The Longhorn Cowfish is a spectacular specimen, having a unique look, coloring and interesting movements that are mesmerizing! This little guy will eventually grow to 20," needing a tank that is at least 250 gallons. Keep with peaceful fish that will not stress them out, since they will poison the tank when they are stressed or if they die. A really good filtration can help in that area, as well as having another tank set up to transfer all inhabitants if that does happen. Have plenty of carbon standing by as well as media that can filter out toxins if this happens. Cowfish nibble on tube worms and if they settle in they will live a long time, dining on veggie matter and meaty foods. Being slow eaters, other fish should not outcompete them for food like large wrasses. They are best for intermediate to advanced aquarists since they have a hard time in the beginning of their captivity.
Juvenile Porcupine Puffer hunting shrimp in captivity
The Porcupine Pufferfish grows to one foot and needs a 180 gallon tank as an adult. They are the closest thing you can get to a doglike personality in a fish! They will also, like a dog, chew on cords, and may need to be dewormed! These smart fish will learn who you are and that you have something to do with food! Feed them at least 3 times a day with veggie and meaty foods including hard shelled shrimp to help wear down their ever growing teeth. They will try to eat smaller active fish and may nip others. They spend most of their time under a ledge or in a crevice during the day, and come out in the evening. Do not catch with a net, nor tease to inflate, since that can cause them to have air trapped in the alimentary tract. They are also prone to ich, so have treatments available for the inevitable breakout. Best kept by an intermediate aquarist.
This aquarist has provided his little water dog, the Porcupine Puffer with hermit crabs to help wear down his teeth. This is one trait they share with rodents! They need to chew on hard things to wear them down, otherwise, the aquarist will have to cut them down. Why? If they grow to long, the fish will not be able to close their mouth or eat and can starve to death. Provide your 1 foot long adult with a tank that is at least 180 gallons. Do not tease them to inflate. Besides being cruel, it can cause health problems that can lead to their death.
This Dog-Faced Puffer is the epitome of "adorable," which is a term not often used with fish! They have an endearing face and act like dogs! They do need to be dewormed, tend to chew on cords and airlines, and like to spit water out of the tank to get your attention! These little puppies grow to just over 1 foot and need a 150 gallon tank. Dog-Faced Puffers also come in various colors such as black, yellow or orange! They are not recommended in a reef tank, however benefit from hard shelled crustaceans like hermit crabs to eat and help wear down their constantly growing teeth. Prone to Crypt, keep the tank at 82˚F to help keep this parasite from taking hold. They can be housed with other pufferfish that are not more aggressive than they are. Use a container to transfer it, not a net.
The yellow version of the Dog-Faced Puffer is not the easiest color morph to find! They have the same great personality as other large puffers and need a 150 gallon tank with lots of hard shelled prey to keep their "beak" or fused teeth from growing too long. They are a joy to keep and can be kept with other pufferfish that have the same or more mild temperament.
As seen in the additional comments, this beloved puffer is doing well after his procedure. They need to be sedated with 3 drops of clove oil per liter of water and behavior needs to be observed. This is the only time it had to be done in the 4 years she has owned her puffer and states that he is doing a better job of keeping his own teeth ground down these days!
This is one of the other rarer black color morphs of the Dog-Faced Puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus. The species name makes one wonder if the first one found was black from the latin root work nigro for black. No matter what color they come in, they are, well, cute fish! They have personalities like dogs and in many ways can be as challenging as dogs! Keep cords and airlines out of bite range, and cover your heaters to prevent them from biting and breaking it out of curiosity. Provide hard shelled prey to keep their teeth worn down, because having to trim them is not a walk in the park..... thats what you do with a real dog!
Don't have a 150 gallon tank for a 1 foot puffer? Try out a little water pup in a smaller package, the Canthigaster solandri, or False-Eye Puffer; also called the Spotted Toby or Blue Spotted Puffer for obvious reasons. The members of this genus are known at Tobies or Sharpnose puffers and have similar needs as their large brethren! Fish only tanks are best and only pair up if they are a known male and female pair in a tank that is at least 50 gallons. Offer shelled inverts to help them wear down their teeth which continue to grow. Like a real dog, they may need to be wormed, tend to chew cords, and like some dogs, they do nip! If your other fish have circular holes in their fins, that is your Toby being a bad boy! Avoid fish with overly flowing finnage. They will eat algae, including coralline species, which will help wear their teeth if it is present on live rock. They will not bother large stinging anemones, but will eat any stony corals, starfish and most inverts.
The Striped Burrfish or Spiny Box Puffer, is much less easy to care for than pufferfish. On the positive side, they only reach about 9.8" and are best kept in a fish only tank that is 180 gallons or more. They tend to be reluctant to feed and tend to waste away. Smaller specimens are a little easier to acclimate and feed if other tank mates do not out compete it for food. Deworm them upon arrival to increase their chances. Avoid bottom dwelling fish, slow-moving fish or long finned fish. They will not bother others in it's family and needs lots of swimming space since they are found in seagrass meadows. Provide a 180 gallon tank and feed them meaty marine foods including hard shelled shrimp and hermits to help wear down their teeth.
Puffer Fish are adorable looking fish with a comical, chubby appearance. They are particular curious because they have the ability to gulp air or water, puffing up until they look like a round ball. A number of common names used to described these unusual fish including Blowfish, Balloonfish, and Globefish; along with Toadies, Sugar Toady, Honey Toady, and Sea Squab.
The majority of the Puffer Fish are marine inhabitants and are found in most of the tropical oceans of the world. Less than 40 types of puffer fish can be found in brackish waters, and only 29 species are truly freshwater Puffer Fish. Puffers belong to the Tetraodontidae family, which is one of 10 families in the Tetraodontiformes order. Tetraodontiformes are ancient fish, emerging from coral-dwelling species about 40 million years ago. Well-known saltwater relatives of the Puffer Fish also in this order are the Porcupine Fish (Diodontidae family), Boxfish (Ostraciidae family), Filefish (Monacanthidae family), and the Triggerfish (Balistidae family).
Unlike more typical fish, the body of the Puffer Fish is rigid, so they rely on their fins for motion and balance. Puffer Fish, along with their close cousins the Porcupine Fish, have a few unique methods of defense. They can both inflate their bodies and both are covered with prickly spines. The spines are large and prominent on the Porcupine Fish but on Puffers they are smaller, thinner and practically hidden, sometimes only visible when the Puffer Fish is inflated.
Puffers can win your affection, yet they are not a fish for the novice. They require special care and feeding. They are considered hardy only in the sense that they will almost always adapt to aquarium foods and are long lived in a premium environment. To successfully keep Puffer Fish means maintaining top water quality, providing plenty of room, and most importantly providing an adequate diet. They love to eat and look forward to seeing the person that feeds them like a puppy waiting for their owner to get home! Even though they seldom starve in an aquarium, they have special dietary needs that you must be aware of in order to keep them healthy.
The Puffer Fish species list below includes popular varieties as well lesser known puffer fish species. Each fish guide has in-depth pufferfish information including their places of origin, habitats and behaviors as well as the fish care needed for successfully keeping aquarium puffer fish. Puffer Fish pictures are also provided within each fish guide to help with identification, and to aid in choosing Puffer Fish pets.
The Puffer Fish, also commonly called Blowfish, Balloonfish or Toadies, are rather club shaped. They have a large round body with small rounded fins sticking out. Puffers generally move awkwardly using their pectoral fins for locomotion and the tail fin only when they need to move quickly, as in the case of an emergency or newly arrived food.
These toadfish have large heads with widely spaced, often mobile eyes. The gills are soft openings located close to the pectoral fins, and there are four fused teeth in the jaw. Puffers have no scales, rather their skin is covered with spines, though they are not always apparent. The spines are small and thin and are often not visible when the puffer is not inflated.
As their name implies, Puffer Fish have the ability to 'puff' themselves up with water or air if threatened. When they inflate, their spines protrude outward and this helps keep them from being eaten. Another defense of many puffer species is to harbor toxic substances in their flesh that is poisonous if eaten. Predators that do not head the danger signals, and eat puffers anyway and may die from choking, or from toxic poisoning. There are also usually several deaths reported in Japan each year from humans eating puffers which are not prepared properly.
The powerful neurotoxin found in the organs of some puffer fish is called tetrodotoxin, but not all puffers are poisonous. It is believed that puffers don't actually produce this toxin however, because those kept in the aquarium or on fish farms are totally toxin-free. Rather they most likely accumulate the toxins in the wild as they feed on shellfish prey that may be carriers.
The Puffer Fish can be quite long lived in the aquarium, many living for 10 or more years. They range in size reaching from about 1" (2.54 cm) to over 24" (61 cm), though some of the marine species can reach close to 48" (122 cm).
Puffer Fish Care
Since puffers do not have gill covers or scales, they are thought to be more susceptible to diseases, nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels. Consequently they are not a good fish to cycle an aquarium with. Also because they usually don't eat all of their food (messy eaters!), these fish will usually put more load on the aquarium filtration requiring more frequent water changes and better maintenance in general. A 50% weekly water change is the standard recommendation for a puffer aquarium.
Puffer Fish need plenty of room to maintain water quality and they will most likely need to be kept singly. The temperament of these fish can vary greatly from one puffer to another, not only between species but often within a single species as well. These fish are predators and can be aggressive. For tank mates too large to eat in one bite, puffers can be extreme fin nippers. Sometime juveniles will be reported as good community fish, only to turn aggressive upon maturity. A single specimen tank is the safest route, and extreme caution should be taken when choosing tank mates at any time.
In the wild Puffer Fish are predators eating a variety of snails, shellfish, crustaceans, and other fish. In captivity they will eat almost everything that is offered and should be fed a variety of live, frozen and freeze dried meaty foods. Though puffers are fun to feed and will become quite adept at 'begging' for tidbits from their keepers, keep in mind how often to feed and the resultant load on the aquarium. Feed small puffers (under 2") daily, mid sized puffers (2 - 4") every other day, and large puffers (those over 4") can be fed just two or three times a week.
As an interesting note, many puffers in the wild will blow or 'spit' at the substrate to uncover hidden crustaceans or other foods. In an aquarium some keepers have experienced their puffer spitting water at them from the surface of the water in an attempt to earn some tidbits of food. Be careful not to be fooled into overfeeding them.
Puffers have strong teeth that grow throughout their lives. They need to be offered hard shelled live food often to keep their teeth worn down. Acceptable foods include shellfish, crustaceans and hard shelled foods such as snails. If the teeth get too long, they will be unable to eat, requiring the owner to clip the teeth.
Types of Puffer Fish
There are approximately 150 Puffer Fish species but only 29 species are truly freshwater Puffer Fish. The majority of the puffers live in a marine environment with less than 40 of these found in brackish or freshwater. These species are found primarily in estuaries, where river mouths meet the ocean, or in freshwater streams. Some will enter periodically for feeding or breeding, and possibly stay as juveniles, while others spend their entire lives in brackish conditions.
The chart below provides a guide to type of environment each Puffer Fish species needs. For Information about strictly Saltwater Puffer Fish, see Puffers, Boxfish and Porcupine fish.
Freshwater and/or Brackish Puffer Fish
Bronze Puffer Golden Puffer
Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Asia: Mekong basin
Northbornean Golden Puffer
Gold Green Puffer Golden Puffer
Asia: Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, Indonesia