How to take care of Freswater puffer fish?

We will talk about freshwater puffer fish care in this blog post.We will discuss important factors such as their habitat,types,lifespan,tank set-up, water parameters and healthcare, etc. Everything you need to know about   freshwater puffer fish care will be briefly discussed.


In this blog

  • Key specifications of freshwater puffer fish
  • Why is freshwater puffer fish care important?
  • How many freshwater puffer fish should you start with as a newcomer?
  • Habitat of freshwater puffer fish
  • Types of  freshwater puffer fish
  • Different strains or colors of   freshwater puffer fish
  • General and physical attributes of   freshwater puffer fish
  • Freshwater puffer fish lifespan
  • Freshwater puffer fish tank set-up
  • Freshwater puffer fish diet and feeding requirements
  • Freshwater puffer fish healthcare and health conditions
  • Freshwater puffer fish daily care and Bi-weekly care tips
  • Summary

 How to take care of Freswater puffer fish?

Daily care tips for freshwater puffers

  • Keep their tanks clean.
  • Young freshwater puffers should be fed everyday,intermediate size should be fed alternately and fully grown freshwater puffers should be fed 2-3 times a week.
  • Don’t overfeed them.
  • Remove the leftovers daily by using a gravel siphon to avoid tank pollutants.
  • Regularly monitor water conditions using water testing kits.
  • Observe their swimming patterns, fins and feeding habits to know if they are well or not.
  • Maintain vital parameters to keep them healthy.
  • Keep all the tank equipment in working conditions.
  • Constant filtration is needed in their tanks.

Bi-weekly care tips for freshwater puffers

  • Change 10% water weekly or 25% water every 2 weeks to avoid parasitic and other types of infections.
  • Veggies or a plant based diet should be given once or twice a week to bigger freshwater puffers.
  • Teeth trimming should be done every 3-6 months.
  • If you are feeding them live food then kindly quarantine them in separate tanks for 2 weeks before feeding them.
  • If you are keeping them in community tanks then kindly quarantine new species for 15 days before adding them to the main tank.

Key specifications of Freshwater puffer fish

Genus Tetraodon 
HabitatSoutheast asia,India,Bangladesh,South america and Africa
LifespanMore than 10 years
Body sizeBody shapeColorSpecial traitSexual dimorphism1-24 inches in lengthRounded Vivid (depending upon the species)Hunting ability and tetrodotoxinYes 
Another namesVarious names depends upon the freshwater species
Optimum temperatureOptimum pHWater hardness74F-78F7.0-7.68-12 dKH
TemperamentBeginner/experienced Aggressive and territorialExperienced level
Care levelHigh level
Tank size and set-upTank type (Prefered)3-125 gallons tankSolitary tank
Preferred plants/decorationsDensely planted tank/rock- work
CompatibilityMostly solitary tanks
Number of Freshwater puffer fish species found 30 species 
BreedingDifficult in captive conditions

Why is Freshwater puffer fish care important?

Freshwater puffers are very sensitive to organic pollutants like ammonia,nitrite and nitrates.Their higher levels can be dangerous and detrimental to their health conditions.So,It is very important to keep their levels in check by doing regular water changes in their tank.

How many Freshwater puffer fish should you start with as a newcomer?

To be honest puffers are not for new aquarium hobbyists because of their aggressive temperament, teeth trimming and tank cleaning from time to time.It won’t be easy to handle all this as a newcomer.

But if at all you are planning to buy a freshwater puffer fish then you can go ahead with dwarf puffers,because they are easier to handle than their cousins.

They are smaller in size so you don’t have a bigger tank to clean, they are less aggressive, so you can add them in a community tank and lastly you don’t have to do the their teeth trimming regularly.

Habitat of Freshwater puffer fish

Freshwater puffers are found in the rivers of Southeast Asia, Bangladesh,Congo, Nile,South America and parts of Africa.

Types of Freshwater puffer fish

List of freshwater puffers:

  • Dwarf puffers
  • Congo puffer
  • Red-tailed dwarf puffer
  • South-american puffer
  • Crested puffer
  • Golden puffer
  • Fahaka puffer
  • Imitator puffer
  • Mbu puffer

Different strains or colors of Freshwater puffer fish

List of different colors of freshwater puffers:

  • Congo puffer- Bright orange to light brown
  • Dwarf puffers- Yellowish green
  • Red-tailed dwarf puffer-mottled brown
  • South-american puffer- green
  • Fahaka puffer- brownish gray
  • Imitator puffer- bright yellow color
  • Mbu puffer- olive green 

General and physical attributes of freshwater puffer fish

  • Size- Freshwater puffers size range from 1-24 inches in length, depending upon the species.
  • Shape – Freshwater puffers have rounded bodies
  • Freshwater puffers are scaleless and have rough and spiky texture
  • Freshwater puffers have a beak-like structure which is formed by the fusion of their 4 teeth.
  • Famous for their hunting skills.
  • Release a neurotoxin called as tetrodotoxin
  • Can inflate and deflate if they are under stressful situations
  • Aggressive and territorial in nature

Freshwater puffer fish lifespan

Freshwater puffers can live upto 10 years or more in properly cycled tanks.Their lifespan completely depends on pristine water conditions and effective filtration system.

Freshwater puffer fish tank set-up

Tank sizeLight intensitySubstrateWater parametersTemperatureTank plantsTank mates

Tank size for freshwater puffer fish

Tank size differs from species to species in freshwater puffers.In my opinion,bigger the better,because bigger tanks will have more surface areas and more space will give them a stress free environment.

Freshwater puffer fish tanks should have lots of open space for swimming and lots of hiding space to feel safe and secure.

Male to female ratio for should be maintained in dwarf puffer tank-1 male for 3 females

Tank size for different freshwater puffers:

Freshwater puffersTank size per fish
Dwarf puffersCongo pufferRed-tailed dwarf pufferSouth-american puffer (rectangular tank)Crested pufferGolden pufferFahaka pufferImitator pufferMbu puffer3 gallons tank6 gallons tank5 gallons tank10 gallons tank
7 gallons tank20 gallons tank55 gallons tank3 gallons tank125 gallons tank

Light intensity for freshwater puffer fish 

  • Dwarf puffers-They need 12 hours of sunlight during summers and 10.5 hours of light during winters.
  • Congo puffers,South-american puffer,crested puffers-No special requirement,standard aquarium lighting is fine.
  • Red-tailed dwarf puffer- Bright lightings are not required in their tanks.

Substrate/Decoration for freshwater puffer fish

  • Soft sandy substrate will go well with freshwater puffers tank.
  • Decoration- Cave formation,overhangs,rocks,crevices,pebbles, 

Bogwood and driftwood.

  • Avoid sharp and pointed objects in the tank.
  • Always clean tank decors weekly as they harbor infectious bacteria in them.

Water parameters for freshwater puffer fish 

Add them to a fully cycled tank because they are sensitive to ammonia,nitrite and nitrates. They don’t have scales on their bodies so they are prone to many infectious diseases, if not maintained in pristine water conditions.

Double filtration system should be installed to remove all the waste products from the tank.

  • pH- 7.0-7.6
  • Water hardness- 8-12 dKH
  • Ammonia-zero
  • Nitrate- below 10ppm
  • Nitrite-zero

Temperature for freshwater puffer fish

Freshwater puffer fish come from warm waters,so exact water temperatures should be maintained in their tank.

The ideal temperature for freshwater puffer tanks is between 74F-78F and If the temperature is below 74F then an aquarium heater is required to maintain the ideal temperature.

Tank plants for freshwater puffer fish

Freshwater puffers come from dense vegetation areas so it would be better to replicate the same in their tanks too.

Plants act as natural filters and will filter out the toxins accumulated in the aquarium.Keep in mind they munch on tank plants too.

  • Anacharis
  • Java Fern and java moss
  • Hornwort
  • Anubias nana
  • Amazon sword
  • Vallisneria 

Tank mates for freshwater puffer fish

Due to their aggressive and territorial nature freshwater puffer don’t get along well with anyone.It’s better to keep them alone in a solitary tank.They are fin-nippers and can damage other tank-mates with their sharp teeth.

Dwarf pea puffers,golden puffers and red eye puffers can somewhat adjust with fast swimmers like zebra danios and can be kept together in a small community aquarium.

Freshwater Puffer fish diet & feeding requirements

Omnivorous fish- Freshwater puffers are aggressive eaters and will accept wide varieties of food in their diets.Feed them both fibrous plant based food and proteinous meaty diets.They don’t eat flakes and pellets food,but can be trained to have pellets and flakes.

Feed juveniles and adults according to their capacity.Juveniles may need several feedings a day but adults need to be fed carefully because they will produce lots of biological waste, which will directly affect the chemistry of water and make it unsuitable for them to survive.

They can be trained to hand feed but it would be a little risky so you can use aquarium tongs to feed them.

List of their favorite food:

  • Hard shelled food- Snails, shellfish to control the teeth from overgrowing.
  • Frozen food-To enhance their colourations
  • Live food- Fahaka need live crustacean in their diet
  • Freeze dried food
  • Plant based food- Shelled veggies
  • Bigger puffers should be given small frozen fish
  • Algae rounds
  • Bottom feeder tablets

Freshwater puffer fish healthcare and health conditions

Freshwater puffers are devoid of scales, i.e the first line of defense and that makes them susceptible to various internal and ecto-parasitic infections.Oodinium,Chilodonella are some of the parasites which are responsible for various infections in them.

  • Ich -A parasitic infection,which can be cured by maintaining the pristine water conditions, raising the tank temperature and by examining the filtration system.
  • Velvet infection-Due to poor water conditions, so water changes should be done either regularly or weekly depending upon the freshwater species.

Signs to know about your freshwater puffers health conditions:

Healthy freshwater puffers:

  • Swim actively 
  • Good appetite
  • Clear eyes
  • Proper respiration

Sick freshwater puffers:

  • Erratic swimming
  • Stop eating
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Labored respiration


  • Dwarf puffers are one of the easiest freshwater to keep in aquarium settings.
  • Red-eyed puffers are a bit aggressive,not easy to keep and produce a lot of waste in the tank.
  • Amazon puffers are very difficult to care for and are not at all recommended for beginners.
  • Mbu puffers are suitable for public aquariums.
  • Freshwater puffers thrive well in cycled tanks and regular water changes are recommended.
  • Overall freshwater puffers are aggressive fish and can’t be kept with other tank mates because of their territorial behavior.
  • Freshwater puffers need proper filtration, water replacements, tank cleaning and teeth trimming from time to time and it would be tough for a newcomer to handle all these different shades of freshwater puffers.
  • Freshwater puffers are clearly not recommended for newcomers. Only experienced aquarists can do the proper maintenance. 

Frequently asked questions on Freshwater puffer fish care

Why do freshwater puffers puff up?

Freshwater puffers are famous for their ability to puff themselves up with water as a defense mechanism.

Can we keep Nile,Mbu and Mekong freshwater puffers with tank mates?

No, they can’t be kept with anyone because they are very aggressive and territorial.It is better to keep them separately in solitary tanks to avoid such behavior.