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FAQs about True Puffer Behavior

Related Articles: Puffers in General, Puffer Care and Information, A Saltwater Puffer Primer: Big Pufferfish! by Mike Maddox, True Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes, 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 Compatibility, Tetraodont Selection, Tetraodont Systems, Tetraodont Feeding, Tetraodont Disease, Tetraodont Reproduction, Puffers in General, Puffer Selection, Puffer Behavior, Puffer Systems, Puffer Feeding, Puffer Disease, Puffer Dentistry, Puffer Reproduction, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes

Puffer behavior is directly related to their environment and tankmates

Puffer Exhibiting New Worrisome Habits    7/1/14
Hello and thanks for your wonderful advise and all the help you provide for so many aquarist!
<Ah, welcome>
I have a 120 Gallon FOWLR system (60x18x25) running a Wet dry filter. I perform weekly 25g Water changes, Nitrates - between 20-40, salinity -1.023. PH - 8.1 - 8.2. Temp - 76. ammonia/nitrite - 0
<Nitrates a bit high, but... okay!>
Bioload is 9" Reticulated Puffer,
<Will get MUCH larger...>
4" Niger Trigger
<And this>

, (2) Reef Chromis, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, (2) Peppermint Shrimp, lots of assorted snails and hermit crabs.
<These crustaceans and snails will be consumed by the first two fishes>
I recently (1 week ago) changed the overflow from a 1" drain to one with (2) 1" drains so I can have one connect to 20g refugium before draining into the return sump chamber.
<Good move>
Since this change our puffer habitually starts swimming about 30 minutes after the lights go out. he does this for the duration of the night(roughly 11 hours), and does not show any signs of awareness if we
attempt to distract or communicate with him. He typically begs for our attention at every opportunity, and never turns down a meal, however during these trance like swim sessions he acts as if we aren't even there. During this time he occasionally makes large splashes in the tank while swimming over the higher rocks in the system.
<Mmm; natural (not anomalous) behavior... sort of like other "higher animals" in zoos pacing. Coating one end of the system (outside) with paint, paper... to reduce internal reflection; may help abate this>
Additionally he was eating fine, but 2 days ago he accidently bit the Niger trigger fish during feeding.
<Not really accidental... another note re the need for planning, getting a larger system>

The Niger literally swam in front of his food as he was biting it. The Niger seems okay, but the puffer immediately became, for lack of a better description, sad. He did not eat any more that night and his colors darkened and he became lethargic.
Since then he is not eating as much or as happily as usual and when he does eat, it seems like he spits it out and then sucks it back in, sometimes several times before fully swallowing it.
Other than these two major changes in personality/habit he appears to be healthy. His colors change from dark to light based on his mood/activities
<Again... natural; to be expected>
and there is no noticeable marks or damage to his skin. His sporadic swimming appears to slow if we turn the TV or a light on, but he continues the swimming at a decelerated rate.
Other fish in system act good, except that the Niger is a bit more cautious when eating. Please help me understand what the problem is and how I can help alleviate his stress.
<The coating/covering of one side; searching out a bigger world...
otherwise patience. Bob Fenner>
Re: Puffer Exhibiting New Worrisome Habits

Thanks for the quick reply, and also thanks for the skimmer recommendation a few weeks ago, it is working out great!
<Ah good>
I will put the background on one side and the back of the tank immediately.
The shrimp/fish have been getting along amazingly.
<And will do so... up to and until the latter all disappear>
The puffer is the definition of gentle giant. We have videos of the cleaner shrimp literally riding the puffer during feeding time. He does love biting snails though. The Niger actually lives/sleeps in a cave with the two peppermint shrimp and shows incredible protective behavior over them.
<These animals can/do get along in the wild... and oftentimes in captivity...>
All of the fish go to the skunk for cleaning but he usually only offers his service to the puffer, even going inside his mouth to clean. The niger is the only thing that messes with the crabs so far and only by removing them from his cave. It really is an amazing thing to watch all the different types of life interacting with each other.
It really gives a feel of respect that I never would have guessed possible with the types of fish and their natural tendencies. The skunk cleaner actually seems to harass the puffer at times. The puffer is so
careful what he bites when being fed as to not nip my fingers. It really was a fluke that the niger decided to swim in his mouth at the worst time.
My current plan is to upgrade the niger and puffer to my 180g currently occupied by my 7" clown trigger.
<Yes... moving the Clown out I hope/trust to elsewhere>
He is by himself but will need a larger tank in the future as well.
Hopefully I can get a year or two out of the current systems before that becomes necessary. I don't dare put any fish with the clown trigger as he has a very typical temperament for his species towards other
<Oh yes>
My nano reef is very excited for the upgrade from biocube to 120g system unless I use the tank as sump for the 300g clown trigger display.
Just wanted to share my plans and thoughts. The hobby is so engaging in so many ways and your assistance is so helpful and extremely appreciated!
Thanks again for all the help,
<Thank you for sharing. BobF>

Re: Puffer Exhibiting New Worrisome Habits     8/5/14
Hello Again,
There are some new developments with the puffer. The background stopped him from swimming along the back, but now he swims along the front and really doesn't watch where he is going.
<Still seeing its reflection likely
... Need to cover one end of the tank to eliminate internal light bounce>
Yesterday he developed a red sore below his lower lip, I put a small led fixture over the tank last night which helped prevent him from swimming as aggressively against the glass, but he still swam the entire night, and has done so for over a month now. If I turn off all the lights he swims extremely fast horizontally back and forth. The nitrates are hovering just under 30 ppm.
<Do you need help using the indices, search tool re Nitrate control input on WWM?>

I changed 60 gallons in 20 gallon intervals last weekend and plan on doing 60 more today and again tomorrow. Is there anything else I could do to discourage this and help heal the sore? Attached is a picture of him and the sore.
<The paper or other cover as mentioned... likely the addition of a or a few "dither fish">
The AquaC 180 skimmer is working well and the 20g diy refugium I made is growing Caulerpa nicely.
Mike Cail
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Dog face puffer, beh.      5/29/13
Hello ladies and gentlemen, I have been looking all over your site for an answer, I'm sure it's there but I can't seem to find it.  Anywho, I recently bought a dogface puffer he's about 2-3 inches in length
<Wow, small>
 he's still a little guy, and he was doing fantastic for the first 3 weeks, but now he seems to be stressed he's turning a very dark shade of brown.
  My water parameters ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 20 I had to bring it down yesterday with a small WC about 10 gallons of a 125 gallon tank...tank mates are 2 yellow bell damsels I think that's what they are called they're damsels none the less and 2 ocellaris clown fish all juveniles.  The other day I added 2 live rocks in the area the puffer stays most the day, could that be what's stressing him?!?
<Not likely the rocks; these are probably psychologically helpful. Could be "just a phase"... the damsels may be intimidating...>
He eats fine and lightens while he eats he goes back to the gray color but after he changes right back to brown.  I'm going to do a larger water change and this evening, and I'm trying to catch the damsels to relocate but they are a pain and hide in my LR and I got a bunch of LR!! Is there anything else that may be stressing the little guy out?
<His reflection in the side of the tank. Try taping a piece of paper over one end>
I can't seem to figure out the problem here! Thanks in advance I love the site, first place I go if I have an Inquiry!
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Dog face puffer, beh.     5/29/13

Thanks for the reply! That would have been my next guess, as he is constantly biting at his reflection in the glass,
 I didn't know if it was
normal puffer behavior as I only see him doing this when I feed him! One other thing, he seemingly will only eat mussels
<See WWM re Tetraodont foods/feeding/nutrition... you don't want the troubles such a restricted diet will impose>

 I tried to feed him crab and clams as well as shrimp and he eats only a couple bites and leaves it alone for my hermits to take care of.  Is there anyway to entice him to something other than mussels,
<... See WWM... the FAQs... BobF>
 I do soak all the food I give to my fish in Kent garlic extreme, and a vitamin booster called Acurel but it still
doesn't seem to work!

Strange Coloration on Betta's Tail      5/30/13
I just set up my tank last week, so it had to go through a fish in cycle.
<Too new to stock>
However, I used Stability by Seachem for the seven days that it requires to help the process along and gain all of the necessary bacteria. Also, I use Prime when I do my water changes. during this process I've done almost daily water changes, usually 25-35%. I did one 75% when I switched from gravel to sand. In my tank I have live plants as well as plastic. In my tank there are 4 Albino Cory Catfish, 1 MM Platy, and 1 male Betta. I am writing this message because The tip of my Betta's tail has a waxy look to it. At first I was worried it might be the beginning stages of Fin Melt.
He has one tear in his tail fin from snagging on an ornament about 5 days ago, however I haven't seen any signs of white lining his fins except in one spot on a front fin that is just some fin growing back in. He is eating normally and doesn't show typical signs of stress like clamp fin. However, the reason I even notices his tail's waxy look and slightly darker coloration is due to his sudden change in behavior. He has gotten to where he almost constantly swims back and forth along the back wall of glass along the length of the aquarium, which is 10 gal.
<Likely reacting to its (internal, you can't see it) reflection>
He has no signs of nipping and none of the other fish bother him. I thought my filter may be too strong but the current is fairly light. I also thought that maybe it was the light that was bothering him since I has a fluorescent bulb. I only have one bulb in so that one side of the tank is slightly darker. I have floating plants and places for him to hide.
I don't understand why he is pacing or why the tip of his tail fin has that waxy look to it.
<Not to worry re this last... happens; will repair itself>
 Since I noticed the change, I did a 30% water change and started treating with aquarium salt,
<... the Corydoras don't "like" added salts; stop>
no other medicines have been applied because I don't want to treat for the wrong thing.
<Ah good>
 Since the salt was added there was slight improvement, but the pacing is still almost constant.
<Try taping a piece of paper over one side (outside) the tank... the side receiving the most ambient light is best>
 Temp is usually a constant 79 or 80, it only changes slightly when I do my water changes since room temp is cooler than my tank temp. I always treat my water and let it sit before adding to the water. My PH is in the 7s and my GH and KH are both 6. Please help me figure out what is wrong with my Betta before it progresses, especially if it does turn out to be Fin Melt.
Thank you,
<Patience and the paper, tape here. Bob Fenner>

The Deep Sea Mystery Circle – a love story, SW puffer beh.  9/20/12
> Hi Bob,
> Did you see this? Never seen nest-building behaviour like this for a fish. Definitely trumps Cichlidae equivalents!
<Have seen this... posted quite a bit on FB even!>
> http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2012/09/18/deep-sea-mystery-circle-love-story/
> Cheers, Neale
<Thank you. Will share/post on WWM. BobF>

golden puffer, colour changing      8/23/12
I purchased a golden puffer which is 8".
<Yikes... some troubles to be expected starting w/ such a large specimen...>
When I first got it was all golden with a few black spots. I really didn't notice the top of the fish began to spot up. It now looks like the fish is turning back to a guinea fowl.
<Oh, does happen at times>
 The tail, fins, and top part is now brown with white spots. I have looked all over the Internet and I cannot find anything which describes them changing back.
<Have experienced this a few times; second-hand... And of course, seen the gamut of xanthic et al. "crosses" in the wild>
My tank 180 gallons and mainly eats mussels.
<Need to expand this diet... See WWM re Tetraodont foods/feeding/nutrition>
 But he will also eat new life spectrum along with sea weed.
<Ah, good>
 Just would like to know why this would happen. Thanks for your time.
<Just... genetic disposition, environmental, nutritional influences. Bob Fenner>

Dogface Puffer's Unusual Behavior   2/20/12
Good Afternoon, Wet Web Crew!
I have found your site to be absolutely invaluable during my venture into Marine Aquaria, so thank you for all your hard work! That being said, I will apologize for the length of my email but I do want to make sure I give you as much detail as possible for conclusion-forming purposes.
<Take your time>
I would like to pick your brains a little about the curious behavior of one Dogface Puffer I have been observing at the LFS. His coloring is rich gray with a nice copper mask on his face, and his body is pleasant and rounded, with nice clear fins. His teeth are the appropriate length, not too long at all, so upon visual inspection, he appears quite healthy.
He eats well and enthusiastically, and responds immediately to activity around his tank with eye contact and subsequent movement. Fantastic, right?
So here's the kicker. For the last two months, since he arrived at the shop, when he is not eating or moving toward the feeder looking for food, he lays at the bottom of the tank, in t0he corner, curled up in a little ball.
<Not uncommon for captive specimens; even wild ones sit about quite a bit>

He is never trolling the tank or exploring, and when he eats, he sinks like a rock to the bottom of the tank again, back to his little "nest", where he stays until the next feeding.
After swimming to get food, he seems utterly exhausted and quite over-exerted, as if it is all he can do to propel himself to eat. He pants like a overheated dog for about a half hour until he settles down again, and then the breathing goes back to his normal slow, regular pace he keeps when he's laying down.
After inquiry into this behavior, and being told that he is just "lazy" by staff members at the lfs, as he appears to have no other patent defect, I surmised that perhaps the copper in the Marine Main system at the shop may be causing him some sort of distress.
<Could be>
By this logic, I decided that he might in fact improve in a less toxic environment, and decided to bring him home to my aquarium. (This may or may not have been the best idea, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, I hear.)
<Am given to understand this is often the case>
After quarantine, an 8 minute Methylene blue and Ich-x freshwater dip and acclimation I added him to my 55 Gal FOWLR display tank (which is in it's last weeks of being the FOWLR tank as I have just happily ordered a 180 gallon to move these guys to), where current parameters indicate Ammonia and Nitrite levels at 0 ppm and salinity at 1.021. I am happy to say he ate readily upon addition to the tank, and seems not to be bothered by his tank mates (a 3 inch Huma Huma trigger, a 3 inch Niger Trigger, and a 3 inch Lunare Wrasse). However, aside from swimming to get food, the sinking and moping behavior has continued.
What do you make of all this?
<Could be borne of the copper exposure as you speculate... I also suspect that this fish has not gotten much social interaction, exercise from the same. Cut back on the feeding (like by half) and see if this fish becomes more active.>
Thank you so much for your time and all your hard work!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Dogface Puffer's Unusual Behavior   2/21/12

Thank you so much, I will follow your advice! By the way, I am reading your book currently and I absolutely love it, I feel I am growing and learning daily from it. Thank you again, Mr. Fenner!
<Thanks and welcome again Christin. BobF>

Help. Dogface puffer swimming issue/s...    7/4/11
Hello, I've read through a lot of questions trying to find a similar
issue, but can't seem to find one. I have a 60g FOWLR with a 4" dogface puffer,
<This is way too small a volume for this fish>
3 damsels, and a clam. I've had the puffer for about 3 years.
<"Dwarfed", "Bonsai'd"... made and kept small here from metabolic feedback (living in its own wastes so to speak). Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/GrwLmtChems.htm
Just recently (about 2 weeks) he has been acting differently. On a side note, me and my wife just had a baby (2 months old), so for a bit some of the care I put on the tank was slipping. I checked my levels a week ago and found my pH was low, about 7.6-7.8.
<Whoa! This scale is base 10 (log)...>
I did a 20% change and added the pH buffer
<Needs to be done very gradually... from pre-mixed new saltwater additions, NOT added directly to the tank>
for 2 days after that and the levels went back to 8.2 - 8.3 within 2-3 days. Ammonia was 0, Nitrite was 0, and Nitrate was about 20. So back to my puffer, he seems to be swimming a little lopsided and recently was even upside down.
<Very bad>
He can't swim and stay up anymore either, he is always cruising the bottom of the tank and when he does force himself to swim up, he immediately drops down to the bottom. He used to always hover around the middle or close to the top swimming back and forth, now he just swims circle around the bottom. He still eats, but only if I physically put the food in front of his face with tongs. Before he used to come get anything I put in the tank. I feel him a variety of squid, silversides, krill, and clam.
<Not a good diet... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
and here: http://wetwebmedia.com/trupuffdgfaqs.htm
I mix it up. I went to the LF store and asked what to do. The owner said I should QT the puffer for 3-4 days and gave me EM Erythromycin and Triple Sulfa,
<? Of no use here whatsoever>
which I medicated him with for 4 days. I just put him back in the regular tank and he is swimming around a lot more, but still looks the same, not able to go to the top. Anything you can tell me would help. Thank you.
<Only time and your good care will show/prove if this fish will revive...
It needs to be in a larger world, less vacillation in water quality and better nutrition. Bob Fenner>
re: Help. Dogface puffer swimming issue   7/4.5/11

Hi Bob,
<Hey Tim>
Thanks for the reply. After reading your reply, I guess I haven't been treating my puffer well and I didn't even know it. I am going to do my best to make things right for my puffer.
<Ah good>
I have a 150g tank in my garage I have been building a stand for. I am almost finished and will set that up ASAP to give him a bigger home. As far as filtration, I have a Fluval FX5 I will use along with a Fluval 304.
I read I should be shooting for about 10 time water volume per hour with a puffer, so I'll do the math and add another canister if needed. I also have and will be using a skimmer.
<Very good>
As far as the pH, I did add the buffer to new water I had made, not directly in the tank and am maintaining the levels were they are now. Ph 8.2-8.3, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20.
After reading your response about his diet, I was shocked. I had never heard of Thiaminase and everything I always bought for him to eat was frozen and what I listed before, which apparently was all Thiaminase based food. My LF store had always told me it was a good diet for him.
<As you'll see/find, this practice is responsible for many indirect shortened lives>
I will go buy some vitamins to soak him food in, as well as change his diet to Tilapia (fresh from the food store, I'll freeze it as needed and soak it in vitamins, mussels (maybe a few times a week), and cockles. Once a week I will give him a silverside or some clam since he does like them, but again I'll soak them in vitamins.
Do you think this might get him better,
<I do>
any other suggestions as far as anything else I might be able to do?
<Mmm, no. The move to the new, larger quarters, more steady water quality, improved nutrition will likely bring your Tetraodont around>
Thanks for the information, I will keep you posted on my progress...
<Thank you. BobF>

Light Sensitivity, Tetraodont beh.  -- 1/27/10
I have searched the site but have not found anything directly related to my question. I have a 155 gal fish only saltwater tank. Temp is 81. All readings are 0 except nitrates which are 10-15ppm. Specific gravity is 1.021.
<Mmm, a bit low... there is still a bit of controversy re FO systems being kept at lower than NSW (Natural Seawater) strength/density... I'd bump this up a bit... Do you want the ref. to Spg matters on WWM?>
Basic florescent lighting. Inhabitants includes a dogface puffer, lunar wrasse, maroon clown, hippo tang, Huma Huma trigger and a few damsels.
The dogface puffer acts normally i.e. active, begging for food, bottomless stomach, etc. except when the florescent lights are turned on. Immediately after the lights go on the puffer has a direct stress response i.e. becomes distressed, goes into hiding, changes color and doesn't come out for food.
This happens as long as the lights are on but immediately after the lights are turned off he resumes "normal" behavior. This started about 2+ months ago and looks as if it will continue.
<Perhaps so>
Could this be due to harassment by a tankmate?
<Is a possibility... may be the Trigger, Premnas or Thalassoma>
If so I have not seen any aggressive behavior or signs of any physical damage.
<Sometimes this behavior is so subtle it's not obvious to observers... "Watch the eyes"...>
It seems as if there is more to it than this but would a T5 lighting system replicating dawn to dusk help this issue?
<Not likely, no>
During the white light cycle I would think he would continue the stress response.
Thanks in advance for your help and for the time that goes into running this very informative site.
<Thank you for being part of it. Bob Fenner>
Re: Light Sensitivity -- 1/27/10
Thanks for the fast response. I have found a lot regarding Spg on WWM. I will raise Spg per your suggestion. If anyone is the cause of aggression in the tank I would guess it is the Wrasse but I will keep a closer eye on this. If the puffer continues this behavior I will plan on finding him a new home.
<A good idea>
Thanks again,
-- Adam
<Welcome. BobF>

Dogface Puffer, beh.    1/18/10
Hello Again:
I tried searching throughout the site and the Internet, but haven't found an answer. So hopefully you guys will help me out!
I've had my dogface puffer for about 4 months now in my 75 gallon tank. He is roughly 7 inches right now.
<Needs more room than this>
I noticed today, that he is barely swimming around. He is just sulking at the bottom of the tank with his tail curled in. All of my water levels are within perfect range. He is eating normally, but this is a very unusual behavior for him. He is usually swimming around the tank happily and excited. His gills are also sucked in. When I try to reach in, he
immediately gets up and swims around, but only for a couple minutes, before he settles back down on the sand bed. He looks completely normal, (other than the fact that his fins are sucked in), but is breathing awfully heavy.
Might be a weird question, but is the puffer just simply depressed? Or could he possibly be sick?
<Maybe and maybe... Most likely guess is it has ingested something (snail, rock...) that is not agreeing with it... Might have been imported with some sort of latent internal trouble (all gone over on WWM); or "just be bummed
out" as you suggest. The last happens at times with Tetraodonts (and Diodontids)... and passes with time generally. Bob Fenner>
Dogface Puffer
I'm sorry, but I should have added this. His eyes also appear to be a little bit sunken in. I'm really scared for this guy!
<Mmm, do you have another system to move this fish to? There are prophylactic treatments with Anthelminthics, the anti-protozoal Metronidazole (again, gone over on WWM... read here:
and the linked files above. BobF>

Mappa Puffer... color loss... hlth., beh.  6/18/09
hey WetWeb crew,
<Hi Josh. Please, next time around, could you use the Shift key now and again? It's pretty tiresome reading messages without capital letters, even if it's easy for you to type them out that way.>
i recently purchased a mappa puffer that i had had my eye on for a while.
when i bought it it had beautiful yellow designs with black and white but about two weeks after i bought it its color significantly dulled.
<You do realise this is one heck of a puffer once it matures? Wild fish are recorded at lengths of 65 cm, or 25 inches, and that puts them firmly in the "tank buster" category. It isn't a very sociable species either, and
usually ends up being kept alone. Personally, I'd not consider them particularly good specimens for home aquaria, even allowing for the fact they're unlikely to get this size under home aquarium conditions.>
Now the color is more of a brown and grey and if i look very closely i can see hints of yellow. i was wondering if this is something i should be concerned about. also i noticed little white dots on its skin and thought immediately that it could be ick.
<Arothron mappa certainly does have white spots on its body, and the ground colour does change as the fish matures, and to some degree with mood as well. Fishbase is often a good place to see some photos of wild fish at different ages, so perhaps stop by there now:
i gave it a freshwater bath but the white dots remain. on a side note my mappa is housed with a particularly lethargic stars and stripes puffer who is known to wedge itself in between things and just sit there.
<In the US at least, the Stars-and-Stripes Puffer is usually Arothron hispidus, a species noted for being rather placid but generally quite active. Some would say "friendly", and it's one of those species that
quickly becomes tame and often mooches about at the top of the tank, begging for food. I'm concerned that your specimen is subdued for a reason, perhaps bullying, or else something "isn't right" about it's habitat: lack of water current, not enough space, water chemistry/quality issues, monotonous diet... whatever. Review, and act accordingly.>
they are both in a 55 gallon tank and i know this is too small a tank size but they are both tiny right now and i plan on putting them in a larger tank once they get bigger.
<You will need a very large tank for these two species to coexist, and there's a chance they won't coexist, the Arothron mappa being notably less tolerant of tankmates than Arothron hispidus.>
any help would be greatly appreciated,<Mike Maddox recently penned a great primer on Arothron pufferfish for Conscientious Aquarist, and I'd recommend having a read of that before you
do anything else.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Dogface Puffers, beh.  10/23/08 I just received a small dogface puffer. He is about 2-3 inches long. Although he is eating he is dark in color. Should I be concerned that he is stressed out, or is it normal for the Juveniles to be dark? Other then his color he seems fine, he is swimming around a lot and exploring all the rock in the tank. Thanks Erin <Arothron spp. do, like most puffers, adjust their colours depending on mood. They frequently turn dark when stressed. Assuming water quality is good and that your fish shows no physical signs of damage or ill health, I wouldn't be particularly worried. Arothron hispidus is an extremely robust species (I bought one sold as a freshwater fish!) that generally adapts very well to aquarium life. Don't worry too much about feeding just yet, and if you can, leave the lights out or at least turned low. This will help him settle in. By tomorrow he should be fine, and ready for a tasty breakfast of unshelled shrimp, mussel meat or whatever. Cheers, Neale.> Cool Thanks :) Erin <Happy to help. Neale.>

Black Spotted puffer colors... nutr. and incomp. with a balistid  -- 10/28/07 Hi WWM crew! I've got a bit of a silly question! I have a black spotted puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus) that is normally beige with brown around his mouth, but I've noticed that occasionally it turns completely brown. <Yes... a general mood change rather than otherwise environmentally or nutritionally mediated> In fact, I had a Black Finned trigger (Melichthys indicus) in the tank that also used to change from black to light green regularly also. <These too... and both are likely related> It (how do you sex these fish?) <As far as I'm aware, neither species can be sexed externally> died without warning one night - was eating regularly, water conditions were good. I've been feeding them uncooked shrimp & scallops that I buy in the grocery store. <Need more than this...> My question is: What do these color changes indicate? Are they upset? Hungry? Are they just showing off? <More upset likely... perhaps with each other. These species need a very good size space to co-habit happily. Hundreds of gallons.> Thanks! Anthony <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Sargassum trigger comp.; Dog face puffer size follow up -- 07/30/07 Marco, <Thomas> Fabulous stuff, thank you very much. Arothron nigropunctatus, in the puffer ID section of WWM, is identical to my puffer. He may be closer to 5", realistically, but has been this length for years now. <Interesting. Stunting and improper diet can probably be excluded due to the large tank you have and the food you offer. I also assume/hope the nitrates are permanently low given the other sensitive fishes. Aside tank size, diet and water quality I cannot think of a factor, which might stop the grow of your specimen. Possibly some issues in its early life before you bought him.> This is the one that bit my finger! Often times when I feed my shark at night, I have to scoop him out of the way. As long as he doesn't think my finger is food, he is docile, likes being rubbed, and eats out of my hand. About 6 months ago I had purchased a tiny Picasso trigger, and the INSTANT I placed him in the tank he attacked the puffer, so he was removed and returned immediately. <Another case of unpredictability. Some Rhinecanthus are quite docile, this specimen not. A similar case cannot be excluded with the Sargassum, but hopefully this time you are more lucky. I guess it will rather be hiding for a while when introduced and not start attacking.> He does receive a varied diet, of cocktail shrimp with Zoë, marine cuisine, krill, and angel formula. He also eats his share of shark formula, unfortunately. <OK, good diet. The dog face puffers I know/knew personally which have grown from 4 inches to almost 1 foot in captivity ate lots of mussels and clams, because they seemed to like it and it abraded their teeth. Could be worth a try in case you haven't tested yet.> He just has remained this size. I have no idea why. For a while he was in an 80 gallon before the upgrade, but for most of the time he was pretty much the only occupant. Anyway, thanks for the info. We won't be adding the Sargassum trigger for a couple of weeks, while we observe the system to make sure all of the ick was killed with the quinine. Thanks again! Thomas. <You are welcome. Keep up the good work and enjoy. Marco.>

Sick Puffer or just odd behavior?   1/28/07 Hello Crew, <Lisa> Sorry to bother you with yet another Puffer question.  My Stars and Stripes about 3 1/2 inches) is doing this odd thing......He will start at the top of the water and dive (or "swoop") down to the bottom, rubbing his belly on the crushed coral below.  I have even seen him do it a few times on the live rock.  Does he have a skin condition or something internal that is disturbing him? <Mmm, not likely> Or is he acting out with some kind of discontentment related to his tank situation? <Possibly... but more likely this fish is reacting to its own reflection...> His appetite is great (in fact, I had to separate him from the others because he was eating ALL of my crustaceans and was about to go after my beloved cleaner shrimp, who he had, for several weeks, seemed to have some affection for (allowing them to massage his back and even taking afternoon naps with them - please excuse the run-on sentence!)  I also found out that he was nibbling (but not ingesting) my LTA which never recovered and died a horrible, messy death. <These animals are incompatible> I was told that he would not get any larger than 8 inches (like the dog-face), and then learned that this is not so.  True? <This is not so...> I am considering adopting him out to somebody with a bigger tank who can give him the life he deserves, but want to make sure he is totally healthy first. <Good> Thanks for all your help and support. Lisa Crugnola <Mmm, try taping a piece of paper or such to the outside panel where this behavior is occurring... Bob Fenner>
Cleaner Damselfish  2/22/07 Hello Bob and Crew, <Hi, Pufferpunk grabbed this one from the Inbox.> I have written in before about my Stars and Stripes Puffer, "Blinky" and his odd behavior of suddenly and quickly diving down and scraping his belly on live rock and coral gravel.  Bob suggested that he might be reacting to his own reflection, although I pretty much ruled that out after hours of observing him (mostly because he will be positioned at one end of the tank and starring down the full length of the 48 inches of tank with rock, and other decorations blocking his view.  He also positions his body vertically, looking straight down at the gravel, hovering for several seconds before he takes his dive).   <Goofy, puffer-antics... or an itch caused by parasites.> Additionally, his appetite and every other part of him remains normal.  Anyway, he was doing it so much (several times trying to jump out of the tank and violently hitting the glass top) that it became disturbing to witness.  I actually had to leave the room.  I thought I had a suicidal Puffer on my hands.   <Many a puffer has been known to go carpet-surfing.> However, refusing to give up I tried putting several small fish (Damsels) on his side of the partition.   <Partition?  How large is this tank?  Your S&S puffer will grow quite large, requiring at least a 180g tank.   See: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/ug.php/v/PufferPedia/Marine/A_Hispidus/ > The reason for this?  The first several weeks I had him, he was enjoying the general population and full run of the tank (pre-eating and killing my LTA) <Most puffers are NOT reef safe.> and he never engaged in this odd "diving" behavior.  I thought, "Is it possible that he is lonely?"  To make a long story a tad less long; I put the two fish on Blinky's side of the tank and it seemed to have a calming effect on him almost immediately.  At that time I also realized that the Puffer was looking a bit "raggedy" from repeatedly scraping his delicate underbelly on the jagged rock and gravel.  There were no actual lesions or anything resembling an open wound, though.  If I had to describe it I would liken it to a close shave (human) resulting in some flaky skin.  Blinky literally had flaky pieces hanging from his chin (mostly) and some from his belly.   <More proof of parasites IMO.  Their skin is not delicate, actually the opposite.  More like prickly leather.> I was recommended by my LFS to put a cleaner shrimp in with him to attempt a cleaning (before the poor invert was gobbled up as thanks; not a consideration).  But then several days ago I noticed the small Humbug damsel was gently taking small, swift nibbles at Blinky's underside.  In fact, every piece of flaky skin was gone and the Puffer was looking clean as a whistle.  He was even hovering, completely motionless, seemingly enjoying the service AND the attention.  This service/relationship continues almost a week later.  Although occasionally one little nip may seem a bit too hard for the Puffer and he will wince a bit and shake his head back and forth like a Ferret.  I don't think it is an aggressive act, nor do I believe that either fish believes that it is aggressive (the Puffer has never tucked is tail into his body as he does when upset or intimidated during any of this).  But I have read about Puffers having skin and not scales and that their skin is sensitive.  FINALLY - MY QUESTIONS.....Is the current Puffer/Damsel relationship worth the risks?  Is it a true symbiosis or freak of nature?  I have heard of cleaner shrimp, but don't have any knowledge of cleaner Damsel fish.  Is it unusual for a Damsel to engage in this type of behavior?  So, what are your thoughts on this odd relationship?  Should I separate the two or give it some time? <Very common for a smaller fish to become the cleaner of a larger fish.  One of my favorite places to hang out in the ocean on a dive, is the cleaner station.  Sounds like the puffer & the damselfish know their place & the puffer will let it stay that way... for now... you can never trust a puffer!  Check out www.thepufferforum.com, for more info on your puffer.  ~PP> Thanks for enduring my long tale! P.S.  Bob - enjoying your book immensely! <<Ah, good. RMF>>

Dog Face Puffer... beh., fdg., dis.   8/12/06 Hello - I have a 7 year old Dog Face Puffer (Rover).  About a week ago he became bloated and would not eat.  This has happened one other time (about two months ago) and he seemed to work himself through it.  I'm guessing he was constipated.  This time, after a few days of his being bloated, I called the vet to come and check him out.  He was scheduled to come out the next afternoon.  I had to call and ask him to come earlier because he had built up so much air that it was blocking a small piece of one of his eyes. He also is generally lethargic. <Periodic, common behavior in Tetraodonts>   He rests against different items in the aquarium as well as on the bottom.  If I open the lid, he will start swimming around. The vet came out, trimmed his teeth (they were very long and Rover had no interest in snails or live rock) and squeezed his midsection to help encourage him to go to the bathroom. <Good techniques>   I need to mention that I have noticed in the past weeks that when he does go to the bathroom, it is whole pieces of krill.  While Rover is not as puffy now, he is still puffy and still has no desire to eat. <Give this fish time>   I have tested the water and the readings are as follows:  PH - 8.6; NO2 < 0.3 mg/l; and NH3/NH4 - 0 mg. None of the other fish (Tang, Clown Fish, Trigger and Damsels) seem to be having any issues.  Because my vet is not an expert, he has a call into a doctor in one of the Carolina's.  That doctor is out of town and will not be back until the 08/15.  His associate has not returned his call and my vet will be out of town for two weeks starting Monday.  I am at a loss and I hate seeing him miserable.  I would appreciate any input and/or suggestions. Kristine <Best to try to be patient here. Puffers are tough... and yours will likely be fine in time. Bob Fenner>

Guinea Fowl puffer color morph?   4/8/06 Greetings WWM crew, <Carla> Thanks for such a great informative site, I've been using the site since I started saltwater and it has helped me tremendously.  There has, however, been one question which I could not find an answer to- after three weeks of searching WWM and the web I give up.  There is this Guinea Fowl puffer being sold, he has been there for about 6 weeks; the puffer eats everything that is dropped in the tank- shrimp, brine, and the mix they feed all the other fish. Needless to say I really want to purchase this guy.  The person who cares for the fish says that he will eventually turn yellow is this true? <Mmm, no, not likely> Do Guinea Fowl puffers morph in to yellow puffers?  Thanks in advance for you response and guidance. Thanks <There are a few species of Arothron puffers that "come" in a variety of shades, xanthic varieties... even "koi" multiply blotched... but they rarely change from being all black to grey with white spots, to golden/yellowish background... Genetic/fixed, rather than developmentally/environmentally influenced. Bob Fenner>

Dogface puffer  9/7/05 Hi found your site today!!! Love it!!! We have a 75 gallon tank with two lions, a dog face puffer, and a wolf eel which was previously a reef tank and still have live rocks in tank. We have a trickle filter and protein skimmer. Is there any additional filtration that would cut down on the time between water changes. <Mmm, yes... most any additional filtration, of all modes would help here... but... what you really need is a much larger volume system> Also, we've heard of double osmosis systems that we could use to make our own salt water at home. Is this necessary or is there any easier way, like store bought water that could be used with our oceanic sea salt mix? <There are a few inputs, things to say... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seawater.htm and the linked files above where you lead yourself>   What is the typical size for a dog face in captivity and will our tank be large enough for our current stock? <Mmm, likely six to eight inches... more than a foot in the wild, in large systems in captivity. It will be much better off in a bigger (twice plus the 75) system>   I read about people hand feeding their puffers.  Are they actually reaching into the tank? <Sometimes yes... take care... sharp teeth... and your lions...> Our puffer is very friendly and we have touched him but I don't want to stress him or do anything wrong but of course I want to maximize my relationship with our fish.  The last thing is our eel and puffer rub on each other a lot. They both seem to enjoy it but should we be concerned about an aggression problem that we are not recognizing. <Mmm, more likely friendly than agonistic. No worries. Cheers, Bob Fenner> Fugu questions 8/18/05 <Hi there!  Heather (LinearChaos) here> At my LFS there are 4 3" Takifugu rubripes.  They are in horrible condition.  Instead of being green with neon orange they are silver and a dingy brick red. <The Takifugu rubripes is not a puffer that is sold in the trade, this is actually a species that is eaten as a delicacy in Japan.  The puffer you are describing is the Takifugu ocellatus.>  They are also ungodly cheap ($15 a piece).  <Wow! That is cheap!>  I was wondering for now would a 30 gallon tank be big enough for now.  I have no problem upgrading later.  I have no experience with these guys.  <No, this species is extremely aggressive toward their own and 4 in a 30g won't last but a week.  They'll nip each other to death almost immediately since they will not be able to get away from each other in that size tank and cannot establish territories.>  I am aware of how hard they are to keep in captivity.  Also there is very little information on these puffers.  Do you know what salinity, hardness, temperature, etc... they prefer.  Any help would be great.  <I have successfully kept 3 of these puffers in an established full marine environment for over a year, the salinity is 1.019 and the temp is 82*F.  The tank is 55g and is heavily stocked with live rock to break up the lines of sight as much as possible to reduce aggression.  Please, if you are unable to care for these puffers appropriately do not purchase them.  ~Heather> Logan

Pufferfish, Huffing and Puffing Hey Bob, thanks for the advise on my parasite problem, but I have one more question. I have a stars and stripes puffer. When I first got him he would blow up every so often when I would get up on the tank to look at him. But now, about 2 months later, he is fine. Now he will go to the top of the aquarium waiting to get fed.  <A very common, and endearing-puffer behaviour!> My water tests fine except for some copper left in the tank.  <Please do try using PolyFilter media in your system, they really work well at removing copper from your system, and change color to let you know that they are working. It's really not in the best interest of your fish in the long term to have copper lingering in your tank.> Just the other day I saw him puff up more than I ever thought he could for know reason. I was wandering if they do that every so often to stretch or something. Just a little worried, thank you....Steve <Puffers do inflate themselves to different degrees in response to situations where they feel threatened. Perhaps he was startled, maybe he was agitated by a tank mate-hard to say. As long as he is able to deflate, and continues to eat well, I don't think there is any cause for alarm. Scott F.>

Dog Days... Hi WWW Crew....Bob...Anthony...Steve....  or hmmmm .... <Scott F. here tonight!> Leslie here again. This time with a Dogface Puffer dilemma. I have done my homework. I read through everything on wetwebmedia re: marine puffers as well as anything else I could find elsewhere....which is not much :(. I still have a few questions and I am concerned about this new beauty. He is still small 4", white with yellow fins, a yellow mask, and beautiful yellow eyes. <They are adorable fish!> I got him 6 days ago. He had been in the LFS 3 days when I first saw him. He looked fine with the exception of being a bit thin. He was active but calm, with no outward visible signs of disease. His coloration bright and clear with bright alert eyes. They said he had not eaten. I asked them to try.....well low and behold he nibbled at some frozen ocean plankton. I watched for a while and he continued to nibble. I took this as a good sign although he didn't eat with the gusto of others I have seen. I went back the next day and he again nibbled even a bit more.  I knew it was a sign and he wanted to come home with me ;-/. Maybe a bad decision, but none the less I brought him home. I just could not leave him there. <That's a familiar feeling for a lot of us! Good that you asked to see him eat something> He is in a 25g Q tank in a quiet room. <Great procedure> The first day he puffed up every time I came into the room.....freaked me out......I am sure he was as well!  He spent most of his time "pacing" up and down in the back corner of the tank for the first day. I kept the lights dim. He got progressively calmer over the first 2 days, but was not eating. By the third day he was calm,  alternating between swimming normally and resting, had stopped puffing up and began nibbling on his food. Today is day 6 he seems "excited" when I come into the room now or place food in the tank, but he is still only nibbling at Mysis out of the water column or krill suspended from a piece of cotton thread.. He does not appear to have lost any more weight. I have tried....cockle, krill, shrimp, and a  mussel. He seems to like Mysis the best. <Then I'd push the Mysis at this point. A varied diet is important, but if he's a bit tentative in the feeding dept., I'd make sure that he eats as much as possible. Try enriching with vitamin preparations or Selcon.> I guess I assumed once he calmed down and started nibbling he would just start eating. Is my impatience showing here or am I appropriately concerned at this point? <Well, it's always cause for concern when a fish does not eat, so certainly not an over-reaction on your part.> I have no experience with puffers on hunger strikes. My other guy always ate with great gusto. OK so here are my questions..... Would you consider this nibbling as interest in food and a good sign or is he still possibly doomed to starve himself to death? Do you have any idea, in your collective experience, how long it might take him to really chow down? <Unfortunately, it's impossible to generalize and create a timetable for when a fish will start eating. There are numerous factors which influence a fish's appetite, particularly when you take into account what he's been through lately: the rigors of capture, shipping, handling, etc. Sometimes, it simply takes time for a fish to "settle in" and be comfortable enough to start feeding, sometimes other factors are involved (illness, injury, water parameters, etc.> >How long can he survive nibbling on Mysis, before I need to worry and/or panic, as I am already concerned? Most of my Marine experience has been keeping seahorses and their tankmates, as I am sure you are well aware seahorses do not fare well in the face of poor appetites and hunger strikes for very long at all. Even though I know this is a different fish with a more developed GI system,  my experience has me perhaps viewing this thru a tainted screen. <Your experience is a great ally for you in this! As you know, it's a good sign even if he nibbles on food- a fish that eats is in an infinitely better state than one who doesn't. And these puffers do need to eat quite a bit, so don't give up.> When he is swimming towards the surface and oriented in the water nose up, his belly sags anterior to his anal fin. Just for a visual......it looks as if he swallowed a marble or is VERY constipated.  Is this normal in a thin puffer? <I would keep an eye on him...Hard to say if this is abnormal from here.> The skin of his belly is also very wrinkled. Is it possibly due to the frequency of puffing during the first 2 days? Here is a link to photos of the sweet boy.......so you have an idea about how thin he is, can see his wrinkled belly and the "mass" above his anal fin...... > http://community.webshots.com/album/54332564yqDMXK On day 4 several Ich spots appeared on his pectoral fins. They looked a bit better the next day and again today. They are however not yet gone. I really want to avoid the stress associated with a FW dip, for fear of a set back in the hunger strike department, since he is not thrilled about eating yet. So, am I OK to just watch these spots and leave him as long as they do not get worse? <I usually recommend immediate action in treating ich. Given his possibly weakened condition, keep a close eye on this condition. If it progresses or continues, do begin treatment.> >What temp and specific gravity would you recommend for this fish in a Q tank to treat Ich, should I need to? Do you think I should start that now, to avoid a full blown infestation or wait a bit? Do you ever use this prophylactically in Q tanks? <I personally use a "normal" specific gravity in quarantine, or during disease treatment, but it is a common and perfectly acceptable practice to employ lower specific gravities during these periods> I have a friend in the seahorse community who is well respected, as well as published many times over the years. He is an uses a rather unconventional and perhaps controversial treatment called OST or Osmotic Shock Therapy, to treat parasite/protozoan infestations. The abbreviated version of the instructions are......to  place  the fish into water with a specific gravity of 1.010 to 1.011 immediately following a FW dip. The fish is maintained at this specific gravity for a period of 4 weeks at which time the water is slowly returned to normal marine salinity. Are you familiar with this treatment? <As indicated above, "hyposalinity therapy" has been used successfully by many hobbyists, wholesalers, etc.> Would you be interested in the rest of the information I have about it.....maybe not to use necessarily, but just for informational purposes? There have apparently been some 3 year studies done with very good results. I would be interested in your thoughts about it.   <Certainly a practice that has worked for many people. I have always favored copper sulphate, but, as you pointed out, this treatment can be successful!> Thanks for your time, dedication and help as always!! Leslie <Leslie, I'm sure that you will succeed in getting your puffer to eat and in licking this ich infection. Be diligent and patient, and don't give up. Consider using the old standby of vitamin preparations to stimulate his appetite, feed carefully, and feel free to contact us again if we can be of assistance!>

Skittish Puffer!  (7/3/03) I recently purchased a porcupine puffer, and he seems to be very skittish. He tends to hang out around the back of the tank and when I am in the room, he will keep one eye on me, and swim slowly up and down the length of the tank. He hardly eats when I am in the room but when I come back the brine shrimp, mussels or krill that I leave for him is gone. (I doubt that my only other fish, a domino damsel is eating it all.) His appetite is very healthy, and in general he seems to be very healthy. He has been in my tank for about 2 weeks and I wanted to know is this common with newly introduced puffers?  Is there anything I can do to make him less skittish? <Just give him time and substitute something like Mysis for the brine as the brine has very little nutritional value.  Cody> Thanks.  Kevin

Arothron stellatus, operant conditioning To Bob, I have just got an Arothron stellatus puffer and he is not as tame as I would like. I was just wondering what the best way of taming him is. Regards, Daniel Holbrooke <A whip and a chair? Actually, only time, conditioning in captivity will prove whether this individual will "calm down" or no... if it takes to eating, beating up other livestock, remove and quarantine it in a much smaller system for a few to several days... this often "knocks them down a peg or two". Bob Fenner>

Blackspotted puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus) Good evening, I have two questions about this fish: 1). Can he live happily on a diet that consists of uncooked prawns/shrimps+nori, both soaked in Zoë and Zoecon overnight? He does not accept ANYTHING else.... <I would either look about, try other foods... or learn to "stuff" the prawns with other meaty foods... Not good for any animal to have such a restricted diet> 2) Is it at all possible that the Blackspotted might be sexually harassing my spiny puffer (Diodon holocanthus)?  <Not likely sexual, but harassment just the same, yes> They are the same size... I know it sounds weird, but the Blackspotted gets on top of the Spiny when the lights go out, and they swim up and down the tank as if they were mating. Sometimes during this adventure Spiny gets inflated into a ball (sign of threat that he tries to protect himself from, I guess). Any advice will be appreciated. <Enjoy them! Really, nothing too strange going on here... the group of fishes that includes the Puffers (the Tetraodontiformes, encompassing the Triggerfishes...) are "smart", social animals in many ways... These two are just friends. Bob Fenner>

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