A Pignose Puffer has a face reminiscent of a pig, and an arrowhead marking on top!

The Pignose Puffer Tetraodon suvattii is a medium sized freshwater puffer fish reaching up to 6″ (15 cm). The turned-up nose of this puffer fish gives it a pig nosed appearance and the black V-shaped mark on the back of its head looks distinctly like an arrowhead. These features resulted in common names like Pignose Puffer, Arrowhead Puffer, and Hognose Puffer.

Some other common names are Mekong Puffer, derived from its native origin, and Suvatti Puffer derived from its scientific name. In a general manner it can also be described as a Target Puffer or “Target group” puffer. This is a group of Tetraodon  freshwater puffer fish that are so-named because they all have a distinctive circular marking, or eyespot, on the back half of the body between the dorsal and anal fins resembling an archery target.

The Pignose Puffer or Arrowhead Puffer can be very aggressive. This isn’t the fish to have if you want to keep a lot of different species in your tank. Because of their beak like mouth, they have the ability to chop most any fish or invertebrate into bite-sized pieces. Although territorial with their own species, individual specimen can vary in temperament, so may or may not be more tolerant of other larger species. If you try to keep more than one or keep other fish, be sure there are lots of hiding places, such as caves and roots. Providing plenty of decor and having it situated in such a way as to break up their line of sight will help to prevent fighting.

These puffers are very inactive. If their tank has fine gravel or sand as the substrate, they will sometimes bury themselves leaving only their mouth and eyes exposed. When buried, they may appear to be resting or sleeping, but don’t let this act fool you. If food swims anywhere near their mouth, they will explode out of the sand and gobble it down!

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Tetraodontiformes
  • Family: Tetraodontidae
  • Genus: Tetraodon
  • Species: suvattii
Pignose Puffer – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
  • Size of fish – inches: 6.0 inches (15.24 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Pignose Puffer or Arrowhead Puffer Tetraodon suvattii was described by Sontirat in 1989. It is native to Southeast Asia in the Mekong River basin. Other common names it is known my include Mekong Puffer, Suvatti Puffer, Hognose Puffer, and Pig-Face Pufferfish. It is also a member of Tetraodon sps. that are collectively called Target Puffer or “Target group” puffers, due to a distinctive target-like eyespot on each flank between the dorsal and anal fins.

The natural habitat these fish live in is very clean, moving, oxygenated water. The Pignose Puffer is generally found in the muddy substrate, though it is also found in rocky substrates as well. In the wild the Tetraodon suvatii is an amazing hunter. It uses a stealth technique by burying themselves in the sand with only their eyes exposed. When a fish passes by the puffer explodes from the sand and brutally attack and kill its prey. In their natural habitat these puffers mostly eat other fish.

  • Scientific Name: Tetraodon suvattii
  • Social Grouping: Solitary
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Pig-nosed Puffer generally has a rather mottled brownish appearance. It is quite reminiscent of its common names, as it is a stocky fish that has a turned-up nose giving it a pig nosed appearance and a black V-shaped mark on the back of its head looking distinctly like an arrowhead. This pufferfish generally has a whitish underside and varying shades of gray above with green to yellow patterning. It is also has a distinctive circular marking on each flank of the body half that resembles an archery target. Like many of the pufferfish, coloring can vary with age, disposition, and environment. They grow to around 6 inches 6″ (15 cm) in an aquarium.

Pufferfish have the ability to ‘puff’ themselves up with water or air if threatened. When they inflate, their spines protrude outward and this apparently helps keep them from being eaten. Another defense of many puffer species is a toxic substances that can be found in their flesh that is poisonous if eaten. The Pufferfish can be quite long lived in the aquarium, many living for 10 or more years.

  • Size of fish – inches: 6.0 inches (15.24 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Pig-nosed Puffer  is recommended for the advance aquarist. This is because they are extremely aggressive fish so are not normally able to keep others in the same tank. They are also more difficult to train to aquarium fare. The food costs for these big fish can be pricey as their need for human quality seafood is necessary. But if you are up for all of that, the Tetraodon suvattii will make an interesting pet.

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 will help wear down the teeth. If the teeth get too long, they will be unable to eat, requiring the owner to clip the teeth.

This is not a particularly active fish so a tank of 30 gallons should be large enough to keep one happy. A freshwater species, this puffer fish should not be kept in brackish or salt water.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced – They would be for the advanced aquarist because of their aggressive nature as well as the difficuty in training them to eat frozen/dead foods.

Foods and Feeding

The Pig-nosed Puffer is a carnivore and is an extremely stealthy hunter. In the wild this puffers primarily diet is fish, and it will kill just about anything that swims past. It buries itself in the sand with its eyes barely exposed. As a fish swims by the puffer explodes from the sand and violently kills the fish.

This predatory way of feeding is not easily dealt with in an aquarium setting. A problem that comes with using feeder fish is that they may be diseased. Because the puffer does not have scales or gill covers they are more prone to parasites and bacterial infections. If you are going to use feeders, a quarantine of at least a week is required. The Mekong Puffer really needs to be trained to eat frozen/dead food as a main food source.

To train your Pig-nosed puffer to take frozen/dead food, use a pair of tongs with a large shrimp. Simulate it swimming by the burrowed puffer, gently brushing its snout. This should be enough for its natural instinct to kick in and attack. Once the Pig-nosed puffer is eating start adding pre-soaked krill, shell on shrimp, crab legs, live or frozen mussels, cockles, crayfish, and clams; live crabs and gut-loaded live ghost shrimp; occasionally tablets. This puffer should be fed every other day while small, 4 inches and under, decreasing this to just two or three times per week as an adult, those over 4 inches.

Fingers are easily mistaken for food so only use tongs or forceps. As with all puffers, offering as much hard shelled food as possible is important to control the growth of their teeth. Do not feed this puffer foods such as beef heart, red meat, and chicken, can cause the puffer to develop liver problems.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore
  • Flake Food: No
  • Tablet / Pellet: No
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Due to the poor conditions feeders are kept in, it is not recommended to be a staple. They can introduce disease to your tank. If you do the occasional treat, quarantine feeders for at least a week. Gut filled ghost shrimp is ok.
  • Meaty Food: All of Diet – Pre-soaked krill, shell on shrimp, crab legs, crayfish, mussels, clams, live crabs and gut filled live ghost shrimp are then main diet. Always first offer shelled foods to help wear down teeth.
  • Feeding Frequency: Seldom – 4 inches and under need to be fed every 2 days. 4 and over every 5 days.

Aquarium 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 generous weekly water change of 30% to 50% is the standard recommendation for a puffer aquarium. A canister filter that will turn the tank over 6-10 times per hour is recommended. With some of these fish, depending on temperament, removing the fish or netting them my be necessary during cleaning. Be cautious as your hands and fingers may be mistaken for prey.

  • Water Changes: Weekly – Water change should be 30 – 50% weekly.

Aquarium Setup

The Pig-nosed Puffer is not a particularly active fish so a tank of 20 – 30 gallons should be large enough to keep one happy. A freshwater species, this pufferfish should not be kept in brackish or salt water. As with all puffers the tank needs to be properly cycled with 0 ammonia and nitrites. Large canister filters the turn the water over 6-10 times per hour in necessary due to the nature of their eating.

The substrate should be at least 4 inches of sand so they can burrow to simulate natural hunting. Should have rotating powerheads as well to create currents like the rivers they come from. Should also have a strong source of aeration. Provide water parameters of Temp: 74° – 82° F (23 – 28° C), pH: 6.7 – 7.7, and Hardness: 5-15 dH. Never put this puffer in soft water.

Generally the Mekong Puffer is housed alone because of its extremely aggressive nature, but It is possible to house more then one in a tank if it is large enough so each fish can make their own territory. If you are going to attempt to keep more then one in a tank make sure to heavily decorate and plant the tank to break the line of sight, which will relax the puffers and help prevent aggression.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes – A Nano tank is fine as long as it meets the size requirements and has proper filtration.
  • Substrate Type: Sand – Should have around 4 inches of sand so the puffer can burrow to simulate its natural hunting behaviors.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 6.7-7.7
  • Hardness Range: 5 – 15 dGH
  • Brackish: No – The Pignose Puffer is a freshwater species and should not be kept in brackish or salt water.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom – The Pignose Puffer or Arrowhead Puffer is quite inactive and will usually stay at or near the bottom of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Pig-nosed Puffer can be extremely aggressive so they are candidates for a single species tank. If you feel you must have some other fish in the tank with them, try quick species that swim at or near the surface but after reading their description and our introduction…don’t say you weren’t warned!

In a big enough tank you can try to put same species in as long as they have their own territories. They will make aggressive displays by circling and flattening out their bodies, but will normally retreat without injury if they have their own space. A well decorated tank will help cut their line of stress down, reducing their aggression and stress of seeing each other.

  • Venomous: Yes – The Pignose Puffer can be venomous if it is consumed as puffer fish are known to harbor toxic substances in their flesh.
  • Temperament: Aggressive – This is an aggressive predatory puffer fish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – In a large enough tank it has been done. Tank needs to be well decorated to break the line of sight so these fish do not see each other all the time.
    • Peaceful fish (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat – is aggressive
    • Plants: Monitor

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexual differences are unknown though the females may be larger.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Tetraodon suvattii was first successfully bred in captivity 1973 by Patrik Recher. The Arrowhead or PIgnose Puffer was then recorded as the first of the Tetraodon species to spawn in an aquarium.

These puffers have an almost mating dance. When they first meet they flatten their bodies and lower their heads. They then swim in circles around each other before either mating or retreating. If they decide to mate both will puff up and do their dance while spawning. After spawning the female will stay and guard the eggs until they hatch. Once the fry hatch and yoke sac is depleted, they will feed on brine shrimp.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

Fish Diseases

The Pig-nosed Puffer does not have gill covers or scales which make it more prone to disease. Puffers are normally the first fish in a tank to show signs of ick and will twitch and rub around the tank. They respond well to most medication and normally heal quickly. NEVER use copper in a Mekong Puffer tank.

Puffers are wild caught and can carry internal parasites, a de-worming should be done if it hasn’t been done yet. Heterobothrium Infection is also common, it is an infection of the gills. A Formaldehyde bath can help cure this. For more information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


Although not considered rare, the Pignose Puffer or Arrowhead Puffer are only occasionally available.