Aquarium Livestock Pet Care Guides

Puffers for Brackish and Freshwater Aquariums


Southeast Asia, Africa, South America

Tank Temperature:



6.8-7.5 for most species; Peruvian Puffer needs pH 5.5-7.2

Tank Requirements:

Provide dark sand or gravel and small, smooth rocks; needs excellent water quality; provide hiding places; no decorations with sharp edges; adequate open swimming room.


Carnivorous; feed freeze-dried, live, & frozen krill & brine shrimp 1-2 times a week; should be fed snails, crabs, or other crustaceans weekly to wear down their teeth (caution: feeding live snails can increase the chance of parasitic infections).


Often aggressive, territorial, and nippy towards each other and tankmates; may also nip or even destroy plants; may eat smaller tankmates. Some species bury themselves in sandy substrate to hide.


Best kept alone. If kept with other fish, puffers should not be kept with slow, timid, or very small tankmates.

Species Overview

Puffers are incredibly popular for aquariums. It's hard to deny their appeal, between their cartoonish appearance and their rather personable behaviors. Many puffers are curious and outgoing and they may even seem to "know" when their keeper is near, swimming quickly to the aquarium glass or water's surface when someone approaches the tank. While endearing, puffers may not be the right choice for some aquariums.

Puffers should be kept by aquarists with at least some experience. They are not too demanding, in terms of care, but there are a few things you should know before adding a puffer to your tank. Puffers need plenty of space and ample filtration to keep the water quality pristine. They're messy eaters, and the diet required for these fish can leave a lot of waste. Puffers have strong, ever-growing front teeth (beak) that they will need to wear down. They may chew on ornaments or rock in the tank to aid in the process. Feeding hard-shelled items, such as whole clams or shellfish, can also help to keep the teeth worn.

It is important that you do not provoke a puffer to see it inflate. Puffing is a stress or defense reaction, and it can cause health problems or even death for a puffer. Do your best to keep the puffer at ease, and do not house puffers with aggressive tankmates. Avoid using a net when attempting to transfer puffers. Instead, transfer with rigid containers, which will minimize stress that can cause them to puff.

Some puffers are found in freshwater while others are from brackish environments and should not be kept in freshwater tanks. Brackish water is between freshwater and saltwater and has a specific gravity of around 1.005 to 1.015; most brackish water fish need increasing salinity as they grow and mature. They may live in brackish water as juveniles but need full saltwater as adult. Puffers are not community fish; they may prey on smaller fish or nip at the fins of passive fish their own size or larger. Even the tiny 1-inch-long Dwarf Puffers have been known to bully much larger tankmates!

We always suggest that you do further research before adding a new pet to your tank. What we have provided for you are guidelines and suggestions. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or

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