Freshwater Puffer Fish are engaging fish species with their ball-like appearance and playful behavior. In recent times the different types of freshwater Puffer Fish growing in popularity amidst aquarists for their interactive and chubby nature.
The Freshwater Puffer Fish comes in different colors and sizes.
If you ever thought of adding few types of freshwater puffer fish to your aquarium, trust me; it’s not at all a bad idea! It looks delightful to watch those chubby dog-like water puppies move here and there inside your fish aquarium tank.
These tropical fishes come with unique hunting skills, making them even more irresistible. But before adding a new buddy to your aquarium, you need to learn about the various types of freshwater puffer fish. However, there is still a lot of confusion around this fish as most people have difficulty distinguishing between types of freshwater puffer fish to brackish water puffer fish.
Puffer Fish – An Overview:
|Origin||Middle & Lower part of Cango, Lake Tanganyika, Southeast Asia, Amazon Basins, and parts of India and Bangladesh|
|Color Form||Several Colors and patterns|
|Max. Size||2 to 36 inches (5 to 90 cms depending on species)|
|Life span||10 to 14 years|
|Diet||Omnivores, predominantly carnivores|
|Minimum Tank Size||15 to 500 gallon (38 to 1900 liters)|
|Temperature||73°-80°F (23°-27°C) depending on the species|
|Acidity||6.5 to 7.5 pH depending on the types of Puffer fish|
|Hardness||5 to 12 dGH|
|Ammonia & Nitrite||0|
Puffer Fish Origin and General Facts:
Puffer Fish family name is Tetraodontidae from the order of Tetraodontiformes; the family has many species known as puffers, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, bubble fish, blowfish, balloonfish, sugar toads, etc.
It receives its scientific name due to fusing four teeth and upper and lower palate to smash the Crustaceans shells and other invertebrates; hence, remember that you cannot have any shrimps, snails, and any other invertebrates as a tank mate.
Almost all the Puffer Fish contains a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin which is more than 1200 times deadlier than Cyanide; it is the second most poisonous species in the world, next only to Golden Poison Frog. Certain types of bacterias create this toxin; they gather these bacterias from the food they consume in the wild.
Pufferfish are usually small in size. An adult pufferfish measures often less than 3-inches (8cms). However, more extensive freshwater Puffer fish grow up to 2-feet (60cms) in the wild. Do you know pufferfish lack scales on their body? Well, instead of that, they have rough or spiky skin.
They have bulging on a long and tapered body. Most Puffers have body colors and markings that announce their toxins to the predators; some have subdued and enigmatic body colorings that disguise them into the environment. They have excellent eyesight, adequate for hunting food and detecting predators.
Unlike most species, Puffer fish are not dimorphism; it is almost impossible to distinguish from male to female. The only time you can differentiate is when the females are laying eggs.
Habitat – Distribution of the Species
You can locate most of the Puffer fish in the tropical and subtropical ocean waters. However, some of the species are also found in brackish and freshwater water bodies. Almost all the freshwater Puffer fish are tropical fish inhabiting rivers, streams, lakes, etc.
The southeast Asian region sees various types of freshwater Puffer fish. 30 species of the 150 known ones are strictly freshwater puffers. Unfortunately, some freshwater Puffer fish are at risk due to loss of habitat, pollution, etc.
Temperament and Behavior in General
Well, all types of freshwater Puffer fish belong to the Tetraodontidae family. They are found in marine, freshwater, and brackish waters globally. But do you know what gives them the name Puffer fish or blowfish? It comes from their ability to puff up themselves by consuming water or air.
Have you ever thought, why they do so? Well, that’s because of their exciting defense mechanism; they are slow and awkward swimmers.
In times of danger, these fish swallow a massive amount of water or air and puff up themselves up into a ball of several times their standard size! It causes their spines to protrude more from their body, which, in turn, saves these tiny Puffer fish from being eaten up by larger mates.
Besides, do you know what is more interesting about them? They might look like they are too cute, but don’t be spellbound with their adorable appearance! Those cute tiny colorful creatures are pretty much aggressive.
Besides, almost all types of Puffer fish releases a very harmful neurotoxin, known as tetrodotoxin. Studies say the amount of tetrodotoxin present in one Puffer fish can kill nearly 30 humans. Sounds dangerous, right? Well, don’t worry, these fish alone cannot produce the toxin! The puffers need certain bacteria that create the poison for them.
Do you want to know from where the fishes gather these bacteria? These tiny aquatic creatures gather bacteria from their diet while residing in the wild. But as long as you have captivated them in your fish tank, they won’t be able to collect these bacteria and form the toxin. So, chill; there’s nothing to worry about much!
Hunting Methods Freshwater Puffer fish
Now that you know these freshwater species are aggressive and carnivores, do you know each type of freshwater Puffer fish has its own hunting techniques? Do you want to know them?
If yes, then continue reading!
They are Open Water Hunters!
The most interesting fact that you need to know about the various freshwater Puffer fish is that they are open water hunters. The Golden Puffers and South American Puffers can easily swim near the rocky and sandy substrate while hunting.
These fishes usually look for tiny crustaceans and snails to devour them while swimming through the plants and oyster beds.
There are a Few Ambush Predators Among Them
There are some puffers, which are ambush predators. They are good at burying themselves in the sand and waiting secretly for their prey to turn up. Once these hunters realize the presence of any unknown fish nearby, it lunges forward to kill them.
What a fearless attitude these creatures have?!
Puffer fish are Stealth Predators
The crested pufferfish, i.e., the dwarf ones and the puffers with red tails, love to stay hidden. They like to remain obscured amidst the tangled aquarium plants and other hiding spots to attack the prey from the shadows. That’s wildlife!
They are Too Notorious
Do you know what’s the worst trait of all is? Almost all types of freshwater Puffer fish are fin-nippers. Auriglobus and Chones Rhinos are two such puffer species that nip the fins of other fishes too aggressively.
Another notorious behavior of the tiny puffers is that they spit or blow water from the substrate to expose any hidden prey. Also, they might spit water at you, asking for more food. Beware!
Types of Freshwater Puffer fish
If you are excited to know about the various types of freshwater Puffer fish, you can keep them in your aquarium; here, we provide you with a list of Puffers to help you choose the right kinds of Puffers.
As evident from the name, the dwarf puffers are the smallest amongst the freshwater Puffer fish. They are usually 1.5-inches (4 cms) long. Can you imagine how tiny they are? It’s similar to the size of a pea. Well, that is why these fishes are also known as pea puffer fish or pygmy puffe rfish. Again, this breed comes in bright colors, which makes them a popular choice for aquariums.
Dwarf Puffers thrive well in a habitat with plenty of plants. They are less aggressive compare to their larger cousins. They don’t have continuous growth of teeth, a crucial trait of Puffer fish. That makes them the best bet for novice aquarists to have.
Nevertheless, they are fin nippers and need specific water parameters; they thrive their best between 75-80F (24-27C), pH 6.5 to 7, and low to moderate water hardness 3 to 12 KH.
It is better to buy captive bred than straight from the wild; Pea Puffer from the wild is susceptible to diseases and has a shorter lifespan than captive-bred. Captive-bred Pea Puffer lifespans from 4 to 5 years in an optimal environment.
Don’t let their size fool you; they can tear apart chunks of flesh of other fish. The best tank mates for them are other Peapuffers, and you would want to give them each at least a 5 gallon (20 liters).
If you are keen on keeping them in a community tank, then the best is to choose species of similar size and fast swimmers; Neon Tetra, Ember Tetra, Kuhli loach, Danios, Otocinclus catfish, and big shrimps such as Cherry Shrimps, Amano Shrimp, etc. are a fine choice to live with Pea Puffers.
Avoid keeping them with any longfin species and slow-moving fish. Also, you would want to avoid any larger and other aggressive fish types.
Ocellated Puffer fish
Red-Eyed Puffer fish:
Eyespot Puffer fish
All Freshwater Puffer fish types do not have scales or gill covers; that makes them susceptible to various diseases such as ich, flukes, fin rot, bacterial and fungal infections, tuberculosis, etc. The most common parasites, protozoa living in their fins, gills, etc.
Prevention is better than cure; you would want to quarantine every new specimen as they could potentially carry the parasites, bacterias, etc.
You would want to ensure at most care with the water quality of the habitat. Regularly, testing the water for all the required water parameters with a test kit is crucial in freshwater Puffer fish care.
All types of freshwater Puffer fish do well with the water parameters of temperature ranging from 75 – 82° F (24 – 28° C) with a pH range closer to neutral 6.8 to 7.5.
A minimum of 25% water change a week is a must Pufferfish aquarium tank. You may use a siphon vacuum cleaner for this purpose.
So now, do you want to know what the tank requirements for keeping differenttypes of freshwater Pufferfish are? Well, here is how you can create a perfect aquarium set up at your home for the puffers.
Tank Size and filtration system for Puffer fish:
For keeping pufferfishes, a minimum of a 20-30-gallon tank would be the best for your home. It will have ample space to keep 1 male with 3 female puffers. But are you thinking of keeping other aquarium mates, along with your pufferfishes? Well, in that case, a 55-gallon tank is more appropriate.
This tank size is for small Pufferfish types such as Pea Puffer, Imitators, etc.; for the medium to large Puffers, you would want to consider individual species to decide on the tank size; some large freshwater puffers may even demand a 100-gallon tank for one specimen, and MBU Pufferfish need 500-gallon tank for one specimen. They are usually kept in public aquariums rather than home aquariums owing to space and food supply requirements.
You could use a canister filter with a pre-filter bush to ensure the dwarf puffers are not sucked through the inlet/outlet of the filtration system. You would want to ensure the filtration capacity should be 10 times the tank turnover volume per hour.
Substrate and Tank Decorations for Freshwater Pufferfish:
The best substrates for freshwater Puffer fish are sand; you would want to use sand that the powerful filter cannot suck up as most Puffer fish need high current. Ensure to have a deep substrate bed a minimum of 3 inches (8cms).
A well-planted tank will be suitable for every type of freshwater Puffer fish to let them set their territories. But as they are quite aggressive while eating food, they can be hard on the plants. So, opt for sturdy plants, like Java moss, Java Fern, Hornwort, Anacharis, etc.
You can also add decors like rocks, pebbles, and bogwood in the aquarium to provide the puffers with many hiding spots.
Freshwater Puffer fish Diet:
Puffer fish has a specific dietary need; they are predators who hunt and feed on crustaceans, shellfish, snails, etc. Their infused 2 pairs of teeth help them to crush hard shells. In the home aquarium, you may have combined both high-quality frozen food with a fresh supply of snails, shellfish, etc.
Puffers are voracious eaters; it’s never enough for them, with their cute face could cox you into feeding them more and more. You wouldn’t want to fall for that as they produce huge waste, which can quickly build nitrates more than your filtration system can handle.
Bio-media in the filtration helps to digest the ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrates, called Nitrogen Cycle. The acceptable level of ammonia and nitrite is 0 and nitrates below 20 ppm; a regular water change ensures that the nitrates are below the acceptable limit.
Breeding of Pufferfishes
There is not much information about pufferfish reproduction, as they rarely breed while being in captivation. In case you are lucky enough, you might get to see the female puffers lay their eggs on the substrate! But guess what? The females vanish right after laying the eggs. The male puffers stay near the eggs for over a week to protect the eggs from eaten by the other species.
Well, for spawning, the male pufferfish, particularly white-spotted Pufferfish, a seawater Puffer, make a lot of effort! They flap their fins and swim above the seafloor to create circular patterns on the sand for about 2 meters. It usually takes them around 7-9 days to construct those circles on the substrate. After completion, the male pufferfishes adorn the circular area with shell fragments and fine sediments to make it look colorful and attract their female counterparts.
Now, based on the circle construction skill, the females make their decision if they want to mate with the males or not. Sounds funny, isn’t it?
In case a male puffer succeeds in impressing the female fish, voila! It’s breeding time. The female puffers then lay their eggs inside the circle, and the males eventually take the responsibility to fertilize them.
Doesn’t it seem like women are the boss here? What do you think?
Types of Freshwater Puffer Fish – Final Thoughts:
Puffers are different from all the other species; many experienced aquarists know how to deal with aggressive fish species like Jack Dempsey Cichlids, Wolf Cichlids, Oscars, Redtail sharks, etc. Despite their aggressivity, aquarists have passion for them as their attitude adds character to the aquarium. In their experienced hands, these aggressive fish behaves themselves in a community tank.
However, Puffers are not the same; they are like aliens. Even the dwarf types of puffers are quite aggressive for the most community tank. You would want to choose wisely your puffer fish after doing complete research on individual species.
Without a doubt, they are highly rewarding at the same time, highly demanding as well!
Good luck with your Puffer Fish!