Freshwater Pufferfish Care Guide – Diet & Tank Info

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When people first hear the words “pufferfish”, they cringe.

Those things are poisonous, aren’t they? The answer is, yes. Pufferfish in the wild are indeed poisonous. However, they don’t create their venom on their own. They do this by eating certain bacteria in the wild. Since they’ll be in your tank, you don’t have to worry about this. 

Pufferfish can actually be quite entertaining fish to have as pets. They do tricks and are very active. Watching them puff up is really cool. When they think they’re in danger, they puff up and their spine pops out of their body. When they do this, you can see little spikes that cover their body too. Just make sure your hand isn’t in the tank when they do this. It won’t be a pleasant feeling.

People who raise pufferfish are usually experienced fish people. We wouldn’t recommend a pufferfish for a beginning fish enthusiast. They’re hard to take care of and need to be kept alone. They’re also really susceptible to disease so it’s not wise to try to take care of one if you’ve never cared for fish before.

Pufferfish Care

Here, we’ll talk about the basic care of a freshwater pufferfish. We’ll also include some fun and interesting facts about the pufferfish. But the general rule is that, if you take good care of your freshwater pufferfish, they’ll live a nice long life.

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How Many Different Types of Freshwater Puffer Fish Are There?

There are more than 150 different species of pufferfish. However, only 30 of these are actually freshwater fish. They range anywhere from a few dollars to over $100. It really depends on which species you want to buy. Some of the most common types are:

  • Dwarf puffers
  • Red-tailed dwarfs
  • Golden puffers
  • Crested puffers
  • MBU puffers

Depending on the type of fish you buy, you need a different size tank. Some of the smaller pufferfish can survive in a 10-gallon tank. However, if you buy a Golden Puffer, you’re going to need a tank that’s at least 125-gallons. So, make sure you talk to the experts at the pet store before you take your new friend home.

What Are Some Common Features of a Freshwater Puffer Fish?

Most pufferfish look pretty similar. They come in all sorts of colors and sizes. Most people think of a yellow or orange pufferfish. This makes sense because these are popular colors for freshwater pufferfish.

Some of the other features of a pufferfish include:

  • They have 4 big teeth under their lips – they need these teeth to eat
  • They have big, full lips – they actually test the food with their lips before they eat it. If they don’t like the way it tastes, they won’t eat it.
  • They don’t have scales. Instead, they’re covered in tiny spikes.
  • They have good camouflaging techniques. Make sure to give them rocks and caves to hide in. 
  • They like to bite the fins of other fish – that is one of their hunting tricks.
  • They’ll blow or spit water in order to uncover their prey. They’ll also do this to impress their owner and earn treats!
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What Kind of Tank Does Your Puffer Fish Need?

Regardless of the size of the tank, there are still a few basic rules you need to follow. Because these fish get sick so easily, you really need to work hard to keep their tank and water clean. Even if the nitrate level is slightly elevated, it can kill your pufferfish. Here are a few guidelines when it comes to your pufferfish’ tank:

  • Keep the temperature at about 74-78 degrees
  • The pH level should be between 7.0-7.6
  • It must remain nitrate-free
  • It’s okay to have a low water current
  • Make sure you have a double filtration system
  • Have special lighting in your tank
  • Ensure there are lots of hiding places

Pufferfish make a lot of waste. This is why you need to keep them in a big tank. It’s also why you need to change their water often. At least once your week, you need to replace at least half of the tank’s water. Otherwise, your fish can get sick and die.

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Do Puffer Fish Play Well with Others?

Generally speaking, pufferfish do not play well with others. They don’t need or like friends. Even if you have other pufferfish, you don’t want to keep them in the same tank. And, certainly, don’t let your puffer share a tank with another kind of fish. They are hunters. They will do what it takes to hunt down, kill and eat any other fish in their tank.

Pufferfish are super aggressive. This is surprising for some because pufferfish are so chubby and cute. But wait until they puff up, exposing their spine and spikes. You don’t want another fish to be the victim of this defense mechanism.

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What do Freshwater Puffer Fish Eat?

Pufferfish are super aggressive. They’re also super hungry. They eat a lot and will eat just about anything in their path. You can feed them all sorts of food, including:

  • Live, frozen or dried meats
  • Vegetables and plants
  • Small fish
  • Hard shellfish (This is actually good for their teeth)

You also want to make sure you don’t overfeed your pufferfish. This is a big rule. They can get sick and die if you overfeed them. A safe feeding schedule is as follows:

  • Small fish – eat every day
  • Medium-sized pufferfish – every other day
  • Large fish – about 2-3 times a week

Take note – pufferfish are very smart. They know how to do tricks for you if they think it’ll get the extra food. They’ll spit or blow water on you to make you laugh. Then, they’ll sway their chubby bodies at you, begging for more food. Don’t cave. If you feed them too much, it will hurt them.

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