Parasites: Vandellia Cirrhosa (vampire fish)

The Vandellia Cirrhosa, also called Candiru, is a fish that originally comes from the Amazon. These freshwater fish are known to be very aggressive and they feed on blood from their host. The fish is also called a vampire fish and is feared more by locals than the piranha. If a human happens to be swimming, the fish may enter a body cavity. There the fish will live like a parasite on the host’s blood.


The Vandellia Cirrhosa is a fish that lives in fresh water and originates from the Amazon basin in northern Brazil. The fish is also known by the Portuguese name Candiru. It lives on the surface of the murky waters of the Amazon and they move like a snake. This infamous fish is so aggressive that some people fear it even more than the voracious piranha. The Candiru is a parasite that normally lives in the gills of other fish. It lives on blood and that is why this bloodlust fish is also called a vampire fish. This fish is able to penetrate the body cavities of a human.

What does the fish look like?

The Candiru is not really your average freshwater fish. They are very fierce and aggressive. It doesn’t really matter which opening of a human or animal the fish swims into. If he thinks there is blood, he will try to swim in it. The fish is narrow and elongated and looks somewhat like a transparent eel. It moves in the same snake-like manner as an eel. The fish is not that large and grows to a maximum size of around fifteen centimeters. It belongs to the parasitic catfish family and is an underwater parasite in fish form.


The fish enters holes of larger fish and searches in sandy bottoms. During periods when it is not active, it hides in the soft muddy bottom. When it finds a large fish, it penetrates the gills to suck blood. It attaches itself to a blood vessel and the blood is pumped out using the host’s blood pressure. He can do this both during the day and at night. The fish has a chemical sense to detect its hosts. It has needle-like teeth with which it grips its host. In a short time he can gorge himself with blood, causing his abdomen to swell.
As soon as it is full, it releases itself again.

The lure of the fish

Just like piranhas, sharks and other predatory fish, this vampire fish is attracted to blood. Normally this fish feeds by parasitizing the gills of a much larger fish. A fish’s blood flows through the gills and an easy place to steal blood. The Candiru has a vicious barb with which it attaches itself when it has found a place where it wants to feed.

In humans

The fish is attracted to blood, but in some cases also to urine. Urine contains many of the same waste products as blood. If a human unsuspectingly swims in Amazonian water where Vandellia Cirrhosa occurs, this fish can enter a body cavity. This allows it to enter the anus, urethra or vagina to feed on blood. It is therefore better not to pee in this water. As far as we know, it only swims into the vagina when the woman is menstruating because the blood attracts the fish. Female genitals have an acidity that can be fatal for the Candiru, causing the fish to release it when urinating. Men do not have these so-called acids and the Candiru can therefore do its work longer and it takes longer before it suffocates.

Removing the Candiru

It is not a nice thought if you have such a parasitic fish in your body. The fish can cause fatal infections if it gets stuck in the carnal genitals of its victim. In males, the Candiru may suffocate in the narrow urethra and it is hoped that the barb will also die without causing much damage. In that case, the fish and the barb will be urinated out. In the Amazon, the local population has created a medicine that is not recognized by medical science. This is a product that consists of extracts extracted from citrus fruits. The sour juice from this must be consumed by the victim. The acid should be fatal to the parasite. In practice, it appears that half of the victims had a good result. In the worst case, the fish must be surgically removed.