12 Freshwater Puffer Fish Types & Species Profile

There are over 150 freshwater puffer fish types around the world, but only 30 species have been classified as freshwater.

Pufferfish are small and adorable fish that are everywhere in the world.

They can be challenging to keep, but they can also be extremely rewarding for aquarists who have experience.

The tropical fish is available in all sizes and colors. Many species are unique and distinctive hunting methods that are fascinating to observe.

They are well-known for their poisonous venom called tetrodotoxin. But, rest assured, they can’t make it themselves and are therefore largely good in captivity.

Read on to know more about freshwater pufferfish, including the best places to look for them and the best ways to take care of them.

Freshwater Puffer Fish Facts & Overview

Care Level:Advanced
Colour Form:Colorful
Lifespan:10 years or more
Size:1-24 inches
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater
Compatibility:Best kept alone
Facts on freshwater puffer fish types

All puffer fish are part of the family of Tetraodontidae.

The Puffer Fish are tropical species of fish that are found in brackish, marine, and freshwaters throughout the world. There are more than 150 species of pufferfish, but only about 30 reside in freshwaters. This guide will concentrate on freshwater pufferfish.

They are well-known for their capacity to gonfl themselves by inflating themselves with water as a defense mechanism. After they have inflated the spine, it protrudes out of their bodies, preventing them from being consumed.

Don’t be fooled by their appearance! Although they appear adorable, they can also be very violent. They should be maintained in one tank because of their unique feeding schedules, needs for care, and aggression.

A well widely known and studied feature of the fishes is their extremely toxic neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin.

This is a way to guard them against harm when they are in nature. The good news is that there aren’t any poisonous puffers. They don’t produce the toxin themselves; however, they acquire bacteria to produce the tetrodotoxin.

The bacteria they eat are derived from the diets that they consume in the wild. Therefore, don’t worry that your fish won’t be affected by toxins since they’ll not be eating this food in the aquarium.

Puffers are able to live up to 10-years in aquariums provided they are properly cared for.

They’re moderately priced based on what species you are. Prices can range from several dollars to expensive specimens like Mbu pufferfish which cost about $100.

Typical Behaviour

Although they appear cute, they can be very territorial and aggressive, particularly in breeding seasons.

Puffers are fierce predators using a variety of different hunting strategies.

  • Open Waters Hunters The Golden Puffer and the South American puffer swim over the sandy and rocky substrate, searching for prey. They swim through oyster beds or plants in search of small crustaceans, snails, or clams that they can take in.
  • Stealth Predators The crested puffer fish, the dwarf puffer and the red-tailed puffer prefer to hide. They typically live in riverbanks overgrown, and in places that have plenty of hiding places and can be seen snatching prey out of the darkness.
  • Ambush Predators The final class of hunters is called ambush predators (such as the congo puffer). They are buried in the sand, waiting for a fish to pass close by, and then they swoop upwards for the opportunity to kill.

One of the biggest mistakes puffers are guilty of is they’re known as fin-nippers. Some of the most famous fin nippers are all the species of Chonerhinos and Auriglobus.

A different characteristic observed in different species is their capacity to blow water or spit over the substrate to reveal the hidden prey. They are observed to spray water onto you from above to solicit more food.

Freshwater Puffer Fish Types

Freshwater puffer fish differ greatly in types, shape, size, and color. Starting at 1”, like the Dwarf puffer, to 24” like the Mbu Freshwater puffer. Mbu Freshwater puffer.

They are very bulky and chubby looking. They resemble the shape of a box, with short fins hanging out. They are equipped with four large teeth that are fused to their jaws, which is usually covered by their lips. The lips of these animals are very full and puffers use them to assess the texture of foods and decide whether or not it’s worth it.

Without scales, the skin of these animals is covered in spikes. Depending on the species of the animal, spikes may be extremely evident or extremely thin and invisibly (until the puffer is inflated).

All require effective methods of camouflage and are generally light grey with a cream-colored base, and green on top.

12 Types of Freshwater Puffer Fish

The raising of freshwater pufferfish is an excellent opportunity for an experienced aquarist keeper.

You’ll need an extensive tank as well as the capability to filter the water swiftly and thoroughly. We’re going to assume that you’ve got all the information and that you are looking to compare several species to find the one you prefer the most.

We’ve managed to round 12 breeds of freshwater pufferfish that you can examine with you to see which ones grab your attention. We’ll explain how they look and also provide you with information that could be pertinent to the specific species.

Join us for a discussion about the dimensions, filtration, color length of the aquarium, and many more in order to assist you in making an informed decision about your purchase.

These are the 12 kinds of freshwater pufferfish that are the most popular we’ll go at with you.

Tetraodon palustris puffer

Tetraodon palustris, commonly called Mekong River Puffer (Pao cf. palustris) is a beautiful and original freshwater puffer, which is found in the Greater Mekong Basin in Thailand and Cambodia.

This is a moderately sized and intelligent freshwater fish that is guaranteed to be a fantastic aquarium addition.

The Mekong River Puffer is typically situated in areas of shallow water with lots of vegetation.

Like most puffers, they utilize their sharp, powerful beaks to hunt down and eat molluscs, insects, and crustaceans.

In the aquarium, they are tough and can be kept in a group, but unlike most types of puffers sharing friends in other tanks could be a risk.

In nature, they eat on clams, snails, and other crustaceans. They require regular meals with predators with hard shells in aquariums to stop them from developing too large.

The species is indigenous to Thailand. This tetraodon palustris puffer is among the most distinctive species of pufferfish around the globe.

Due to their dimensions and the tendency to eat living snails and puffers of tetraodon palustris have been well-known by fishkeepers and aquarists in recent years. However, their popularity has led to being classified as a threatened and vulnerable species, as most puffers are found in the wild.

Congo Puffer

The name suggests that Congo pufferfish originate from the waters of Africa. They are about 6 inches long and will be found lying in the sand at the bottom of the aquarium, hidden from predators.

A variety of colors are available such as black as well as red, sand, and black as well as the Congo can also change its color to the environment around them apart from blue.

They require a big tank and are very sensitive to nitrates. As such, the water has to be thoroughly filtered, which is the case with most pufferfish.

Dwarf Puffer

the Dwarf pufferfish is also called the Pea pufferfish as well as it’s also known as the Pygmy pufferfish. It’s the smallest pufferfish found in the world and is rarely bigger than one inch and a half.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently classifies endangered the Dwarf Puffer as vulnerable due to habitat loss because of overharvesting. This breed is very well-liked in aquariums because of its vibrant colors and compact dimensions.

It’s much simpler to obtain the correct size aquarium and the right filtration for the Dwarf than other breeds.

Fahaka Puffer

It is believed that the Fahaka Puffer is one of the largest varieties of pufferfish that are available and can attain a height of 16 inches when fully grown.

The Fahaka Puffer Fish are very aggressive, and only experienced fish keepers ought to attempt to acquire one of these varieties.

It is recommended to have tanks that are at a minimum of 60-inches long with strong filtering capabilities. You will also require thick vegetation. The fish are often known to eat your fingers when they feed and may give an unpleasant bite.

Golden Puffer

It is known as the Golden Puffer and comes in a lighter and darker version. In the lighter variant, the fish features a white body that is covered with yellow dots.

In the dark variant, the body is black and has yellow dots. They are very smooth bodies with tiny fins that are set away. There are tiny toothlike projections on their skin that resemble Sandpaper.

As they expand, the projections become more prominent. The fish are extremely large. that can grow to nearly 20 inches in length when fully developed.

Imitator Puffer

It is known as the Imitator puffer and can also be referred to in the Dwarf Malabar Puffer, and it is another kind of pufferfish that is tiny.

The Imitator puffer has a vibrant yellow color. Males are brighter than females, and females are dark spots on their bodies. While it’s a smaller species, however, they require an aquarium that has a minimum of 30 gallons of water.

MBU Puffer

MBU Puffer Fish is an extremely large species of pufferfish, which can reach the size of 26 inches. They can be difficult to house in aquariums because it’s hard to give them sufficient space and enough filtration to ensure that your pet fish is healthy.

This is why we suggest this breed to only knowledgeable pufferfish keepers. MBU pufferfish possess distinctive patterns on their bodies that can alter as they get older.

Ocellated Puffer

The Ocellated puffer is one of the rarer species that are available. This is a captive breeding fish that has now taken over streams and rivers in South Asia. The fish that belong to this species have distinct personality traits, and males will guard the eggs with a fierce guard.

They’re calmer than other species and prefer being kept in groups. They can house them in smaller aquariums than most others and will require only about 20 gallons. However, you’ll require a powerful filter system.

Red-Eyed Puffer

The Red Eyed Puffer is one of the four breeds of pufferfish, all with one thing in common: the red-eye that they share. This kind of pufferfish is believed as being more aggressive than most of the other species and is also more difficult to keep.

Because they tend towards being more aggressive it is recommended for them to be kept without other pufferfish. While they aren’t often over 2 inches, they need an extensive tank as they create a lot of waste.

We suggest an aquarium that is a minimum of 32 inches long. Lots of tall, living plants are also required.

Red-Tailed Dwarf Puffer

The Red-Tailed Dwarf pufferfish can be described as a small species that grows only around two inches at the most.

They prefer slightly acidic water and aquariums that have plenty of living plants. Males of this breed are much larger than females and have dark brown-colored bodies and lighter cream-colored stripes on side of the body.

The females that are smaller have a flecked brown appearance, with irregular shapes and marks. Females and males both have red eyes and tail fins with red.

South American Puffer

It’s among the few pufferfish that live in large groups on the open sea. But, in tanks, this is considered to be one of the tougher fish to care for.

We suggest only experts purchase this breed. And in any case, suggest it when you have a big tank that is suitable for several. When properly maintained, they sport vibrant black and golden stripes that stand out against the backdrop vegetation.

The South American Puffer will require an area of at least 47 inches long. The water needs to be thoroughly filtered and the dense vegetation needs to be planted.

Also, you will need to provide them with hard food because their teeth tend to expand and you might have to trim them manually.

Target Puffer

Target Puffer Fish grow to approximately 6 inches long and require an aquarium at a minimum of 35 inches long to live comfortably.

A constant, strong filtration system is required and the more water flows in the aquarium the more efficient. The target pufferfish can be nocturnal predators and become very active in the evening. A Moonlight will allow you to observe your Target Pufferfish hunting.

A lot of times, the Spotted Green puffer is considered a freshwater species. But, this is not the case. They live in different water environments. As juveniles, they are in freshwater, but as they grow older, they require brackish waters.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

The freshwater pufferfish is a freshwater species from tropical waters that live in water systems of the temperate and tropical areas of the globe like lakes and rivers.

There are puffers to be found throughout South East Asia, India, Bangladesh, South America as well as Africa.

They usually live along rivers with thick vegetation However, they can be located in lakes (for example, the Mbu pufferfish found in Lake Tanganyika).

Tank Setup

The pufferfish of freshwater are extremely susceptible to illnesses, and you must provide the most optimal environment for them.

The best fish are kept in water with a pH that is 7.0-7.6 and temperatures that range from 74deg to 78degF. Other parameters of water like water hardness and currents rely on the species of fish and their natural habitat.

Most species will do good in tanks with a low water current (the filter produces enough water flow) and a dKH of 8-12.

Pufferfish are typically vulnerable to the effects of deteriorating water conditions and are extremely susceptible to levels of Nitrate as well as nitrite as well as ammonia, in water. They also create plenty of waste, therefore a quality filter is required, as is a recommended 50% water change weekly.

You may want to consider buying the double filtration system with heaters as well as a specific lighting system.

Typically, freshwater pufferfish require an adequately-planted aquarium with many crevices as well as places to hide.

Ambush predators prefer soft substrates to dig easily and get within. Stealth predators require densely planted tanks that are full of trees, roots, plants, and crevices. In addition, open water hunters require lots of space to swim in and elements to explore, such as rocks as well as bogwood, plants, and rocks.

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

Here are the suggested minimal sizes of some sought-after freshwater pufferfishes:

  • The Dwarf Puffer: 10 gallons
  • Red-Tailed Dwarf Puffer: 10 gallons
  • Crested Puffer: 55 gallons
  • Imitator Puffer: 10 gallons
  • Golden Puffer: 125 gallons
  • South American puffer: 40 gallons
  • Congo Puffer 40 gallons
  • Mbu Puffer: 500 gallons

The bigger the tank the better, due to the quantity of waste they produce. These guidelines are intended just for one fish.

In general, it is best that pufferfish be left in a single tank but there are some species that can be kept together (more on this in the coming days).

Tank Mates

Whatever species you choose, freshwater pufferfishes can be very territorial and aggressive.

They can exhibit different temperaments throughout different life stages. Therefore, even if they’re a great community fish when they are juveniles they may become extremely aggressive in adulthood.

These fish aren’t suitable for community aquariums and are best kept on their own. They’re ferocious fin nippers and get bored very easily, a mix that could result in catastrophe when paired in a group with other species of fish.

Additionally, non-fish companions such as shrimps and snails are not permitted because they can be eaten.

Keeping Freshwater Puffer Fish Together

Puffer fishes should be kept in a separate aquarium.

There are, however, certain species that can be kept in pairs or in small groups. Figure 8, South America along with the Ceylon puffer species can be placed in groups of a smaller size.


Freshwater pufferfish don’t have scales, so they are highly vulnerable to Ectoparasites. The most frequent parasites are typically caused by Protozoa found in their fins, gills, and skin.

The most well-known parasites are called Oodinium Sp., Ichthyobodo sp., Chilodonella sp., and Trichodina sp.

A prevalent parasite found in ornamental freshwater fish is known as the Ich disease caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It is treatable quickly by increasing the temperature of your tank.

The prevention of disease is always a better option. Any new additions to your tank could be hosts of disease and bacteria. Be cautious when you introduce new species into your aquarium, and make sure you quarantine them.

Scaleless fish, like Puffers, are more vulnerable to illness due to the lack of their first line of defense which is the scales. It is essential to be extremely cautious to maintain the proper conditions of your water and also keep your tank in good condition.

Making the investment in a quality filtering system can prevent many issues.


Pufferfish are regarded as omnivores but they prefer a diet that is based on meat.

In their natural habitats, they typically eat snails, crustaceans, shellfish, and various other fish (yes there are entire fish).

They’ll eat nearly whatever you throw into the tank. They can be fed fresh, frozen, and dried meat. Larger puffers can consume tiny frozen fish, such as lancetfish as well as whitebait fish.

It is also possible to feed them vegetables and plant-based foods at least once or twice per week.

The teeth of your child are an important thing to be considered as they continue growing throughout their entire lives. You may need to feed them hard-substrates like crustaceans, shellfish, or snails in order to help them manage their growth of teeth.

If their teeth become too long the fish will find it difficult to eat, and you’ll require clipping the teeth.

Based on what size your pufferfish is they have different requirements for feeding.

  • Small Animals (under 2 inches) ”): require to be fed every day.
  • Mid-sized Size of Species (2-4 ”): Need to be fed on a regular basis.
  • Big Species(4 inches+): Need to be fed 2 or 3 times per week.

Be careful not to feed them too much; they can earn more food through performing tricks to impress you. For instance, they can be seen squirting water from the high point in the tank.


Breeding in captivity is extremely difficult. Each species requires different parameters for water and environmental conditions.

Due to their temperament and temperament, finding a pair that is compatible isn’t easy.

If you’re lucky enough to find two fries, the most challenging part is making the fry.

The majority of pufferfish are very protective of their eggs but when they hatch, the parents are likely to eat them. The issue of feeding enough food to the fry is extremely difficult, and they are extremely sensitive to the water’s quality. It is possible to give them in brine shrimp and infusoria.

These challenges make breeding the fish as well as raising their fry extremely challenging, yet rewarding.

Is A Freshwater Puffer Fish Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Pufferfish can be found in tropical water bodies, from freshwater to marine habitats. There are about 30 species of freshwater pufferfish across the globe and they are all diverse in size and colors.

Pufferfish can be incredibly rewarding provided you keep the right conditions for them to develop.

Some puffers can grow extremely large and those that are small possess personalities that are distinct from other species of fish.

It’s a challenge to build the right size tank and also to properly filter it and therefore, it’s a commitment that you must make beforehand since a lot of puffers can last longer than five years.

They are known because of the ability to puff up as a defense mechanism, a characteristic that they have developed to safeguard themselves.

They are recommended for experienced aquarists because of their specific feeding requirements and sensitivity to the water’s conditions.

We suggest one of the less popular breeds, such as that of the Dwarf Puffer, if you’re new to pufferfish when properly cared for, and MBU Puffer will make you the talking point of the Aquarium community.

Although their personality is violent, they are extremely intelligent and will soon be able to recognize you, especially when they are hungry.

We hope you’ve thoroughly enjoyed this guide to freshwater pufferfish. We hope you have discovered a few puffers you’d like to raise. If you’ve enjoyed this guide and you have learned something new from it then please post the following 12 freshwater pufferfish types on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you have any queries regarding puffer fish? Post a comment in the box beneath…


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of FishCampRehab.com, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.

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