March 30, 2023


The Food Universe

Tips on Green Spotted Puffer Fish Care

The green spotted puffer, Tetraodon nigroviridis, is indigenous to Africa and Asia. Their natural habitat ranges from Sri Lanka, throughout Indonesia and north to China and south to Africa. Despite the fact that this species is frequently kept in freshwater tanks and sold as a freshwater fish by many retailers, this is a brackish fish. They inhabit brackish costal estuaries, lagoons and river and stream openings. During the rainy season green spotted puffers frequently make their way into seasonal floodplains.

Although this fish can survive in a strictly freshwater environment a salinity level of 1.005-08 for juveniles and 1.018-22 for adult puffers will insure optimum health and longevity. That said; green spotted puffers can be successfully drip acclimated to either freshwater or saltwater. Puffers are commonly kept by saltwater aquarists. As juveniles, puffers swim back and forth between fresh, salt and brackish water conditions. As the fish matures it will instinctively migrate to a saltwater environment. A puffer fish maintained in proper water conditions can frequently live in excess of ten years. A puffer raised in a freshwater environment will not reach its full growth potential nor have the vibrant coloration of a saltwater puffer.

Many novice aquarists make the mistake of adding a green spotted puffer to their community tank because they are so adorable. Their bulging eyes, rounded bellies and leopard spot patterns indeed make them a unique addition to a freshwater tank. Disney movies have undoubtedly led to the increased popularity of this fish among aquarium owners. Make no mistake; green spotted puffers are natural born killers. They do not make good community fish. This species is best delegated to a mono-species tank for both its brackish water needs and its predatory instinct. Although puffers are not shoaling fish they are tolerant of conspecifics. This makes them even more eligible for a mono-species tank.

Puffers have rock hard beaks and razor sharp teeth. In the wild their diet consists of other fish, crustaceans, mollusks and insects. These voracious carnivores can bite right through hard shell clams. It is nothing for them to take a hefty bite out of another fish in a community tanks setting. Juvenile puffers (especially when introduced to an established population) may seem docile perhaps even timid. But it is only a matter of time before their predatory nature takes over. If you choose to disregard this warning, be prepared to loose members of your community tank as your puffer matures and establishes its own territorial boundaries in its new surroundings. Extreme caution should be used in choosing a puffers tank mates. Larger, more aggressive species have a better chance of holding their own against these tenacious little buggers. Avoid mixing them with long finned species such as bettas and angelfish. Puffers are notorious fin nippers. If fish suddenly start dying or have segments of fin or body tissue missing you puffer is almost certainly the culprit. Puffers become far more aggressive as adults. They can reach up to six inches long when fully mature. Keep this in mind when deciding what other species to mix them with. The adorable little puffer in the fish store is just a baby.

In order to thrive, puffers need a high protein diet. While flake food is acceptable, additional protein supplements will help maintain a puffer’s long-term health and color palette. Young puffer fish can be fed frozen or freeze-dried krill or plankton. Ghost shrimp, and small insects, worms and snails also make appropriate menu items. Snails are considered an essential part of a proper puffer’s nutritional regiment. Mollusks and crustaceans are a large part of a puffer’s dietary intake in the wild. A puffer’s teeth will continue to grow even after it has reached full maturity. Their teeth can actually overgrow to the point of filling their entire mouth cavity. This can and will lead to eventual starvation. Dietary supplements of hard shelled mollusks will help keep a puffer’s teeth trimmed. Adult puffers can be fed scallops, shrimp, whole mussels, clams, oysters, crayfish and even crab legs. Puffers are messy eaters. They generate a lot of waste both in expulsion and in uneaten food particles. Routine partial water changes are essential for optimum health.

The ideal water temperature for this species is 78-82 °F. An alkaline based pH of around 8 is considered perfect. Adding Aragonite or crushed coral to your substrate will help naturally establish stable alkaline parameters. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended. An abundance of tank décor to break the puffer’s line of sight and help it to establish its own territorial boundaries is highly recommended. This will help diminish aggressive behavior. Puffers are accomplished jumpers. As juveniles they will jump from one coastal puddle to another in search of food. An aquarium with a tightly fitting tank top is essential for the fish’s safety.

Green spotted puffers are not raised on fish farms. They are caught from the wild for the fish trade industry. Internal parasite infestation is common. Be sure to choose an active specimen with a well rounded belly, a colorful palette and clear rather than foggy eyes. Keeping your puffer in an isolation tank for a period of no less than one week is highly recommended. Food stuff soaked in Discomed by Aquatronics will eliminate internal parasite infestation.

The ability of a puffer fish to bloat its body is a survival mechanism against predation. A puffer’s body can expand to over twice its normal size. This is accomplished by the fish rapidly inflating its stomach with water. Despite what you see in Disney movies you may never actually see your puffer fish puff. Puffers only inflate their stomachs when they are in high stress situations or in fear of being ingested by another predator. Green spotted puffers, like all puffer fish, are poisonous. Their skin and organs contain tetrodotoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin whose affects in small does can cause a euphoric state of mind. Puffer poisoning is responsible for the deaths for several daring Japanese sushi enthusiasts every year.

Green spotted puffers are not bred in captivity for commercial purposes. There are reports of them being successfully bred by home aquarists. We were unable to find any detailed information on the breeding of this species.