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FAQs about Burrfishes, Porcupinefishes Nutritional Disease  

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Thiaminase issues, blindness, malaise, feeding strikes... are all possible consequences of mis-feeding inappropriate foods


Porcupine Puffer Lethargic and Not Eating     6/11/18
Hi Crew. I hope this email finds you well
<Thank you Mike>
I have a 8"-9" Porcupine Puffer in a 150 gallon FOWLR Tank. I have had the puffer for 8 years. Also in the tank is a 6"-7" Harlequin Tusk I have had for around 3.5 years and a 24" Snowflake Eel I have had around 8 years.
Around a week ago, puffer seemed to not want to eat. During feeding, he did try to grab some and got some but seemed like he was missing it. In the last few days ago, he does not seem interested. Today he is breathing heavy sitting on the bottom. He does swim around, but is more on the bottom.
<Mmm; what are you feeding? This reads as a classical B vitamin issue>
No signs of ich or flukes. I have noticed that recently the tusk is a little aggressive towards the puffer. That is why I am at is getting back on a better feeding schedule think that is causing the aggression.
The eel and tusk seem fine.
Last time I added anything to the tank it was the tusk.
I used to change 35 gallons of water weekly, then monthly, and in 2017 every 2 to 3 months. Last water change I did was 2 months ago (40 gallons) and today I just changed 45 gallons.
I also have not run carbon or GFO in the last year. Today I put carbon and GFO back online.
I tested (before today's water change) the water and have:
Ammonia = 0
Nitrite = 0
Nitrate = 100
<Yikes; 100 ppm? Way too high. I'd have you search, read over on WWM re NO3 control; do what you can to keep under 20 ppm
Phosphate high. My phosphate tester maxes out at 2.5
<Not such an issue with fish health>
Specific Gravity is around 1.0225
Temps fluctuate from 77.7 to 79.1 (I have a chiller kicks on at 79).
I feed a mix of silver sides, prawns, squid, clams, mussel, octopus.
<Mmm; I'd sub a good pelleted staple (Hikari, Spectrum, Cobalt...) for much of the mass here.
Do you supplement/soak foods, add vitamins, HUFAs directly to the water? I would>
Up until a few months ago, I would feed 3 to 4 times a week. Last few months it dropped to twice a week. In the last week, i started getting back to feeding 3 to 4 times.
Any ideas on the puffer? I am thinking stress from the tusk, but not sure.
Anything I can try?
<The pellets, supplement mix (e.g. SeaChem Vitality, Selcon...) to the food, water>
I do not have my QT running, so not looking to pull him out.
<And please search, read on WWM re Thiaminase. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer... fdg., hlth.     11/23/17
Hi - I have been reading up on Thiaminase deficiency on your site. There are several issues going on with my porcupine puffer.
<I can see... a Protozoan issue, likely Cryptocaryon on this fish in your pic>
90 gallon tank and he is the only fish with the exception of a small clown fish. Water parameters are fine with exception of nitrates which according to API strips read 40.
<Mmm; need data (not subjective eval.); strips are neither accurate nor precise, and 20 ppm is all I'd allow concentration wise for NO3>
Tank is only cleaned once a month but my hands are tied as it is the tank at my work and my boss refuses to have it cleaned more often.
<If this is the case, I'd have your service install/utilize a chemical filtrant... likely ChemiPure. See/read on WWM re>
I have at least talked him into getting a skimmer and I use nitrate filters.
<Ahh! Good>
Puffer hasn't eaten well in some time. Seems to have trouble swallowing and takes food in over and over and over again. His mouth is hanging open wider than usual, he paces and sometimes jerks. I have also noticed pink near the base of his back tail and fin which I have read could be due to the clam only diet and thiaminase deficiency. He refuses to eat a varied diet and leaves food lying at the bottom of the tank which I clean out at the end of
each day so it doesn't add to the nitrate problem.
<Tres bien!>
I also was soaking his food in Clam Max for nutrient value. Another issue is a pink protrusion which appears to be his intestines. The guy that services our tank said its his manhood??
<... no; nonsense. Are broadcast spawners, no internal fert. This is a prolapsed "colon">
Today he excreted a lot of yellow slime while the protrusion was hanging out. I have attached a picture below of the protrusion from a month or so ago before the pink started developing around his tail/fin. So several issues going on. The tank appears crystal clear. Nitrate problem?
Thiaminase deficiency? Both?
<Perhaps both; but you are right/correct to be concerned. This fish and system NEED immediate attention; else this Puffer will perish, and soon. The other foods, vitamin additions, reducing nitrate!>
I am going to try to get my boss to purchase some vitamins and the frozen mix you speak of and possibly some snails. I have saved this guys life several times now so I'm not stopping now!
His main diet has been shrimp, krill once a week and clams on the half shell. His breathing seems faster than normal, tail curled and hiding in the rocks. Doesn't greet me anymore. :( Would appreciate any help you can offer.
<Please show your boss and service company person this mail; have them contact me if there is confusion as to how to proceed. I do concur with what you're written as plans going forward. Bob Fenner>

Avoiding Thiaminase  9/7/17
Hello crew,
I read the article on Thiaminase and I found it very informative. I was left with a question, what am I supposed to feed my porcupine puffer? I see that there are some non-Thiaminase fish offerings, but puffers do not eat fish.
<Mmm; assuredly they do. Have seen several species of puffers consume fish in the wild and captivity>
It caused fatty liver disease over time.
<Do you have reference/s for this assertion? Your intuition, experience?>
It seems that everything I feed him is high in Thiaminase. Squid, scallops, clam, mussel, oyster, shrimp is always in the mix. I do add Boyd's Vita Chem to the food. Is this enough to counteract the effects of the Thiaminase.
<To some extent; yes. B vitamins can be added to foods, water...>
I used to use Selcon, but the Boyd's seems to be a more complete multi vitamin.
<I'd add in some whole (small) fishes or bits of fillet in this mix of invertebrate fare. Bob Fenner>
Re: Avoiding Thiaminase      9/8/17

Thank you for the response.
<Glad that we're sharing Jason>
This is a quote from an article by Kylyssa Shay. Do you think that this is not true in all cases? Maybe puffers cannot have fish as their main diet, but can have it as part of a diet?
"Balloonfish are not piscivores. That means that, in nature, they don't eat fish. Do not feed fish, live or dead, to them. Feeding fish to pork puffers may cause something called fatty liver disease, a usually fatal ailment.
Not only that but the nutrient balance found in fish is very different from that found in mollusks and crustaceans, their natural prey. Feeding fish, especially live feeder fish, to your porcupine puffer can also unnaturally
accustom him to eating fish, making him a danger to future tank mates.
Carefully read the ingredients of any prepared fish foods you give your pet.
Choose those with invertebrates such as shrimp, krill, squid, clams, or mussels listed as their first ingredient. Avoid all prepared fish foods with any type of grain or fish meal listed first in the ingredients."
<Mmm; well... will have to look further for input; but though I agree that Diodontids are principal feeders on hard-shelled invertebrates in the wild; have seen them eat Seastars, fishes... BobF>

Re: Avoiding Thiaminase    9/15/17
This is a snap of the ingredients of the main food I feed all my fish.
There is some whitefish and Pollock in it which is on the no-thiaminase list.
Maybe this food is better than I thought??
<I suspect you'll be fine here w/ this mix; as long as it isn't overfed, and you supplement with B vitamins. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine puffer emergency        3/12/17
Hi, I have a huge question...I have a porcupine puffer and I've had her for 14 years...she stops eating for days every once in a while.
<Not to worry; this is a "natural behavior". Please see here re:
Normal . my problem now is she hasn't eaten for a week, did a water change thinking it was due which it was, 150 gallon nitrates 40 normal for her tank no ammonia salinity 1.023 . I know she is old I'm worried maybe she has
lockjaw, her mouth won't close all the way ,

<Yikes; not good>
but when I look inside it looks like something maybe stuck in there, she gets clams in shells, etc. I do feed her frozen krill but not everyday, she gets a lot of diff things....
I tried tube feeding her but she isn't having it, and it looks soft in her moth like something blocked...hard to describe, here is a pic best I can get.
Stacy Burks
<Please read the above link AND:
I WOULD supplement any offered foods AND the water directly as gone over...
Bob Fenner>

Re: Porcupine puffer emergency       3/14/17
So, I've read everything you said, and had already read that or knew it....she is still not eating and I have tried to force feed her and it all just comes back out...it's almost as if it is a soft bubble in her mouth ,
<This fleshy bit in your pic is natural... Sometimes puffers just DO refuse food... for weeks. This specimen doesn't appear overly thin. I would NOT handle/force feed the specimen (too stressful), but instead soak grass, ghost shrimp, smallish crayfish or such in a feeding supplement (HUFAs, Vitamins) as SeaChem's Appevite>
like she puffed up and some part inside her mouth won't deflate,
<Again; this is part of the puffers anatomy>

I'm attaching the best pic I can get. It's been like at least 2 weeks of no eating :( I think she knows what I'm trying to do when I get the tube and stick it in her mouth because she lets me do it but she can't bite down on it and she does not puff up ever when I try. The "bubble" is across her whole mouth inside ...I've even tried a turkey baster and she open her mouth really wide and let's me do it, then closed it all the way but then it goes back to half open...and again she doesn't puff up so that's what's getting me thinking she can't deflate inside somehow??
<More likely a B vitamin deficiency syndrome>

She had puffed up right before all this started im thinking now, for no apparent reason which is how she always puffed up when she did.im very stressed and with her being 14 years old, I think I'm stressing her out more..thoughts please...
<Yes to the added stress>
Stacy Burks
<Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Is In Bad Shape... nutr., plus poss. env.          4/29/16
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I'll start with the tank and stock.
55G tank with 0's on all levels
<Mmm; not likely zip NO3
78 Degrees50lbs of live rock1 damsel2 clowns2 small choc chip stars
<Not aquarium hardy>
1 coral beauty1 pseudo chromis and finally our 4inch porcupine puffer (I know the tank is small, we have had him since he was 2inches, he will be getting an upgrade to a 120 in about 6-8 months, he has had no problems in
this tank so far)
About 6 months into owning this dude, we realized he shouldn't be eating only krill.

We got him on mysis, scallops, squid, pellets, and then the occasional krill. Recently, his appetite got a lot weaker, and now he isn't eating at all. He has developed a hump on his back, and it doesn't feel hard, but I don't think it's air either. He has a hard time swimming, occasionally flipping or thrashing slightly. Today is the first day in 1.5 weeks he has even eaten a single bite. I held him gently in my hand, and literally placed mysis in his mouth. He sucked it in, but spit almost all of it back out. He only nibbled on the krill I tried. I don't know if it's a parasite or what, a LFS says it's possibly an internal injury and we might just have to let him work it out. What can I do, we really love this guy and can't bear to lose him.
<I'd be supplementing (soaking) foods and adding directly to water... a vitamin/HUFA mix... MicroVit, Selcon... these also acts as appetite stimulants. Search the terms and READ on WWM re. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Ingesting air      1/20/16
Hi Crew!
Again I turn to you for your infinite wisdom!
<Def. not infinite; and more like simple knowledge; recorded facts/FAQs>
This should be a quick question for you :-) Thanks to your site I've been able to determine my puffer has been ingesting air and it's becoming trapped in his intestines. I'm worried about his long term health, since he does this very frequently. Your advice to other writers alluded to possible infections due to dried out skin. I believe he's either a) gulping it at the surface when he's scouring for food or b) getting it from the air stone which he loves playing in.
<Ahh; likely activities>
I've tried burping him several times following your instructions, but have never seen bubbles. I'm assuming he just manages to work them out on his own since some days the lump is gone, just to return a day or so later!
Just when you think you're in the clear...!
Do you have any suggestions for how I may help him avoid this reoccurring issue?
<Move the airstone to the back where the puffer can't get to it (behind rock?), and start feeding it via tongs underwater>
Or perhaps am I wrong on my diagnosis. I'm sure he can't be to impressed with my hands always around him poking and prodding.
Here's some background:
<Will need something larger in time>
50lbs live rock
1.024 sal
0 amm
0 nitrite
10 nitrate
420 cal
1200 Mag
12 kH
24 degrees
1x porcupine puffer 5" (pic with lump)
1x blue spotty puffer (Toby)
1x two spot goby
2x turbo snail
3x baby hermit crab
1x blue tuxedo echinoderm
1x flower pot
1x hammer coral
1x unknown coral (pic)
Thanks so much!
Your biggest fan,
<Cheers dear; Bob Fenner>


Re: Porcupine Puffer Ingesting air       1/21/16
Thanks Bob!
<Welcome Renee>
I will try your suggestions absolutely. When I checked on him this morning, again, the lump was gone. So it in fact only appears on days where I feed him, which is every other day. Followed by a day of no lump. I'm currently feeding him brine shrimp, trying to slowly introduce him to new things.
<Oh yes; for sure. Artemia can be like a diet of cotton candy... Do see/read on WWM re Diodontid feeding>
Hopefully I can find something that'll work and resolve this issue! I'm sure he'll be delighted not to be constantly bobbing for apples or captured by my giant hands haha.
Adieu mon ami!
<Ah, mon cher. Au revoir. BobF>

Porcupine Puffer Collapsed Eye?        9/8/15
Hello, just stumbled onto this site as I was frantically searching for an answer to my problem. 2 days ago I noticed my Porcupine Puffer laying at the bottom of my tank breathing hard. I have moved the little guy into a separate tank and that's where he's been since then. He has not taken any food no matter how hard I try to get him to eat. I've been stumped as to
what is causing this, today I noticed his eyes seem to have collapsed?
I've been browsing the internet to see what could be causing this but I have yet to find anything. I've tried taking a picture but it isn't clear from the picture what is going on with his eyes. Normally his eyes, the outer "shell" looks like this, ). Looking at his eyes now only a tiny bit of the center protrudes out, everything else is flat. There also seems to be nothing wrong with the muscles in his eye as he is able to pull off all his regular eye movements. His eyes have also lost that glittery sheen to them and his pupil is no longer circular in shape, instead it resembles a seed.
I'm going to keep looking to see what is going on but I was wondering if maybe one of you have seen this kind of situation before?
<Yes.... need data... what other life is in this system? What do you feed?
What changes recently? Water quality tests.... See WWM re other Diodontid health issues to gain an idea of the sorts of information we're looking for.
Bob Fenner>>
If so, what should I do, and will he ever recover? The only thing of importance that happened before I discovered my puffer laying at the bottom of my main tank was a water and filter clean/change 2 days prior. Thanks for your time.
Re: Porcupine Puffer Collapsed Eye?        9/8/15

<Is there a full moon? 4.5 megs of uncropped pic>
Hello again, thanks for your quick response, my main tank after water change parameters are Nitrites at 0-5.0 PPM, pH is 8.0, and Salinity is at 1.026. Other fish in this tank are a Blue Tang and a Comet Wrasse.
<All this is fine>
Current parameters for the Q tank that Puffer is in are comparable to my main tank.
I feed the puffer a mix of cuttlefish, Krill, and Clams.
<Bingo... search on WWM re Thiaminase poisoning.
Usually he can't stop eating but he hasn't taken anything for the past 2 days. I've also managed to take a clear photo of whats happening to his eyes and have attached it.


Blind porcupine puffer       6/10/15
I haven't had much lucky with porcupine puffers for some reason
<Luck?... Most go blind from nutritional issues... fed too much krill, silversides... Thiaminase... Some from too-bright lighting, ala Lionfishes>
...i love them very much, but cant seem to keep one longer than 8 months.
They just die for no reason. My latest one is a year old and was fine, then one day acted like could see. He has now been acting blind for over a month with no other symptoms.
<Put the two words: "Puffer blindness" in WWM search tray (on every page) and read>
He eats well when i put food into his mouth and is very active but tends to always swim around the top of the tank. Im pretty sure he can see light n shadows, but not actually see. He knows where to go for feeding time when the pumps go off, and waits for someone to stuff food in his mouth..but other wise spins around if food is near or i miss as he surely can smell
it. Eyes are clear, and normal with no damage. Tank is a 300g fish only with artificial reef, running for 5 years. Tank mates include a yellow belly dogface(been in tank for 5 yrs) stars n stripes puffer, indigo hamlet, Chromis, desjardini tang, mated male female bi color angels, mated blue throat triggers and two Columbian sharks(catfish). Sump is 100gal with vertex480 internal and a Deltec external skimmer, along with twin external sulfur denitrators, each rated at 900g. Ammonia0, nitrite0, nitrate <1.0 , alk 9, ph 8.1 .. The only problem I've had with the tank in last few months was an alk drop and calc spike which i corrected slowly over two weeks. Alk dropped to 4 and calc had risen to 900
<?! as in PPM?>

with Mag staying at below 1200. I originally assumed this was the cause and corrected it, and it has been over a month and stable, but no improvement with his eyesight. No other fish is having a problem. I make my own food which is a mix of jumbo mysis, salad sized shrimp, squid, clam, Nori, mussel, krill.
<This is the problem. See WWM re Thiaminase as well>

I add in garlic, vitamarinM, amino/omega, and angel elixir. Any suggestions?
<Reading, using WWM. Bob Fenner>

Question about Porcupine Puffer   2/2/15
Hi, I hope you can help me. I just wanted to ask you a question about my Porcupine puffer fish. I have had him for 6 years and he is 12" long. I would say at a guess that he is around 10-12 years old as he was quite a good size when i got him. He seems constipated.
<A common issue with larger puffer species, specimens.... What do you feed this fish? Have you read on WWM Re?>
I noticed 5 days ago that the lower part of his belly was quite big and sticking out. You could see that he was trying to go to the toilet but not able to go. He is swimming around as normal at night, and staying on the bottom of the tank between his rocks during the day and does not seem stressed, but is moping about a bit. I read on the internet that peas are good as a laxative.
<MgSO4 much better>
I tried earlier with some peas (i took the outer skin off them) on one of my food grabbers. He was not interested. He is not interested in any of his food at the moment. I just wanted to double check with you, that peas are ok for marine fish?
Is there any other things i can do for his blockage?    2/2/15

Some people on the internet say to try to get him in a container and massage his belly. I cannot do this because he is big and heavy and i don't want to chance him puffing up and stressing more or getting air in him. I'm just stressed out because i have had him a long time and want to do all that i can to get him better. I mainly feed cockles in shell, mussels, superba krill, and lancefish. His favourite is the shelled cockles though.
<Yikes... also see WWM re Thiaminase>

He always seems to crunch the shells fine and spit them out. Do you think that maybe bit of shells could have gotten stuck in his stomach, or even maybe a full cockle as his mouth is big. I would have thought that in the wild they eat shelled things all the time and their stomachs would deal with it ok?
<Yes; agreed>
Do they ever pass it naturally after a few days?
<Almost always; yes>
I know they can go quite a while without food and be ok. I'm hoping if the peas are ok, then he will start feeding again soon. I can try to put the peas into his food like the mussels. He last fed on Saturday 24th January in the morning. Sorry about all the questions. I can't seem to find much on the internet about what has happened to my puffer. I went to the local vets
on Friday 30th January. That's the earliest the vet could see me. I could not bring the puffer with me as he is big and i did not want to stress him more. I took videos and photos to show the vet. He said he could maybe x ray him which would be stressful for him or get liquid paraffin down into him via a tube to make him throw up. Not sure if this would work either,
because the lump seems to be far down near his back passage.
<There are other, more useful lavages for fishes>
My water parameters are great and all the other fish are fine. I hope to hear back from you soon. Many thanks. Neil.
<Do you need help using the search tool (on every page) or indices on WWM?
Bob Fenner>
Re: Question about Porcupine Puffer      2/3/15

Hi Bob, thanks a lot for the reply. I completely forgot to say in the last message that i am currently doing Hyposalinity in my main tank that had a break out of Ich. I have done it for 6 weeks and am just starting to now bring the SG back up slowly over the next 2 weeks as the Ich is completely gone now. Could this affect my puffer at all with a blockage and not
eating? Thanks again. Neil.
<Ah yes. BobF>

Porcupine Puffer Issues; hlth.; iatrogenic. No reading as usual         1/21/15
Hello, I recently got a porcupine puffer (About a month ago), and it was eating great and acting normal
up until few days ago, when it contracted the itch.
<... ich>

After reading on itch and the puffer and learning that itch medication tends to harm the puffer, I decided against medication.
<I'd try CP... as gone over on WWM, for Diodontids w/ Protozoan issues>
The itch resided and I thought everything was ok, as the puffer returned to normal.
When I went to feed the puffer today I noticed it was acting abnormal.
Usually when I step up to the tank, the puffer will swim out and hang around near the surface of the water, waiting for me to feed it (Frozen Krill,
<.... see WWM re Thiaminase. Krill is a very poor diet>

that has been thawed out). Today it never swam out. I decided to coax it out with some food held near its usual resting place. My puffer swam out and I noticed that both its eyes, were slightly cloudy, and it almost seems like they pulse in and out every couple seconds. I also noticed that the itch returned. After eating 2-3 Krill, the puffer lost all interest in eating and I couldn't coax it with food anymore. My other fish ( 1 Juvi Emperor Angel, 1 Yellow Tang, and 5 Banggai Cardinal fish), all
were acting as usual, and were enthusiastic in their feeding, none of these fish contracted itch (the Emperor Angel did have a small bout, but it went away within the day and has not resurfaced). I also have an Anemone that was acting normal (got it 2 weeks ago) but as of today has contracted. The only real thing I have changed recently, was my water, and I finally managed to get an in tank skimmer (Has been running for 5 days). I have enclosed a Video of my puffer fish. You'll notice its weird swimming and random jerking. Please let me know if you need photo's or video of anything. Also where do I find your reply to this question?
<Where you'll be reading; on WWM>
On the FAQ or should I expect an email reply? Thanks for your time.
<Keep reading; the above. Bob Fenner>
- Tank levels on 01/01/15
- Calcium, 380-400 ppm
- Hardness, 1790197 ppm
- Phosphate, 0.5-1.0 ppm
- Nitrate, 0.0-.05 ppm
-Tank Levels on 01/20/15
- Calcium, 360-380 ppm
- Hardness, 297-214 ppm
- Phosphate, 1.0-2.0 ppm
- Nitrate, 5-10 ppm​
Puffer Fish problems.mov
Re: Porcupine Puffer Issues... another non-reader
Hello, thanks for you speedy reply regarding issues with my puffer. I did do more research after I sent my initial email and came upon the Thiminase issue myself.
<Ah, good>
Your article regarding Thiminase was extremely helpful,
<Not very impressive as you're not spelling the condition correctly>

because like you said, there is not much information to go around. I would like to know what diet I should be feeding my fish to avoid this issue.
<Also posted on WWM... please learn to/use the search tool (on every page) and/or indices.>
Currently only my puffer seems to be suffering as it is the only one that eats the krill. The other fish in my tank are fed Frozen Bloodworms
<Also very poor>

and to not display any of the symptoms (Yet, after reading your article I am worried that this will change). What do you think I should be feeding my fish to help my puffer recover and to avoid this issue in the future?
<Reading. BobF>

Thanks again!

Requesting help with porcupine puffer tooth/beak loss       04/14/13
I am writing as I have searched the web and your site and cannot find any information on a porcupine puffer with a missing beak, or I am not searching correctly.
<Can't tell>
We have had our puffer for about seven years, in general his appetite is good but over the last couple of weeks his eating has become sporadic. I had noticed that he has been preferring scallops (unshelled) over mussels which are usually his favorite.
<Both poor for steady diet...>
 I did not think to check his beak until this evening, and while I normally can see his beak, I cannot see anything in his mouth. I can look straight into his mouth back to a flap that opens and closes as he respires.  The floor of his mouth is smooth back to his throat. Also his lower lip/mouth area is discolored orange and looks a bit "stringy".
<Mmm, could, would you send along a well-resolved pic or two?>
Can a puffer regrow their teeth?
<Yes; their teeth are constantly regenerating... being worn down as well>
 If so what should I be doing in the meantime?
<Other foods... see WWM re Diodontids...>
What would be the underlying cause?
<Perhaps the Thiaminase aspect alluded to first here>
Please let me know what further information you require as I am not sure what to send in.
<Mmm, just search and read I believe>
Thank you in advance for your assistance!
Best regards,
Jason Peck
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Re: Requesting help with porcupine puffer tooth/beak loss    4/14/13

<Hey Jas!>
Thank you for your response.
1.I read up on the Thiaminase issue, going to pick up vitamins today.
<Ah good>
2.I also read about lockjaw, however all the reports I was reading indicated the puffer could not open its mouth. In our case he does not close his mouth.(see attached picture) Is it possible for his mouth to be locked open?
<Have seen this... some sort of muscular paralysis... but don't think this is Lenny's do here>
3.If it is lockjaw will he need to be force fed? I also read varying advice on how long to wait before the last time he ate to attempt force feeding.
<I would hold off on this for now... a healthy Diodontid of size can go weeks w/o feeding. Too much trauma, poss. damage from handling to suggest it w/o real need>
4. Without a beak are they capable of eating?
<Should be>
5. Will try to get a clear picture of the inside of mouth to send as you requested as well.
<Okay... but the ones you've sent will do... Yowch! Does look/appear that this specimen IS missing its beak/teeth!>
6. In picture you can see his quills sticking up, seems that he can no longer lay them flat, could this be related to the Thiaminase issue?
<I think it may well be all related... Somehow this fish has "knocked out" and/or worn down its beak altogether... will regenerate in time... Let's hope the vitamins do the trick. DO try good pelleted foods (New Life/Spectrum, Hikari), of size pellets... this fish can/will take such if/when trained (mainly by other fish's behavior)>
<Cheers, BobF>

Porcupine Puffer black belly -- 12/08/10
Good Evening Crew,
Thank you all for your hard work and expert advice, and I apologize in advance for the long read.
I have searched all over the web for the past two days, but I have not been able to get a lot of information. I have a 4inch porcupine puffer in a 100 gallon FOWLR tank. He is currently in there alone. A week ago he had a false percula clownfish with him, but I noticed that the clown was a bit too small (about an inch) and without risking the clown turning into a snack, I decided to return him. The porcupine puffer was quarantined in a 10 gallon hospital tank for about 3 weeks, as I treated him for Ich.
<With what medication, treatment?>

He has been in the main tank for about 2 weeks now.
All water parameters are fine, salinity 1.023, ph is 8.0.
In the beginning he was fine, showing no signs of stress. The past 3-4 I noticed his belly was getting darker (as the article on your website by Justin Petrey states, a white belly is a happy belly, as a result of this I made it a habit of mine to check his belly every time I saw him). His belly went from all white to practically all black. His belly doesn't have any "spots" but rather, is a full grayish-black . The only white part of his belly is the spines, as they are white and I don't think they change color.
Is this simply a form of stress? from what?
<Likely so and from the treatment, quarantine... and possibly "loneliness" in the 100>
is it possible he still feels cramped in the 100 gallon, due to the formations of live rock in there? (as in if the rocks are too cramped together, I have 140 pounds of live rock in there).
<Not likely, no>
The tank is 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high.
<Mmm, this is more than 100 gallons>
Maybe the tank isn't wide enough and he's feeling claustrophobic? Just mentioning this because other people have mentioned that simply changing the decor inside the tank has sometimes perked up their porcs.
In the beginning he was swimming everywhere, checking out the whole tank, but as soon as his belly started turning black, he seems to only stay on the left side of the tank. He comes to the top when I feed him, which is mainly shrimps.
<Do see WWM re these animals proper nutrition... and the need to avoid Thiaminase-loaded foods as sole feeds>

He does eat muscles, and clams, but that seems to depend on mood. Sometimes he'll happily eat whatever I feed him (I try to vary his diet), but most of the time he won't accept anything other than shrimp.
<Needs to be trained off these, onto other foods>
He is still eating, but lately right after eating, he seems to start breathing quite heavily, and tends to just settle on the substrate, tucking his fins in, almost "curled up". Could this be internal parasites?
<Is a possibility, yes>
Also, before adding him into the quarantine tank, I did a fresh water dip, Half-way through his treatment I did a freshwater dip, and before adding him to the main tank, I did a fresh water dip. If there were any
worms/flukes on him, they should have died from the freshwater dips right?
<Mmm, no... external ones perhaps, but internal, not. You may want to administer an antihelminthic in its food... Prazi likely>
It feels like he is getting worse and worse each day, and I'm not even quite sure what the problem is.
Thanks for your time, and your input.
<Do give the above items a read, and please re-contact us if you have further questions/concerns. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer with breathing problems... Poor env., nutr... reading 5/23/10
Hi, I have a porcupine puffer, he's been with us for around a year, he lives alone in a 35 gallon tank.
<Too small a volume...>
He usually has seems to be fine, swimming around all day. We feed him with little fishes like mollies or similar.
<... insufficient nutritionally>
A couple of weeks ago, he started to get slow at catching his food and since a couple of days ago he's just lying in the bottom of the tank and it seems he has trouble breathing. When he finally catches his food, it took him some
time to swallow it, when normally it didn't.
All water parameters are perfect: ammonia 0, KH 12, PH 8, nitrite 0.
Also, his stomach appears to be sunken.
What can we have?
<A need to read: http://wetwebmedia.com/trupufsysfaqs.htm
and the linked files above on Feeding, Disease/Health... Bob Fenner>
Thanks in advance for your help!
Re: Porcupine Puffer with breathing problems - 5/23/10

Bob, thanks for your advice. To start we are tried to feed him with something from the sea, the problem is that he usually doesn't eats anything that is already dead, he likes to catch his food.
<... can be trained to accept most any foods>
We put a shrimp into a raw spaghetti and moved it into the water but he didn't buy it and didn't eat it... I have been reading and I think that we need to force feed him, but how can we do that?
<See WWM... the search tool... linked on all left shared borders with this question, read the cached views>
Is it safe for us to touch him? What if he gets puffed?
<I would try other foods first... these fishes can go for several weeks w/o feeding if in good shape initially... Again, keep reading. BobF>
We are very worried cause he's looking bad...
Re: Porcupine Puffer with breathing problems - 5/23/10

Bob, thanks for your comments and references to the website, it has been very useful. We force fed the fish and he's looking a lot better.
<Ah, good. Bueno>
We are planning to do this at least for this week, while he gets better and then start training him to eat dead food, we don't want to let him starve when he looks so weak.
Your website is wonderful, I haven't seen it before this weekend and I have learned a lot this last couple of days reading everything. Thank you so much for helping all of us with all your knowledge!
Greetings from Costa Rica to you and your colleagues at WWM!
<Ahh! Have been there... the capital, and up and down the Pacific coast... once to Limon... have friends living in the Guanacaste region>
<Nos vemos, BobF>

Porcupine Puffer, hlth., nutritionally mediated 5/18/10
I have a porcupine puffer, just about a year old, with one swollen, cloudy eye. He can't see well, he won't eat much, but he's not lethargic; would this still account for cloudy eye?
<Could very likely be involved>
The causation of this "condition," whatever it might be, is most likely attributed to his diet (he will eat NOTHING but shrimp, not even ghost shrimp, pellets, flakes, NOTHING).
<This also is a/the factor... you can/need to starve, wean this fish onto a better diet... or else it will surely perish>
The water quality is excellent and always has been- we've had a Niger Trigger and a Blue Tang for almost 20 years now; also, it's my Dad's fish tank and I don't know the specifics, to be honest.
Extra info:
Tank size: >120 g.
Ave temp: 78F
Other fish: 2 dominos, 2 damsels, 1 yellow tang, 1 blue tang, 1 niger trigger, 1 coral beauty (which I JUST discovered has a swollen eye- pop eye?), 1 rock beauty, a snail, and a butterfly something or other; all but the coral beauty is perfectly fine.
I don't know if I should force feed him vitamins or antibiotics. Please help!
<Please read, and have your father read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Sick porcupine puffer - 06/05/09
<Hello Anna>
I have a porcupine puffer who is approximately 4 years old and 10" long.
He is the lone fish in a 75 gallon salt water aquarium. He has been in this tank for the last 3 years. I have checked the water parameters and all seem well within normal ranges. He was up and feeding on Saturday but would come up buy not eat on Sunday or Monday. Today he is staying in the corner of the tank that he likes and only comes up when I disturb him.
<Mmm, not atypical cyclic behavior>
When he swims he appears to list to the right and has some problem when he comes to the surface - as if he will turn over backward.
I don't see any problems with his skin or his eyes and he responds to me but is obviously in distress over something. As you can imagine I am very attached to him and want to do everything I can to keep him around a while.
If you have any suggestions I would welcome them. I have kept salt water fish for years but this is my first puffer.
<Well... should be in a larger volume... I would opt for trying to improve this animal's nutrition and physical environment for now... Perhaps a bag of "frozen sea food" mix with defrosted items soaked in Selcon or such...
And moving a bit of the decor about, adding some new/er live rock. Bob Fenner>  

sick porcupine puffer, hlth./induced blindness, reading  2/26/09 Hi my name is Eric, and my porcupine which i have had for 2 years now has become sick. The tank is 60 gallons <Too small> and the puffer has been in there the whole time. There is also a Foxface rabbit which is doing very well and has also been in since the start, and a small coral hogfish that i purchased around 6 months ago. The tank has a good amount of live rock a few Mexican turbo snails and some hermit crabs. i run a power head, 2 Aquaclear 500's and a backpack 2 skimmer. The tank stays at 81 degrees, i do water changes at least once a month, the ph is 8.2, ammonia is 0 and nitrates are 10 to 20. The salinity is 1.027. <A bit high> The problem i am having started about 2 months ago when the puffers eyes got hazy and he seemed to not be able to eat his food. He looked hungry and came to the top of the tank but when he went to eat it he would keep missing it. <Too typical> Before this he was a very big eater, however he would only eat frozen krill. I was instructed by the pet center i deal with to try Furan 2, <... no> after doing a cycle of that his eyes cleared up a bit and he would eat small amounts but still had trouble finding the food. A few weeks later his eyes hazed again and he has had no luck at all finding the food. I began using VitaChem with the food <Good> as well. Just within the past few days i have noticed that he is at the bottom breathing very heavy and he began to develop a purplish gray area on the rear of his tail section. Today I looked at him and saw that the discoloration has moved up his body and is covering almost half of him and the rear discolored area looks like its dying with very bad skin and tail rot. Any help would be appreciated. I have attached a picture as well. thanks Eric Vozzella <Mmm... this smacks of a long-term nutritional deficiency... Might be able to be reversed, maybe not... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/burrfishfdgfaqs.htm  and the linked files where you encounter them, lead yourself... Adding a refugium, mud, algal culture, DSB... all would help... Bob Fenner>

Re: sick porcupine puffer 2/26/2009 Thanks for the help bob, however he did not even make the night, very sad loss! <Ahh! These are very personable animals... intelligent as well. BobF>

Skinny Porcupine Puffer... Stunted due to... Env. and?  -- 02/19/09 Hi, <Chris> I have a porcupine puffer (Diodon holacanthus) and I've had her for about 2 years now and she is about 3-4 inches long at this point. <... small> I can't help but notice that she is far thinner than most other fish of her species that I've seen (online, in pet stores and at friends' houses). Instead of being fuller with a slight taper towards the tail, she has a distinct tear-drop shape with a really skinny body. <Mmmm> I feed her 2 cubes of frozen food every other day and that food is everything from Emerald Entre to Marine Cuisine and Brine Shrimp. Is there something she is missing in her diet that is keeping her from growing fatter? <Possibly... or perhaps there's summat else at work here... Internal parasites, genetic, behavioral issues, even aspects of environment, water quality...> Below is the information about my tank and various levels. 55 Gallon <Too small eventually... and this could be a source/factor... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/GrwLmtChems.htm > with a salinity of 1.020. <Too low... also a poss. influence> Nitrites and Alkalinity are in the safe range according to my test strips and Ammonia is less than 0.25 <Must be zero... See WWM re tests... here: http://wetwebmedia.com/mtstmethds.htm and the linked files above> while the Nitrites are high at 80-160. <Nitrates... not NO2... WAY too high... def. a factor... http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm  and the linked files above.> Thanks <There may be others... but the environment here is definitely faulty. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Skin Problems 12/3/08 Good evening, <Morrow for me here, now. Good day to you in any case/time frame> I have used your site numerous times to troubleshoot many different fish/aquarium topics, but I cannot find the answer to my most recent question and find it worthy of a post. <Good> My Porcupine Puffer that I have had in a 100 gallon live rock aquarium for 6 months has started to show signs of skin problems and I can't find the issue posted or even mentioned on any forum. It appears that the fish is molting/shedding from between the eyes to the dorsal fin. <Mmm, Diodontids (and Tetraodontids...) do "shed" their skin quite a bit...> The typical olive/brown coloring has given way to what appears to be a new, whiter layer of skin/scale still exhibiting the camouflage characteristics, just in a lighter shade. Now I've searched and know that puffers do not have scales and from what I can tell therefore do not shed/molt. <Actually...> I'm wondering if this is a treatable disease or in general any advice you can provide for this situation. Tank specs: 100 gallon overflow with a 25 gallon sump, Red Sea protein skimmer and carbon filtration. Tank Mates: Yellow Tang Maroon Gold Stripe Clown Candy Hogfish Picasso Trigger 75 lbs live rock Thank you for your assistance <Mmm... well, this condition can be due to, here's that word again, just "stress"... it may be the Trigger, Clown and even the Tang are working this fish woe... The second, and possibly larger co-factor with these puffers is nutritional. Very often they are lost to avitaminoses... and hence, the call to supplement their foods, provide a myriad diet to hopefully avoid such dietary lacks. IF you have other quarters to situate this specimen in, I would move it... to counter/check the possibility of harassment... And I would definitely mix the diet up here, try soaking all foods in a HUFA, vitamin mix... like MicroVit, Selcon... Bob Fenner>
Re: Porcupine Puffer Skin Problems  12/3/08
Bob, <Hello again Jay> Thank you very much for your prompt reply. I will probably go with the isolation route to see if it is stress, although the puffer is larger than all his tank mates it is also slower. I am glad to hear that "shedding" is actually not as rare as I had feared, there was just nothing I could find pertaining to this when searching. <Interesting... am going to try the Google search on WWM with the terms: "Puffer Skin Shedding": Please see here: http://www.google.com/custom?domains=www.WetWebMedia.com&q=Puffer+Skin+Shedd ing&sa=Search&sitesearch=www.WetWebMedia.com&client=pub-4522959445250520&for id=1&ie=ISO-8859-1&oe=ISO-8859-1&cof=GALT%3A%23008000%3BGL%3A1%3BDIV%3A%2333 6699%3BVLC%3A663399%3BAH%3Acenter%3BBGC%3A99C9FF%3BLBGC%3A336699%3BALC%3A000 0FF%3BLC%3A0000FF%3BT%3A000000%3BGFNT%3A0000FF%3BGIMP%3A0000FF%3BFORID%3A1%3 B&hl=en or try this yourself. Oh, and do look at the "cached views"... in your searches... the search terms are highlighted... much easier to find.> I currently feed, frozen shrimp, Mysis, and krill in a rotation of days and work in a home made blend of clam, scallop and squid that should all provide a pretty good variety. <Mmm, actually... these are too high in fat, cholesterol for a strict diet, and do lack essential vitamins et al.... I would mix in some fish flesh here, even whole fish (e.g. Silversides), and provide some/newer live rock for casual consumption on a continuous basis> I'm guessing crab and snail are my next choices as far as diet, but meanwhile I'll begin supplementing with a vitamin mix and may attempt to add some to my "house blend" next time I'm mixing. <Do look into the "frozen mixed seafood", often offered as "frutti de mar" and such, in your frozen food depts.... Very inexpensive compared to labeled foodstuffs for fishes... and a good mix (shells on) for your puffer and other fishes> I very much appreciate your response and the service that you provide. <I am very glad to assist you and your efforts. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Blind Porcupine Puffer   6/23/08 Two nights ago the bubblers in my salt-water tank stopped working, and when I got up the next morning, one of my fish was dead, and all the others at the bottom of the tank gasping. <Yikes> I put in an emergency bubbler, and turned on my supplementary bubblers, and did a water change. (I was scheduled to do a water change over the weekend, anyway.) Well, aside from the one fish being dead already, everybody seemed to recover, except now I think my porcupine puffer is blind. So now I'm worried he'll starve to death because he can't see his food. <Mmm, not likely just from this... and likely the apparent blindness is reversible> Is there anything I can do to help him? I don't want to watch him starve to death. He's my favorite fish, and I'm totally sick that this happened. Thanks. Rabin' <Try training this Puffer to come to the surface... in a corner... wiggling a meaty, intact food item... like a shrimp, krill in the water. It will learn quickly what you're up to. Bob Fenner>

Urgent Help please. With Spiny Boxfish. -- 6/17/08 Yesterday ( Sunday ) my children brought me a Spiny Boxfish for Fathers day which I wanted. <Yikes, oh good> However I noticed that one eye is clouded over and the other eye has little specks of cloudiness on it. I have read about this and realise that Spiny boxfish can suffer from eye infections. <Yes... quite common... Mostly due to (prior) physical damage> Can you advise me on what to do , Is this an easy problem to correct or does it normally end in blindness? <Normally self-heals given good water quality, care...> My tank is a Trigon 350 and I have a Volitans Lionfish a Yellow Tang , Lipstick tang , Blue Damsel , Foxface , Grouper , 2 Maroon Clownfish with Anemone and a Green Brittle starfish all doing very well with no problems. I have just brought a Ro-man to supply my self with Ro water. <Good> Basically I would to keep the Boxfish and help him recover but if from your experiences this isn't an easy problem to solve then it might be better to take him back to the Shop where it was purchased from. I am more than willing to purchase medicine and administer it in my tank however I do have some corals and Live rock which could well be disturbed. Thank you very much for your time. Phil. <I urge patience here; keeping this fish in your likely much better cared for circumstances. Perhaps the soaking of favored foods (you may have to teach all to feed on one side of the tank, the puffer on t'other...) in Selcon or such... to aid healing/boost the immune system. Bob Fenner>

Blind porcupine puffer... env., nutr.?  03/19/2008 Tank history and test results..... My tank is 120 or 125 gallons still trying to figure it out. Here are my test results: amm. 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5-10 (colors so close I can't tell the difference) PH 8.4, Temp 79-80 KH 200-400ppm, phosphates 1, <High> salinity 1.021. <Mmm, I'd raise this> The tank is an upgrade has been running for about 4 months. All decor and filters were transferred to the tank with the upgrade. Before the upgrade the tank was running for 3 months. It went from freshwater and was slowly raised to saltwater. I took my time in raising the salinity over a period of 4 months. I started with 2-GSP's, after raising the tank to saltwater I added a Porcupine Puffer, another 2 weeks went by and I added a stars & stripes puffer. I don't have any corals in the tank, just live rock. The GSP's are both about 3.5", the Porcupine Puffer is about 3-4" and the Stars & Stripes is about 5-6". Currently on the tank I have 2 powerheads, 1 HOB filter, a heater, a protein skimmer, new wet/dry. On Sunday I switched two canister filters out for the wet/dry. I had 2 HOB filters on the tank but moved one to a qt this morning for my porcupine puffer. The Story: On Friday March 14th, I fed my puffers they all ate well, very well. My porcupine (the one in question) did what she normally does and went to her spot and took a nap. March 15th- My porcupine puffer was still in the same spot that morning which did not worry me yet. That afternoon when I got home she still had not moved. Now getting a little worried. March 16th-Porcupine puffer still in the same spot, only moving her fins and laying on the sandbed. I noticed that her eyes were not as glossy as they should be. Starting to get more worried at this point. Had planned to remove the two canister filters that were on the tank and replace it with the wet/dry. Did a 25% water change and switched the two canisters for the wet/dry. The initial blast from the wet/dry caused about a million bubbles to go into the tank but after about 30 seconds the bubbles were gone. The water was clear again. The porcupine never moved from her spot the whole time. I did not transfer media from the canisters to the wet/dry because I had the two established hob filters with sponges still on the tank. March 17th- Checked my water that morning, no signs of a mini cycle. Porcupine still has not moved. Came home that evening she swam around very little and not very far. Checked my water again that evening still no signs of a mini cycle. March 18th- The porcupine puffer was swimming around this morning, but instead of searching for food, she was bumping into everything, even the other puffers. Her eyes look hazed over more today than the last few days. After moving her into a qt, so that she would not hurt herself, I noticed this lump on her side that I haven't seen before. It's about the size of a peanut and causing her spines to stick up. Just about two weeks ago she had these odd spots on her fin and so did the Stars & Stripes. She has had them before and they seem to just go away without meds. Well again they went away without any meds. I don't know if these two things are related or not but thought I should mention it. <Good to mention> Well that pretty much brings us up to date. Sorry for the book I just wrote but I wanted to give all the details so that maybe, just maybe I can figure out what is wrong with her. Here are a few pictures that I took this morning: Picture of the lump http://s230.photobucket.com/albums/ee127/edmlfc1/?action=view&current=DSCF1926.jpg Another picture of the lump http://s230.photobucket.com/albums/ee127/edmlfc1/?action=view&current=DSCF1925.jpg Picture of her hazy eyes http://s230.photobucket.com/albums/ee127/edmlfc1/?action=view&current=DSCF1907.jpg <Mmm, me neither... from the data presented. Such blindness and lumpiness episodes are too-common amongst spiny puffers though... some environmental and nutritional inputs... Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/burrfishdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Ill/Malnourished Porcupine Puffer - 12/13/07 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have had a Porcupine puffer for almost a year now. Just recently he has just been sitting on the bottom of the tank only moving around when I come near the tank. I have fed him Mysis shrimp, krill, squid and brine shrimp but now the only thing he will touch is the krill and even then he will chew it up and spit it out wasting more than he eats. <How are his teeth? Puffer's natural diet consists of crustaceans that are crunchy. I would bet his main staple is the easiest to feed: krill. Even the other foods you are feeding him should be soaked in a good quality vitamin like Selcon. Here is a good list of puffer foods: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library/feeding/feeding-your-puffers/ > He is housed in a 180 gallon aquarium. pH 7.8, ammonia .25, nitrite 0, nitrate 10. The lionfish he is housed with seems to be doing fine. Should I try feeding some live food, maybe ghost shrimp or live brine? <Neither have much nutrition, as they are mostly water unless gut-loaded with some kind of food. ANY ammonia at all is a problem & extremely toxic to your fish. You need to find the cause of ammonia. There should be none in an established tank. Whether it be uneaten food or an expired, smaller fish, you need to do a thorough cleaning under & around all decor with several water changes, to remedy the problem.> Also, what kind of snails would he eat? He is paler than normal and also is breathing a little harder than normal. <This could be because of the malnutrition from his present diet. My other concern would be if he got stung by your lionfish.> Would it be beneficial to move him to a quarantine tank? I have a 100 gallon that is cycled with nothing in it. <It might be a good idea to separate him from the lion & the ammonia.> Also, I have treated the tank with garlic, this seemed ineffective. <Try soaking the other kinds of foods listed in the link above in the garlic (and vitamins) to entice his eagerness to try something new.> Please help, I would be devastated if I were to loose him. I am going to get some salt and do a water change to try and bring down the ammonia and nitrate and bring up the pH. Could this be the problem? If it was, wouldn't the lionfish be affected too? <Maybe, I would think they would be as sensitive to ammonia problems as a puffer, which is why I have a concern for the puffer possibly having gotten stung. I hope he comes out of this a healthy, long-lived puffer! ~PP> Thanks
Re: Ill/Malnourished Porcupine Puffer  12/13/07
<Hi there, I was hoping you might have noticed my corrections of your first letter. As written in a page on how to contact the WWM Crew: "PLEASE take the time to go over your messages to us...Common courtesy, a desire to serve as proper examples... should compel you to capitalize the beginnings of sentences, proper nouns, run your spell-checker... re-read your posts for clarity, completeness. Of the hours per day spent responding to, "moving around" "FAQs" this activity takes up the most time and is most onerous. Do help us help you here by reviewing, correcting your input as all content is answered, then posted on this website and read over MANY times by others." You sound like a nice person but his is the last one I will correct. The first letter took me almost 10 minutes.> Should I be feeding him every other day still or should I try feeding him every day to get the vitamins in him faster? <I suggest daily, until you see improvement.> I did 2 25% water changes over the last 2 days and seemed to help with the ammonia and nitrate. <That's great! Keep them up & do larger water changes if necessary, to keep the ammonia & nitrite at 0 & nitrate below 20 (below 10 is even better).> I have been doing 50% monthly water changes would I be better off doing smaller weekly water changes or even daily water changes? <Without a sump & refugium to keep your parameters steadier & lower, you need to do whatever water changes necessary to keep them from becoming toxic. I did 50% weeklies on my tank, until I added these extras to my system.> I tried to feed him some ghost shrimp that were soaked in vitamins but he totally ignored it but ate the krill. Also he is somewhat eating clams and squid. <Wonderful!> He seems to be getting skinny. How long will he be able to survive with these eating habits? He's been like this for about 5 days now. <Puffers can go quite some time without eating but it sounds like it's been a long time since this puffer has gotten proper nutrition. Keep trying to get him to eat healthy & soak his food in garlic in addition to the vitamin, to boost his appetite.> Also, his teeth look good to me but I really don't know what to look for but they seem fairly short. I appreciate any help. <Generally, the Diodon holacanthus species rarely have dentistry problems but I was concerned because of his previous diet. It doesn't seem to be a concern though. So keep up with the water changes & better diet & I think he'll pull through. ~PP>

Sick Porcupine Puffer??   12/9/07 I have had my Porcupine Puffer for about 8 months now and has been doing great up until 3 days ago he has become very inactive and seems to be breathing harder than normal and pale in color. He is still eating Krill and Mysis shrimp. <If this is all he is eating, it may well be the source of his apparent problem. Feeding a puffer only Krill and Mysis for a long time will assuredly result in deficiency diseases'¦ imagine exclusively eating rice crackers for half a year. Puffers should be fed a varied diet of mussels, clams, snails, shrimps, crabs etc. ('¦and squid from time to time). Also add vitamins to provide some nutrients that might have been lost during freezing/thawing. Anyway, it is a good sign he is still eating. > I have him housed in a 180 gallon tank with a 90 gallon sump. <Good system size for Diodon holocanthus.> Also, he is housed with a 8 inch lionfish and a 18 inch moray eel both of which seem to be fine. Should I be worried or is he just going threw <through?> a stage? <The elevated breathing and colour change would make me worried. Possibly his immune system is down and infections may gain a foothold now.> Water quality checks out to be good. <Numbers? Check the nitrates. If they are 20 or higher bring them down with adequate water changes.> I know my lionfish will sometimes go a week every now and then with out eating when he is "shedding" <'¦ to remove any hitchhikers'¦ sometimes triggered by a decline in water quality or by parasites'¦ check both if the 'shedding' occurs often.> Do puffers go through a stage when they are inactive like this? <No, this sounds more like a nutritional problem as described above.> There is about 75 pounds of rock in the tank. Any help would be appreciated. <Change the diet, add vitamins, check the nitrates and maybe your puffer will get well again. I wish you luck! Marco.>

Very very sick porcupine puffer, needing to read re sys., fdg....    8/30/07 I have a 90 gallon salt water tank. <Too small...> My porcupine puffer ate alot <No such word> of krill <Insufficient diet> for about 8 months and was always in great shape. Over the last 6 weeks when he tries to eat he kind of spits the shrimp back out with alot of air bubbles and would try a few more times and give up. I started breaking it up in smaller pieces and once in a while would eat a little. He always wanted it but had trouble. Until today he was still swimming around the top of the tank. Tonight he is on the bottom, kind of curled up and breathing heavy. He also seems very pale with white undertones. I am afraid he wont make it through the night. what can I do? Thanks Dean <Read. Here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer   1/31/06 Please help me - I have had my porcupine puffer for about 11 years. He stopped eating about a week ago and is just lying at the bottom of the tank hardly moving. <A heart break> He seems to only move once or twice a day purely to turn around but still remaining in one corner at the bottom of the tank. He went blind about two years ago (not because of poor water condition) so we hand feed him with a tong. He usually eats whole mussels and cockles. We have put food into his mouth but he just spits it out again. I can see him getting thinner and feel so helpless. The water levels are fine and our other two fish (Regal and Powder Blue Tang) are fine. We examined his teeth as he lets you hold him in the water and they seems fine. He has no other visible signs of disease or injury. Any help would be very much appreciated.       We buy our water already salted from our local marine shop. We run two tanks the other being a reef system. The fish in that are fine and water levels are also good so I don't think it can be anything to do with that. Although we did do a 20% water change when he started to not eat as a precaution but had no effect.      Also all three fish get on very well and we never see any signs of bullying or distress in any of the fish.      Many thanks      Marie <Do please see WWM re force-feeding these fishes. My Google search: http://www.google.com/custom?q=force+feeding+puffers&sitesearch=wetwebmedia.com This is what I would (plan to) do here. Good luck, life to you. Bob Fenner>

Porc Puffer not eating, lack of info...  1/13/06 We need your help. <<I will try>>  My son has a saltwater fish tank in his house <<What size?>>...has had it for several years...all fish are healthy.<<A list of inhabitants would be helpful>>   Except--his porcupine puffer fish has suddenly stopped eating.   It comes to the top of the tank, all excited, wanting to eat and then just seems to "jab" at the food.   It has always had a good appetite.    He has been eating krill.   It's so heartbreaking.    At times it seems to head to the bottom corner of the tank and gasp a little.     Anything we can do? <<What are the readings for Ammonia, nitrItes, nitrAtes and pH in this tank? Your son's puffer, Diodon Holocanthus, can grow to 19" and will need a tank of at least 125 gallons at maturity.  Does he show signs of trying to open his mouth and is not able to?  An all krill diet has been linked to 'lock jaw'.  Essentially, your puffer needs a more varied diet, and probably larger quarters.  Often, an iodine supplement will ease the lock jaw enough to facilitate better feeding.  Please do get back to us regarding the questions above. Lisa>> Thank you!

Porcupine puffer disease diagnosis... unsuitable water quality, copper exposure,  - 01/12/2006 Hello, Your web site seems quite helpful in disease diagnosis, so I hope you can help.  I have a 100 gal. saltwater tank that I have had for about 8 months and have had the porcupine puffer for about 7 or so.  The problem is that he has not eaten anything in the last 2 weeks, he is still very active and always greets me with excitement. <... have you read on WWM re feeding puffers, Diodontids?> The water quality is good salt 1.022 <I would raise this to near seawater strength... 1.025> ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates less than forty <Keep under twenty...> as far as can tell.  I do use copper in the recommended dosage <Stop! This is toxic to your livestock... should not be used on a continuous basis... some folks think never on puffers... can/will account for the non-feeding by itself> and have so since I have had the tank. <This is a mistake> He shows no external signs of disease, he acts hungry  when I bring his feeding cup around but when i put the shrimp in he goes for it once or twice then just lets it fall to the bottom.  Before I could barely feed my bottom feeder because he would eat everything I put it.  I know I need to vary his diet other than shrimp but as of now he does not want to eat, food suggestions would be helpful.  The damsel, sailfin, and snowflake eel are all happy/healthy fish. I don't know what to do he does not match any disease charts he just wont eat.   Thanks <... not a disease, unless you consider iatrogenic/induced, poor supplied circumstances as cause... Read on my friend. Your answers are on WWM. Bob Fenner>
Re: Porcupine puffer  - 01/12/2006 Will drive in to town, to pick up the Selcane <Selcon> today, is the iodine included in it? <No, it is strictly a vitamin supplement rich in HUFAs.>We have been soaking the frozen brine, chopped up silversides and krill in the garlic extreme, so am I to mix the Selcane <Selcon> and Iodine in the soaking solution. <I would alternate between the garlic and Selcon.>  Yes the Nitrate is/was off the charts with the 5 gallon water change every three days it has been "coming back" I (the local fish store said the nitrates wouldn't hurt any of the fish). <Indirectly  they can with high levels.  The nitrate will end up as dissolved organics which in turn creates an acidic condition which lowers ph levels.  With high nitrate levels I suggest you test the dKH often. Sea Chem's Reef Builder is a good product to use.> I will write down exact ranges on all the tests today and get back to you.  It was great to see that lots of people with puffers feel the same as I do, they are wonderful pets. <And a very intelligent fish to boot.> Thank you for your service. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Marcia
Re: Selcon and Plankton    1/19/06
James, the Selcon has finally arrived. <Finally> I soaked some frozen brine shrimp in it last night and the Puffer ( BUBBA) ate maybe 3 tiny brines, the tank clouded for a while,
<All that is needed is about four drops on the frozen brine, should not cloud water enough to matter.> and I am assuming he is getting the benefit of the vitamins by just being in the water, (does he drink the water)<Not nearly as well as ingesting it.  They don't drink water as such.>  
We also bought some refrigerated marine plankton (sp?) and have been putting a dropper full a day in the tank he seems to somedays want to swim into it so I think he is getting some nutrition from it.  This morning I soaked the plankton in the Selcon and dumped it in.  Is this giving him some benefit?
<If he is eating it.> Should I be also medicating him with Iodine? If yes, how much, how often. <Just do the dosage rate on the bottle, no need to medicate him directly and by all means don't.> Also, he has not eaten any of the ghost shrimp as far as I can tell. We are still doing 10 gallon water change every 3-4 days, tank seems healthier .thank you again. <You're welcome and I hope your puffer pulls through.  James (Salty Dog)> Puffer Sick... more mis-matched titles...    1/19/06 James, Could you guesstimate how long it might take for the vitamins (Selcon) to help him?  
<Geez, that would be like you asking me how long your cold will last.  Without him eating the chances for recovery aren't going to be good.>
A week, 2 weeks, a month? In general he seems to feel better but is still not eating.. He doesn't seem to 'flip-out' as much these last few days when everyone else is eating. <Hope for the best.  James (Salty Dog)>  

Porcupine Puffer Problem My Porcupine Puffer has developed a swollen and discolored area at his left fin/gill area. The area is now a purplish color, resembling a large bruise.  <Might well be> I have noticed reduced activity in recent days, with the Puffer remaining among the coral until about an hour prior to feeding time, at which time it will swim throughout the tank like normal (It used to swim most of the day, resting at night). Eating (until yesterday) was normal - the fish is an aggressive eater of Krill and I have to feed it in a separate part of the 250 gallon tank to keep the puffer occupied while the other fish eat. <I do hope you are feeding it more than just Euphausiids> Yesterday the puffer did not appear for feeding and remained isolated in the coral. I also noticed at its last feeding that their appeared to be an extrusion in the rectum area, but this has since disappeared. <A prolapse in fancy jargon... happens> I am putting it in an hospital tank, but am unclear as to what/how to treat.  Any advice on what this might be would be helpful and how it can be treated.  The puffer shares the tank with nine other fishes (3 damsels, one dogface puffer, one wrasse, one fox face, one tang, one Heniochus, and one harlequin tusk fish). <If these other fishes appear otherwise non-affected, I would rule out other environmental causes here... the fish may have suffered a mechanical injury, compounded with nutritional deficiency... Please read over WWM re puffer health, nutrition... I would not move, keep the fish in a separate, small treatment system... Bob Fenner> 

Puffer Lockjaw - rough prognosis 1/30/05 I don't want to repeat what you have answered many times on the website already, but I'd was hoping you had an update on your research. Magnus has replied to a few people with Puffers with Lockjaw and said he, along with others, were doing some serious research in to the issue. <Anthony Calfo in your service> Mine is swimming and acting as normal. Goes to eat the food (gets excited as always) but seems to either not get quite close enough (like he's mis-judged it) or swims in to it, but doesn't open his mouth to eat, then spits the food away. I've also seem him "shake" as he tried to work open his mouth. I'm trying iodine and I've upped the vitamins I'm adding to the tank (I always add some vitamins to his food). <believe it or not... try thawed frozen peas too... many Tetraodontiformes love them> Water quality is generally very good and has been for 18 months upwards, with 0 Ammonia, 0 nitrite and nitrates varying from 20 to 40. Skimming all the time, varied diet of krill, Mysis, cockles, muscles, silver side and prawns. Tried other foods, but he's quite fussy ;-) I'm worried I'm going to have to force feed him, <this may be necessary> But I would like to know if you guys have come across any other treatment or husbandry that might help him (or if you think it may in fact be something else)? His teeth seem OK so I don't think it's this as a problem and he ate normally a few days ago. I'm going to do some water changes and cross all my fingers! Thanks in advance for any additional advice you may be able to offer. Best Regards, Andy <you did not mention much here my friend (puffer age/captivity, species, etc.) so I am going to have to make some inferences. After consulting with puffer "expert" and WWM friend Kelly Jedlicki, she stated what we have feared and hear of so commonly. Lockjaw has a very poor prognosis and is caused by an extended period of neglect in the diet (dietary deficiency... extremely common with Porcupine puffers allowed to eat krill as a majority of the staple - is this your species/situation too?). It takes many months of a limited diet to cause this (sometimes years), and is not something that can be corrected quickly. In fact, once puffers get to this point, few survive without drastic measures (force feeding). Do keep in mind too, that your puffer is not necessarily a picky feeder by preference... stress of inappropriate tankmates, worms/sickness on (new) imports, etc. can lead the fish to train you/us as aquarists into feeding only limited fave foods. But this is not acceptable... like children, my friend... they will play you <G>. To prevent this in the future, the easiest thing may be to make a prepared frozen food mix/slurry. Bob (Fenner) has recipes in his book/our archives and others abound on the web. Mix in a wide variety of meats, greens and vitamins... add B12 and fresh garlic juice (you squeeze) for an appetite stimulant, and include whatever favorite prey your fishy likes (often krill). Make it chunky enough for healthy feeders to eat without much mess... and blend some (puree) for force-feeding these next few weeks on the sick individual. Consult a local vet for force feeding advice and equipment (plunging syringe, soft tubing, etc). There may also be some other good puffer advice on www.lmas.org under articles. Please do update us with your results too. I wish you the very best of luck!>

Sick porcupine Hi Bob....Wonder if you could help with something. I have a Porcupine Puffer that I've had for about 4 months. He has always been healthy and happy. Suddenly last knight he would not come out of his "cave". This morning he is listless swimming around slowly, after I encouraged him to come out to take a look at him, and he will not eat. His coloring is darker than usual I think his belly is a little swollen and his underside that is usually white has turned brown as well. His eyes are also a little darker than usual. I can think of three factors that may have caused some reaction. 1. Despite repeated attempts he has never shown any interest in eating anything except feeder minnows. Recently I have gotten him to eating frozen "silversides" from the pet store. I noticed yesterday that he was sort of farting with a cloudy stringy discharge coming from his butt. (Sorry to let you in on this). Possibly indigestion due to the change in diet? <Maybe... or the whole situation due to a nutritional deficiency... just like a child only eating s/he's favorite food> 2. He got into an altercation with a piece of live rock (stupid fish) as he tried to squeeze his body into a two inch crack between two pieces and caused some damage to one of his fins. Possibly a opportunistic infection? <Very common and maybe> 3. I introduced a brain coral last knight. I know Puffers and coral don't usually mix but In his infancy since about two inches I watched him grow up in a tank at the LFS with a tank full of corals as well as hermit crabs ( he was sort of the pet stores pet and wouldn't sell him for the longest time ) and I Have both in the tank with him . He has never shown any interest. I was very careful about not dumping the transport water from the coral into the tank and it was almost 100% tank water when introduced. <Unlikely here...> So there you have it. Maybe with some of the symptoms described you could shed some light and advice on any action I might take. Thank you in advance. J. Currah <And thank you for writing... Actually suspect maybe some/all of the above may be/have contributed to your puffers retiring behavior... but having dealt with many such anomalies, I encourage you to "keep faith" that your fish will "change" of its own accord. For whatever "reasons" puffers just "do this", go on feeding strikes, hide out, sit on the bottom for days, weeks, occasionally months at a time... who can say why? Perhaps internal parasites? Maybe a mechanism to prevent starving in lean times? To fool potential predators? I don't know. But am aware that these situations almost always resolve/solve themselves... with the puffers/Burrfishes (see www.wetwebmedia.com  re more) just as quickly deciding to "join the living world". Just keep your eye on this specimen. Bob Fenner>
Re: sick puffer
Hi Bob, I was talking to you earlier about the porcupine that was sulking. Well when I got home from work I noticed that he is now convulsing, sort of the way a cat does when its about to throw up and at the same time puffing about half way. When he finished he did throw something up, a small white pebble looking thing. Any ideas? <Sounds like this animal may have swallowed something (or knowing these puffers, eaten something) that didn't entirely agree with it... Might even be a tumorous growth of some sort... but I suspect your Diodontid is even on a faster route on the road to recovery... Bob Fenner>
Re: sick puffer
Hi again Please excuse me if I'm being annoying! I deal with the public as well as a Horticulturalist and I know how annoying people can be but shouldn't the change of coloration on the under belly be a concern. I realize that they have the ability to change color but I think I read once that the color of the under belly can be a signal to the health of the fish and he's still just curled up at the very back of hid cave. One more thing, how long should I let him go without eating before I get concerned? I was hand feeding him every day. <Coloration and behavior are indeed indicative... but as a person with a great deal of personal and "other hand" experience with this group of fishes, I assure you, in almost all cases all that is required is patience at this point. I would continue to offer food daily... and have faith. Sometimes these fishes shun food for several weeks. Bob Fenner>
Re: sick puffer again
Hi again Bob!...My Puffer is still in the same condition. Sulking, sitting on the bottom at the back of the tank. I sort of encouraged him to come out yesterday and managed to get him to eat a couple of minnows. I know these are not the best food but its the only thing he'll show interest in and I did manage to get four small ones into him. However after he ate he just went to the back gain and sat on the bottom of his cave and his under side is still very dark. <To be expected... as I said, patience... you may well be causing more damage by manipulating this specimen...> I noticed on the FAQ's there is mention of a friend of yours that uses garlic as a purgative and for digestive problems for her puffers. I could see this since garlic in humans clean the blood. If I were to try this how might I prepare something? Might I mash some fresh cloves with some vitamin supplement and syringe it down his little throat? <Yes to this protocol. The garlic is best fresh (as in human applications). Use a plastic syringe, baster, catheter...Bob Fenner>
Sick Porcupine...again
Well...sorry to be on to this again but things don't seem to be getting any better. It's been a week now since my porcupine (Diodon Holocanthus) has gone in hiding and now I notice his eyes are getting very cloudy and his breathing is more labored. Water parameters are still O.K. and I hooked up a U.V unit this morning. I've read your book and reread the disease section over and over. He does not have Ich. I have experience with this and know what it looks like. Is there anything else I should look for? It very frustrating to just watch as he deteriorates. Thank you once again, Joe <Not much... a cathartic bath/dip in a two teaspoon per gallon magnesium sulfate and diluted seawater (from the system) in conjunction with the forced garlic feeding previously alluded to might help... but may do more harm, no good at all. Have you read through the archives on Diodontid, Tetraodontids puffers on the www.wetwebmedia.com site? Any similar experiences related by folks on the associated FAQs that offer solace, direction? Bob Fenner>

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