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Green Spotted Puffer

Pros And Cons Of Keeping Freshwater Puffer Fish

What are the  pros and cons of keeping freshwater Puffer Fish?

Puffer fish, also referred to as Sea Squab, Globefish, Ballonfish, Blowfish or Toadies belong to the family Tetradontidae which is in the Order Tetraodontiformes that are ancient fish over 40 million years old.

Puffer fish (Tetradontidae) are scaleless, chubby, adorable looking little fish that can be found around the world in freshwater, brackish water and marine environments.

All Puffer Fish have four fused teeth that look like a type of beak, and all have the defensive ability to gulp water or air to puff themselves up until they look like a small golf ball when they feel threatened.

The bodies of Puffer Fish are rigid and they rely on using their little fins for balance and motion. Their small rounded fins stick out from their round bodies causing them to move awkwardly. They use their pectoral fins for locomotion and their tail fin only when they need a quick burst of speed.

Puffer fish come in a variety of colors and sizes and present a comical appearance in aquariums because of their ability to independently rotate their eyes. Puffer fish are extremely active, intelligent, curious and interesting to watch, but they have a nasty temperament and are very efficient predators.

The vast majority of Puffer Fish are found in marine environments in most of the tropical oceans around the world, and fewer than 40 types of Puffer Fish are found in brackish waters.

To date, only 29 species of Puffer Fish have been found that are actually true freshwater Puffers.

This partial list of Puffer Fish and Their Water Requirements shows some of the more common types of puffers along with their water preferences.

In a community aquarium, freshwater Puffer Fish can be fin nippers if they are not well fed, and as they grow older they become more aggressive.

If you must keep them in a community tank, place them in with fast swimming fish such as Barbs, Danios or Rainbow Fish.  Puffers are particularly fond of crabs, snails and shrimp so don’t put them in the same tank  with your prized Blue Crayfish.

Novice tropical fish keeping enthusiasts should refrain from keeping Puffer Fish because of their special care and feeding requirements.

Although they will almost always adapt to aquarium foods, they require plenty of room and top notch water quality if you want them to thrive in an aquarium environment.

Puffer Fish need an adequate diet to remain healthy. They always seem to be hungry and they love to eat.

They act like little puppies waiting for you to feed them when they see you through the aquarium glass.

  • Puffer Fish Care

Puffer Fish do not have scales or gill covers. Because of this they are believed to be more susceptible to nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels and many diseases.

Puffer Fish also tend to be messy eaters. They usually leave food on the bottom of their tanks which puts an excessive load on the aquarium’s filtration system.

Because they require top notch water quality, a large tank with plenty of room and a 50% weekly water change is recommended for keeping Puffer Fish.

Puffer Fish are like cats, they each have a different personality that varies greatly between species, and even within a single species. However, they are all predators and are usually aggressive to tank mates.

All Puffer Fish are fin nippers and although some tropical fish keepers report them to be good community fish, they become aggressive as they mature.

If you want to try your hand at keeping Puffer Fish, keep a single specimen tank.

  • Feeding

In their native environment freshwater Puffer Fish eat a variety of sails, crustaceans, shellfish and other fish.

In your tank they will eat a variety of live, frozen and freeze dried foods. They will “beg” for food but they should only be fed daily (if under 2 inches).  Medium size fish should be fed every other day and large fish (5 inches or more) only a couple of times a week.

As Puffer Fish grow, their strong teeth (beak) needs to be worn down or they will be unable to eat.  You can do this in an aquarium setting by providing them with snails, shellfish or other hard shelled crustaceans to gnaw on.

You will eventually see the Puffer Fish in your aquarium blowing sand or gravel  around on the bottom of the tank. They do this in the wild to uncover snails or other foods.  It is not a sign that they need to be fed.

  • Puffer Fish Facts

As their name implies, Puffer Fish “puff” themselves up when threatened so they are less likely to be eaten by predators however, some species have toxic substances in their skin and their flesh is poisonous when eaten.

Several deaths occur each year in Japan from Puffer Fish poisoning due to improper preparation. Powerful neurotoxins accumulate in their livers which is acquired from the food they eat.  Freshwater Puffer Fish housed in aquariums are toxin free.

Puffer Fish can live in an aquarium for over 10 years.  They range in size from less than 1 inch to over 48 inches in some marine species.

The brackish water species are found primarily around estuaries, in the mouths of rivers where they meet the ocean, and in freshwater streams where the Puffers enter periodically to feed or breed like eels.

Some species spend their entire lives in brackish water and never venture into freshwater.


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