uses its huge jaws to attack.
  • Le Temple Perdu de l'Oncle Ernest has a mini-game where the player must help a frog cross a river by preventing piranhas from attacking it.
  • Tomb Raider III: Merely entering piranha-infested water triggers a swarm that eats up your health bar in seconds.
  • Yooka-Laylee: A rare heroic example. In Moodymaze Marsh, Dr. Puzz can turn Yooka and Laylee into a school of piranhas. The piranhas act like a Hive Mind, swimming in unison. They can defeat any underwater enemy by devouring them in seconds.

  • Girl Genius:
    Othar Tryggvassen: Ha! It'll take more than being tied to a lit keg of explosives and tossed into a pit of acid filled with mutant, acid-resistant flying piranhas equipped with flame throwers and battle-axes while mechanical, missile-launching morris dancers armed with liquid nitrogen harpoon guns are overhead, riding giant, rabid killer bees with side mounted death rays to kill Othar Tryggvassen!
    Ferretina: Whoops! Silly me, I forgot to turn the lightning generators on!
    Othar: Er, not a whole lot more, I'll admit...
  • The Non-Adventures of Wonderella: Averted; Hitlerella throws Wonderella into a piranha tank, but Wonderella's inedible, so instead they make small talk.
  • The Order of the Stick: Used by Elan in a Snowball Lie to explain the sudden disappearance of Lord Kubota, whom his party-mate had just unceremoniously Reduced to Dust for being a tedious Card-Carrying Villain. It is less than convincing.

    Web Original 
  • In Bowser's Kingdom episode 8, Steve the Piranha Plant had a girlfriend and laid an egg. Hal asked how he did that, to which Steve replies it's because he was drunk and in love. The egg hatched and it revealed a Dino Piranha, which chased Jeff and Hal.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Biting Blue Fish are vicious, hungry, and always attack in a swarm.
  • Hamster's Paradise: Averted with the shromper, a freshwater, carnivorous krill that serves as a Fantastic Fauna Counterpart to piranha. They've got large, serrated mouthparts that can slice cleanly through flesh and are capable of going into frenzied swarms that skeletonize large carcasses but they typically only feed on smaller creatures and dead animals, they're also very timid and will flee whenever a larger animal gets close. The riveners, a water living northhound subspecies, consider them a delicacy.
  • During the Happy Tree Friends episode Something Fishy, Russell's pet piranha goes on a killing spree across the entire school.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Mad Love", the Joker came up with a plan to drop Batman into a piranha tank, but gave up on it because he couldn't make the fish smile (thus making the scheme unfunny and thus unworthy of him). Harley figured out how to fix the problem by lowering Batman into the tank upside down so their frowns would look like smiles, but instead of impressing the Joker she enraged him by stealing his victory. And she explained the joke.
  • Brandy & Mr. Whiskers: Mr. Whiskers is always being attacked by piranhas anytime he gets near the water.
  • In Cro, the human characters get chased around by an aggressive school of piranha for almost the entire episode until Phil the mammoth notes that piranha, who are swimming in a salt water aquarium, are fresh water fish. Hearing this, the piranha immediately die.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "From the Confidential Casefiles of Agent 22!", Black Heron was shown to have a piranha pool preventing any trespassers from entering her lair in a flashback. In the present, the pool is still there, only the piranhas have died from starvation. Scrooge complains that swimming in a water filled with dead piranhas is even worse than in water filled with living ones.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: Timmy once placed a hungry piranha in the fishbowl with Wanda and Cosmo to get them back for giving his emotions back just before he had to endure a daredevil stunt to save his friends (which involved diving into a pool of piranhas). When he accepted the job, he had given up all emotions, and thus was unfazed by the idea. Cosmo, slow on the uptake, didn't realize the situation and tossed all of his emotions back just before the fateful jump. What's more, Cosmo forgot to give Timmy back his common sense to wish his friends free instead of jumping.
  • Generator Rex encountered piranha in episode 9, mutated into an Extreme Omnivore Flying Seafood Special variety by the series' Phlebotinum.
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures episode "Snake Hunt" plays this more realistically than most cartoons, with the piranhas' bites being depicted as more of a hindrance/embarrassment than an immediately lethal threat.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Dr. Drakken once threatened Kim's Sidekick Ron with a pool of piranhas.
    • Señor Senior, Sr. didn't have any piranha for his lagoon in time for his villainous debut, but he assured Kim and Ron that "the koi have not been fed in days".
  • Looney Tunes: Sylvester has been attacked by piranha in a couple of shorts.
  • Marsupilami: In Bathtime for Maurice, Marsupilami meets a piranha and remarks "Well, what do you know? Playful piranhas. Hello, fellas." before they attack Marsupilami.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Daring Don't", the villain Ahuizotl tries to off Daring Do by means of a death trap featuring a pool full of piranhas.
    • In "Non-Compete Clause", a school of biteacudas — fish with bat wings that are visually reminiscent of piranhas, being stout-bodied, river-dwelling carnivorous fish — serves the piranaha's typical narrative role by menacing Rainbow Dash and Applejack when they're dangling over a river infested with them, jumping out of the water and trying to take bites out of the two. As is typical for fictional piranhas, they're depicted as highly aggressive, voraciously carnivorous bundles of sharp teeth and bad attitudes waiting to devour anyone and anything that falls in the water with them.
  • Pink Panther and Pals: Blue Aardvark is attacked by piranha while trying to escape a hungry cheetah... a sort of Scylla and Charybdis situation.
  • Scooby-Doo: One episode has the gang in the Amazon, and at one point Scoob and Shaggy had to build a canoe made of wood to cross the river. Piranhas start to eat through the canoe, causing Shaggy and Scooby to literally run on water to get away from them.
  • The Secret Saturdays: Subverted in the pilot episode, when the family is traversing through the amazon river, a piranha bites Komodo's tail. Komodo then proceeds to eat the unlucky fish.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Marge Be Not Proud": Discussed. When Bart is concerned that his mom might stop loving him, Milhouse is more interested in talking about an animal horror B-movie where piranhas attack a nuclear submarine by swimming down its periscope and biting the lookout.
    • "Treehouse of Horror IX: Terror In Tiny Toon", Itchy shoots a swarm of piranha from a hose, reducing everything below Bart's head to the bones. This is later fixed by playing the segment backwards.
    • "Treehouse of Horror XXII: In the Na'vi" has flying aliens which drop eggs onto soldiers that hatch into a school of piranhas.
  • Superfriends: In "A Pint of Life", Aquaman and some explorers are captured by a hostile tribe and lowered into a piranha pool. Aquaman uses his telepathy to make the piranha not attack them and bite through their ropes instead, allowing them to escape.
  • A Thousand and One... Americas: During their sail across the Amazon River in the eighteenth episode, Chris and Lon have to flee from a group of hungry piranhas (in fact, they get into this situation because Lon was unlucky enough to draw the attention of a single piranha right after he finishes swimming the waters without any issue and then tries to mount the arrow-shaped trunk they were traveling on).
  • Timon & Pumbaa: One episode has the main duo visit the Amazon river, where Pumbaa warns of "flesh-rending piranhas"... after they've taken a dip in said river. Cue the two of them getting chased by a giant piranha with a chainsaw. At the end of the episode, after the duo narrowly escapes capture by a pair of boas via a Schmuck Banquet, they trick the boas into plummeting into the Amazon... where the piranhas are lying in wait. Including the one with the chainsaw!
    Timon: "Now that, Pumbaa, is what I call fast food!"
  • Todd McFarlane's Spawn: To give Jason Wynn a Kick the Dog moment, we see him feed a live puppy to a tankful of piranha in one episode.
  • The Venture Brothers references and dismisses them:
    The Monarch: I don't think I'm the one in danger here... considering the sad fact that right below you flows the MIGHTY AMAZON — teeming with the most GRUESOME fish to ever...
    Hank Venture: [interrupting] The piranha!
    The Monarch: No.
    Hank Venture: The shark?
    The Monarch: No!
    Hank Venture: ...The piranha!
    The Monarch: NO! And shut up! This isn't a quiz.
  • Deconstructed in Wild Kratts where piranhas are accurately depicted as prey for the Amazon's larger predators such as electric eels.

    Real Life 
  • Many villages along rivers with piranha have a designated 'garbage dump' spot in the river, and the piranha will greedily devour anything dumped into the water there, as they've been taught it will be food. It's often fairly safe to swim in the river — unless you try to jump in at the garbage dump.
  • Piranha are also a treat for many predators: botos (Amazon river dolphins), giant river otters, caimans, arowanas, viperfish, and many fishing birds eat them like popcorn. Humans eat them, too: they’re a reasonably common catch in the Amazon Basin and can be found at many Amazonian fish markets. (They apparently taste good fried—of course—or grilled, garnished with a bit of lemon, or as a fish soup.) It's funny how the most dreaded predator of the Amazon River is sitting near the bottom of the food chain.
  • Another thing to note about piranha is that they don't actually form schools like other fish. They barely tolerate each other in an uneasy truce, knowing they can kill each other very quickly if they do fight. That doesn't stop them from very frequently nipping at each other's fins and bodies, sometimes even excising semicircular chunks from each other's backs and fins, and any piranha that shows signs of weakness or old age will be set upon and devoured by its fellows.
  • What's worse than a swarm of normal piranhas? How about a school of giant piranhas! Meet Megapiranha, a meter long fish that lived 10 million years ago in the interior sea that is now the Amazon River. However, it's only known from a few teeth that seem to have characteristics of both the famous carnivorous ones and the herbivorous pacu (a piranha relative), so whether it would have been dangerous is unknown. Considering its contemporaries were animals like the 32-foot caiman Purussaurus mirandai, though, it likely occupied the same niche and status as modern piranha do.
  • The pacu mentioned above displays similar behavior, but they prefer nuts and seeds that fall into the water rather then hapless prey. Instead of sharp pointed teeth, their teeth are flat grinders, which look disturbingly like human molars and can deliver an extremely painful bite.
  • The Chinese name for "piranha" (食人鱼 shí rényú) literally means "man-eating fish".
  • It's not a piranha, and lives in the sea rather than freshwater, but the bluefish fits this trope in terms of its behavior. Groups of bluefish attack and decimate schools of smaller fish in violent feeding frenzies, known as "bluefish blitzes" by anglers, and when they are like this it is not unknown for them to bite humans.


Piranhas Eat Capybaras

During the Amazon Audition scene, five capybaras get eaten by piranhas.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / PiranhaProblem

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