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Piaractus brachypomus


Piaractus brachypomus
Red Belly Pacu
红腹银板
Known as the pirapitinga in its native countries, this is the one of the largest species of scaled fish found in the Amazon basin. 
Pacu have developed amazing dentition to allow them to crush fruit, nuts and seeds. Their teeth are cusped and resemble human molars, and they also have very powerful jaws. Although they are rarely aggressive they can inflict a really nasty bite, so take care when performing tank maintenance. 
The species is widely used in aquaculture projects in South America. It's ideally suited for the purpose, being tolerant of a wide range of water chemistry and possessing the ability to survive in oxygen-depleted conditions. Much research is being undertaken to find the most ecologically sound way of farming it, as it's suffering from gross overfishing in many of its native waters. If wild stocks become further depleted, there could be serious implications not only for the species itself, but also entire ecosystems. The seeds of many of the fruits eaten by pacu are indigestible, and are excreted intact. Some experts believe the fish play a significant role in seed dispersal of plants from areas of flooded forest. Sustainable commercial farming of pacu is therefore considered a priority. Not only will this prevent further depletion of wild stocks, but it will provide an alternative source of income for farmers. The hope is that it may also encourage them to take up aquaculture instead of agriculture, which is having a devastating effect on many parts of the Amazon rainforest. 
As a food fish pacu is apparently very tasty. Its natural diet of fruit and nuts is said to enhance the flavour of the flesh. As the fish is so large cuts are often sold on the bone in a similar way to pork ribs. One further commercial use of the species is as a sport fish, both in its natural environment and artificially-stocked lakes. It's been introduced into several Far Eastern countries for this purpose, including Thailand and Malaysia.
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