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/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

Burrfish, Porcupine Puffers, Family Diodontidae

Bob Fenner

  Diodon holacanthus, Bahamas 

Family Diodontidae are the Porcupine or Burrfishes; their inflatable bodies are covered with spines that are may be either permanently erect or folded down when the animal is non-inflated. There are six genera, nineteen species in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific. The two genera sold, Diodon and Chilomycterus all make excellent, if often too large in ultimate size, aquarium fishes with limitless spunk; much too nice to be just made into dried hang-up novelties.

    Once again, here we'll highlight the most commonly available species of Diodontids in the aquarium interest. 

Allomycterus pilatus Whitley 1931, the Deepwater Burrfish. Indo-west Pacific: Australia, Tasmania. To one and a half foot in length.

No pic

Chilomycterus affinis Gunther 1870, the Pacific Burrfish. Tropical Pacific in distribution. To a nineteen inches in length in the wild. Here's a one foot individual at the end of Mexico's Baja.

No pic

Chilomycterus antennatus, Bridled Burrfish. Tropical W. Atlantic. To one foot in length. Roatan 2016
Chilomycterus antillarum Jordan & Rutter 1897, the Web Burrfish. Tropical western Atlantic. To only ten inches in length. Aquarium photo. Note, this genus' and Cyclichthys body spines are not retractable.

Chilomycterus atringa (Linnaeus 1758), the Spotted Burrfish. Western and eastern Atlantic coasts. To two feet in length.

No pic

Chilomycterus reticulatus (Linnaeus 1758), the Spotfin Burrfish. Found worldwide in tropical seas, but uncommon. Relatively large, dark spots on body, fins. Erect, triangular, short spines over body. To twenty two inches in length. Here in the Galapagos.

Chilomycterus schoepfi (Walbaum 1792), the Striped Burrfish. Western Atlantic coast, discontinuous in the west Indies. To ten inches total length. Aquarium images.

Chilomycterus spinosus mauretanicus (Le Danois 1954), the Guinean Burrfish. Eastern Atlantic coast of Africa. To ten inches in length.

No pic

Genus Cyclichthys: Eight species.

Cyclichthys antennatus (Cuvier 1816), the Bridled Burrfish. Formerly placed in the genus Chilomycterus. Tropical eastern and western Atlantic coasts. To twelve inches in length.

No pic

Cyclichthys hardenbergi (de Beaufort 1939), Hardenburg's Burrfish. Western Pacific, New Guinea to Australia. To ten inches in length.

No pic

Cyclichthys orbicularis (Bloch 1785), the Birdbeak Burrfish. Indo-west Pacific and southwest Atlantic (off South Africa). To twelve inches in length.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Cyclichthys spilostylus (Leis & Randall 1982), the Spotbase Burrfish. Recorded from the Indo-west Pacific and Galapagos Islands. To thirteen inches. Formerly placed in the genus Chilomycterus. Red Sea images.

Genus Dicotylichthys

Dicotylichthys punctulatus Kaup 1855, the Three-Barred Porcupinefish. Western coast of Australia. To sixteen inches overall length.

No pic

Genus Diodon

Diodon eydouxii Brisout de Barneville 1846, the Pelagic Porcupinefish. Indo-Pacific. To eleven inches in length.

No pic

Diodon holacanthus Linnaeus 1758, the Long-Spined Porcupinefish. Circumtropical in distribution. To some eighteen inches in length in the wild. Can be told apart from the similar D. liturosus by its longest spines being on top of its head; and lacking spots on its fins. A comical, hardy addition to a fish-only rough and tumble marine system. Aquarium, St. Lucia (Caribbean) and Bonaire images.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available)
Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available

Diodon hystrix Linnaeus 1758, the Spotted Burrfish. Circumtropical in distribution. To 28 inches in length in the wild. Note spots on fins and long spines on body, not the head. Here are photos of specimens in Hawai'i and the Maldives.

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

Diodon liturosus Shaw 1804, the Black-Blotched Porcupinefish. Indo-Pacific, but not Hawai'i. To twenty six inches long in the wild. Distinguishable from D. holacanthus by its longest spines being just above its pectoral fins.  This one off of Pulau Redang, Malaysia.

Diodon nicthemerus Cuvier 1818, the Globe Fish. Indo-Pacific. To twenty four inches in length.

No pic

Lophodion calori (Bianconi 1854), the four-Bar Porcupinefish. Indo-Pacific. To twenty four inches in length.

No pic

Tragulichthys jaculiferus (Cuvier 1818), the Longspine Burrfish. Indo-west Pacific. To a foot in length.

No pic


Easy to avoid with careful observation. Here's a copepod parasite on the dorsal fin of a burrfish.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

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

Esterbauer, Hans. 1991. The yellow-spotted Burrfish, Chilomycterus spilostylus. TFH 12/91.

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.


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