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FAQs about Freshwater Puffer Selection

Related Articles: The Nice Puffer: Colomesus asellus , the South American Puffer by Neale Monks, Freshwater PuffersAlone But Not Lonely: The Importance of  Keeping Puffers Individually by Damien Wagaman, Freshwater to Brackish Puffers, Puffers in General, True Puffers, Family Tetraodontidae, (Big) Pufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo Small Puffer Dentistry By Jeni Tyrell (aka Pufferpunk),

Related FAQs: FW Puffers 1FW Puffers 2, FW Puffers 3, FW Puffer Identification, FW Puffer Behavior, FW Puffer Compatibility, FW Puffer Systems, FW Puffer Feeding, FW Puffer Disease, FW Puffer Reproduction, BR Puffer Identification, BR Puffer Selection, BR Puffer Compatibility, BR Puffer Systems, BR Puffer Feeding, BR Puffer Disease, BR Puffer Disease 2, BR Puffer Reproduction, Puffers in General, True Puffers,

Make sure and check for the temperament and likely maximum size of your livestock...

New tank setup; FW stkg.      7/19/19
Hi Neale
I hope all is well,
<Well, sort of... but anyway!>
I am setting up a new 3 foot , 200 litre tank, and deciding how to stock it, I have narrowed it down to a few options that I'd like your advice on please..
1 - Tetraodon miurus
I know a lot about the 'ambush' puffers. I am wondering, could I try a group of 3 of these as it's a big tank with lots of cover and feed them regularly?. I know they are super super aggressive, but I know in the Congo where they export these, they keep dozes of these together in vats whilst they are waiting to export and they avoid aggression buy feeding regularly.
I do have back up options if this doesn't work (other tanks).
<I'm not sure 3 will be enough to eliminate aggression, to be honest. Yes, you're right, "overstocking" can prevent territorial fish from claiming their territories, and ergo, they're not able to move onto the next step in their programming, which is to defend said territory.>
2 - Tetraodon/leidon cutcutia
I know these are a little more active but still relatively sedentary, aggressive but not quite as nasty as the miurus - possibly a group of 6-8 of these as they stay fairly small?
<Possibly, but they're still a good 8-10 cm long when they're grown up, and that's quite a lot of fish to put in a 200 litre tank. Still, worth a shot if you have heavy filtration and a Plan B.>
3 - a group of 6 Channa bakanhensis
<Bit more risky, I suspect. Adult size is variable, but up to 30 cm, so a group of them would be much too much for a 200 litre tank. Juveniles should be fine as a group, mind.>
These only get 6-8 inches and I know of a shop that has a group of 6 who have been kept together for about a year, all are fully grown and no problems.
<Not convinced these are necessarily full grown, and in any event, the species does seem very variable in this regard, perhaps dependant on where they are collected from.>
My tank is bigger than the one in the shop in which they have been in for a year so this could work, and who knows, with the right water conditions may even eventually breed?
<Possibly. Breeding requires quite soft and acidic water, I believe.>
Please can you let me know your thoughts? I know some of these ideas aren't conventional, but I'm looking for something a bit different - happy to hear any suggestions you have. It seems that it is puffer season at the moment as I have seen suvattis, hairys, miurus, palembangensis etc all available.
<I'd suggest visiting and posting on The Puffer Forum. The guys and gals there have a lot of experience, more so than me, so I think you'd find a visit rewarding.>
I have seen schoutedeni, but I already have a big tank with a group of 10 of these. I am looking for something a bit more interesting that dwarf puffers or red tails.
<Understood. Unfortunately, Pufferfish don't really work that way.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fresh Water Puffers; species sel.      11/20/13
Good evening,
<Hello, Josh.>
I had a bit of a puffer fish revelation tonight; I have a 55 gallon tank just sitting around not doing anything and its begging for a puffer. I would like a freshwater puffer that can be social with humans (the one I saw tonight begged, followed, and liked being petted!) and something that really fills out that 55.
<I see. Generally the Tetraodon species are the most intelligent, among which the brackish water "Green Spotted Puffers" usually get the nod for being the all-around most fun to keep, even if their requirements are somewhat more specialised given they're brackish water fish. Still, compared to the other issues with puffers, adding a bit of salt is pretty trivial. Keeping nitrate levels near-zero and making sure their beak gets worn down will be much harder work!>
I understand that most of the puffers are incredibly aggressive so tank mates are a no go, that's perfectly fine with me.
<Good. It's the best approach to take.>
However, If I only have one fish in the aquarium I really want him to be the star of the show. I am finding so much conflicting information about freshwater puffers and how big they do or don't get. I have one website that says Fahaka only get 6 inches long but another site says 18.
<Somewhere between the two is "average". Certainly expect around 30 cm/12 inches, and plan accordingly.>
Similarly, I have one site that says a Dragon puffer tops out at 3 inches while another says 8,
<If you mean Tetraodon palembangensis, again, somewhere between the two is usual; expect around 15 cm/6 inches.>
more information stating Brazilians only grow to 2 inches while another says 4,
<Yet again, somewhere between the two, 8 cm/3 inches seems to be their maximum size in aquaria, and no-one I've met has ever seen one 15 cm/6 inches big, despite that being widely quoted as the maximum size.>
one website says green spotted puffers prefer freshwater while another says brackish; I'm so lost!
<Definitely brackish to marine. Similarly, Figure-8s are low-end brackish water puffers, not freshwater.>
I would really just like some solid advice. I want as big of a fish as possible which would mean about a 10 -12 inch max if puffers follow the 5gal/ 1inch rule I've been told in the past.
<Since you're keeping just one specimen, it's best to keep one puffer well. Some are more active than others. The "lurkers" such as Tetraodon palembangensis and Tetraodon suvattii could be kept as singletons in quite small tanks, say 150 litres/40 US gal for the 6-inch Tetraodon palembangensis and 100 litres/25 US gal for the 4-inch Tetraodon suvattii. But the more active ones such as Tetraodon fahaka (which being active might be more fun) will need more swimming space, so you'd double the aquarium space relative to their adult size, to over 400 l/100 US gal for Tetraodon fahaka. Tetraodon mbu is essentially impossible to keep properly in home aquaria, so don't bother.>
I would also like a pretty fish if at all possible, atheistically I like the Fahakas, the Mbus, Figure Eights, etc…
<Many more options besides. Do visit ThePufferForum.com for discussion and pictures of the various species.>
You guys are the experts, if you don't mind, would you please provide some suggestions/ options and perhaps some insight into the species itself and into why you recommend it. 
<Tetraodon cochinchinensis and Tetraodon suvattii would be two species you haven't mentioned I'd seriously consider, as well as Tetraodon palembangensis. Tetraodon cochinchinensis (an active species) and Tetraodon suvattii (a lurker) are both relatively small species but share the same behaviour as their larger cousins. Tetraodon palembangensis is an unusual and attractive species that would fit nicely in your tank.>
Thank you so much,
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Fresh Water Puffers       11/21/13

Wow! Thank you for the speedy response Neale,
How active and "friendly" are the Tetraodon palembangensis?
<Not friendly to other fish at least. More territorial than psychotic, but still, would only keep multiple specimens in a very large aquarium (something like 30-odd gallons per specimen, and wouldn't keep two in case of bullying). Not really compatible with much else. Like most "lurkers" they're smart enough to learn to feed from the surface (maybe even hand-fed) but otherwise tend to rest on the substrate or among bogwood roots. They don't patrol the same way as, say, Green Spotted Puffers.>
They certainly made my list of considerations and were becoming my "default" choice since I don't have enough room for a Fahaka. I really really like the Fahaka and I'm having a very difficult time convincing myself out of it.
<Is indeed a good species, but somewhat demanding, if less so than Tetraodon mbu.>
From what I've read they sound like very social puffers (with humans). If the Tetraodon palembangensis has a similar disposition that would certainly fit my bill nicely.
<Ah, the two species are MUCH different. Tetraodon fahaka swims about, a lot like a small T. mbu, and so would feel a bit more interactive.
Tetraodon palembangensis basically sits about, though I'm sure most specimens learn to become active if they get a suitable reward (i.e., food) and may even beg for food.>
I hadn't really considered the Fang Puffers just because they were so small; it seemed like it would be a bit dull to have one 3 inch fish in 55 gallons of water.
<Wouldn't need quite that much space for a singleton; 20-30 gallons would suffice.>
I had similar thoughts on the Arrowhead Puffer. Truth be told the burrowing, bottom puffers ( Tetraodon palembangensis included to some extent) just don't hold the same level of intrigue for me as the up in your face puffers.
If I had a tank set up for salt water I would have a Porcupine Puffer in it right now just because of the way that little guy acted. It really was a very fun, neat little fish.
<Quite so, and in fact some of the marine species are arguably easier to keep. Arothron hispidus for example is a wonderful pufferfish, and remarkably hardy (the first specimens I encountered were being sold as freshwater fish!). The little "Tobies" are also rather fun.>
I'm not really willing to jump into brackish just yet. I have zero experience with it and am mildly intimidated by the concept.
<Don't be. In some ways adding salt makes life easier because it detoxifies nitrate to some degree, so water quality is that bit easier to manage. It's an added expense, yes, but the amount needed for low-end brackish is small -- a Figure-8 Puffer for example only needs as little as 6 gram/litre (0.8 oz/US gal) for a specific gravity of 1.003 at 25 C/77 F.>
I suppose the Tetraodon palembangensis is my go to at the moment. Can you tell me more about it?
<Ah, would suggest these two excellent summaries:
As I said earlier, the folks at ThePufferForum are very knowledgeable, if a bit sharp at times.>
I can't find much other than a few comments on their rarity, videos of them eating, and pictures? Are they a species that can be ordered through my lfs?
<Yes, are on most lists. But do be aware that historically "Tetraodon palembangensis" has been applied to Figure-8 Puffers, so do double-check your retailer is ordering the real thing, the Humpback or Dragon Puffer.>
Thank you,
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Avocado puffer    10/2/11
So I've got this bare 20 gallon tall tank and am wanting to try my hand at a different type of puffer. So would a single Auriglobus modestus (true freshwater species) be a happy specimen in a 20 tall that will be HEAVILY planted? I notice the 20 tall inst ideal as a 20 long would be but my stand wouldn't hold that long of a tank... As for food I have a 10 gallon as well that will be housing one of those self cloning crayfish that I've heard makes copies of itself like crazy along with snails in the tank so there would be lots of live food to watch this aggressive puffer munch on as well as frozen foods that will be trying to be fed as well. Basically my concern is it starting to pace the glass and become stressed, but I would think having the tank being extremely forested and jungle Val completely covering 3 out of the 4 glass panes along with the driftwood and live food should keep him entertained and happy. If not please let me know! Any advice appreciated!(not a total new comer to puffers, I've had dp's successfully before and done rigorous research on almost all fw puffer species).
<This species gets fairly big and is an extremely active swimmer. I would not recommend a "tall" 20 gallon tank. They don't really like plants and prefer open water, so adding plants to the tank is fine for decoration but won't make the puffer any happier in terms of aquarium size. Somehow doesn't sound right. The longer the tank, the better, and if you can get an aquarium 3 ft/90 cm long, then so much the better. Forget about growing Crayfish for food. As a treat, fine, but do remember they're rich in Thiaminase and consequently a poor staple. Snails are good treats and should be a safe food item. This particular puffer eats insects and bits of larger fish, so a combination of frozen bloodworms and similar, along with bits of (Thiaminase-free!) tilapia fish fillet would make an ideal staple diet. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Avocado puffer
Thanks again Neale for the information! I think I might have already asked this, but just to reiterate, are there any other freshwater puffer species that would be suitable for a planted 20 gallon tall tank, possibly putting the dwarf puffers aside?
<Tetraodon cutcutia and Tetraodon cochinchinensis would be possibilities, though neither is commonly traded. A single or even a matched pair of Carinotetraodon irrubesco is another option, but these are, in my experience, rather shy in small tanks. In any event, all three species mentioned are relatively inactive fish as well as being quite small, so they aren't too fussy about swimming space.>
But if not do you have any other general recommendations for this size tank as far as stocking goes (I've found that the dimensions of my tank are just really odd in general) ...as I am just not sure of what to keep in this tank haha.. so any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!
<Tall 20-gallon tanks don't have the ideal shape because they're tall rather than long, and most fish swim from left to right rather than up and down. So you can either go with small fish that won't care (for example Badis species and some midwater Boraras) or else fish that do indeed mostly move up and down, such as Gouramis or Bettas. A lot depends on what you're aiming for: prettiness, breeding, social behaviours, etc. There are any number of fish forums where you might canvas opinions, including one here
at WWM. Cheers, Neale.>

20 gallon puffer tank! FW, sel./stkg.    8/15/11
Hey all, soon to be re-transforming my 20 gallon tall tank into a heavily planted co2 tank! Want to get back into puffers as well so was wondering what species I'd be looking at....
obviously there's always the dwarf Indian puffer which I'm well versed with..but I'm looking for something that grows a tad larger...but is still manageable in my 20 gallon..
<I see.>
Possibly the common named Avocado puffer? (does it get too big being 4" max?)
<This is Auriglobus modestus, a nasty, nasty species that is active when young but rather lazy once mature. It's territorial and predatory, and even when combined with other fish, even its own kind, it initially usually ends up being kept singly. In any event, a singleton could be kept in a "long" 20 gallon tank, though slightly more space would be preferable.>
And I'm pretty sure Amazon puffers are out of the equation with a tank my size... (being they prefer groups)....or would they be a suitable choice?
<I wouldn't keep SAPs in 20 gallons. But you might find a pair of Carinotetraodon irrubesco well suited to your tank. They're fairly peaceful and work well in planted tanks. By the standards of the genus, the males are fairly tolerant. Alternatively, a single Tetraodon cochinchinensis would work too. On balance though, a swarm of Dwarf Puffers might be more rewarding if you want a planted tank that looks "busy" as you could add shrimps and possibly Otocinclus catfish too.>
Any input would be great!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 20 gallon puffer tank!   8/15/11
Thanks Neale! Always a pleasure to get responses from you!
<Glad to help.>
Going back to the Auriglobus modestus, even though they may be aggressive, do they come with personalities as with some of the larger fish such as Oscars (equally intelligent if not more?) and other puffers?
<Hmm, well, they are busy fish, and easily tamed, but they're not at the most intelligent end of the spectrum. Among the smaller puffers, it's the brackish water Figure-8 Puffer that stands out as the smartest species, easily comparable to the larger Tetraodon species. It's worth mentioning that brackish water doesn't mean "no plants", but rather a more careful selection of plants.>
I've allays liked their greenish sheen, and also do they end to hide when young or older?
<Not particularly.>
In addition, if I was to do this so called "swarm" how many dwarf puffers would I be looking at (from my standpoint at about 4-ish?)
<4-6 specimens, perhaps more if water quality management was excellent, and definitely more females than males.>
Even with it all planted and their line of sight distracted from one another is there room for more? (personally I thought the 1 per 5 gallons is suitable, but depends on conditions correct?) '¦.
<Some argument over this, but yes, I tend to suggest 5 gallons per specimen, though others suggest as little as 2 or 3 gallons.>
ok and lastly, I was referred to a type of puffer (whose common name and species name escapes me) which is part of the "Target" puffer species ... apparently it gets to be about 4 inches but has a really Puffer fish like look compared to the avocado puffer...
<Tetraodon cochinchinensis is a scaled down Target Puffer sometimes called the Fang Puffer; Tetraodon cutcutia is an oddball Asian species sometimes called the Sea Frog despite being primarily a freshwater fish! Both would be suitable for a 20 gallon tank.>
And thanks for suggesting the Carinotetraodon irrubesco as I was also considering them as well (just wasn't 100% sure a 20 gallon would suffice for a pair)!
<Can, would work, but C. irrubesco does become more outgoing in larger tanks. In small tanks they're somewhat shy, in my experience. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Shifting and feature fish! FW Puffer sel./stkg.  7/17/11
Ok thank you for your advice. I have decided to re-think my plans and may just up my puffers into the 240l and keep my whiptails and 'friendlies' in the 120.
I have recently come across Carinotetraodon borneensis in my LFS and am aware how rare this fish is, but information on them seems very limited. I may be able to negotiate some extra tank space with my partner as long as it isn't another 240l! What advice can you give me on c. borneensis?
<Very similar to Carinotetraodon lorteti, but the males are MUCH more aggressive.>
Do they prefer being on their own or being in a group?
<May be kept singly or, if the tank is fairly big, harems of one male to several females. There is some variation between specimens.>
What size of tank would one require?
<Most of these "red eye" puffers are best given 75 litres/20 gallons for the pair, and about 40 litres/10 gallons per additional female. But males of this species are quite aggressive, so things like line-of-sight barriers and numerous caves will all play a role in ensuring good social behaviour.>
Any other information on this puffer's nature would be appreciated.
<A few personal thoughts, here:
There's also a puffer-specific forum called thepufferforum.com that is a useful place to get first-hand accounts.>
Someone told me they may be ok with red-eyes (irrubesco) but I doubt they'd like my zippy SAPs so I can understand they'll want their own space most likely.
<C. borneensis is normally kept singly, and I would recommend you do the same. By contrast C. irrubesco is basically peaceful and works extremely well with SAPs. If you can get C. irrubesco, it's a fine alternative.>
Absolutely any knowledge on them would be awesome. As you can tell puffers are something I really like and keep going back to and I really do want the best for them.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater community puffer?   3/21/11
I have a 29g, moderately planted tank that is now cycled and I am slowly growing my community. Currently in the tank are 2 Otocinclus, 1 SA bumblebee catfish, 1 hi-fin platy, 1 pineapple swordtail,
<Both Platies and Swords prefer/need cooler water than some of your other fish.>
1 Lyretail Creamsicle molly,
<Mollies need very specific conditions to stay healthy.>
1 long-fin red skirt tetra,
<Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, I assume -- potentially a nippy species.>
1 Bloodfin tetra,
<Aphyocharax anisitsi; also enjoys coolish conditions and can be a fin-nipper.>
and a baby angelfish.
<Obvious target for fin-nippers.>
Are there any species of freshwater puffers that are docile enough to live in a community such as this?
<No. There are NO COMMUNITY PUFFERS. None. Your problem here is that you have a mismatch of species AND your tetras are schooling fish that won't do well kept as single specimens per species. Concentrate on provide good (i.e., the right) conditions for the species you have, and I suspect you'll find your community tank looks a lot better and each species lives a lot longer. Hope this helps.
Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater Puffer Selection Help  9/18/09
Hello Pufferpunk (I assume),
<Nope. It's me, Neale.>
I am writing looking for advice on puffers. I have searched through the internet and have discovered that no 2 people who "know" the facts of puffers, "know" the same facts.
<Oh? I think there's actually a quite strong consensus on most species. Some argument over details, but the basics of things like social behaviour and water chemistry are generally agreed upon.>
I have encountered your advice in several places though and you are the "authority" (if I may call you such) that I would trust. (if someone else is answering this email-no disrespect intended).
<None taken.>
I am planning to set up a 55 gallon tank. I want it to be heavily planted and I LOVE puffers. My problem arises because I would like to have more then one fish.
<Not necessarily a problem, but you do have to choose your species very carefully.>
From what I can tell a lot of Freshwater puffers (if not all) are either huge or far too aggressive to risk another fish with them.
<Not correct. While it is probably true that no freshwater puffer is a completely safe community fish in the same way as, say, a Platy, that isn't to say you can't mix some puffers with some other types of fish. The South American pufferfish Colomesus asellus is an occasional fin-nipper but otherwise a peaceful, gregarious species that does well in groups of its own kind alongside fast midwater fish and armoured catfish. The Red-tail puffer Carinotetraodon irrubesco is another species that is usually very peaceful; though territorial, it is small and stays close to the bottom of the tank, so mixes well with fast, midwater fish. I have both species in my 180-litre community tank:
They've been there for some years, and apart from the South Americans sometimes nipping at the Corydoras, there haven't been any problems at all.>
I would like to perhaps get a couple (or whatever is advisable for a harem) of Dwarf Puffers.
<The Dwarf Puffer Carinotetraodon travancoricus is definitely one species best kept with its own kind. It is a persistent fin- and scale-eater, and doesn't "play nice" with other fish. Yes, I know some people mix them with shrimps and Otocinclus catfish. However, while you're free to try the shrimps out, Otocinclus catfish are very difficult to keep alive for any length of time. The VAST MAJORITY die within months of import. They need lots of green algae (or a suitable substitute) and a very mature tank, and I certainly wouldn't add them to the tank until it was at least six months old.>
I think I would be okay territory wise. I have read your advice of 1 per 5 gallons being preferable. What I am wondering is are there other tank mates (non-puffer) I could keep with them.
I have read they are still aggressive for their size, but, what about a larger fish species that could stand up for itself?
<Doesn't work like this. Fish don't "think" like people do, and it's incredibly dangerous to assume any animal thinks in the same way we do. Big fish don't say to themselves, "Hang on, I'm bigger than that silly little puffer!". What they do is their normal behavioural repertoire, and if in the wild that doesn't involve Dwarf Puffers, they aren't likely to have an appropriate reaction. Since Dwarf Puffers get some of their protein in the wild by sneaking up on big fish and biting their fins, it goes without saying that they have evolved traits that allow them to this efficiently.>
I really don't know...a cichlid species or something of the sort? I also really like clown loaches, but I would assume they are too peaceful.
<Nope. While Carinotetraodon irrubesco -- in my experience -- gets along well with equally aggressive, territorial cichlids such as Kribs, that's the only member of the genus Carinotetraodon that even comes close to being a community fish. All the other species in the genus are aggressive biters, in some cases extremely so, as with Carinotetraodon salivator, a very aggressive little fish!>
Thank you so much for your help and time. I think it is great that you are trying to educate people about these fish. I know that I had been easily led into buying a couple a few years back. I had loved them from first sight and gladly believed that an Figure 8 was fully freshwater and surprisingly peaceful, then when I learned the difference and adjusted my salinity to accommodate the fish properly, it unfortunately didn't handle the stress well and died. Then I went to find another brackish puffer for the tank and was convinced to purchase a nice red eyed puffer who also (of course-being actually freshwater) perished.
Anyway, I apologize for the rant, but, I hate the fact that some fish stores just don't bother to find out the truth about what they are selling, and I hate the fact that I didn't know enough to do my own research. Lesson Learned.
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater Puffer Selection Help  9/18/09
Thanks so much for the prompt and informative reply. I truly appreciate it. I will research some more on the species you recommend. Have a great day! Robyn
<You're most welcome. Good luck with your selections! Cheers, Neale.>

Puffers, FW... sel.....  - 11/26/07 Hi, I wanted to get a freshwater puffer, perhaps the Amazon puffer. Are they aggressive? I heard that they have sharp teeth but I have tons of snails for them to bite on so would that be okay? I do far have a African butterfly, platies and swordtails. Would this be okay to buy 2 puffers? Also, about how many snails will they eat and do Amazon puffers do best in freshwater or saltwater? Thanks for all your help. <Greetings. The South American or Amazon Pufferfish (Colomesus asellus) is not an aggressive fish in the least. It is actually rather nervous and easily scared, and when kept alone or with aggressive tankmates never really settles down. HOWEVER, this isn't to say that they make perfect community fish. They do not. Amazon Pufferfish will nip the fins of their tankmates given the chance. Fast-moving fish like Bleeding Heart Tetras and Diamond Tetras seem to work well, but slower fish like Platies and definitely African Butterflyfish will be nipped regularly. The best way to keep South American Puffers is as a group on their own. They prefer to be kept in groups (I have three in the tank next to me here) and will spend all day swimming about on their own but at night cuddle up together in a corner. They are river-dwelling fish and need a long tank (not less than 1 meter) with plenty of water movement for exercise. They will eat snails, but prefer bloodworms and other insect larvae. On the other hand, they have very fast-growing teeth that usually need to be trimmed every 3-6 months. This isn't difficult, but can be scary the first time! Basically you need to sedate the fish by putting it into a 1 litre tub of water into which 1-4 drops of clove oil have been mixed (try a low dose, work upwards if required). Clove oil is sold in drug stores as an anesthetic of sorts. It makes fish very drowsy. Put the pufferfish in there to calm down, and then use cuticle clippers to remove excess tooth growth. Once you're done, net the fish out, place the net in the aquarium, and then release the puffer once it is scooting about happily. If you feed the fish lots of snails, you might not need to do this, but most people find they have to do it periodically. South American Pufferfish have a very wide distribution from the blackwater rivers of the Rio Negro where the water is soft and very acidic through to the Amazon estuary where the water slightly brackish. So they're adaptable. In aquaria, they do fine between pH 6-8, 5-20 degrees dH. They do not need salt in the water, though they will certainly tolerate brackish water up to around SG 1.005. In the wild though a different species of Colomesus, Colomesus psittacus, replaces the South American puffer in brackish and shallow marine environments. If you pick up a copy of this month's (December's) TFH magazine, I have an article about these puffers, how to keep them, and whether or not they make good community fish. Also has some nice pictures! Cheers, Neale

Dwarf Puffers, gen.  10/11/07 Hello All, <Hi Eric, Pufferpunk here> I have a question in regard to Dwarf Indian puffers (C. travancoricus). For the background, I have, I'd say, an "intermediate" level of experience with fish keeping. I started out about a year ago, with fresh water fish in a 10gal (and no WWM, unfortunately). I was taught the basics by my roommate, who has had freshwater fish for years. Then, about 6 months ago I discovered saltwater fish and had a 20gal high and a 55gal marine tank. I currently have the 55 gal tank running and with much help from WWM and MUCH, MUCH reading and emailing (a few times) questions, I believe I am on the right track there. Thanks for all the help! <Glad to heat that. Successful fishkeeping is very rewarding & a joy!> My question for today is in regard to my 20gal high tank. After it was thoroughly cleaned and re-setup, I am ready for some freshwater fish. Here is the setup: 20 gal high -Aquaclear Mini Hang On Filter -Maxijet 400 powerhead -Heater -Standard fluorescent lighting <I would go with the Aquaclear 300 (or whatever they're calling it now). You won't need a powerhead for dwarf puffers--it will just blow them around.> I would like to add some Dwarf Indian puffers, as I'm a huge fan of puffers in general and these I believe, are the only strictly freshwater pufferfish that are both available at local retailers and are actually OK LONG TERM for such a small volume tank. <Actually, there are many freshwater puffers that would do fine in your 20g. See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/fwbracpuffers.htm http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/ug.php/v/PufferPedia/Freshwater/ > If I do choose to add the Dwarf's, how many could I have? I have read the "1 per 3 gallon rule"... so that would be six total and hopefully 1 male and 4-5 females, correct? Or is that pushing it? It is better to keep 1/5g but if you have the tank heavily decorated (DPs love live plants & spawn readily in them), breaking up lines of sight, 1/3g (actual water volume) is fine. Your plan for a harem is good!> Also, as I know is true with Cichlids, it's best to overcrowd because the larger will pick on the smaller fish and if there are higher numbers it lessens and distributes aggression between a higher number of fish. Is the same true with the Dwarf puffers? <No, puffers are territorial & need their space.> If yes and I need to add 5 or 6 fish, how do I acclimate them? Should I add them all at once? <That is usually best.> If so, I doubt the tank will be sufficiently cycled, correct? (I could use Bio-Spira but will that be enough??) <Sure will! Add the Bio-Spira directly to your filter, right before you add the puffers.> However, I'm also aware of the downsides of adding one or two at a time. I guess my real question is, what is the lesser of two evils? <If you can really be sure of the sexes, you should add them all at once. Sexing Dwarf puffers: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library/puffers-in-focus/sexing-Carinotetraodon-travancoricus-the-dwarf-puffer/ Just be prepared for the ones that don't play well with others & have an alternate plan for them. Maybe ask the LFS about the chance of exchanging them if they all don't get along or their sex isn't what you thought, when they mature.> I have read a lot about puffers on WWM and have gone to the dwarf puffer website that Pufferpunk recommends but I have yet to find an answer to this. If you have any other suggestions for this, I would really appreciate it! <Well, here you just came right to the source!> Also, I've read conflicting information on this but is sand OK for freshwater tanks, as long as it's less than 1 inch? I'd much prefer that. <A shallow sandbed is fine. I have been reading a lot of complaints lately about folks not being able it keep it clean though. Otocinclus make good dwarf puffer tank mates & may help with some of their maid service.> Thanks a lot for all the help! Eric <You're very welcome! ~PP>

Re: Dwarf Puffers, puffer sel. period  10/13/07 Hello Pufferpunk, <Hi again, Eric> Thank you very much for the help in regard to the puffers! I actually went to one (national named) LFS and saw about 5 dwarves but they were awful looking. It was a sad sight. Needless to say, I did not buy them. I can't encourage that type of care. <Congratulations for not "rescuing" those fish! I can't stress enough to folks that think they're doing the fish a favor by rescuing them, DON'T DO IT! The shop will see them as a good seller & just order more of them to be mistreated/killed, while removing them from the wild--depleting the natural population of the species.> As for the other puffers, I have read the articles/areas you suggested. I thought that the Green Spot. and the Figure Eight were brackish, no? <Correct. F8s are best kept at a SG of 1.005. GSPs prefer marine conditions as adults & are brought from low-end BW on up, throughout their growing years. I know that 1st link is confusing, as they have the BW & FW on the same page.> I really like the Tetraodon pustulatus but there's not too much info on them on the web. (Google search on WWM produced no results under the scientific name). <That IS their scientific name. Beautiful fish!> I have never seen them in any store around here either. Are these quite rare? <Good luck ever finding one & they are quite expensive. Maybe you could try & follow this thread: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=9955&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=pustulatus They also get large--the same as a fahaka puffer, about 18".> And just for some further clarification, are you suggesting that instead of my powerhead, I should instead have 2 Aquaclear HOB filters? <The AC mini will not be large enough to handle the messy habits of a puffer in a 20g. I suggested 1 larger filter.> Again, thanks a lot for your help! <Good luck on your search! Check the Pufferpedia at the link I gave you for other FW puffer ideas. ~PP> Eric

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

Pignose Puffer For Sale?  7/7/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Do you know where I can find a pignose puffer, all the sites I have been to have them but none in stock. I was wondering if you knew of any better sites? <well, this fellow has one for sale but I think he's in Canada: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4170  Have you tried Aquabid?  ~PP> Palembang Puffer Purchasing Problem - 11/30/05 I'm staying in Malaysia and I would like to purchase freshwater puffer fish, can you tell me the nearest place to purchase for example Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. The species I'm interested is Tetraodon palembangensis.  <Hi Louise. Although I'm closer to you than many on the crew (I'm in China), I can't offer you any specific advice on where to find a Palembang puffer. I understand that both KL and Singapore have good fish street markets, but I would expect finding a Palembang is pot luck.  I saw a number of freshwater puffers on my last trip to Tung Choi St in Hong Kong, so there are undoubtedly a few around. If you are equidistant between KL & SG, I would probably try SG (major exporter / transit hub of ornamental fish to the world). http://singaporetropicalfish.com  has a database of fish stores in SG... there are telephone numbers, so you can call ahead if your trip will be long. Good luck! John>  <<Hong Kong is another HUGE source of live fish (good source for many f/w tropicals, imported often into the U.S.).  Usually sold for the food market, but I'm sure they'll sell you anything they have for any reason.  Marina>>

What puffer fish to get?  9/4/05 Hello, <Hi there!> I have been an aquarist for four years now. Most of the time I've kept  Firemouth cichlids and Chinese algae eaters, but recently I have become interested in starting a puffer aquarium. I have a 25 gallon glass tank with plants, rocks, and drift wood. I was wondering if you could suggest some puffer fish that wouldn't mind other tank mates and that aren't too picky about water chemistry. <Puffers in general are sensitive fish and require clean water at all times.  The only freshwater puffers that will both tolerate other tank mates as well as be appropriately housed in a 25g tank are the dwarf puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) or the Amazon puffer (Colomesus asellus).  The asellus is quite a bit of work though as he is extremely sensitive to ich and will need a constant diet of snails or regular teeth trimmings to keep his beak in check, while the travancoricus is very small and in danger of being eaten by tankmates and will nip the fins of tankmates.  All other freshwater puffers are of a difficult temperament and will not tolerate other tankmates and grow too large for your tank.  Good luck! ~Heather aka LinearChaos> I appreciate your help. Sincerely, Eric Fiedler Dwarf Puffers  6/20/05 Hi Pufferpunk, <Hi there!> I'm upgrading a 10 gallon tank to a 29 gallon - it's almost cycled, only 1 ppm of nitrites left!   <Good job!> Anyway, that leaves me with a 10 gallon cycled tank to play with.  I wanted to put 3 dwarf puffers in the tank-2 females and a male, along with an algae eating/clean up crew. Current tank parameters: 10 gallon, heavily planted with a small (and growing) snail infestation. Ammonia + Nitrites 0 Nitrates ~40 (that's what comes out of the tap, will I need to use some RO water to bring them down?) <You could, but 40 isn't quite toxic.> pH ~7.6 Questions: Are there any good identifying characteristics of dwarf puffers to tell them from, say, juvenile any other kind of puffer?  I want to double check my LFS.   <Look here: www.thepufferlist.com> To sex: Males should have a dark ventral line and possibly wrinkles behind their eyes. What would you add for bottom feeders/clean up crew?  Corys would be cool but I think they like their water a little acidic.  Many people seem to keep Otos with them, what is your opinion?  Shrimp?  I love shrimp and have some Amano ones now that are really nice, but I'm afraid they'd be expensive puffer food.  Would you introduce the shrimp or Otos before or after the puffers? <Otos & shrimp seem to work for most folks w/DPs.  See: www.dwarfpuffers.com> Speaking of food.  The puffers will get frozen bloodworms, some flake food and frozen brine shrimp.  As well as all the snails they can catch as I keep trying to rid my other tank of them.  Is that a sufficient diet?   <Try freeze-dried plankton too.  I doubt they'll eat flakes.  Brine shrimp aren't very nutritious--mostly water. Like other fish, should I feed them 2x per day, as much as they can eat in a minute or two? <Sounds good but skip one day/week.> I currently have a hang on the back Whisper filter.  Do I need to upgrade to better filtration?  Will weekly 20% water changes suffice or is it a wait and see game?  I don't mind adding a canister filter, but don't really want to spend the money unnecessarily. <although I prefer Aquaclear filters, the filter you have should be fine.  I do 50% weekly water changes on my tanks.> Thanks, Catherine <Enjoy your new friends!  ~PP>

- Info about Tetraodon suvatti - Hi, <Hello, JasonC here...> Been reading your site for quite some time now, very informative on all aqua subjects....love your site ! :)  I'm looking for more info on a puffer "Tetraodon suvatti", the arrowhead puffer/pignose puffer.  I tried google-ing your site or the web, but I couldn't find much info.  Have you had this puffer before? <No.> My LFS had 2 in, they sold one the first day. Then the other one was kept with a clown knife(4"), 4 red snakeheads(5") and 2 lung fish.  Yesterday when I went by to check it out again, it's now in it's own tank - he killed every other fish!!  Yeah, so....all I know now is that he'll be quite aggressive, no tankmates. <Well... I think like many things, your mileage might vary. Like most puffers, they will eat most anything that fits in their mouth, but for the most part are 'supposed' to be peaceful. Of course, the puffer might not have read the same books I did so...>  But I would like to know if they're freshwater or brackish? <Freshwater.> What temperature should they be kept in? <Tropical temperatures - 75-80F> ( my house is pretty hot during the summer, it could get to 29/30 C with just room temperature) And tank size? <As large as you please... seeing as this one might end up being kept singly, you probably don't need anything too large, a 55 would be excellent. These fish only grow to about 4.5". You might consider a sand bottom as these fish bury themselves to hide and wait for food.>  Kevin <Cheers, J -- >

Fish as Gifts?  7/20/04 Hi PP, <Hello> Thanks again so much. I'll let y'all know how the "surprise" went in September. <I just got another post from a native of the UK at my puffer forum, http://puffer.proboards2.com.  I started a thread there about puffers in the London area. "Hi, I live in London.  The best place to buy puffers here are from the chain of shops called Maidenhead Aquatics. There's quite a few around London. Their website is www.fishkeeper.co.uk, there's map showing all their stores. But best one is in Guilford just outside London, that's where I bought my Mbu puffer. The staff there specialize in puffers." TP <I would go to my puffer site & keep an eye out for more info there.  Have fun shopping!  ~PP>

Freshwater Puffers for Beginners?  9/13/-4 Hi guys, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Just to check with you, which types of freshwater puffers are suitable for beginners as I really love puffers a lot but the spotted puffers which I kept lived less than 3 weeks every time... <Oooohh, that's not good! =o{  They definitely are not FW puffers!  I guess you need much more research on them.  Read my article: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm> Can freshwater puffers be kept together with blood parrot fish? <I am presently keeping South American & dwarf puffers with a parrot cichlid & a frontosa in a 50g tank.  How large is your tank?  A parrot needs at least a 30g.  Puffers in general, are really not for beginners.  SAPs need a constant daily supply of snails to keep their fast-growing teeth trimmed.  Otherwise, you'll need to trim them by hand every 6 months or so. Here's an article on them: http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/sapuffer.shtml  You might be better off with some dwarves.  They still require special foods also, but are not as difficult to keep as SAPs.  They can get nippy though.  Here's a great website, devoted to them: www.dwarfpuffers.com.  Puffers are best kept in species only tanks.  ~PP>

Puffers on FAQ Hi, <Hello Laura> I was just doing my daily (well, since I started reworking our tank) reading of the FAQ and came across the question on puffers.  These little guys are my favorite fish, and I have kept both species of green spotted, figure eights, freshwater dwarfs, Canthigaster valentini, C. jactator, and C. solandri (have avoided the larger dog-faced and spiny marine puffs due to tank size).  I was hoping you could forward this message on to Tyler Re: what species of puffer to keep in a 20 tall and ordering puffers online. For a 20H, you could keep 1-2 figure eights (sg 1.005), 1 green spotted (sg 1.010-1.015), or 1-2 male and 3-5 female dwarf puffers (freshwater).  Dwarfs are notorious for coming in starving or with severe internal parasites (breeding them would be a noble goal considering how many are lost in the import process). <Agreed> I've seen three batches from three different sources (two different LFSs and another group ordered online for a total of 18 fish) drop like flies even with heavy feeding of vitamin-soaked, meaty frozen and live foods (these guys just won't eat dried foods, not even krill like the larger species).  They also really need lots of live plants to hide from each other when things get sticky.  Sexing can be accomplished as cited in other sources: males are not as round and have a dark brown dorsal stripe and yellow bellies.  For a first time puffer owner, I would really not recommend them because they tend to be very delicate. <Yes... need to be quarantined for weeks, fed foods laced with anti-protozoals, anthelminthics... like Metronidazole/Flagyl, Piperazine, Praziquantel... to eliminate internal parasites.>   As far as ordering puffers online, I wouldn't worry about fig eights and green spotteds if your source is keeping them in brackish but I absolutely would not order dwarfs online. These are fish you really need to see in person before you buy, and even then buying them is a fairly big gamble.  I finally got some successful ones that had been started by someone else for a few months; your best bet is probably to find another hobbyist who has been keeping them long-term. Anyways, I'm sure you guys already know all of this and just don't have time to make such an in-depth reply to every single person who e-mails you, so I hope me typing it all out will help :). <Thank you for the excellent input. You will have aided many, and saved many fishes thereby. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Laura

Mbu Puffer $ Sing along now: "How much is that puffer in the big tank?" (04/18/03) <Ananda here tonight, with apologies to puffers and doggies in windows....> Hi, My name is Peta Greenway, and I was wondering if you could give me an idea of the retail value of my 18"-20" Mbu Puffer?  People keep inquiring about purchasing him and I have no idea what he is worth. <My goodness, that's a big one.... A bit of research found a 4"-5" Mbu going for $87.50 (though that etailer's prices run high), and one person paid £80 (about $126) for a 10" Mbu. But I found no prices for Mbu puffers anywhere near the size of yours. I think you would be completely justified in asking $200 or more for him.> Also, do you know (rough ballpark) how many large Mbu's are out there? <Probably extremely few! The largest Mbu I found mentioned online was 15".> I have been trying to find other owners to compare notes with. Thank You, Petapyropeta@******.com <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Male-Female Ratio for the Dwarf Puffers?  5/1/04 Thanks for the advice, it has been heeded. Could you advise me on the best male: female ratio for the dwarf puffers? <Best is 1 male to 2-3 females, or all females in a smaller (<10g) tank.  ~PP> Cheers, Liam

Availability of Mbu puffers Hi Robert, I am looking to stock a 29gal tank with some sort of puffer (it is empty now). Can you tell me where to look for a Mbu puffer? <Your better retailers should be able to "special order" you one. If not them, the etailers about can do so. A few of these are listed on our links pages: http://wetwebmedia.com/links.htm And where to find out water chemistry requirements? <It's a bit of work, but I'd use fishbase.org: for instance, cut and paste this URL: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=10103 for the Mbu puffer... you can insert any common or scientific name in Fishbase's search feature... it will give you habitat information for many species, references (albeit scientific) for many. Have you read through the FAQs on freshwater and brackish puffers posted on our site?: http://wetwebmedia.com/fwpufferfaqs.htm Other people's Mbu puffer queries/my responses there> If not this species maybe a more available one like green spotted or Congo. Thanks for any info you can provide. Jesse Durham, NC USA <Keep studying my friend. Bob Fenner>

Where can I buy this fish? (Schoutedeni Puffer) Do you know where I can find this fish to buy? Do you have any information on it? Books? Does it eat plants? Can I have it in a 20 gallon planted aquarium by itself? <Have a bit on this species posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwpuffers.htm Can likely be special-ordered through a good sized livestock-carrying fish store... or a good etailer of same (links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/links.htm Not a plant eater, territorial with its own kind, so likely one to your twenty gallon system. Fine solitarily. Bob Fenner> David

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