Please visit our Sponsors

Related Articles: Puffers in General, Puffer Care and Information, A Saltwater Puffer Primer: Big Pufferfish! by Mike Maddox, Fresh to Brackish Water Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes, Pufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo, Puffer Care and Information by John (Magnus) Champlin, Things That My Puffers Have Told Me by Justin Petrey,

Related FAQs: True Puffers 1, True Puffers 2, True Puffers 3, Tetraodont Identification, Tetraodont Behavior, Tetraodont Compatibility, Tetraodont Selection, Tetraodont Systems, Tetraodont Feeding, Tetraodont Disease, True Puffer Disease 2, Tetraodont Reproduction, Puffer Identification, Puffer Behavior, Puffer Compatibility, Puffer Selection, Puffer Systems, Puffer Feeding, Puffer Disease, Puffer Dentistry, Puffer Reproduction, True Puffers, True Puffers 2, True Puffers 3, Freshwater Puffers 1, FW Puffers 2, FW Puffers 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, 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, Green Spotted Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes

/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

"True" Puffers, Family Tetraodontidae, (except the Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Subfamily Canthigastrinae), Part 5

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part VI


 Bob Fenner


Sphoeroides (18spp.)

Sphoeroides annulatus  (Jenyns 1842), the Bullseye Puffer. Eastern Pacific; California to Peru. To nearly eighteen inches in length. Off of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico's Baja, and in the Galapagos. 

Sphoeroides lobatus (Steindachner 1870), the Longnose Puffer. Eastern Pacific. California to the Galapagos. To ten inches. One in the Sea of Cortez at Punta Chivato, another in the Galapagos.

Sphoeroides spengleri (Bloch 1785), the Bandtail Puffer. Central and western Atlantic. Brackish and marine. To seven inches long. This one about four inches, in Roatan, Honduras.


Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Sphoeroides testudineus (Linnaeus 1758), the Checkered Puffer. To a foot in length. Live in shallows, in seagrass beds. Burrow in sand to hide, ambush prey. St. Thomas and Moody's Water Gardens in TX pix. 

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.


Takifugu (17spp.)

Excerpted from: Puffed up with pride; New and unusual pufferfish species for the discerning aquarist by Neale Monks

The fugu puffers, genus Takifugu 

The Takifugu spp. puffers are important primarily as food fish rather than aquarium fish, with several being cultured on fish farms or caught in the cool waters off China, Korea, and Japan to supply discerning gastronomes with the famous fugu. As is well known, fugu requires careful preparation, because some of the internal organs of the fish contain a deadly poison, tetrodotoxin. Takifugu puffers are also widely studied by biologists because they have remarkably small genomes, making it much easier for scientists to study their entire sequence of genes than is the case with most other vertebrate animals. Humans, for example, have a genome about seven times larger, and even that of the humble danio is more than four times larger than that of Takifugu rubripes

Most likely as a by-product of the abundance of these fish in the aquaculture industry, a handful of Takifugu puffers are now appearing in aquarium shops with some regularity. The peacock puffer is particularly common, and being brightly coloured and not too large, it would seem to have great potential. However, it does have the reputation for being rather delicate, with many aquarists considering it impossible to keep alive. At least part of the problem would seem to be inappropriate water conditions: these are subtropical fish that normally live in estuaries. They cannot be kept in freshwater aquaria indefinitely, and they should only ever be kept in relatively cool aquaria. A water temperature of 18-20˚C (64-68˚F) is ideal. A higher temperature reduces the amount of oxygen in the water while increasing the metabolism of the fish, the result being a fish that dies from slow asphyxiation. 

Besides temperature, the other big issue with these fish is water chemistry. All Takifugu live in marine habitats, either in the open sea or in coastal waters and estuaries. At least two species are known to spawn in freshwater though, Takifugu obscurus and Takifugu ocellatus, and as a result these species are sometimes traded as freshwater fish. While they can survive in fresh water for months, perhaps longer, both will be much healthier if kept in at least brackish water. Takifugu ocellatus should be maintained in brackish water at a specific gravity of about 1.010-1012, while Takifugu obscurus can be kept either in similar brackish water conditions or in normal seawater. Takifugu niphobles is best considered only a temporary resident of fresh or brackish water, and needs fully marine conditions to do well over the long term. 

Takifugu ocellatus is the most widely seen of the two species. It is easily recognised by its vivid colouration: it has a metallic green body with bright orange markings on the back between the pectoral fins and at the base of the anal fin. In terms of behaviour, this species is unpredictable. It is not a fin-nipper, at least, but it can be aggressive towards conspecifics. Because it needs subtropical conditions, standard brackish water fish from warmer waters do not make ideal tankmates. One exception is Scatophagus argus, which ranges north into Takifugu ocellatus territory, and the two might be maintained at 20˚C (68˚F) without problems. 

Takifugu obscurus is a much less attractive fish but is, perhaps, a better bet for the home aquarium. It has a greyish silver body with a yellowy band running from the mouth along the flanks to the base of the tail. Above and slightly behind the pectoral fin is a large black eyespot ringed with pale grey; the belly is off-white. Like Takifugu ocellatus, this is a euryhaline species that lives in the sea but breeds in fresh water. Juveniles are believed to live in rivers for about a year before swimming downstream to mature in the open sea. Takifugu niphobles is a similar species and can be confused with Takifugu ocellatus, having a similar black patch behind the pectoral fin. Its body is a much darker grey though, and the entire upper surface is peppered with small white spots. A giant among pufferfish, it can reach lengths of up to 80 cm, but even specimens only half as large will still require massive quarters with excellent filtration. All in all, not an ideal aquarium fish, despite the fact that it has proven to be quite hardy and easy to care for.

This genus of pufferfish includes a number of small, strictly freshwater pufferfish from South and South East Asia. Apart from their size, the most characteristic feature of this genus is pronounced sexual dimorphism: the makes are usually much more brightly coloured and invariably posses erectile ridges along the belly and back. In fact, the scientific name of the genus, Carinotetraodon, comes from these structures, karina meaning 'keel' in Greek. When males are displaying to females, or threatening one another, they raise these keels, presumably to make themselves look more imposing. Both sexes can puff themselves up in the normal manner when alarmed, just like other pufferfish. 

Although Carinotetraodon spp. are territorial and snappy towards one another, like most other pufferfish, their small size makes it possible for multiple specimens to be accommodated in a sufficiently large aquarium. Under such circumstances, males and females will eventually pair off, and following some fairly rough courtship behaviour they will spawn, often in a thick mass of Java moss. The male will then drive off the female and guard the eggs until they hatch, which normally takes about three days. Once the fry are free swimming, after another couple of days, they will accept tiny lived foods, such as microworms, and after a week or two they can be weaned onto newly hatched brine shrimp and small Daphnia

There are three species of Carinotetraodon regularly traded, of which the most common is probably Carinotetraodon travancoricus, an Indian species often simply called the dwarf puffer. It is indeed a tiny fish, barely 2 cm long when mature, and a densely planted 40-litre (10 gallon) aquarium will comfortably house a single make and three females without much risk of aggression between them. Unfortunately, males and females are very similar when young; so sexing the fish in your retailer's tanks is difficult. However, once mature, sexing them is quite easy: while both fish have a dark band along the ventral surface, the male's is much darker. Males may have stronger overall colouration as well, particularly when spawning, but this is an unreliable indicator because there is so much variation in the colouration of these fish anyway. Besides variation between specimens, individual fish can also change their colours depending on their mood. 

Carinotetraodon travancoricus are confirmed fin-nippers, and keeping them with tankmates such as small tetras or barbs is a bit of a gamble. On the other hand, they generally get along well with dwarf suckermouth catfish (Otocinclus spp.) and freshwater shrimps (Caridina spp.). As far as feeding goes, these fish are very adaptable, and will take all kinds of live and frozen foods, including small snails, bloodworms, clean Tubifex worms, and Daphnia. Brine shrimp are a good treat and willingly taken, but their nutritional value is low so they shouldn't be used as a staple. One nice thing about Carinotetraodon travancoricus is that it is predominantly day-active, and is in fact remarkably outgoing given its size. It is also very tolerant of water chemistry, doing equally well in both slightly soft and acidic conditions and moderately hard and alkaline ones. As with all pufferfish though, it does not appreciate rapid changes in pH and hardness, and is very intolerant of nitrite and ammonium. Provided they are kept in a well-filtered, mature aquarium, these are lovely fish, and excellent oddballs for the aquarist with only limited space. 

Less commonly encountered is the red-eye puffer, Carinotetraodon lorteti. Found throughout much of South East Asia it has been known to the hobby for decades, often being traded under an old name, Carinotetraodon somphongsi. Though well know, its availability has been patchy, almost certainly because its high level of aggression and persistent fin nipping make it impossible to keep in a community tank.  In terms of basic requirements, this species is comparable to the dwarf puffer in most respects, though being a larger fish it does need a bigger aquarium. A matched pair may be housed in a 40-litre (10 gallon) aquarium. Males are easily distinguished from females by their colours; males are basically brown with mustard yellow stripes across the head and back. The belly is cream-coloured belly except for a reddish stripe across the keel running from just behind the mouth to the base of the anal fin. The tail fin is greenish-blue and fringed with a thin white band. Females are attractive but in a different way, sporting a mottled pattern of light and dark brown above and off-white below. Both sexes sport red irises, from which comes their common name. 

The least widely seen of the three popular Carinotetraodon species is the red-tail puffer, Carinotetraodon irrubesco. It is sometimes muddled up with the red-eye puffer, and females of the two species are virtually identical, the only obvious difference being that female Carinotetraodon irrubesco bear thin brown stripes on the belly that female Carinotetraodon lorteti lack. Male Carinotetraodon irrubesco can be immediately recognised by their red tails, but they also have red dorsal fins and the lighter bands on the dorsal surface are tan coloured rather than yellow. While it is a toss-up which of the two species is the more attractive, Carinotetraodon irrubesco definitely has the advantage as far as personality goes. It is relatively peaceful and can be kept with a variety of other fish, provided slow moving species with long fins are avoided. My own species seem to get along well with cardinal tetras, gobies, Otocinclus, and juvenile halfbeaks. 

Two additional species of Carinotetraodon are traded very occasionally, the Borneo red-eye puffer, Carinotetraodon borneensis, and the banded red-eye puffer, Carinotetraodon salivator. Male Borneo red-eyes are similar to C. lorteti but the with greenish-yellow banding instead of bright yellow and they also have a distinctive blue tail. Female Borneo red-eye puffers are essentially identical to female C. lorteti, though the colour banding on the back may be a trifle more yellowy. Banded (or striped) red-eye puffers are easy to recognise because of the vertical banding on the head and body. These bands vary in intensity, being most obvious on spawning males, but even on quiescent males should be apparent. Female striped red-eye puffers look a lot like female Carinotetraodon irrubesco. Unfortunately, males of these two species are extremely aggressive, both towards females and other fishes in the aquarium. Aquarists intent on spawning these fish, should they be lucky enough to obtain them, will almost certainly need to condition the female apart from the male, and only introduce the male when she is carrying eggs. Even then, there are no guarantees that they will spawn, and separating the fish if things turn nasty will be essential.

Tetractenos (2spp.)

Tetraodon (See: Brackish to Freshwater Puffers) 23 spp. @/Fishbase:

Torquigener (19spp.)

Torquigener brevipinnis Regan 1903, Indo-West Pacific; Indonesia, GBR to S. Japan, Noumea. To 8.4 cm. N. Sulawesi  image. 

Torquigener flavimaculosus Hardy & Randall 1983, Western Indian Ocean; Red Sea, Seychelles, escaped into Mediterranean. To 13 cm. Red Sea image. 

Torquigener florealis (Cope 1871), Western Central Pacific: Hawaii to Japan and the East China Sea. To seven inches in length. This image made in Shark's Cove, Oahu, Hawai'i.

Torquigener hypselogeneion (Bleeker 1852), Indo-Pacific; South Africa to Samoa. To four inches in length. This image made in captivity.

Tylerius spinosissimus

Xenopterus naritus

Brackish to Freshwater Puffers: (See Separate Section)

Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Subfamily Canthigastrinae

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Debelius, Helmut. Undated. Pufferfish in the marine aquarium. Aquarium Digest International #27.

Debelius, Helmut. Undated. Boxfish- those fascinating marine oddities. Aquarium Digest International #36.

Michael, Scott W. 1997. The puffers; unique in many ways. AFM 8/97. 

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World, 3d ed. John Wiley & Sons, NY.

Quinn, John R. 1986. Puffers & friends; a look at the pros and cons of keeping the popular puffers. TFH 5/86. 

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part VI

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: