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FAQs about Tetraodon mbu Puffers Systems

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Puffer fish question! FW... S. Am.... stkg./sel, & T. mbu sys.     3/12/12
Hey y'all! First off, I love the site, and I'm pretty sure I have read through every puffer question at least twice! Alright, so I have fully cycled fifty five gallon that is currently empty. Its full of fake silk plants and rock, and has two sixty gallon filters in it. I have been researching South American Puffers for probably a month now, but finding solid information isn't easy. My question is, how many could fit in my tank?
<What, which species? Smaller ones, easily six...>
 I don't want to overstock at all, but do plan on doing weekly water changes and keeping up on maintenance. I'm aware they aren't community puffers, but what could I do in terms of tank mates?
<... read>
The puffers are my main priority, But I would like something else in the tank if possible. I'm setting up a snail breeding tank soon, and I'm hoping to order my puffers through my LFS, as I can't find them anywhere online.
One more thing, Mbu puffers are freshwater, correct?
My LFS has one for sale in a full salt water tank.
I assumed they had mislabeled, but after looking them up, it was no doubt an Mbu. I asked the store about it,        and apparently they can live in both fresh and salt.
<... no: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=10103&genusname=Tetraodon&speciesname=mbu&AT=tetraodon+mbu&lang=English
see Ecosystems... Tanganyika, Congo... rivers>
This store has given me wrong puffer info before, so this doesn't surprise me. Hopefully someone gets him out of there!
Thanks for all the help!
<Welcome... Bob Fenner>
Re: Puffer fish question!
Thanks for the reply! As for which species, like I said above, South American, or Colomesus asellus. I have gotten such conflicting information on these little guys. Some say I could have six,
<This is the number I'd settle on>
 some say four, I have even been told I don't have enough room for them at all. When you say the smaller ones, I think you thought I was talking about dwarfs. Sorry if I didn't make myself clear! :)
<I see. Thank you, BobF>

Poorly Mbu Puffer Fish... env., nutr.     3/7/12
Hi, hope you can help!
<I as well>
I have a Mbu Puffer called Polo who is roughly 24" in size and it has not eaten anything for over half a month. It hasn't lost much weight yet (it was always fat looking even for a Mbu), but it's now starting to get thinner.
It has these quite large pink-ish lumps near it's top fin (see attached pics). From what i can make out it seems to be Lymphocystis, and as far as i know there's no way to treat this?
<Mmm, indirectly... improving water quality, nutrition...>
 But it's usually not fatal and can clear up itself? I think the Mbu has often had these lumps since i got him about 2 years 5 months ago, and they have almost completely disappeared at points in time, and then come back, but now it looks worse than usual.
I keep the Mbu in a 1150 Litre tank (252 UK Gallons), which has two large and powerful Fluval FX5 filters
<May need more...>

 and rubber air tubes that run the length of the tank. Nitrates and ammonia are the lowest colour on the colour chart i use to compare.
<NO3 needs to be under 20 ppm, and zip/nada/zilch for NH3>
 Temperature is 26c, and i do 30% water changes roughly every 10 days. It shares the tank with 2 common Plecs,
<Mmm, watch these... esp. at night>
a Siamese Tiger fish, and some smaller cichlids... probably not the best combination, but no other fish ever bothers the Mbu in any way, although I'm planning to remove the cichlids. And no other fish has ever had the lumps that the Mbu has.
The Mbu mostly eats Mussels and Prawns daily, and i know these contain Thiaminase,
<Yes... I'd switch these out for other foods>

but only discovered this lately so since then I've been trying to feed it other things like Tilapia and Cockles. But for 2 years it's mostly been eating Mussels and Prawns! Which I'm sure hasn't helped, wish i knew sooner.
<Me too>

Any food i put in the tank the Mbu will just completely ignore. It usually eats well, but at some points in time it's gone for up to 10 days without eating that much and then returns to normal, but apparently this is quite normal behaviour for Mbu's. Apart from now it's never gone for over 2 weeks without eating nothing at all. Apart from the lumps by the top fin i cant see anything else wrong.
<Externally, macroscopically>
 I've put some ESHa 2000 and salt in the tank but neither has helped so far.
<And will not>

The Mbu i have is a lazy one, it lays around much of the time but used to get excited for food and would often swim around in the mornings or when the sun is out. Now it lays around almost 95% of the time but when it does swim it looks ok, the swimming isn't out of balance or anything but seems a little like it's not got much energy. Should i put the Mbu in another tank?
<I would not...>
I only have another spare tank that's about 200 Litres
<Too small>
 so it's extremely small, which is why I've not moved it. The other alternative would be my bath which is over 400 Litres. I don't know what else i can do? Should i take him out the tank for a quick salt bath?
<No; of no use. I would soak new foods, read here:
in a commercial vitamin and HUFAs product. Search on WWM re these terms and the brand: Selcon, Micro-Vit...>
Thanks for your time, i know you must get tons of emails.
<Thank goodness, that for the 30-40k users per day, only a small part of one percent... the site is intended (designed, engineered) to be a reference, not a bb. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

mbu puffer question, sys. mostly  8/17/09
Hello there!
<Hi Deanna>
I'm always going to your site and see what I can learn about the fish I take care of. I work at my local pet store and have started taking care of a mbu puffer that was forgotten about. The current care taker of him there was fired so I took the responsibly of this fish. Anyways I'm worried he is stunted he is about 9 inches in a 90 gallon bow front tank.
<Mmm, likely can/will resume growth with better maintenance... more water changes in particular>
Not only that but people are always feeding him like crazy. I've got people to cut down some but lately he has been laying down in the tank a lot only coming up when a person walks up but that's about well half the time.
<Not atypical behavior for the species>
His temperature is 82 degrees because of the heat in our fish room. He has zero ammonia and nitrIte his nitrate is 20 steady.
<I would attempt to keep the NO3 down below 10 ppm>
Oh and his ph is a 7.6. He is with a giraffe catfish about the same size.
He eats fine its just that he has been laying down like I said and he will start to get pale and breathing a bit heavy.
<Any way to lower the temperature a bit... to the mid 70's F.? By resetting the tank heater perhaps? This would reduce metabolic rates and increase gas solubility>
He will lay there the entire day and even when disturbed will return to his spot. He also seems to always have Ich I have treated with quick cure for three weeks and another time only a few days.
<Mmm, something amiss here and the formalin in the Quick Cure is very toxic...>
I did very small water changes every 3 days during that three weeks.
<I'd do massive water changes at this interval if the new water can be trusted... with gravel vacuuming...>
But it keeps coming back. Could it be the scrubbing pad I use to use it on other tanks he now has his own?
It's only one dot for a few days but then it just goes crazy. His diet is only shrimp and scallops soaked in garlic guard, Selcon, and freshwater VitaChem. He does get apple snails and trapdoor snails twice a week. He does eat the cat fishes pellets once in a while don't know if that matters.
Also I noticed his rectum may be hanging a bit lower then normal maybe. I will try to get a picture but someone over fed him a few weeks back. I came into work one morning and he was laying at the bottom with a full belly still (even fed a lot the next day his tummy is always flat) and a white almost clear poop. His rectum looked to be getting bigger so I figured he was having some trouble passing it. He finally passed it and was back to normal but it just does not look right. It looks like someone stuck a round weight inside now I guess. So now that I jabbered I hope I gave you all the information you needed. I tend to ramble a lot this fish lives up to his name and I want to do my best in taking care of him. I would happily get a 300 gallon for him if I could even that is to small though from what I read. Well thank you for any information you can give me for all of my jabbering. :)
Thanks again ,
<Please do read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mbupuffer.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
ps also he does have a bubbler in his tank .

Re: Mbu sys., fdg., worms...  1/2/09 Hello everyone, <Hello again!> Thanks a ton for all the answers Neale! <Most welcome.> My MBU seems so much happier in his 200 gallon than his 100. <'Tis the nature of the beast.> His Ick is all gone and the water is nice and stable. It appears that using the one established Eheim 2050 along with the other 2050 and the FX5 made the cycle as short as about a week. <Sounds about right.> My ammonia and nitrite went there way to a max of 1 ppm now 0 and then my Nitrate is at 10. I have found that Mr. MBU has a crazy appetite now, It seems so evident now that the puffer really likes his hiding space! I covered both ends of the tank and only the front open and he seems very at home. <A healthy puffer is a hungry puffer, so if he's always greedy, that's a very good sign. Wild fish do spend most of their time close to hiding places, and despite being able to "puff up" and equipped with deadly poisons, puffers don't normally go about looking to be bitten! They're slow swimmers and generally keep an eye open for trouble, ready to dart away into their chosen refuge.> I wanted to mention to anyone interested that I found a bag of seafood melody at a local Sam's store with shrimp, muscle, clam, octopus, squid and some stuff I have no clue and tossed but otherwise he loves the food for $10 for a couple pounds. <Ah yes, often recommend precisely this type of "seafood mix". Economical and healthful. It's entirely possible to maintain large carnivores like puffers entirely on foods sold for humans, significantly reducing costs.> My question is I have seen 2 worms in his cage at about 8mm long hair thickness wiggling around in the water column. I searched and did a good vacuum job. Is this nothing to be worried about like I have read? <Likely just nematodes, and all they're doing is eating detritus. Nothing to worry about unduly. Helminth parasites (i.e., worms) don't generally go from their free-living stage to infecting fish within aquaria, though they may do so in ponds. Usually when aquarists observe worm parasites -- almost always Camallanus -- the fish has been infected at somewhere outdoors like a fish farm or the wild. By all means siphon out the worms if you object, but otherwise, I wouldn't worry too much. Most aquaria contain thousands if not millions of non-parasitic nematodes, they're just usually too small to see. Cheers, Neale.>

MBU's next cage  12/22/08 Hello everyone, I wanted to see how my setup sounds for my 7-8 inch MBU puffer. He is in a 100 gallon tank now and doing great.( thanks for the advice with the Ick he had, it is now gone) The new aquarium is 200 gallons, with 2 Theo 400 watt heaters, 2 Eheim 2250's, 1 Fluval x5 and an 18 inch air stone. There is about 2 inches of small to med. gravel, plants and lots of drift wood and 2 nice size rock made caves. <Sounds nice. There is of course the problem than Tetraodon mbu get ridiculously large. Maximum size in the wild is said to be over 60 cm, and in even in captivity they comfortably reach 45 cm or so. That's "standard length", and therefore excludes the rather big tail! It's a sad truth that rather few specimens get to full size though because most seem to die in captivity, often under mysterious circumstances.> I am letting this tank cycle, one of the 2250's was on the 100 gal. tank for a month to add some bacteria to the mix. <If you move mature filters from one tank to another -- assuming water chemistry/temperature are similar -- the new tank will be instantly cycled. I do this all the time. The bacteria don't "know" where the water is coming from. In any case, if you're cycling a new tank with a mature filter, it's important to keep a source of ammonia in that new tank, or the bacteria in the mature filter will die back.> Obviously I only have some ammonia after 3 days, 1 PPM. How is this sounding? <Sounds all wrong. If the mature filter was not "upset" in some way by being switched off for too long, and the water chemistry/temperature in the new tank was the same as the old tank, this filter should be fully functional. So where you're getting the ammonia from eludes me. Are you adding ammonia? If so, quite possibly far too much. A 200 gallon tank for this pufferfish will need 6 x 200 = 1200 gallons per hour filter turnover.> Any recommendations? I only have 2 small eels and 2 Corys to put in this set up with the MBU. Thanks Ed <What "eels"? Spiny eels? I'd honestly not mix anything with Tetraodon mbu. Best kept alone. It is, in part, a piscivore as well as taking the usual algae/invertebrates common to puffers generally. Cheers, Neale.>

My MBU puffer -10/31/08
Thanks for such a great site! Several months ago my wife gave me a MBU puffer about 3 inches long for a anniversary gift to go in my 30 gallon aquarium.
<Oh boy...>
(we all know this story) So after reading about them on your site I have him in a 100 gallon tank with med. size natural gravel, 2 Fluval 405's and an Eheim eco 2236 with bio material and the floss pads. 2 150 watt heaters, temp at 80 deg., ammonia 0,-nitrite-0, nitrate 20, ph-7.6. There is a 3 inch Pleco, 2 Cory's and a Tire track eel with him.
<While that's a fine tank for now, do understand these Mbu Puffers are ridiculously large when mature and annoyingly sensitive to poor water conditions as well. So you end up needing a gigantic aquarium with a massive filter just to keep it alive. Not recommended for home aquaria at all.>
And even though he bit me <!!!> when I was doing a water change I am still in the process of getting a 265 gal. or larger cage for him. Is this over filtered?
<Not even close to being over-filtered... Seriously, these fish need swimming pool-sized tanks.>
And Do you have recommendations for the next cage.
<As a baseline, we're talking some hundreds of gallons, and there's a good argument to be made for tanks around the 1000 gallon mark. A lot depends on the quality of your water supply, because it's the nitrate that's the killer. If you have zero nitrate right out the tap, then tanks around 250-500 gallons may be viable, if coupled with generous filtration and large scale water changes. But if you're in area where the nitrate level in your tap water is 50 mg/l, as is the case where I live, your margins for error are much reduced. Do see Stuart Morse's article on this fish, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/mbupuffer.htm>
As of now I have to fix the house to support the weight of anything larger than the 100 gal. and locally 265 gal. is the largest I have found but I am happy to go bigger.
<If this was me, and I liked the idea of a big puffer, I'd try to rehome him in favour of getting myself something a notch down the size scale, maybe Tetraodon lineatus. It's about half the length, and therefore one-eighth the mass, and consequently a heck of a lot easier to look after.>
And lastly, is it safe to feed him the $2.00 snails ( mystery, yellow assorted ) from the LFS, and there crayfish. Thanks again Ed
<Well, they're probably "safe", but why bother? Most any frozen seafood sold for humans will be readily taken and a combination of mussels, prawns, and squid will cover all the major dietary needs for this species. Unshelled seafood like frozen crayfish, crab legs, whole prawns, and live mussels can be offered as required to wear down the teeth. Much cheaper than live snails or crayfish, and certainly much safer. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My MBU puffer -10/31/08

Neale, Thank you for the fast response. I live in Northern Virginia, can you give me any pointers as to were I might want to look for Aquariums around 1000 gal.. And what type of filtration would you recommend for 1000 plus gallons. Ed
<Hello Ed. Since I'm in England and not really very familiar with American retailers, this isn't a question I can easily answer. If you can wait a couple weeks until Bob Fenner gets back, he's the guy to ask about such things. In the meantime, do browse some of the FAQs on large tank design/purchasing; there are some links and comments that may be of interest. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lgsystks.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lgsysdes.htm There's no real rush, as Mbu Puffers doesn't grow especially fast, so you've got lots of time to research things carefully. Mbu Puffers are widely and successfully kept, so spending a bit of time e-mailing other keepers or visiting forums would probably pay dividends. They're fantastic fish, but also incredibly challenging: a bit like getting a wolf cub as someone's first pet dog. For the right person, a Mbu is a superb pet that is smarter than any ten fish stuck together, and frankly smarter than most dogs and cats. But Mbu puffers are unquestionably hard work, so while centerpiece fish at zoos and aquarium shops, they're strictly for the ambitious fishkeeper. As for filtration, it's hard to fault a reverse-flow undergravel filter for systems where sensitive fish are being kept. This is basically one or more large canister filters with outflows that push water into an undergravel filter plate and up through the gravel. This system is fantastic in terms of biological filtration, and also keeps the substrate extremely clean, since it's constantly being rinsed with filtered water. So the only maintenance is cleaning out the canisters every month or so; the gravel itself shouldn't need anything more than the occasional sift and siphon. The old "pros" of the hobby do swear by filters like the larger Eheim canister filters, and these certainly are extremely reliable and well worth their slightly higher initial cost. But I'm hearing good things about the big Fluval FX5 as well. It doesn't much matter what filter (or filters) you use provided it's [a] reliable; and [b] offering upwards of 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Cheers, Neale.>

Mbu Puffer, fdg... sys.      7/17/07 Hello Crew, my name is Kevin. <Hi Kevin, Pufferpunk here> I have a Mbu puffer fish that measures about 7 inches, in a 100 gal tank with several species of cichlids. <You are aware of this fish's potential size & that he will need a MUCH larger tank (1,000 gallons is recommended)?> He has not eaten in at least 6 weeks. I have done everything, water changes, <How large, how often?> adding salt, offering crayfish, crabs, snails, shrimp, to no avail! Before he stopped eating I tried to feed him some dead crayfish that I had frozen that he was very hesitant to eat, so I think that may have something to do with it. Please let me know what I can do to fix this before he dies. <Have you checked his teeth to see if they might be overgrown?> I have also treated the water with Melafix since, it has worked with so many other problems. <Can't hurt... I really can't give you any kind of diagnosis, without knowing the exact ammonia, nitrite, nitrate & pH levels. In the meantime, check this Mbu profile: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/ug.php/v/PufferPedia/Freshwater/T_Mbu/ and please read: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=150 Your input will be much appreciated! <Please write back with more info. ~PP>

Mbu Puffer in Non-Cycled Tank  11/16/06 Hey, <Hey yourself, it's Pufferpunk here.> I own a 4 inch (not including tail) MBU Puffer and I've had it for a week so far.  He had been introduced to a tank that had been matured for a month and he has a very healthy appetite, eating everything from cockles, mussels, shrimp, bloodworm but the ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels in the tank sky rocket so high that I have to do a 50% water change every 2 days to stop him from dying! <I'd raise that to 80% daily, until you can get that tank cycled or your puffer will definitely not make it.  They are extremely sensitive to those toxins, because they are scaleless & have no gill covers.  What do you mean by, "matured for a month"?  If you just let the tank run for a month, that's not cycling the tank.  Or were there other fish that would equal the bioload of that puffer in there for that month & the water parameters were perfect (0 ammonia & nitrItes, <20 nitrAtes), then removed, when you placed the Mbu in there?  How big is the tank?  That puffer will grow VERY quickly, needing at least a 300g tank in 2 years, upgrading even larger after that.  If you don't understand the facts of cycling a tank, you may not be ready to house such an exotic fish like the Mbu.  Please do a search for "fishless cycling".  If you insist on keeping this fish & are prepared to buy it much larger tanks & huge filtration systems (including veggie refugiums, to keep the nitrates down), in the very near future, then you can instant cycle the tank with Bio-Spira.  Do an 80% water change, before adding it to your filter.> I have a fully functioning filter and I regulate the amount of food he eats (around 2 cockles or 1 mussel a day) but the water gets dirty so quickly that I'm worried about his health. What can I do to keep the levels stabilized so I don't have to change the water so often and why is this happening?  I use Amquel to reduce the levels when I don't have time for a water change. <You're going to have to MAKE time for this!  Eventually, plan on a 1,000 gallon tank for this beautiful, 30" tank-buster.  Forget about Amquel, it is just inhibiting the cycle.  Bio-Spira is the only way you're going to save this fish.  You may have to search around for it but more shops seem to be carrying it.  To dechlorinate, use Prime.   Please read this Mbu story, written by a puffer keeper of over 50 years: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150   I know it sounds like I'm being really hard on you but personally, I think these fish only belong in public aquariums or in the wild, where they have room to grow & swim.  ~PP> Thanks, M

Tetraodon Mbu Hi, 1.What tank size for Tetraodon Mbu? <Starting size of the fish? How long do you want to keep it... happy, healthy? A twenty to a two hundred gallon...> 2.How much swimming space? <About the same as specified by tank dimensions above> 3.What tank mates? <Only very aware, and or tough, mean, fast fishes... perhaps some live plants. Doubtful any invertebrates...> 4.What filter? <Outside power and internal powerheads for added circulation, aeration> 5.Any other important information? <Frequent partial water changes with pre-made water of high alkalinity, some salt... see here: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=10103&g Cut and paste URL. A very mean fish species... best kept either in a "species tank" or a biotopic presentation with other fishes from the region (Lake Tanganyika, Congo...> Thank you <You're welcome. Bob Fenner>

MBU Puffer 8/4/05 I hope you can help. There are so many conflicting issues on the net and from my LFS. My tank is approximately 5ft(long) x 2ft(high) x (just under) 2ft(depth) Its currently running at ammonia=0 nitrite=0 and nitrate=5ppm My PH is about 7.6 I am trying to create perfect conditions for a MBU puffer.  My LFS has said that he needs soft water, which I have since found to be incorrect.  I actually bought an RO unit so that I could soften my water, a complete waste I know, but I thought perhaps by adding more minerals I could control the water levels more...any comments? Really what I would like to know is what are the perfect water conditions for a MBU puffer including GH and KH.  Bearing in mind that I also have 2 Pictus cats and am planning on getting 2 clown loach. (As long as this does not overcrowd the tank). I hope you can help. >> Certainly your Mbu will eventually eat the Pictus cats, or damage their sensitive whiskers, clown loaches are fast and should be able to live with him long term. Most Mbu puffers are caught in the Stanley Pool area of the Congo River. pH 6-7, GH 5-10, KH 0-8 sounds right, but for puffer species like the Mbu the water chemistry is not so important. More important is a varied diet and strong filtration and frequent water changes. This fish will get big, and it will have an even bigger appetite. You should try and see how the fish will do in your tap water, because altering the tap water every time you do a water change may become a hassle, and is usually not needed for this species. Good Luck, Oliver Mbu Puffer--Tank Size  6/29/05 <Pufferpunk again> Yeah, I actually have some nitrates but the tank has been set up for over a year, <So why did you say nitrates were 0?> the tank is only about 65 litres (17 gallons), although he will go in something like a 400 (105g) when bigger. <Hmmm, that's going to be a problem.  Did you read the article I linked you to?  400l is no where near large enough for that puffer!  Even at 2", it should be in a larger tank, due to its messy eating habits & large bioload.  If you aren't prepared to house that fish in a MUCH larger tank, please return it for a more suitable fish.> The only food I have given him are mussels and cockles. <Puffers need a large variety of foods.  Look through The Puffer Forum for more diet ideas.  ~PP>

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