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FAQs about Tetraodon mbu Puffers Health/Disease

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Re: MBU very sick...     12/26/14
Thank you for your response and for your advice.
I have dosed with PimaFix and MelaFix.
<Worthless, possibly toxic with Puffers and other sensitive species.>

He is still breathing very heavily, I noticed 3 abnormal spots this morning. One below his eye, one above his eye to the right and one just above his Gill. They almost look like pin holes. See picture attached.
Any ideas?
<These look like early-stage HLLE.


HLLE is very common in advanced or Perciform fish; cichlids, tangs, puffers, etc. While it may or may not be related to Hexamita infection (the jury's still out on this) the immediate cause is absolutely clear: poor diet and/or poor environment. By "poor", we don't necessarily mean "you're a bad fishkeeper" but rather "you're not providing what this species needs". Commonly there's a combination of lack of vitamins alongside non-trivial dissolved metabolite levels, which include nitrite and ammonia of course, but also nitrate. Your real challenge with Mbu Puffers is ensuring a varied diet that includes some fresh greens -- gut-loaded shrimps, snails and earthworms -- or else regular use of marine aquarium vitamin supplements. Puffers enjoy crustaceans, but many of these contain Thiaminase.

So a more varied seafood diet containing cockles and white fish fillet is better. As for water quality, Mbu need tanks in the many 100s of gallons when mature, and even youngsters are difficult to house. Nitrate should be below 20 mg/l, and that's the tricky bit if your tap water has high nitrate than that, as mine does! Hope this helps. Neale.>

MBU very sick... Metabolite poisoning likely      12/23/14
I have a 20" MBU in a 300gal tank with 2 FX6 and another all pond solutions 1400 gph external loaded with Purigen and floss
current water
-Nitrite - 0
Nitrate -30
<Too high; want to keep this under 20 ppm>

-PH 7.2
I had a nitrate spike last week due to cleaning out my filters and the nitrates went off the chart!
I did 50% water change 4 days in a row and have just added the other external filter loaded with Purigen and floss to bring then Nitrates down and keep them down. They are currently about 30 and still falling.
My MBU however has not eaten for a week
<Not a worry>

and is laying at the bottom of the tank breathing very hard. He tries to swim on occasion, but is a huge effort for him, probably makes 1-2 body lengths and then crashes back to the bottom of the tank and continues to breath hard...
He usually eats once per day and his usual diet is whole prawns, cockles in the shell and muscles
<Mmm; see WWM re Thiaminase... you NEED to expand this diet>

(varied from day to day)... he usually eats quite a lot (can do 5 prawns at once but I try not to feed that much!), he also usually hand feeds Any ideas? There are other fish in the tank (Severums, Clown knife, flag tail)and they are all just fine, no signs of distress at all,
<The above>
Given the Nitrate spike, and assuming this was the problem, how long should it take him to recover?
<A few weeks>
Here is a short video
Any other ideas?
<The reading.... do you need help in using WWM?>
Please help, I am very worried about him!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

MBU Puffer- 01/15/2012
I have any MBU Puffer that is acting sickly.  He has not eaten in 6 days.
His tail has a clear/white area at the end.  He is not bloated.  He is spending a lot of time floating at the top of the tank.  I have included a picture for you to look at.  He is in a 200 gallon tank.
<Much too small save for anything other than a teeny-tiny youngster; above about half-grown, it'll need a MUCH larger aquarium.>
We feed him frozen krill.
<Needs a more varied diet than this.>
Please advise.
<Do need more information than you are providing. Have a read here first:
Your specimen doesn't look in especially bad shape, but the tail fin clearly has been damaged and exhibits signs of Finrot. The fact he's not eating should be sounding massive alarm bells -- these animals eat by the ton when they're hungry (which is one reason they need a massive aquarium with gigantic amounts of filtration). My guess would be that his environment is wrong. Non-zero levels of nitrite and ammonia would be one possibility, another would be nitrate levels above 20 mg/l. On top of that, these puffers need lots of swimming space, masses of oxygen, and top-notch levels of water circulation. I assume you have a sump under this aquarium with a marine-grade pump turning the water over at least 8 times per hour?
Forget about canister filters, at least on their own; possibly multiple Fluval FX5 filters (or similar) could be used, but normally a marine-style filtration system with an overflow, biological filtration media in the sump, and multiple powerheads for extra water circulation is the way to go.
Remember, it's almost 100% true that Tetraodon mbu cannot be kept in aquaria. It's basically a pond fish, so unless your aquarium is really huge, and water quality so good you could drink it, chances are your Mbu puffer will die prematurely. They are probably the most difficult widely sold freshwater fish to maintain in aquaria, and almost all of them either die prematurely in a home aquarium or end up being passed on to a zoo/public aquarium. Do I sound to negative? Perhaps. But these are not easy fish to keep, so I'm assuming you're an expert fishkeeper who'll be prepared to deal with reality. So, let's have some details on the aquarium, some water quality test results, and we'll take it from there. Cheers, Neale.>

Mbu puffer odd shaped spots
Hey how's it going. I just noticed my puffer few days ago with a large white, almost looks like a bite just behind his back fin and a smaller on a half inch up his body from there but significantly smaller, and noticed it to look as if healing. And today notice another two spots one just behind his flipper , more middle of body and more translucent to his body color.
As well as a larger one almost translucent. But visible as a lighter spot, well odd shape more oval on his other side. Hope it is visible in pictures.
Is this something that should be worried about or is it his fragile skin just getting scratched by rocks. Or stress induced?  Please and thank you for any advice.
<Either a physical injury as you state, something awry w/ water quality, or a tankmate biting it... the placement suggests the latter... What else is in this tank? A Loricariid? Bob Fenner>

Re: Mbu puffer odd shaped spots, other fishes as source      3/6/12
sorry for the late response , the email went to my junk. never got it.
thanks for responding though appreciate it.
I have a midland painted turtle who has been trained not to bite the other tank mates.
<Uh, no; not trainable to do such>

 2 gourami's, i.d shark,
<This could be the culprit>

 tiger dat., Pictus cat, silver gar, swordtails, and a jack Dempsey.
<And/or this>

i think it is the rocks. i pulled a bunch out as everyone is starting to out grow the tank. and have not noticed any new spots and they do look as if they are healing.
I'm just building a 400 gallon setup. with lots of swimming room as the back two corners are 5' each way then in glass it will come out 26" from each side and on a angle between the 26" it is 4' across making a pentagon shape.
I'm new to fish. and not sure what some problems look like. really appreciate it. will continue to keep a eye on him. and the rest of the fish for any other indications something could be wrong.
thanks again so much. really appreciate it.
<Please correct your grammar if writing us. Cheers, BobF>

MBU Puffer fish with lump problem 10/6/11
I really hope you might be able to help me. My beloved MBU Puffer Fish Marvyn is not a very well little chap. He's around 3 ½ years old, and measures 15 inch in length. He lives in a 300 litre tank with 3 CICHLIDS, several PLECS and a SILVER SHARK. I normally do water changes of just under 1/3 every three weeks. His normal diet consists of MUSSELS, PRAWNS and occasional COCKLES in shells (as a treat).
<Here's at least one possible problem. Mussels and prawns, though widely mentioned as pufferfish food, contain lots of Thiaminase. Thiaminase breaks down Vitamin B1, so the more they eat, the bigger the risk to health. Cockles don't contain Thiaminase, so they're a good staple, and Thiaminase-free foods like cockles and tilapia should be, let's say, 75% of the food the pufferfish eats, by weight. That way, the "bad" aspect of prawns and mussels is outweighed by the goodness in the cockles and tilapia. Vitamin B1 deficiency causes all sorts of problems, including damage to the internal organs and nervous system.
A vet may be able to tell if this is the problem you have here. And if it is, a vitamin injection may help put things right. But only a vet can say for sure. But I am quite sure this is one part of the problem, even if not the entire problem.>
The problem:
On Sunday morning I came downstairs to find him upside down on the bottom of the tank. As I approached the tank he span over and swam around normally. Some 15 minutes later I came in and saw him do a complete 360 degree somersault, he then seemed fine again. As the day progressed Marv worsened. I did an emergency water change of around 100 litres (I had done my normal water change the week before) and stuck in some MYZAZIN -- something I previously used on him and it worked wonders --unfortunately, this time, so far, it hasn't.
I've since consulted several fish tanks -- both of which have given different information (one even said I should be doing a ¼ water change every week!!). The second shop told me to test the NITRITE level, which I did, and it seemed fine. She also sold me some API WATER TREATMENTS API AQUARIUM SALT and told me to dissolve this separately in hot water, and then bathe Marvyn in this after diluting it with tank water. She also said to try giving him a massage for around 12 minutes over several days -- in order to try and help whatever the lump is out. She advised from putting the salt in the tank directly, as this would mean lots of water changes afterwards, and might kill the Silver Shark.
I've done this for two days, and after the first morning I got my hopes up as he seemed to have a poo. He hasn't seemed to have another poo since, but did eat half a mussel last night after I maneuvered it near him.
There is a distinct lump, as you can see from the picture, and it definitely feels hard inside him. He doesn't seem to be stressing out from me massaging him, although he is hardly moving at all. The bottom half of him under the lump does seem to be spasming quite a bit.
I have read your articles on the website, and am now worried that the massaging technique might be hurting him further.
Any help that you can give me would be amazing, as I really do want to save the little, or rather big, guy if possible.
<Two other obvious problems are [a] the size of the tank and [b] the lack of detail on nitrate. Mbu Puffers really need huge aquaria to stay healthy, and even 300 litres is far too small. Honestly, 3000 litres would be nearer the mark! These fish are extremely sensitive to small tank conditions. The other issue, nitrate, is the silent killer. Puffers need as close to nitrate-free water as possible, especially these big, sensitive Mbu Puffers. Water in England tends to have high nitrate values because of the urbanisation and agriculture. For example, my tap water has nitrate values around 40 mg/l! That's already TWICE as much as Mbu Puffers should be exposed to. Do read:
So while constipation might be a problem here, in which case Epsom Salt and peas could help,
my gut feeling is that this fish has been exposed to the wrong conditions and fed the wrong diet for too long.>
PS I'm based in England, so apologies for any variation in spelling that there might be.
<Not a problem; I'm in England too! Cheers, Neale.>

My Poorly MBU Puffer, advice needed please. 6/20/11
<Hi Tim>
I have read through the articles about different symptoms hat a puffer can display, but I haven't found anything that is similar to what my puffer is showing. I was wondering if you guys could shed some light on the matter and advise me on the best course of action to take.
My puffer "Barry" would normally devour snails and bloodworms. He usually goes mad for them, and normally eats them before they hit the floor of the aquarium. This now is not the case, and he is looking rather poorly. I have noticed that he has a large lump on the right side of what you might call his nose. I thought this might be caused by the fact that he pushes his face
into the side of the tank so hard when he sees me coming with his food.
<Common for Mbu and other Tetraodontids to occasionally go on feeding strikes and perhaps relatedly to develop sores from such behavior as you note>
Now I have noticed that on his right side, his top tooth has been pushed back somewhat, and the inside of his mouth (on the same side) is very swollen now. When he tries to eat now, he opens his mouth very wide, and is almost trying to push something out. He then shakes his head about a lot. I am convinced that when he tries to eat, it is hurting him too much. I have also noticed that he forces his face down into the sand really hard whilst moving forward, then comes back up with sand on his back, and again, shows great discomfort with his mouth. He is now VERY thin, and I am extremely worried about him. I keep the water in tip top order, as I did a lot of research into how to care for him before buying him, and realised just how temperamental they can be to changes in water quality.
Although you guys don't recommend it, I have treated the aquarium with Melafix Antibacterial fish remedy,
<Of no use>
as the aquarium shop that I brought him from advised me that it is more likely to be a bacterial infection.
Have I done the right thing? Is there anything else that you would recommend?
<Perhaps injection w/ a real antibiotic... there are a few broad-spectrum types...>
He has become such a deer little chap, and I would be devastated if I were to lose him.
<I do hope your puffer rallies. Bob Fenner>
My Poorly MBU Puffer, advice needed please. 6/20/11
<<Can I just add to what Bob's said something about water quality?
Tetraodon mbu is extremely sensitive to nitrate, so regular water changes are crucial, ideally with deionised water buffered with Discus salts or quarter to half dose Rift Valley salts. You're aiming for below 20 mg/l
nitrate, comparable to marine fish-only aquaria. Because this puffer is so large and because it eats a protein-rich diet, nitrate can quickly become very high in the aquarium. Realistically, aquarium size needs to be in the 500-1000 gallon size range for long term success, if only to slow down nitrate accumulation between water changes. For aquarists after large puffers, it's ironic but true that the marine species, such as Arothron hispidus, are actually MUCH easier to keep than these freshwater species adapted to big rivers and giant lakes. Cheers, Neale.>>

Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11
My mbu puffer has a red looking lesion on the right side of his mouth.
<From what cause?>
He has not eaten in 10 days. He has no other evidence of being sick besides this red looking lesion.
<... and not eating>
He has lost a lot of weight. He is about 9 inches in length. The tank is 4ft tall and 3ft deep and 375 gallons. The tank operates on its own trickle system - a gallon an hour is filtered threw several pumps and empties into our front yard.
<Need more circulation... a gallon an hour? Is this some sort of auto change out system?>
He is housed with a Pleco, catfish, angelfish and knife fish.
<Mbu puffers generally eat such...>
There is no ammonia
and Ph is 7.5 in the water and is about 78 F. Prior to the red swelling in his mouth, he ate shrimp, snails, mussels, clams, and crab legs.
<Likely too much Thiaminase>
All the other fish look fine. We had hoped he would heal and left him alone but nothing has changed so we have put him in a hospital tank with salt and an antibiotic. What else can we do? Are we doing the right thing? We've looked for a vet in Arizona but have not been successful.
<Mmm, can't tell from the info. presented, but do want you to read through what we have recorded on WWM re this sp.: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mbupuffer.htm
and the linked files above, in the hope that something will "pop out", become aware to your conscience. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11

Hi Bob-
Thanks for the response. I did read the article you linked to and I have read multiple other questions and threads on the site. Thank you for all the information. But, do I have a few more questions.
I don't know what caused the mbu to stop eating. I assumed the red lesion in his mouth. One day it wasn't there and the next it was. Can Thiaminase be the cause?
<Indirectly, perhaps a contributor>
Yes, the tank is an auto change out system and operates off 5 pumps.
I tested the water and no nitrates appeared,
<None? Zero? Odd... do you use chemical filtrants? Some sort of sophisticated denitrification gear?>
which is what I meant by ammonia; the Ph is high though. 7.5.
As of today, he is not eating but his mouth looks a little less red. I put in non-iodized salt and a product called melaflex
<... Melafix, API... not a fan>
which I found at the pet store. It said it was for red wounds on fish. The pet store didn't have any answers on the product. Can you suggest any other type of treatment?
<W/o there being an established cause, no. Most "medications" including the phony one you've applied actually do more harm than good if there is no known vector, situation that they're useful for>
We have another tank, 500 gallons, he could live in but his tankmates would be an Arowana and a gar, and I don't see them getting along.
He was housed with other fish when I got him and he has gotten along with his tankmates and no one has gone missing. We will look into getting a larger tank. We have talked about getting a 1000 gallon, so it is certainly on the horizon.
<The one the fish is in now is fine volume wise>
Thanks for the information and in closing, if you could suggest anything for the irritation he suffers in his mouth and whether I should be force feeding him, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Should I be force feeding him? How can I get him to eat?
<I would NOT force feed this fish UNTIL it is "very thin". Mbu can go for quite long whiles w/o feeding. I would proffer a favored item every day or two, and remove it/this if it is not taken. I urge just patience here.
re: Mbu Puffer With Very Red Mouth 5/23/11

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'll get him out of the hospital tank with the crummy Melafix and back into his regular tank.
<Ah good>
The tank's filtration system is something my husband built. It has its own water supply and plumbing system, i.e. water from the house is filtered into the tanks, pulled back out by multiple pumps and pumped into the yard. I exaggerate when I say no nitrates, I compare the test strip and it is the lowest yellow shade, lower than the shade given so quite low but not zero.
<Thank you for this clarification. The concern is/was that something askew might be linked w/ a 0.0 reading>
I feel so guilty over his health, I would buy him a bigger tank if I thought it would cure the problem.
<Assuredly it would not>
I should lower his Thiaminase intake. Maybe his diet is the problem. He will eat earth worms?
<Yes... and fillets of human-intended fish flesh, and whole marine fishes of small size>
I can check your website for this and I can find something interesting to eat. Maybe ghost shrimp.
<Again... not too much in the way of crustaceans>
There is an Asian market nearby.
<Ahh, many choices there. Best that the food items, if freshwater in origin, be frozen, defrosted>
I do need to research what to feed him so this Thiaminase issue can be resolved. I would cry tears of joy if he would just eat.
<This fish will, in time>
I think I have an aquatics vet coming to the house on Wed, so I'm feeling like he has some hope and could recover. Again, thank you.
<Certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

Stringy poo mbu 10/17/10
My mbu puffer is lively and fine but as soon as he eats he's still and sits at the bottom of the tank.
<Fairly normal in small tanks. In bigger tanks they're much more active.>
450litre tank on his own water parameters all clear ph 7
I'm guessing it's internal parasites or tape worm? I've started to soak his food in garlic overnight. is that the right thing to do?
<The garlic is neither here nor there. Deworming pufferfish is a good idea. In the UK, that will probably require a call to your local vet, though a few deworming medications are available in some aquarium shops.>
Btw the red dot is a reflection on the pic ^_^
<Cheers, Neale.>

MBU seeming sick HELP!! Please 12/02/08 Hello, <Hello,> Over the past year I have had Two MBU puffers. The first one was given to me as a gift and died within 3 weeks. <A very difficult species to maintain; not recommended for home hobbyists without lots of experience.> He had Ich when I received him and seemed to get through it then developed a extended rectal area and seemed to swell a little over the entire body and then died over a few days. <Likely some type of bacterial infection, but difficult to say precisely what. Certainly never a good idea to purchase fish with obvious Ick infections. But since the fish was a gift (!) then that's not really your fault.> Now I am on my second MBU. He has done very well for a couple of months until I put a Palm house plant near his tank I had brought in for winter. It seemed it really freaked him out to have this thing in the same room because he hid for about 2 days and developed Ich himself. <Hmm... Ick doesn't come out of nowhere. It's important to understand the Ick parasite cannot survive outside of a host fish for more than a few days. Hence, once you exterminate the Ick infection in an aquarium, it should NEVER come back, UNLESS something else brings new Ick parasites into the system. Do take care to identify diseases properly: Ick can be mistaken for other things, such as early stages of Finrot or Fungus. These two infections are MUCH MORE related to stress. The organisms that cause them are normally harmless, even beneficial, in healthy aquaria. When fish are in good condition, their immune system prevents problems. When a fish gets stressed, these previously harmless organisms can cause disease.> Now please note he has eaten fine but had to be fed near his hiding area. I raised the temperature to 82 F for the Ich. He has about 10 spots that come and go over the past week. My water is; am. 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 20, ph 7.6, lots of plants, 2 Fluval 405, 1 Eheim 2236 Ecco. in a 100 gal tank. <Water seems fine. Do ensure the filtration is adequate: I'd recommend filtration around 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. By my reckoning you have 185 + 340 + 340 = 865 gallons per hour total, for a 100 gallon tank, which seems fine. But do ensure the filters are working properly, not clogged up.> This has been going on for the past week. <You must deal with the Ick immediately. Add salt (5 g per litre should be ample) and raise the temperature to around 28 C (82 F) but be very careful with the temperature because Puffers are highly sensitive to low oxygen concentration. The warmer the water, the less oxygen it contains. Salt is not at all dangerous to this species: Tetraodon mbu occurs in brackish water in parts of its range and has a high tolerance for salty water. In fact this is true for puffers generally, so the addition of salt can be used safely as a way to kill Ick parasites. Leave the tank "warm and salty" for around two weeks, or at least a week after the last white spots disappear from the puffer. By contrast, copper- and formalin-based medications are toxic to at least some pufferfish species and should be avoided where possible.> Now to why I am asking you guys to help. Every night at 7:30 he goes to his sleeping area since I have had him. Every morning when I turn the light on he takes about 15 min. to wake up and start his food begging. But this morning he didn't come out. I had to kind of move him out because I couldn't tell if he was alive or sick. He isn't begging for food and is sitting on the bottom. He did eat the 3 Prawns I gave him. but is still just sitting on the bottom. <I wouldn't bother feeding the puffer while he is sick.> This morning I put Jungle products Parasite clear in the tank. I hope this isn't really bad! <Would not use this in a Puffer aquarium.> I did this because it seemed to fix my little girls Dwarf puffer ( that clearly had IP) and because I observed some small slug looking things (about the size of aquarium salt grains) on some Java moss I purchased two weeks ago from the store I purchased the 1st puffer from who died. <I have no idea what "IP" is, so you'll need to explain. The white "slugs" are probably harmless invertebrates, such as planarians. In general, anything visible in the water or on the substrate won't be disease-causing. But these things can be a sign of overfeeding, since they're eating leftover food.> His diet consists of snails, prawn, shrimp, crab legs. <Would vary the diet some. Crustaceans (i.e., shrimp, crab) contain thiaminase, and this destroys Vitamin B1, and over the long term WILL make animals sick if fed as a majority of the diet. So by all means use crustaceans as, say, 20% of the diet, but make the rest other things. Snails are good, so are mussels and especially things like clams and oysters. Squid is a cheap and extremely useful food item. I'd also add some lancefish. Obviously DO NOT use "feeder fish" because the risk of making your puffer sick is ridiculously high.> This is all really discouraging because I have purchased a couple Eheim 2250's and have a 300 gallon tank on order. And I really am not interested in other types of fish. Thanks for the help. Ed <I hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: MBU seeming sick HELP!! Please 12/02/08
Thank you for the fast reply! I have installed carbon and done a 30% water change to help remove any of the Parasite clear. <The carbon will remove formalin, but it'll have no impact on copper concentration. <<Mmm, not so. RMF>> I'd be doing a succession of water changes, 50% a day, for the next 3-4 days if at all possible. The more water you can flush out the system, the better.> I have added the salt as recommended. He isn't eating today, so far. <No big deal. When he's happy, he'll eat. In fact it's a good "barometer" of pufferfish health: when they're healthy, they will eat anything and everything!> He appears to be breathing a little heaver and has bouts of what I would describe as coughing. <Could be a reaction to water quality, or something in the water even. Do consider possible toxins: paint fumes, stuff kids might have tipped into the tank like soda pop, and so on.> I also have seen him winking with the eye that has a spot on the rim of the eye. And one other thing I noticed is he will kind of dart around for a couple of seconds, kind of a shake would be a better description. <Darting about is often (though not always) a reaction to irritation to the gills, sometimes by parasites (Ick, Velvet) and sometimes to water quality (ammonia).> I don't know if any of this changes you thoughts on what could be wrong other than the Ick. Thanks again Ed <Cheers, Neale.>

Tetraodon mbu, hlth., fdg. 12/22/09
I'm looking for some help with my freshwater mbu puffer fish, I think he may have impaction from a cockle shell.
<Oh? What makes you think this? It's unlikely a pufferfish will become constipated because it's swallowed a piece of shell. For one thing, they evolved to eat precisely these types of foods. The acidity inside the gut should further break down any shell material that wasn't chopped up by the beak, so given time, shell fragments should pass out without too much bother. If the pufferfish isn't eating, it's much more likely that there are other problems than this.>
We have tried Epsom salts with very little results, he isn't eating where as before he was like a dustbin.
<It's a sad but true fact of life that virtually no home aquarist can provide the right conditions for Tetraodon mbu. In other words, almost all specimens sold in pet shops die prematurely. These puffers are very sensitive to high levels of nitrate, essentially anything above 20 mg/l, and for long term success nitrate levels should be less than 10 mg/l. On top of that they are also sensitive to water without enough oxygen. It's difficult to say precisely what adult Tetraodon mbu needs to survive in captivity, but we are talking about tanks measured upwards of 500 gallons in size, and filtration systems rated at not less than 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Such systems are incredibly expensive and really only viable in public aquarium settings.>
he's not himself he keep's pulling his eyes inside his head, he's up and down the tank then just lie's there. Is there anything you could suggest?
<Do start by reading here:
Then check water quality; you need 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and nitrate levels less than 20 mg/l. Water chemistry is not critical, but moderately hard, slightly basic water is probably the optimal simply in terms of stability.
Diet should be varied. Carnivorous fish can suffer vitamin deficiencies very easily because the popular foods -- mussels and prawns -- tend to contain a lot of thiaminase. Cockles (Cerastoderma edule) don't contain thiaminase.
Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

very sick mbu puffer 5/3/10
Hi my name is Amy I've had my puffer for 4 or so years now...
<Tetraodon mbu is species that does very poorly in captivity.>
never really had a problem till yesterday... one of his eyes look like it was pushed in ... I did a 50% water change.. then today did it again and added antibiotics
<What antibiotics? How did you diagnose the problem as being bacterial rather than, e.g., dietary or water quality/chemistry?>
a got from a fish friend a the store.. now about six hours later both his eyes are sunken in really bad...
<If the situation went bad quickly, e.g., overnight, water quality and/or chemistry is most probably the issue. Tetraodon mbu needs clean water -- 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and less than 20 mg/l nitrate. The species is tolerate of a range of water chemistry conditions from fairly soft through to slightly brackish, but those conditions should be stable. Water circulation needs to be very high, at least 8 times the volume of the tank per hour. Given the recommended aquarium size for this species is around 1000 gallons -- seriously -- then the filtration system would need to be about 8 x 1000 = 8000 gallons per hour. Do understand that this species cannot, will not last long in "small" systems 200 gallons or less.>
what do I do??? I'm freaking out... Please respond as soon as possible.
<Don't freak out. Reflect. Read. Start here:
Also think about diet. Puffers are carnivorous, and that means they are VERY prone to nutritional problems. Thiaminase is one serious issue, and many of the foods they like are vitamin B1 deficient. So rather than prawns and mussels, you need to base their diet more on Thiaminase-free foods like tilapia fillet, cockles and earthworms.
As with any predator, feeder fish should not be used unless they are home-bred livebearers or killifish. Goldfish and other fat/Thiaminase-rich foods are dangerous, and if bought from pet stores almost certain to
introduce diseases eventually.
If you have EVER used feeder fish bought from a pet store, you need to consult a vet NOW, because you could easily be facing a parasitic or bacterial problem you cannot treat using home remedies simply because you cannot diagnose such things. I mention this because in some parts of the world, e.g., the US, feeder fish are still used, despite all the evidence pointing to them being dangerous and nutritionally poor.
Cheers, Neale.>

Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/26/10
Hi there,
<Hello Sarah,>
It's a long story but I will hopefully keep this brief! I bought a Mbu about 10 months ago.
<Oh dear'¦ rather like buying a Dolphin or an Alligator. These aren't pets for home aquarists.>
I was stupidly told by the shop that he would not grow any more than 10 inches and even more stupidly I believed them.
<The importance of research *prior* to purchase.>
Now Phil Mbu is about 9 inches.
<Still a baby.>
I am very aware that his tank is far too small for him, but right this moment there is really nothing I can do about it as I live with my parents and I can't put an 8 foot tank anywhere in the house and the rest of it.
I have been in collaboration with a private tropical fish shop who can take him over from me and we are in tentative agreement of dates of when to do this. Only there are a few big (I think) problems with Phil I have noticed.
One - this is a strange story and it does not make sense to me. I woke up a week ago to him lying on the floor of the tank, upside down, not breathing/gills moving once every 5-10 seconds, no other signs of life and white as a ghost. I immediately thought it was the water ammonia levels so I took him out (out of desperation) and put him in my other tank as I knew that that water was tip top. I stroked him and noticed a massive sharp appearing object sticking out of his side (not through the skin i.e.. it was still inside of him). I thought this may be some undigested mussel shell.
So I decided that this may be the problem and waited. The next day there was mussel shell on the floor and it was not there before as it only has shark fish in (who he happily lived with before I moved them). After he passed whatever it was that was inside him as the next day the lump had gone, it appeared that his eyes (irises), fins and tail had blood running through them and he seemed blind. I think this because (amongst other reasons) he was letting me stroke him and he kept banging into things. This blood was not however coming out of his anus/poo which was odd if it was a alimentary problem.
<Indeed. But does sound like a blood infection, i.e., Septicaemia, if the mussel shell pierced his skin that deeply. You will need an antibiotic to treat this, and preferably advice from a vet. This is the equivalent of a deep wound on a human.>
Anyway, so the last few days I have been hand feeding him (which would NEVER happen before!) as he just will not eat if I don't do this...it is like he really is blind, it's horrible.
<Quite. But to be honest, the eyes of the fish in the photo look okay.>
He is eating fine when I feed him so it is not like his appetite has gone at all which I thought was a reasonable sign.
<Usually, yes. But don't overfeed. Water quality is infinitely more important at this time than a daily meal.>
I don't know if all of this is a coincidence of many health problems; or just one big one. For what equipment I have I do well which I know for Phil is no consolation. What I want is to get him back to health at least so he can see again, if it is correct that he cannot.
<From the photos at least, I think you have a good chance of him being fine.>
Two - he has black shading from the beginning of his tail, along each side just
where the pattern stops up to and under his lower lip. Do you know what this is? If it would please you I can send you a photo? In fact I will take one now and see what state you think he is in.
<I think that's stress more than anything.>
Basically, I am eager to him to be looked after better in a massive tank and tons of filtration like shops should have. However in the meantime I want to solve what problems of his that I have unwittingly caused by buying him in the first place.
<Yes. Assuming this tank is 150-200 gallons, you may be fine for the next couple of months. Do regular water changes, and fed very modestly, maybe 5 times per week. Provide a variety of foods, but avoid those with thiaminase as much as possible; i.e., use shrimp and mussels sparing, but tilapia fillet and cockles more often. Obviously, don't use feeder fish.>
I put him back in his own tank on his own an hour ago and right about now he is exploring the 'new' tank. His equilibrium is a bit ff and I still think he can't see properly, but his breathing is relaxed. (Although as anticipated, he has not eaten his tea because I did not hand feed him...it was a little experiment to see if he would or not and he hasn't as yet). Since the incident, I also haven't seen his teeth, top or bottom. I don't know if this has anything to do with it -- when I am feeding him with my hand obviously I am standing up'¦so I can't bend down to see him in profile to see his teeth because I have my arm at the bottom of the tank).
<Do be careful when hand-feeding large puffers, especially if you think they have poor eye-sight; they CAN do serious damage.>
I would welcome any advice about the two conditions, I am hoping the latter may be treatable. Oh and also, he has been pooing completely fine all the way through'¦I am a nurse and these things are very important to us nurses!!!! I ensured the temperature is about 79ish so he gets as much O2 as possible.
<Down the temperature a bit; 24-25 C/75-77 F is ample, and as you doubtless know, the cooler the water, the more oxygen it contains. This will also slow down metabolism, meaning he won't need as much food or grow as fast. The use of a little aquarium salt may be beneficial by reducing nitrite and nitrate toxicity, 2-3 grammes per litre for example.>
I know I am a stupid person for buying him but I am trying my hardest to rectify the matter in the best way that I can so any advice would be taken very seriously.
<It's a tough species to keep. Do read:
But I do wish you both well.>
Kind regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/28/10
Thanks for the advice - hopefully the shop will take him soon then he will be happier but I have turned the temperature down, added another external filter and other stuff you advised, and he seems quite happy now so should be alright for the moment.
I wanted to ask - I searched for Tilapia but nowhere seems to sell it here (I'm in England).
<Lots of places sell it. I get it from the Waitrose fish counter. They have it at Sainsbury's too. Any Asian food market will stock the stuff.>
Are there any other (fillet) fish that he can eat that are low in thiaminase?
<Yes, but often more expensive. Good choices include plaice, halibut, cod and haddock. Do read here:
Earthworms, woodlice and small pond snails are all good puffer foods too.>
Obviously the cockles are not a problem getting being from the UK!
<Quite, but pricey.>
Kind regards,
Sarah and Phil
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Mbu Puffer and his ailment 8/28/10
Oh I didn't realise you were in the UK! I searched on the supermarket's online store out of interest but I'll pop along then as it may not show online.
<Should not be difficult to find tilapia.>
Thanks for the advice, it's funny because all of the other websites I look at say temperature should be higher so it's interesting to know that it can be (a lot) lower.
If you know of anyone in Kent that is equipped with the knowhow and would like him feel free to let me know, but thanks for everything.
All the best
Sarah and Phil
<If you aren't already aware, most Maidenhead Aquatics stores will take in fish, even if they haven't sold them. This includes Mbu Puffers, and they have quite a good track record for rehoming difficult fish. Worth giving them a ring. Cheers, Neale.>

Ich or cysts? 10/8/10
Hiya just noticed these little cysts on the puffers back is it Ich? If so what treatment would be safe to use as I have discus in the same tank
Thanks :)
<Can't tell from this photo. Do please also note that we ask for images around 500 KB, rather than the 3 MB you sent! Such big images fill out e-mail quota and prevent others e-mailing us successfully. Such big images are also a pain to download. Normally be bounce back messages with big attachments without reading them, and ask the sender to resize with a smaller photo. I'm in a good mood, so didn't do that here. Anyway, start by having a read here:
In terms of medicating, puffers with Whitespot are best treated with salt/heat because they react poorly to formalin and copper. Do also bear in mind that the track record of Tetraodon mbu in captivity is dismal because it requires a huge aquarium, realistically 1000 gallons. Most die for one reason or another because the aquarist doesn't have them in a big enough aquarium and doesn't provide the perfect -- and I mean crystal clear -- water quality they need: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and near-zero nitrate.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ich or cysts? 10/8/10
Ahh so sorry about the big file will have a read and send a smaller picture.
<Okeley dokely.>
Thanks once again :)
<Happy to help. Feel free to crop down to the infected part of the fish. Do make sure the image is in focus. If the image isn't sharp enough to see the spots, it won't help us! Cheers, Neale.
Re: Puffer cysts or Ich (RMF?)<<>>
Hope it's ok best I could do with my pictures taking skills! Looks like poxes or fungus?
<Hmm'¦ doesn't look like Whitespot to me. Nor Lymphocystis. Given that Tetraodon mbu occurs in brackish water, you might maintain at SG 1.003 or 1.005 for a few weeks to see if that helps. Freshwater parasites generally cannot complete their life cycle in brackish water. I'd heartily recommend the Puffer Forum as a place to go show this photo. The folks there are quite good at identifying unusual diseases.
Cheers, Neale.><<Mmm, from what little I can make out this looks like some sort of reaction (not to Ich), body mucus... possibly with some sand attached. I would NOT treat this fish chemically... but look to improving the environment and nutrition... This fish/species can't live with these other fishes, or better put, they can't live with it... for much longer. BobF>>
Re: Puffer cysts or Ich (RMF?)<<>>
Mmm thanks will see what they say I add salt for the discus <<RMF would NOT do this>> also but will increase accordingly.
<Salt/heat used to treat Whitespot should be harmless to Discus. However, brackish water at SG 1.003 upwards will quickly kill Discus though harmless to the puffer. Refer to Klaus Ebert about the use of brackish conditions when treating freshwater puffers; in short, puffers have a high salt tolerance and up to 25% seawater salinity will be tolerated by freshwater species across long periods, and the use of brackish water is a low-risk method for handling a wide range of infections and problems. Do be crystal
clear in your understanding that Tetraodon mbu should not be kept with Discus, or indeed other fish, so I hope this is a short-term cohabitation. Tetraodon mbu can, will view other species as food, and the very soft, very warm water Discus prefer is not what Tetraodon mbu needs. Ideal conditions for Tetraodon mbu are around 25 C/77 F, and moderately hard, around neutral, i.e., 10 degrees dH, pH 7-7.5.>
Appreciate the help
<Happy do so. Cheers, Neale.>
State of health declined / AW: Pufferfish, MBU, with lump - 05/06/08 Pufferfish, MBU, with lump - 06/02/08 Hi Marco & the WetWebMediaCrew, <Hello Lars.> Some weeks ago Heike emailed you about our MBU (+50 cm size) with a lump on the left side next to his mouth. <I remember.> Back then - apart from the lump - the fish was in good shape (active, eating regularly etc.). <Did you find out what caused the lump, was the lump sampled (e.g. syringe = a hollow needle) in cooperation with a vet? I understand this sounds difficult and potentially dangerous to the fish, but it is done with Koi, and large puffers also have been sedated successfully in order to cut their teeth. Those samples could have been cultured and you would have known if it was a lump caused by a bacterial infection.> Unfortunately the state of health declined by Wednesday/Thursday this week, when he (or she) stopped eating. He is not moving and/or eating anymore. <I am very sorry to hear that. Sounds really bad.> Attached please find a picture from today, showing the MBU laying in the water on his back. Heike gave the puffer a massage and some air <Did he swallow air (increase oxygen content of the tank water in this case)? Or did you see gases that were produced by bacterial processes inside the fish?> went off his body already (he/she started swimming a few minutes). She is keeping up with the massage which hopefully help ... <I believe touching will rather stress the animal, potentially harm its protective coat of mucus. Should only be done when air was swallowed cannot be expelled by the puffer himself.> If possible, please provide us with additional tips that will help to save our beloved brother (or sister). <I suspect (from description, this is not a fail proof diagnosis) a bacterial infection that originally caused the lump and now has spread to other organs. You can try an antibiotic treatment (only in cooperation with a vet and in a separate tank to avoid a kill-off of filter bacteria), I fear it is too late for sampling and a bacterial culture now. You know/have called the Koi Vet in Stelle (Fisch-Reha-Zentrum Nord), east of Bremen? Or Annette Bley a vet in Bremen?> Best, Lars. <Good luck to you and Klaus, even if I have to confess it does not look good for him. Marco.>

Pufferpoo 1/26/07 Mbu health <Hi Shazza, Pufferpunk here> I have a 5 month old Mbu Puffer, he has always been fine, eats well and happy. Today ive <I've> noticed a very large bowel movement coming from him,<.> its <It's> thick and lumpy, whitish with red veins going through it. I am very worried. It is still joined to him and is as long as he is (4.5 inches at least)<.> Please help<!> Thanks<,> Shazza <Please read your letter before sending, to be sure you have used the proper punctuation & capitalization. I corrected this one. These have to be posted in our FAQs. My thought about your puffer is that it may have a prolapsed rectum/intestine. You can try treating with 1 tbsp Epsom salt/5gallon. It may just be a superpoo. Epsom salt wouldn't hurt in either case. You might be overfeeding your puffer. In that case, the food is only partially digested & this may be what you are seeing. Here is an excellent Mbu story by a puffer keeper of close to 50 years: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=150 You are welcome to join in at that forum & post about your puffer! ~PP>

Lumpy Mbu Puffer 9/11/06 Hi, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a MBU puffer fish called ASBO. He is not very old and has formed a lump on the right side of his mouth. I have looked all over the internet to see what it could be. The only thing I can come up with is a cyst or tumour. He seems to be eating fine and his mood is fine also. Do you know what it could be and is there anything you can suggest? I have tried putting Melafix in his tank. I did a seven day treatment then done a 25% water change. The lump got bigger but now is staying the same size. I love my puffer fish and don't want him to die, please help. What can I do? <I have seen most lumps like these are just cysts that get absorbed back into the fish. In some cases, it has been caused by a shell fragment stuck in their mouth. Have you been feeding him snails? Keep his water pristine--be sure you have extra-heavy filtration, large water changes are in order for these fish (50% weekly) & extra large tanks, eventually close to 1,000 gallons for these monsters! See www.thepufferforum.com for more info. ~PP>

-MBU in trouble- - 04/10/2006 Hi Bob, <Justin with you today.> fortunately we've found your resource on the web (hard to find more detailed info about the MBU anywhere else here in Germany). <Well we will do what we can.> We're the owner of a small MBU (10 - 15 cm) since end of last year. We have serious problems with him for the last 10 days: - He is not eating anymore (we've offered him mussels, prawns etc.) - He often turns upside down and remains there for minutes (sometimes hours), but recovers and returns to normal position afterwards - Sometimes his belly blows up near the tail fin - His anus stays open sometime and it looks like (at least something similar to) a worm is visible - Small white dots are visible on his fins and the body <Well to cover your list so far, He has trapped air in his body. most likely at this point it is in his intestines, you can try to help him by burping him (read here :http://www.thepufferforum.com/articles/puffer/airpuff.html). He has Ich which needs to be treated with Saltwater dips or with anti Ich medication like formalin in his own quarantine tank. He may not survive if the air has entered his bowels as that is what it sounds like has happened. but there is not much at that point you can do short of taking him to a veterinarian who specializes in fish.> Some additional info: - He is living in a 450 ltr. tank together with other fish - We medicate him with antibiotics (separate tank, 15 minutes per day, Nifurpirinol) - We medicate all fishes with drops against the dots (although no other fishes seems to show up with dots at this moment) <This is acceptable for now, however if this puffer survives this it will grow to somewhere north of 3 feet long or close to 1 meter. it will need a 1000 gallon tank and serious filtration. The is not a puffer for the general public. you might look into a Fahaka or another smaller freshwater puffer.> Attached please find two small pics of our MBU: <<Rats... file not moved/saved, seen by me for this. RMF>> - They have been shot yesterday and today - One shows up with the white dots - One shows up with upside down position and blown up belly. It would be great, if you would be able to share some ideas. It's hard to see his torture, we�ll see him better again ... If you provide me with a phone number in the US, I would love being able to give you a call. We're lost with ideas how to help this poor guy ... <Just follow the article and keep offering food. That is unfortunately all you can do at this point. Keep the water pristine and keep other fish from bullying it. www.thepufferforum.com has quite a bit on this puffer as does www.fishbase.org . I recommend you read up on here and at both those places.> <Justin (Jager)> Thanks Lars
Re: Big problems with our Tetraodon MBU -Mbu in trouble 2- - 04/11/2006
Hi Justin, <Lars> thank you very much for your speedy reply. <Sorry that it was too little too late.> Unfortunately our MBU died two days ago (hopefully it was better for him to stop his torture). Since he has been the dearest fish of our son, no ... not true ... the dearest fish for all of us (gentle, relaxed, friendly ...), it would be great to know about other puffers that could make sense for a 450 gallon tank. <In your previous email you said the tank was in liters. which is 120 gallons, however, regardless a Fahaka would love it. try www.pufferlist.com for a very complete list of the common to the trade puffers in freshwater.> You've mentioned to think of an Fahaka, what other puffers would make sense to think of? Nevertheless it would be important for us to know, why our MBU went seriously ill, since we did not experience something similar with all our other fishes. <I believe that based on your photos he swallowed air, and was unable to clear it. that blocked its bowels and it died. Not a good way to go. Puffers don't do well in air and should always be moved in water or bagged in the water.> Thanks for your help. Best, Lars <I'm sorry you lost the fella. If you want another puffer try the pufferlist above and www.thepufferforum.com both of which have a vast knowledge base on the friendly little/big guys. >

Offering a home for a Mbu puffer 3/31/06 I recently read on your forum that someone is trying to find a home for a Mbu puffer. I don't know their email to write them back> <Was this on WetWebFotos? You should be able to respond to them (see their profile by clicking on their handle/web-name) directly. If it was on WWM, do provide us with permission to post a/your email address in the hope they will see this> I have a 450 gallon tank that would be perfect. Can you help me contact them? Liz <Bob Fenner>

Puffer Ails 7/10/03 Our Mbu Puffer about (12 inches in length) has decided he does not want to eat shrimp anymore. We were always supplementing snails, crawfish. He just will not eat the shrimp. He has been doing something funny with his mouth, after he has bit into something, He opens up his mouth very wide like he is trying to push something out but nothing comes out, its gives us the impression that something is stuck in his gums??? Does that make sense?? <have you checked for overgrowth on the teeth?> He has been eating the snails even though he goes through this ritual. He is not as eager to eat as he once was. We have ordered him Ghost Shrimp, Brown Snails and crab. What else do you suggest? <some Selcon to supplement the diet... also gut-loading the prey with nutritious dry foods and frozen fare that the puffer would not eat alone> My husband pet him yesterday, when he was cleaning the tank. The Mbu "Andy" started to color up and move his fins like this made him happy. I thought he would puff up and act mad but he seemed to like the contact. Cute. He has tank mates that he has had from the very beginning. A Bala Shark "Cedric" and 30 small Tetras. When he is finished with his food they all come over and he lets them eat what ever he was having. I don't know how long this will last but it is really cool. I'll take a picture for you guys... We were rinsing the shrimp in filtered water, we should use a little water out of his tank I guess in a cup that belongs to him do you think he may not like his food rinsed in the filtered water?? Could there be too much Chlorine?? <no worries here> We research and read and talk to people we just want to do the right things for our Mbu Puffer Friend. He has become quite the family member. We are getting him that 300 gallon tank so that he can grow very old in it. Thanks, Vivian <many FAQs in our archives on puffers... do browse as well http://www.wetwebmedia.com Anthony>

New Mbu Review (03/21/03) Hi, <Hi. Ananda here today.> We are the proud parents of a beautiful Mbu Puffer. <And here we missed the baby shower.> We briefly have put him in a 37 tall (he is 7 inches) we are having a 135 delivered and set up with an established filter system tomorrow. <The 135 is a good starter tank for a fish this size... you are making plans for that 300+ gallon tank you're going to need when it gets to its full-grown length of 26 inches, right?> My question is last night my husband was on the other side of the mirrored side of the tank. He adjusted the heater and this scared the Mbu, "Simon". Simon moved so fast across the tank I could not believe it. <Despite the fact that they swim like tugboats most of the time, puffers can move amazingly fast when they need to.> He bumped into the other side of the tank. He hit so hard. He then sat on the bottom of the tank and I noticed blood coming from his left gill every so often. After about 1 minute this stopped. <Ouch! Sounds like the fishy equivalent of a bloody nose.> This morning and afternoon he is swimming and is colored up beautiful. Do you think this hurt him? This was really scary. <For him, especially!> Please let me know what you think? <Keep an eye on him. If there will be movement near his tank when the people come to set up the 135, cover his tank with a blanket so he won't get startled.> Also we have fed him mystery snails and shrimp.. <You don't have to use mystery snails; ordinary pond snails will work fine, too. You might want to set up a snail farm tank. Check out the article here: http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/snailsforpuffers.shtml> My husband says its ok to take the shrimp out of the freezer and leave in the refrigerator for a few days and feed it to him. <Sort of like leaving bread out on a plate for a few days before you eat it....> I say no, its not safe. Better to take the shrimp out the night before and feed the next day.. <I just take the shrimp out of the freezer and drop them into the tank. (Though I have to chop them up a bit, first; my puffers are little guys.) Hard and crunchy foods mean more wear on his ever-growing teeth. Do vary his diet a bit more; check out the puffer feeding FAQs here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/pufferfdgfaqs.htm ...Also check the various puffer FAQs, including the marine ones -- your puffer is closer in size to marine puffers than to the more common fresh/brackish puffers.> Help... Vivian Rahman <Have fun with your new family member. --Ananda>

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