The Pacu is a large and dangerous freshwater fish from South America. It is a vegetarian with powerful jaws and teeth designed to crack nuts. So far, nothing much to worry about right? Wrong, more on this later.
The pacu has been introduced to many countiees for various reasons. In the 1990s, the pacu was introduced to provide an alternative food source for the local people of many countries. Due to its size, and ability to adapt to hot climates, it was felt that it would make a perfect addition in areas where food is expensive and income scarse.
It has also been introduced to the United States, where it can be found in: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky , Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Invasion or Introduction
The Pacu was brought to Papua New Guinea as part of a government programm to introduce a new species to the environment that would be able to provide food for the local population that lived along the river bank of the Sepik River. The introduction was made in 1996 and since then the population of Pacu has striped away much of the original plant life, leaving little for the native populations. It is this lack of vegitation that is believed to turn this vegitarian into a flesh eater.
Reports from Papua New Guinea claim that the Pacu can grow very large and has turned into man eater. Adding to the legend, the Pacu grows much larger in Papua New Guinea that it ever has in South America.
Several stories backed up the claims that these fish do attack humans with a very crushing and painful bite, in many cases biting at a man private parts and known by locals as the "ball biter".
A pacu was caught close to two feet in length, which is large enough to cause painful bites and tear flesh. While there are no official claims of the Pacu being a man eater, becareful in waters where they are known to congregate.
Essentially, they are feeding everytime they breath and this allows them to grow very quickly while removing everything from the water and leaving nothing for the native species like Buffalo.
As we discussed above, the Pacu is a vegetarian in its natural habitat. However, the Pacu has no problem consuming food or any kind if its primary food source is depleted. Because of their crushing jaws, they are not recommended as pets if young children are around.
Pacu in the News
A recent news article out of Scotland wrote how a young girls had her finger injured requiring surgery to fix after an incident a local aquarium. We believe the Pacu is not a vegetarian and that even in its natural habitat it feeds on other food sources besides seeds and nuts.
In Forthworth, Texas, the owner of a Pacu had his nose bitten by his Pacu after it had jumped out of the tank, grabbing onto his owners nose with its teeth. The owner had surgery to reattach his nose.
Releasing Pacu to the Wild
Most people that buy a Pacu for a home aquarium do not realize that they will keep growing regardless of the tank size. Keeping a Pacu in a tank can be very costly as they can grow to two feet or more. For many, it is easier to release them into the wild and be done with them,
In cold climates like Canada, the norther united states and Great Britain, they die off in the winter being a tropical fish. For other the southern United State and other countries, they are able to gain a foot hold and thrive in the new environment, out eating native species and attacking people that swim in the water.