FAQs about Tetraodon mbu Puffers
T. suvattii, Green Spotted
Freshwater to Brackish Water Puffers,
(Big) Pufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo
Dentistry By Jeni Tyrell (aka
FAQs on: Mbu Puffers 1, Mbu Puffers 2,
FAQs on: Mbu Puffer
Identification, Mbu Puffer
Behavior, Mbu Puffer
Compatibility, Mbu Puffer
Selection/Stocking, Mbu Puffer
Systems, Mbu Puffer Feeding,
Mbu Puffer Reproduction, &
FW Puffer FAQs 1, FAQs 2, FAQs
3, FW Puffer Identification,
FW Puffer Behavior, FW Puffer Selection, FW Puffer Compatibility, FW Puffer Systems, FW Puffer Feeding, FW Puffer Disease, FW Puffer Reproduction,
Re: MBU very sick...
Thank you for your response and for your advice.
I have dosed with PimaFix and MelaFix.
<Worthless, possibly toxic with Puffers and other sensitive species.>
He is still breathing very heavily, I noticed 3 abnormal spots this
morning. One below his eye, one above his eye to the right and one just
above his Gill. They almost look like pin holes. See picture attached.
<These look like early-stage HLLE.
HLLE is very common in advanced or Perciform fish; cichlids, tangs,
puffers, etc. While it may or may not be related to Hexamita infection
(the jury's still out on this) the immediate cause is absolutely clear:
poor diet and/or poor environment. By "poor", we don't necessarily mean
"you're a bad fishkeeper" but rather "you're not providing what this
species needs". Commonly there's a combination of lack of vitamins
alongside non-trivial dissolved metabolite levels, which include nitrite
and ammonia of course, but also nitrate. Your real challenge with Mbu
Puffers is ensuring a varied diet that includes some fresh greens --
gut-loaded shrimps, snails and earthworms -- or else regular use of
marine aquarium vitamin supplements. Puffers enjoy crustaceans, but many
of these contain Thiaminase.
So a more varied seafood diet containing cockles and white fish fillet
is better. As for water quality, Mbu need tanks in the many 100s of
gallons when mature, and even youngsters are difficult to house. Nitrate
should be below 20 mg/l, and that's the tricky bit if your tap water has
high nitrate than that, as mine does! Hope this helps. Neale.>
MBU very sick... Metabolite poisoning likely
I have a 20" MBU in a 300gal tank with 2 FX6 and another all pond
solutions 1400 gph external loaded with Purigen and floss
-Nitrite - 0
<Too high; want to keep this under 20 ppm>
I had a nitrate spike last week due to cleaning out my filters
and the nitrates went off the chart!
I did 50% water change 4 days in a row and have just added the other
external filter loaded with Purigen and floss to bring then Nitrates
down and keep them down. They are currently about 30 and still falling.
My MBU however has not eaten for a week
<Not a worry>
and is laying at the bottom of the tank breathing very hard. He tries to
swim on occasion, but is a huge effort for him, probably makes 1-2 body
lengths and then crashes back to the bottom of the tank and continues to
He usually eats once per day and his usual diet is whole prawns,
cockles in the shell and muscles
<Mmm; see WWM re Thiaminase... you NEED to expand this diet>
(varied from day to day)... he usually eats quite a lot (can do 5 prawns
at once but I try not to feed that much!), he also usually hand feeds
Any ideas? There are other fish in the tank (Severums, Clown knife, flag
tail)and they are all just fine, no signs of distress at all,
Given the Nitrate spike, and assuming this was the problem, how long
should it take him to recover?
<A few weeks>
Here is a short video
Any other ideas?
<The reading.... do you need help in using WWM?>
Please help, I am very worried about him!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
MBU Puffer- 01/15/2012
I have any MBU Puffer that is acting sickly. He has not
eaten in 6 days.
His tail has a clear/white area at the end. He is not bloated.
He is spending a lot of time floating at the top of the tank. I
have included a picture for you to look at. He is in a 200
<Much too small save for anything other than a teeny-tiny youngster;
above about half-grown, it'll need a MUCH larger aquarium.>
We feed him frozen krill.
<Needs a more varied diet than this.>
<Do need more information than you are providing. Have a read here
Your specimen doesn't look in especially bad shape, but the tail fin
clearly has been damaged and exhibits signs of Finrot. The fact he's not
eating should be sounding massive alarm bells -- these animals eat by
the ton when they're hungry (which is one reason they need a massive
aquarium with gigantic amounts of filtration). My guess would be that
his environment is wrong. Non-zero levels of nitrite and ammonia would
be one possibility, another would be nitrate levels above 20 mg/l. On
top of that, these puffers need lots of swimming space, masses of
oxygen, and top-notch levels of water circulation. I assume you have a
sump under this aquarium with a marine-grade pump turning the water over
at least 8 times per hour?
Forget about canister filters, at least on their own; possibly multiple
Fluval FX5 filters (or similar) could be used, but normally a
marine-style filtration system with an overflow, biological filtration
media in the sump, and multiple powerheads for extra water circulation
is the way to go.
Remember, it's almost 100% true that Tetraodon mbu cannot be kept in
aquaria. It's basically a pond fish, so unless your aquarium is really
huge, and water quality so good you could drink it, chances are your Mbu
puffer will die prematurely. They are probably the most difficult widely
sold freshwater fish to maintain in aquaria, and almost all of them
either die prematurely in a home aquarium or end up being passed on to a
zoo/public aquarium. Do I sound to negative? Perhaps. But these are not
easy fish to keep, so I'm assuming you're an expert fishkeeper who'll be
prepared to deal with reality. So, let's have some details on the
aquarium, some water quality test results, and we'll take it from there.
Mbu puffer odd shaped
Hey how's it going. I just noticed my puffer few days ago
with a large white, almost looks like a bite just behind his back
fin and a smaller on a half inch up his body from there but
significantly smaller, and noticed it to look as if healing. And
today notice another two spots one just behind his flipper , more
middle of body and more translucent to his body color.
As well as a larger one almost translucent. But visible as a
lighter spot, well odd shape more oval on his other side. Hope it
is visible in pictures.
Is this something that should be worried about or is it his
fragile skin just getting scratched by rocks. Or stress
induced? Please and thank you for any advice.
<Either a physical injury as you state, something awry w/
water quality, or a tankmate biting it... the placement suggests
the latter... What else is in this tank? A
Loricariid? Bob Fenner>
Re: Mbu puffer odd shaped spots, other fishes
as source 3/6/12
sorry for the late response , the email went to my junk. never
thanks for responding though appreciate it.
I have a midland painted turtle who has been trained not
to bite the other tank mates.
<Uh, no; not trainable to do such>
2 gourami's, i.d shark,
<This could be the culprit>
tiger dat., Pictus cat, silver gar, swordtails, and a
i think it is the rocks. i pulled a bunch out as everyone is
starting to out grow the tank. and have not noticed any new spots
and they do look as if they are healing.
I'm just building a 400 gallon setup. with lots of swimming
room as the back two corners are 5' each way then in glass it
will come out 26" from each side and on a angle between the
26" it is 4' across making a pentagon shape.
I'm new to fish. and not sure what some problems look like.
really appreciate it. will continue to keep a eye on him. and the
rest of the fish for any other indications something could be
thanks again so much. really appreciate it.
<Please correct your grammar if writing us. Cheers,
MBU Puffer fish with lump problem
I really hope you
might be able to help me. My beloved MBU Puffer Fish Marvyn is
not a very well little chap. He's around 3 Â½ years
old, and measures 15 inch in length. He lives in a 300 litre tank
with 3 CICHLIDS, several PLECS and a SILVER SHARK. I normally do
water changes of just under 1/3 every three weeks. His normal
diet consists of MUSSELS, PRAWNS and occasional COCKLES in shells
(as a treat).
<Here's at least one possible problem. Mussels and prawns,
though widely mentioned as pufferfish food, contain lots of
Thiaminase. Thiaminase breaks down Vitamin B1, so the more they
eat, the bigger the risk to health. Cockles don't contain
Thiaminase, so they're a good staple, and Thiaminase-free
foods like cockles and tilapia should be, let's say, 75% of
the food the pufferfish eats, by weight. That way, the
"bad" aspect of prawns and mussels is outweighed by the
goodness in the cockles and tilapia. Vitamin B1 deficiency causes
all sorts of problems, including damage to the internal organs
and nervous system.
A vet may be able to tell if this is the problem you have here.
And if it is, a vitamin injection may help put things right. But
only a vet can say for sure. But I am quite sure this is one part
of the problem, even if not the entire problem.>
On Sunday morning I came downstairs to find him upside down on
the bottom of the tank. As I approached the tank he span over and
swam around normally. Some 15 minutes later I came in and saw him
do a complete 360 degree somersault, he then seemed fine again.
As the day progressed Marv worsened. I did an emergency water
change of around 100 litres (I had done my normal water change
the week before) and stuck in some MYZAZIN -- something I
previously used on him and it worked wonders --unfortunately,
this time, so far, it hasn't.
I've since consulted several fish tanks -- both of which have
given different information (one even said I should be doing a
Â¼ water change every week!!). The second shop told me
to test the NITRITE level, which I did, and it seemed fine. She
also sold me some API WATER TREATMENTS API AQUARIUM SALT and told
me to dissolve this separately in hot water, and then bathe
Marvyn in this after diluting it with tank water. She also said
to try giving him a massage for around 12 minutes over several
days -- in order to try and help whatever the lump is out. She
advised from putting the salt in the tank directly, as this would
mean lots of water changes afterwards, and might kill the Silver
I've done this for two days, and after the first morning I
got my hopes up as he seemed to have a poo. He hasn't seemed
to have another poo since, but did eat half a mussel last night
after I maneuvered it near him.
There is a distinct lump, as you can see from the picture, and it
definitely feels hard inside him. He doesn't seem to be
stressing out from me massaging him, although he is hardly moving
at all. The bottom half of him under the lump does seem to be
spasming quite a bit.
I have read your articles on the website, and am now worried that
the massaging technique might be hurting him further.
Any help that you can give me would be amazing, as I really do
want to save the little, or rather big, guy if possible.
<Two other obvious problems are [a] the size of the tank and
[b] the lack of detail on nitrate. Mbu Puffers really need huge
aquaria to stay healthy, and even 300 litres is far too small.
Honestly, 3000 litres would be nearer the mark! These fish are
extremely sensitive to small tank conditions. The other issue,
nitrate, is the silent killer. Puffers need as close to
nitrate-free water as possible, especially these big, sensitive
Mbu Puffers. Water in England tends to have high nitrate values
because of the urbanisation and agriculture. For example, my tap
water has nitrate values around 40 mg/l! That's already TWICE
as much as Mbu Puffers should be exposed to. Do read:
So while constipation might be a problem here, in which case
Epsom Salt and peas could help,
my gut feeling is that this fish has been exposed to the wrong
conditions and fed the wrong diet for too long.>
PS I'm based in England, so apologies for any variation in
spelling that there might be.
<Not a problem; I'm in England too! Cheers,
My Poorly MBU Puffer, advice needed please.
I have read through the articles about different symptoms hat a puffer
can display, but I haven't found anything that is similar to what
my puffer is showing. I was wondering if you guys could shed some light
on the matter and advise me on the best course of action to take.
My puffer "Barry" would normally devour snails and
bloodworms. He usually goes mad for them, and normally eats them before
they hit the floor of the aquarium. This now is not the case, and he is
looking rather poorly. I have noticed that he has a large lump on the
right side of what you might call his nose. I thought this might be
caused by the fact that he pushes his face
into the side of the tank so hard when he sees me coming with his
<Common for Mbu and other Tetraodontids to occasionally go on
feeding strikes and perhaps relatedly to develop sores from such
behavior as you note>
Now I have noticed that on his right side, his top tooth has been
pushed back somewhat, and the inside of his mouth (on the same side) is
very swollen now. When he tries to eat now, he opens his mouth very
wide, and is almost trying to push something out. He then shakes his
head about a lot. I am convinced that when he tries to eat, it is
hurting him too much. I have also noticed that he forces his face down
into the sand really hard whilst moving forward, then comes back up
with sand on his back, and again, shows great discomfort with his
mouth. He is now VERY thin, and I am extremely worried about him. I
keep the water in tip top order, as I did a lot of research into how to
care for him before buying him, and realised just how temperamental
they can be to changes in water quality.
Although you guys don't recommend it, I have treated the aquarium
with Melafix Antibacterial fish remedy,
<Of no use>
as the aquarium shop that I brought him from advised me that it is more
likely to be a bacterial infection.
Have I done the right thing? Is there anything else that you would
<Perhaps injection w/ a real antibiotic... there are a few
He has become such a deer little chap, and I would be devastated if I
were to lose him.
<I do hope your puffer rallies. Bob Fenner>
My Poorly MBU Puffer, advice needed please.
<<Can I just add to what Bob's said something about water
Tetraodon mbu is extremely sensitive to nitrate, so regular water
changes are crucial, ideally with deionised water buffered with Discus
salts or quarter to half dose Rift Valley salts. You're aiming for
below 20 mg/l
nitrate, comparable to marine fish-only aquaria. Because this puffer is
so large and because it eats a protein-rich diet, nitrate can quickly
become very high in the aquarium. Realistically, aquarium size needs to
be in the 500-1000 gallon size range for long term success, if only to
slow down nitrate accumulation between water changes. For aquarists
after large puffers, it's ironic but true that the marine species,
such as Arothron hispidus, are actually MUCH easier to keep than these
freshwater species adapted to big rivers and giant lakes. Cheers,
Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11
My mbu puffer has a red looking lesion on the right side of his
<From what cause?>
He has not eaten in 10 days. He has no other evidence of being sick
besides this red looking lesion.
<... and not eating>
He has lost a lot of weight. He is about 9 inches in length. The tank
is 4ft tall and 3ft deep and 375 gallons. The tank operates on its own
trickle system - a gallon an hour is filtered threw several pumps and
empties into our front yard.
<Need more circulation... a gallon an hour? Is this some sort of
auto change out system?>
He is housed with a Pleco, catfish, angelfish and knife fish.
<Mbu puffers generally eat such...>
There is no ammonia
and Ph is 7.5 in the water and is about 78 F. Prior to the red swelling
in his mouth, he ate shrimp, snails, mussels, clams, and crab legs.
<Likely too much Thiaminase>
All the other fish look fine. We had hoped he would heal and left him
alone but nothing has changed so we have put him in a hospital tank
with salt and an antibiotic. What else can we do? Are we doing the
right thing? We've looked for a vet in Arizona but have not been
<Mmm, can't tell from the info. presented, but do want you to
read through what we have recorded on WWM re this sp.: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mbupuffer.htm
and the linked files above, in the hope that something will "pop
out", become aware to your conscience. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11
Thanks for the response. I did read the article you linked to and I
have read multiple other questions and threads on the site. Thank you
for all the information. But, do I have a few more questions.
I don't know what caused the mbu to stop eating. I assumed the red
lesion in his mouth. One day it wasn't there and the next it was.
Can Thiaminase be the cause?
<Indirectly, perhaps a contributor>
Yes, the tank is an auto change out system and operates off 5
I tested the water and no nitrates appeared,
<None? Zero? Odd... do you use chemical filtrants? Some sort of
sophisticated denitrification gear?>
which is what I meant by ammonia; the Ph is high though. 7.5.
As of today, he is not eating but his mouth looks a little less red. I
put in non-iodized salt and a product called melaflex
<... Melafix, API... not a fan>
which I found at the pet store. It said it was for red wounds on fish.
The pet store didn't have any answers on the product. Can you
suggest any other type of treatment?
<W/o there being an established cause, no. Most
"medications" including the phony one you've applied
actually do more harm than good if there is no known vector, situation
that they're useful for>
We have another tank, 500 gallons, he could live in but his tankmates
would be an Arowana and a gar, and I don't see them getting
He was housed with other fish when I got him and he has gotten along
with his tankmates and no one has gone missing. We will look into
getting a larger tank. We have talked about getting a 1000 gallon, so
it is certainly on the horizon.
<The one the fish is in now is fine volume wise>
Thanks for the information and in closing, if you could suggest
anything for the irritation he suffers in his mouth and whether I
should be force feeding him, it would be greatly appreciated.
Should I be force feeding him? How can I get him to eat?
<I would NOT force feed this fish UNTIL it is "very thin".
Mbu can go for quite long whiles w/o feeding. I would proffer a favored
item every day or two, and remove it/this if it is not taken. I urge
just patience here.
re: Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll get him out of the hospital
tank with the crummy Melafix and back into his regular tank.
The tank's filtration system is something my husband built. It has
its own water supply and plumbing system, i.e. water from the house is
filtered into the tanks, pulled back out by multiple pumps and pumped
into the yard. I exaggerate when I say no nitrates, I compare the test
strip and it is the lowest yellow shade, lower than the shade given so
quite low but not zero.
<Thank you for this clarification. The concern is/was that something
askew might be linked w/ a 0.0 reading>
I feel so guilty over his health, I would buy him a bigger tank if I
thought it would cure the problem.
<Assuredly it would not>
I should lower his Thiaminase intake. Maybe his diet is the problem. He
will eat earth worms?
<Yes... and fillets of human-intended fish flesh, and whole marine
fishes of small size>
I can check your website for this and I can find something interesting
to eat. Maybe ghost shrimp.
<Again... not too much in the way of crustaceans>
There is an Asian market nearby.
<Ahh, many choices there. Best that the food items, if freshwater in
origin, be frozen, defrosted>
I do need to research what to feed him so this Thiaminase issue can be
resolved. I would cry tears of joy if he would just eat.
<This fish will, in time>
I think I have an aquatics vet coming to the house on Wed, so I'm
feeling like he has some hope and could recover. Again, thank you.
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>
Stringy poo mbu 10/17/10
My mbu puffer is lively and fine but as soon as he eats he's
still and sits at the bottom of the tank.
<Fairly normal in small tanks. In bigger tanks they're
much more active.>
450litre tank on his own water parameters all clear ph 7
I'm guessing it's internal parasites or tape worm?
I've started to soak his food in garlic overnight. is that
the right thing to do?
<The garlic is neither here nor there. Deworming pufferfish is
a good idea. In the UK, that will probably require a call to your
local vet, though a few deworming medications are available in
some aquarium shops.>
Btw the red dot is a reflection on the pic ^_^
MBU seeming sick HELP!! Please
12/02/08 Hello, <Hello,> Over the past year I have had
Two MBU puffers. The first one was given to me as a gift and died
within 3 weeks. <A very difficult species to maintain; not
recommended for home hobbyists without lots of experience.> He had
Ich when I received him and seemed to get through it then developed a
extended rectal area and seemed to swell a little over the entire body
and then died over a few days. <Likely some type of bacterial
infection, but difficult to say precisely what. Certainly never a good
idea to purchase fish with obvious Ick infections. But since the fish
was a gift (!) then that's not really your fault.> Now I am on
my second MBU. He has done very well for a couple of months until I put
a Palm house plant near his tank I had brought in for winter. It seemed
it really freaked him out to have this thing in the same room because
he hid for about 2 days and developed Ich himself. <Hmm... Ick
doesn't come out of nowhere. It's important to understand the
Ick parasite cannot survive outside of a host fish for more than a few
days. Hence, once you exterminate the Ick infection in an aquarium, it
should NEVER come back, UNLESS something else brings new Ick parasites
into the system. Do take care to identify diseases properly: Ick can be
mistaken for other things, such as early stages of Finrot or Fungus.
These two infections are MUCH MORE related to stress. The organisms
that cause them are normally harmless, even beneficial, in healthy
aquaria. When fish are in good condition, their immune system prevents
problems. When a fish gets stressed, these previously harmless
organisms can cause disease.> Now please note he has eaten fine but
had to be fed near his hiding area. I raised the temperature to 82 F
for the Ich. He has about 10 spots that come and go over the past week.
My water is; am. 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, ph 7.6, lots of plants, 2
Fluval 405, 1 Eheim 2236 Ecco. in a 100 gal tank. <Water seems fine.
Do ensure the filtration is adequate: I'd recommend filtration
around 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. By my
reckoning you have 185 + 340 + 340 = 865 gallons per hour total, for a
100 gallon tank, which seems fine. But do ensure the filters are
working properly, not clogged up.> This has been going on for the
past week. <You must deal with the Ick immediately. Add salt (5 g
per litre should be ample) and raise the temperature to around 28 C (82
F) but be very careful with the temperature because Puffers are highly
sensitive to low oxygen concentration. The warmer the water, the less
oxygen it contains. Salt is not at all dangerous to this species:
Tetraodon mbu occurs in brackish water in parts of its range and has a
high tolerance for salty water. In fact this is true for puffers
generally, so the addition of salt can be used safely as a way to kill
Ick parasites. Leave the tank "warm and salty" for around two
weeks, or at least a week after the last white spots disappear from the
puffer. By contrast, copper- and formalin-based medications are toxic
to at least some pufferfish species and should be avoided where
possible.> Now to why I am asking you guys to help. Every night at
7:30 he goes to his sleeping area since I have had him. Every morning
when I turn the light on he takes about 15 min. to wake up and start
his food begging. But this morning he didn't come out. I had to
kind of move him out because I couldn't tell if he was alive or
sick. He isn't begging for food and is sitting on the bottom. He
did eat the 3 Prawns I gave him. but is still just sitting on the
bottom. <I wouldn't bother feeding the puffer while he is
sick.> This morning I put Jungle products Parasite clear in the
tank. I hope this isn't really bad! <Would not use this in a
Puffer aquarium.> I did this because it seemed to fix my little
girls Dwarf puffer ( that clearly had IP) and because I observed some
small slug looking things (about the size of aquarium salt grains) on
some Java moss I purchased two weeks ago from the store I purchased the
1st puffer from who died. <I have no idea what "IP" is, so
you'll need to explain. The white "slugs" are probably
harmless invertebrates, such as planarians. In general, anything
visible in the water or on the substrate won't be disease-causing.
But these things can be a sign of overfeeding, since they're eating
leftover food.> His diet consists of snails, prawn, shrimp, crab
legs. <Would vary the diet some. Crustaceans (i.e., shrimp, crab)
contain thiaminase, and this destroys Vitamin B1, and over the long
term WILL make animals sick if fed as a majority of the diet. So by all
means use crustaceans as, say, 20% of the diet, but make the rest other
things. Snails are good, so are mussels and especially things like
clams and oysters. Squid is a cheap and extremely useful food item.
I'd also add some lancefish. Obviously DO NOT use "feeder
fish" because the risk of making your puffer sick is ridiculously
high.> This is all really discouraging because I have purchased a
couple Eheim 2250's and have a 300 gallon tank on order. And I
really am not interested in other types of fish. Thanks for the help.
Ed <I hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: MBU seeming sick HELP!! Please 12/02/08 Thank you for the
fast reply! I have installed carbon and done a 30% water change to help
remove any of the Parasite clear. <The carbon will remove formalin,
but it'll have no impact on copper concentration. <<Mmm, not
so. RMF>> I'd be doing a succession of water changes, 50% a
day, for the next 3-4 days if at all possible. The more water you can
flush out the system, the better.> I have added the salt as
recommended. He isn't eating today, so far. <No big deal. When
he's happy, he'll eat. In fact it's a good
"barometer" of pufferfish health: when they're healthy,
they will eat anything and everything!> He appears to be breathing a
little heaver and has bouts of what I would describe as coughing.
<Could be a reaction to water quality, or something in the water
even. Do consider possible toxins: paint fumes, stuff kids might have
tipped into the tank like soda pop, and so on.> I also have seen him
winking with the eye that has a spot on the rim of the eye. And one
other thing I noticed is he will kind of dart around for a couple of
seconds, kind of a shake would be a better description. <Darting
about is often (though not always) a reaction to irritation to the
gills, sometimes by parasites (Ick, Velvet) and sometimes to water
quality (ammonia).> I don't know if any of this changes you
thoughts on what could be wrong other than the Ick. Thanks again Ed
Tetraodon mbu, hlth., fdg. 12/22/09
I'm looking for some help with my freshwater mbu puffer fish, I
think he may have impaction from a cockle shell.
<Oh? What makes you think this? It's unlikely a pufferfish will
become constipated because it's swallowed a piece of shell. For one
thing, they evolved to eat precisely these types of foods. The acidity
inside the gut should further break down any shell material that
wasn't chopped up by the beak, so given time, shell fragments
should pass out without too much bother. If the pufferfish isn't
eating, it's much more likely that there are other problems than
We have tried Epsom salts with very little results, he isn't eating
where as before he was like a dustbin.
<It's a sad but true fact of life that virtually no home
aquarist can provide the right conditions for Tetraodon mbu. In other
words, almost all specimens sold in pet shops die prematurely. These
puffers are very sensitive to high levels of nitrate, essentially
anything above 20 mg/l, and for long term success nitrate levels should
be less than 10 mg/l. On top of that they are also sensitive to water
without enough oxygen. It's difficult to say precisely what adult
Tetraodon mbu needs to survive in captivity, but we are talking about
tanks measured upwards of 500 gallons in size, and filtration systems
rated at not less than 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per
hour. Such systems are incredibly expensive and really only viable in
public aquarium settings.>
he's not himself he keep's pulling his eyes inside his head,
he's up and down the tank then just lie's there. Is there
anything you could suggest?
<Do start by reading here:
Then check water quality; you need 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and nitrate
levels less than 20 mg/l. Water chemistry is not critical, but
moderately hard, slightly basic water is probably the optimal simply in
terms of stability.
Diet should be varied. Carnivorous fish can suffer vitamin deficiencies
very easily because the popular foods -- mussels and prawns -- tend to
contain a lot of thiaminase. Cockles (Cerastoderma edule) don't
Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
very sick mbu puffer 5/3/10
Hi my name is Amy I've had my puffer for 4 or so years now...
<Tetraodon mbu is species that does very poorly in
never really had a problem till yesterday... one of his eyes look like
it was pushed in ... I did a 50% water change.. then today did it again
and added antibiotics
<What antibiotics? How did you diagnose the problem as being
bacterial rather than, e.g., dietary or water
a got from a fish friend a the store.. now about six hours later both
his eyes are sunken in really bad...
<If the situation went bad quickly, e.g., overnight, water quality
and/or chemistry is most probably the issue. Tetraodon mbu needs clean
water -- 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and less than 20 mg/l nitrate. The
species is tolerate of a range of water chemistry conditions from
fairly soft through to slightly brackish, but those conditions should
be stable. Water circulation needs to be very high, at least 8 times
the volume of the tank per hour. Given the recommended aquarium size
for this species is around 1000 gallons -- seriously -- then the
filtration system would need to be about 8 x 1000 = 8000 gallons per
hour. Do understand that this species cannot, will not last long in
"small" systems 200 gallons or less.>
what do I do??? I'm freaking out... Please respond as soon as
<Don't freak out. Reflect. Read. Start here:
Also think about diet. Puffers are carnivorous, and that means they are
VERY prone to nutritional problems. Thiaminase is one serious issue,
and many of the foods they like are vitamin B1 deficient. So rather
than prawns and mussels, you need to base their diet more on
Thiaminase-free foods like tilapia fillet, cockles and earthworms.
As with any predator, feeder fish should not be used unless they are
home-bred livebearers or killifish. Goldfish and other
fat/Thiaminase-rich foods are dangerous, and if bought from pet stores
almost certain to
introduce diseases eventually.
If you have EVER used feeder fish bought from a pet store, you need to
consult a vet NOW, because you could easily be facing a parasitic or
bacterial problem you cannot treat using home remedies simply because
you cannot diagnose such things. I mention this because in some parts
of the world, e.g., the US, feeder fish are still used, despite all the
evidence pointing to them being dangerous and nutritionally poor.
Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/26/10
It's a long story but I will hopefully keep this brief! I
bought a Mbu about 10 months ago.
<Oh dear'¦ rather like buying a Dolphin or an
Alligator. These aren't pets for home aquarists.>
I was stupidly told by the shop that he would not grow any more
than 10 inches and even more stupidly I believed them.
<The importance of research *prior* to purchase.>
Now Phil Mbu is about 9 inches.
<Still a baby.>
I am very aware that his tank is far too small for him, but right
this moment there is really nothing I can do about it as I live
with my parents and I can't put an 8 foot tank anywhere in
the house and the rest of it.
I have been in collaboration with a private tropical fish shop
who can take him over from me and we are in tentative agreement
of dates of when to do this. Only there are a few big (I think)
problems with Phil I have noticed.
One - this is a strange story and it does not make sense to me. I
woke up a week ago to him lying on the floor of the tank, upside
down, not breathing/gills moving once every 5-10 seconds, no
other signs of life and white as a ghost. I immediately thought
it was the water ammonia levels so I took him out (out of
desperation) and put him in my other tank as I knew that that
water was tip top. I stroked him and noticed a massive sharp
appearing object sticking out of his side (not through the skin
i.e.. it was still inside of him). I thought this may be some
undigested mussel shell.
So I decided that this may be the problem and waited. The next
day there was mussel shell on the floor and it was not there
before as it only has shark fish in (who he happily lived with
before I moved them). After he passed whatever it was that was
inside him as the next day the lump had gone, it appeared that
his eyes (irises), fins and tail had blood running through them
and he seemed blind. I think this because (amongst other reasons)
he was letting me stroke him and he kept banging into things.
This blood was not however coming out of his anus/poo which was
odd if it was a alimentary problem.
<Indeed. But does sound like a blood infection, i.e.,
Septicaemia, if the mussel shell pierced his skin that deeply.
You will need an antibiotic to treat this, and preferably advice
from a vet. This is the equivalent of a deep wound on a
Anyway, so the last few days I have been hand feeding him (which
would NEVER happen before!) as he just will not eat if I
don't do this...it is like he really is blind, it's
<Quite. But to be honest, the eyes of the fish in the photo
He is eating fine when I feed him so it is not like his appetite
has gone at all which I thought was a reasonable sign.
<Usually, yes. But don't overfeed. Water quality is
infinitely more important at this time than a daily meal.>
I don't know if all of this is a coincidence of many health
problems; or just one big one. For what equipment I have I do
well which I know for Phil is no consolation. What I want is to
get him back to health at least so he can see again, if it is
correct that he cannot.
<From the photos at least, I think you have a good chance of
him being fine.>
Two - he has black shading from the beginning of his tail, along
each side just
where the pattern stops up to and under his lower lip. Do you
know what this is? If it would please you I can send you a photo?
In fact I will take one now and see what state you think he is
<I think that's stress more than anything.>
Basically, I am eager to him to be looked after better in a
massive tank and tons of filtration like shops should have.
However in the meantime I want to solve what problems of his that
I have unwittingly caused by buying him in the first place.
<Yes. Assuming this tank is 150-200 gallons, you may be fine
for the next couple of months. Do regular water changes, and fed
very modestly, maybe 5 times per week. Provide a variety of
foods, but avoid those with thiaminase as much as possible; i.e.,
use shrimp and mussels sparing, but tilapia fillet and cockles
more often. Obviously, don't use feeder fish.>
I put him back in his own tank on his own an hour ago and right
about now he is exploring the 'new' tank. His equilibrium
is a bit ff and I still think he can't see properly, but his
breathing is relaxed. (Although as anticipated, he has not eaten
his tea because I did not hand feed him...it was a little
experiment to see if he would or not and he hasn't as yet).
Since the incident, I also haven't seen his teeth, top or
bottom. I don't know if this has anything to do with it --
when I am feeding him with my hand obviously I am standing
up'¦so I can't bend down to see him in profile to
see his teeth because I have my arm at the bottom of the
<Do be careful when hand-feeding large puffers, especially if
you think they have poor eye-sight; they CAN do serious
I would welcome any advice about the two conditions, I am hoping
the latter may be treatable. Oh and also, he has been pooing
completely fine all the way through'¦I am a nurse and
these things are very important to us nurses!!!! I ensured the
temperature is about 79ish so he gets as much O2 as possible.
<Down the temperature a bit; 24-25 C/75-77 F is ample, and as
you doubtless know, the cooler the water, the more oxygen it
contains. This will also slow down metabolism, meaning he
won't need as much food or grow as fast. The use of a little
aquarium salt may be beneficial by reducing nitrite and nitrate
toxicity, 2-3 grammes per litre for example.>
I know I am a stupid person for buying him but I am trying my
hardest to rectify the matter in the best way that I can so any
advice would be taken very seriously.
<It's a tough species to keep. Do read:
But I do wish you both well.>
Re: Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/28/10
Thanks for the advice - hopefully the shop will take him soon
then he will be happier but I have turned the temperature down,
added another external filter and other stuff you advised, and he
seems quite happy now so should be alright for the moment.
I wanted to ask - I searched for Tilapia but nowhere seems to
sell it here (I'm in England).
<Lots of places sell it. I get it from the Waitrose fish
counter. They have it at Sainsbury's too. Any Asian food
market will stock the stuff.>
Are there any other (fillet) fish that he can eat that are low in
<Yes, but often more expensive. Good choices include plaice,
halibut, cod and haddock. Do read here:
Earthworms, woodlice and small pond snails are all good puffer
Obviously the cockles are not a problem getting being from the
<Quite, but pricey.>
Sarah and Phil
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/28/10
Oh I didn't realise you were in the UK! I searched on the
supermarket's online store out of interest but I'll pop
along then as it may not show online.
<Should not be difficult to find tilapia.>
Thanks for the advice, it's funny because all of the other
websites I look at say temperature should be higher so it's
interesting to know that it can be (a lot) lower.
If you know of anyone in Kent that is equipped with the knowhow
and would like him feel free to let me know, but thanks for
All the best
Sarah and Phil
<If you aren't already aware, most Maidenhead Aquatics
stores will take in fish, even if they haven't sold them.
This includes Mbu Puffers, and they have quite a good track
record for rehoming difficult fish. Worth giving them a ring.
Ich or cysts? 10/8/10
Hiya just noticed these little cysts on the puffers back is it
Ich? If so what treatment would be safe to use as I have discus
in the same tank
<Can't tell from this photo. Do please also note that we
ask for images around 500 KB, rather than the 3 MB you sent! Such
big images fill out e-mail quota and prevent others e-mailing us
successfully. Such big images are also a pain to download.
Normally be bounce back messages with big attachments without
reading them, and ask the sender to resize with a smaller photo.
I'm in a good mood, so didn't do that here. Anyway, start
by having a read here:
In terms of medicating, puffers with Whitespot are best treated
with salt/heat because they react poorly to formalin and copper.
Do also bear in mind that the track record of Tetraodon mbu in
captivity is dismal because it requires a huge aquarium,
realistically 1000 gallons. Most die for one reason or another
because the aquarist doesn't have them in a big enough
aquarium and doesn't provide the perfect -- and I mean
crystal clear -- water quality they need: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite,
and near-zero nitrate.
|Re: Ich or cysts?
Ahh so sorry about the big file will have a read and send a smaller
Thanks once again :)
<Happy to help. Feel free to crop down to the infected part of
the fish. Do make sure the image is in focus. If the image
isn't sharp enough to see the spots, it won't help us!
Re: Puffer cysts or Ich (RMF?)<<>>
Hope it's ok best I could do with my pictures taking skills!
Looks like poxes or fungus?
<Hmm'¦ doesn't look like Whitespot to me. Nor
Lymphocystis. Given that Tetraodon mbu occurs in brackish water,
you might maintain at SG 1.003 or 1.005 for a few weeks to see if
that helps. Freshwater parasites generally cannot complete their
life cycle in brackish water. I'd heartily recommend the Puffer
Forum as a place to go show this photo. The folks there are quite
good at identifying unusual diseases.
Cheers, Neale.><<Mmm, from what little I can make out this
looks like some sort of reaction (not to Ich), body mucus...
possibly with some sand attached. I would NOT treat this fish
chemically... but look to improving the environment and
nutrition... This fish/species can't live with these other
fishes, or better put, they can't live with it... for much
Re: Puffer cysts or Ich (RMF?)<<>>
Mmm thanks will see what they say I add salt for the discus
<<RMF would NOT do this>> also but will increase
<Salt/heat used to treat Whitespot should be harmless to Discus.
However, brackish water at SG 1.003 upwards will quickly kill
Discus though harmless to the puffer. Refer to Klaus Ebert about
the use of brackish conditions when treating freshwater puffers; in
short, puffers have a high salt tolerance and up to 25% seawater
salinity will be tolerated by freshwater species across long
periods, and the use of brackish water is a low-risk method for
handling a wide range of infections and problems. Do be crystal
clear in your understanding that Tetraodon mbu should not be kept
with Discus, or indeed other fish, so I hope this is a short-term
cohabitation. Tetraodon mbu can, will view other species as food,
and the very soft, very warm water Discus prefer is not what
Tetraodon mbu needs. Ideal conditions for Tetraodon mbu are around
25 C/77 F, and moderately hard, around neutral, i.e., 10 degrees
dH, pH 7-7.5.>
Appreciate the help
<Happy do so. Cheers, Neale.>
|State of health declined / AW: Pufferfish, MBU, with lump -
05/06/08 Pufferfish, MBU, with lump - 06/02/08 Hi Marco &
the WetWebMediaCrew, <Hello Lars.> Some weeks ago Heike
emailed you about our MBU (+50 cm size) with a lump on the left
side next to his mouth. <I remember.> Back then - apart from
the lump - the fish was in good shape (active, eating regularly
etc.). <Did you find out what caused the lump, was the lump
sampled (e.g. syringe = a hollow needle) in cooperation with a vet?
I understand this sounds difficult and potentially dangerous to the
fish, but it is done with Koi, and large puffers also have been
sedated successfully in order to cut their teeth. Those samples
could have been cultured and you would have known if it was a lump
caused by a bacterial infection.> Unfortunately the state of
health declined by Wednesday/Thursday this week, when he (or she)
stopped eating. He is not moving and/or eating anymore. <I am
very sorry to hear that. Sounds really bad.> Attached please
find a picture from today, showing the MBU laying in the water on
his back. Heike gave the puffer a massage and some air <Did he
swallow air (increase oxygen content of the tank water in this
case)? Or did you see gases that were produced by bacterial
processes inside the fish?> went off his body already (he/she
started swimming a few minutes). She is keeping up with the massage
which hopefully help ... <I believe touching will rather stress
the animal, potentially harm its protective coat of mucus. Should
only be done when air was swallowed cannot be expelled by the
puffer himself.> If possible, please provide us with additional
tips that will help to save our beloved brother (or sister). <I
suspect (from description, this is not a fail proof diagnosis) a
bacterial infection that originally caused the lump and now has
spread to other organs. You can try an antibiotic treatment (only
in cooperation with a vet and in a separate tank to avoid a
kill-off of filter bacteria), I fear it is too late for sampling
and a bacterial culture now. You know/have called the Koi Vet in
Stelle (Fisch-Reha-Zentrum Nord), east of Bremen? Or Annette Bley a
vet in Bremen?> Best, Lars. <Good luck to you and Klaus, even
if I have to confess it does not look good for him. Marco.>
Pufferpoo 1/26/07 Mbu health <Hi Shazza,
Pufferpunk here> I have a 5 month old Mbu Puffer, he has always been
fine, eats well and happy. Today ive <I've> noticed a very
large bowel movement coming from him,<.> its <It's>
thick and lumpy, whitish with red veins going through it. I am very
worried. It is still joined to him and is as long as he is (4.5 inches
at least)<.> Please help<!> Thanks<,> Shazza
<Please read your letter before sending, to be sure you have used
the proper punctuation & capitalization. I corrected this one.
These have to be posted in our FAQs. My thought about your puffer is
that it may have a prolapsed rectum/intestine. You can try treating
with 1 tbsp Epsom salt/5gallon. It may just be a superpoo. Epsom salt
wouldn't hurt in either case. You might be overfeeding your puffer.
In that case, the food is only partially digested & this may be
what you are seeing. Here is an excellent Mbu story by a puffer keeper
of close to 50 years: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150 You
are welcome to join in at that forum & post about your puffer!
Lumpy Mbu Puffer 9/11/06 Hi, <Hi,
Pufferpunk here> I have a MBU puffer fish called ASBO. He is not
very old and has formed a lump on the right side of his mouth. I have
looked all over the internet to see what it could be. The only thing I
can come up with is a cyst or tumour. He seems to be eating fine and
his mood is fine also. Do you know what it could be and is there
anything you can suggest? I have tried putting Melafix in his tank. I
did a seven day treatment then done a 25% water change. The lump got
bigger but now is staying the same size. I love my puffer fish and
don't want him to die, please help. What can I do? <I have seen
most lumps like these are just cysts that get absorbed back into the
fish. In some cases, it has been caused by a shell fragment stuck in
their mouth. Have you been feeding him snails? Keep his water
pristine--be sure you have extra-heavy filtration, large water changes
are in order for these fish (50% weekly) & extra large tanks,
eventually close to 1,000 gallons for these monsters! See
www.thepufferforum.com for more info. ~PP>
-MBU in trouble- - 04/10/2006 Hi Bob,
<Justin with you today.> fortunately we've found your
resource on the web (hard to find more detailed info about the MBU
anywhere else here in Germany). <Well we will do what we can.>
We're the owner of a small MBU (10 - 15 cm) since end of last year.
We have serious problems with him for the last 10 days: - He is not
eating anymore (we've offered him mussels, prawns etc.) - He often
turns upside down and remains there for minutes (sometimes hours), but
recovers and returns to normal position afterwards - Sometimes his
belly blows up near the tail fin - His anus stays open sometime and it
looks like (at least something similar to) a worm is visible - Small
white dots are visible on his fins and the body <Well to cover your
list so far, He has trapped air in his body. most likely at this point
it is in his intestines, you can try to help him by burping him (read
He has Ich which needs to be treated with Saltwater dips or with anti
Ich medication like formalin in his own quarantine tank. He may not
survive if the air has entered his bowels as that is what it sounds
like has happened. but there is not much at that point you can do short
of taking him to a veterinarian who specializes in fish.> Some
additional info: - He is living in a 450 ltr. tank together with other
fish - We medicate him with antibiotics (separate tank, 15 minutes per
day, Nifurpirinol) - We medicate all fishes with drops against the dots
(although no other fishes seems to show up with dots at this moment)
<This is acceptable for now, however if this puffer survives this it
will grow to somewhere north of 3 feet long or close to 1 meter. it
will need a 1000 gallon tank and serious filtration. The is not a
puffer for the general public. you might look into a Fahaka or another
smaller freshwater puffer.> Attached please find two small pics of
our MBU: <<Rats... file not moved/saved, seen by me for this.
RMF>> - They have been shot yesterday and today - One shows up
with the white dots - One shows up with upside down position and blown
up belly. It would be great, if you would be able to share some ideas.
It's hard to see his torture,
weÃ¯Â¿Â½ll see him better again ... If
you provide me with a phone number in the US, I would love being able
to give you a call. We're lost with ideas how to help this poor guy
... <Just follow the article and keep offering food. That is
unfortunately all you can do at this point. Keep the water pristine and
keep other fish from bullying it. www.thepufferforum.com has quite a
bit on this puffer as does www.fishbase.org . I recommend you read up
on here and at both those places.> <Justin (Jager)> Thanks
Re: Big problems with our Tetraodon MBU -Mbu in trouble 2- -
04/11/2006 Hi Justin, <Lars> thank you very much for your
speedy reply. <Sorry that it was too little too late.>
Unfortunately our MBU died two days ago (hopefully it was better for
him to stop his torture). Since he has been the dearest fish of our
son, no ... not true ... the dearest fish for all of us (gentle,
relaxed, friendly ...), it would be great to know about other puffers
that could make sense for a 450 gallon tank. <In your previous email
you said the tank was in liters. which is 120 gallons, however,
regardless a Fahaka would love it. try www.pufferlist.com for a very
complete list of the common to the trade puffers in freshwater.>
You've mentioned to think of an Fahaka, what other puffers would
make sense to think of? Nevertheless it would be important for us to
know, why our MBU went seriously ill, since we did not experience
something similar with all our other fishes. <I believe that based
on your photos he swallowed air, and was unable to clear it. that
blocked its bowels and it died. Not a good way to go. Puffers don't
do well in air and should always be moved in water or bagged in the
water.> Thanks for your help. Best, Lars <I'm sorry you lost
the fella. If you want another puffer try the pufferlist above and
www.thepufferforum.com both of which have a vast knowledge base on the
friendly little/big guys. >
Offering a home for a Mbu
puffer 3/31/06 I recently read on your forum that someone is trying
to find a home for a Mbu puffer. I don't know their email to write
them back> <Was this on WetWebFotos? You should be able to
respond to them (see their profile by clicking on their
handle/web-name) directly. If it was on WWM, do provide us with
permission to post a/your email address in the hope they will see
this> I have a 450 gallon tank that would be perfect. Can you help
me contact them? Liz <Bob Fenner>
Puffer Ails 7/10/03 Our Mbu Puffer about (12 inches in
length) has decided he does not want to eat shrimp anymore. We were
always supplementing snails, crawfish. He just will not eat the shrimp.
He has been doing something funny with his mouth, after he has bit into
something, He opens up his mouth very wide like he is trying to push
something out but nothing comes out, its gives us the impression that
something is stuck in his gums??? Does that make sense?? <have you
checked for overgrowth on the teeth?> He has been eating the snails
even though he goes through this ritual. He is not as eager to eat as
he once was. We have ordered him Ghost Shrimp, Brown Snails and crab.
What else do you suggest? <some Selcon to supplement the diet...
also gut-loading the prey with nutritious dry foods and frozen fare
that the puffer would not eat alone> My husband pet him yesterday,
when he was cleaning the tank. The Mbu "Andy" started to
color up and move his fins like this made him happy. I thought he would
puff up and act mad but he seemed to like the contact. Cute. He has
tank mates that he has had from the very beginning. A Bala Shark
"Cedric" and 30 small Tetras. When he is finished with his
food they all come over and he lets them eat what ever he was having. I
don't know how long this will last but it is really cool. I'll
take a picture for you guys... We were rinsing the shrimp in filtered
water, we should use a little water out of his tank I guess in a cup
that belongs to him do you think he may not like his food rinsed in the
filtered water?? Could there be too much Chlorine?? <no worries
here> We research and read and talk to people we just want to do the
right things for our Mbu Puffer Friend. He has become quite the family
member. We are getting him that 300 gallon tank so that he can grow
very old in it. Thanks, Vivian <many FAQs in our archives on
puffers... do browse as well http://www.wetwebmedia.com Anthony>
New Mbu Review (03/21/03) Hi, <Hi. Ananda here
today.> We are the proud parents of a beautiful Mbu Puffer. <And
here we missed the baby shower.> We briefly have put him in a 37
tall (he is 7 inches) we are having a 135 delivered and set up with an
established filter system tomorrow. <The 135 is a good starter tank
for a fish this size... you are making plans for that 300+ gallon tank
you're going to need when it gets to its full-grown length of 26
inches, right?> My question is last night my husband was on the
other side of the mirrored side of the tank. He adjusted the heater and
this scared the Mbu, "Simon". Simon moved so fast across the
tank I could not believe it. <Despite the fact that they swim like
tugboats most of the time, puffers can move amazingly fast when they
need to.> He bumped into the other side of the tank. He hit so hard.
He then sat on the bottom of the tank and I noticed blood coming from
his left gill every so often. After about 1 minute this stopped.
<Ouch! Sounds like the fishy equivalent of a bloody nose.> This
morning and afternoon he is swimming and is colored up beautiful. Do
you think this hurt him? This was really scary. <For him,
especially!> Please let me know what you think? <Keep an eye on
him. If there will be movement near his tank when the people come to
set up the 135, cover his tank with a blanket so he won't get
startled.> Also we have fed him mystery snails and shrimp.. <You
don't have to use mystery snails; ordinary pond snails will work
fine, too. You might want to set up a snail farm tank. Check out the
article here: http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/snailsforpuffers.shtml>
My husband says its ok to take the shrimp out of the freezer and leave
in the refrigerator for a few days and feed it to him. <Sort of like
leaving bread out on a plate for a few days before you eat it....> I
say no, its not safe. Better to take the shrimp out the night before
and feed the next day.. <I just take the shrimp out of the freezer
and drop them into the tank. (Though I have to chop them up a bit,
first; my puffers are little guys.) Hard and crunchy foods mean more
wear on his ever-growing teeth. Do vary his diet a bit more; check out
the puffer feeding FAQs here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/pufferfdgfaqs.htm
...Also check the various puffer FAQs, including the marine ones --
your puffer is closer in size to marine puffers than to the more common
fresh/brackish puffers.> Help... Vivian Rahman <Have fun with
your new family member. --Ananda>