Characidae - pacus

Most members of the Characidae family come from Africa and Central and South America, although a few are found in Mexico and one species, the Mexican tetra, is found in southwest Texas. They are a freshwater species, and most live in rivers. This is a very large family with an extremely diverse group of fishes. Many of these fishes are important as a food source for people, and quite a few are popular as aquarium fishes. Piranhas and tetras are members of this family. The peaceful pacu, a cousin of the piranha, is occasionally found in quiet tidal bayous near the bays, obviously a castoff from a local aquarium. Unlike its famous cousin, the pacu is mostly a vegetarian, although it also eats insects and small fish. When people discover a pacu in the wild, they immediately think it is a piranha and panic sets in, but there has been only two documented captures of a piranha in Texas, one from a reservoir in Kendall County back in the 1980's and one more recent (2011) from a small urban lake in Harris County. It is, in fact, illegal to sell, possess or bring piranhas into our state.