8 Freshwater Pufferfish Species


Pufferfish are weird but cute looking fish that are very curious and have amazing personalities. While most Pufferfish species are saltwater, some are freshwater as well. This page is about the true freshwater species.

The different Pufferfish species are generally similar in behaviour. They also have the same diets. However, some species are more aggressive than others, and they need different water conditions to thrive in the aquarium. Let’s look at the differences and what your Pufferfish species will need to be happy.

The water parameters for each species in mentioned in the table below. Pufferfish should only be kept by someone who has successfully kept fish healthy for at least 2 years. People in the hobby for this much time will have the basic knowledge of how the water parameters affect the fish. Freshwater Pufferfish are a little harder to care for than beginner fish like Goldfish or Mollies.

Freshwater Pufferfish water requirements

Tankbusters are fish that get too big for home aquariums. You can read about them over here.

General Pufferfish Care

What to feed Pufferfish: Snails, crabs, clams, mussels, shrimps, worms, and small fish. (All of these should preferably be live. Pufferfish are notorious for not accepting dead or store – bought food.)

What not to feed them: Vegetable matter. Pufferfish are carnivores.

Where Pufferfish eat food from: Bottom of the tank.

These plants do well with it: Sturdy plants which won’t get uprooted by the Pufferfish’s burrowing. Floating plants will also work. You can read about aquarium plants for beginners over here.

These plants shouldn’t be kept with it: Frail and weak plants that can be moved around easily.

Will do well with these tank mates: None. They will eat or seriously injure other tank mates. Some species need to be kept in groups in a same-species tank, while others can only be kept as one individual fish per aquarium. (As you can see in the table below)

Special care that needs to be taken: The substrate should preferably be sand, as Pufferfish like to sit on the substrate and sometimes even bury themselves in it. The sand bed at the bottom of the tank should be at least 2 inches deep, to give the Puffers enough space for burrowing. Since Pufferfish spend most of their time at the bottom, the tank should be long and wide to give them more surface area at the bottom.

It is necessary to feed Pufferfish snails, mussels, or other creatures that have hard shells. This helps to keep their teeth, which are always growing, at a manageable length. Overfiltration is necessary as they are very messy eaters. Knowing how to increase your aquarium’s bioload capacity will definitely help to keep your Pufferfish healthy. You can click here to read about it.

Note: There are some Pufferfish species that are often wrongly labelled and sold as freshwater species. However, those are brackish water fish and won’t survive in a freshwater tank. If the species you are looking for is not on this page, it probably is on the brackish water page.

8 Freshwater Pufferfish Species

1. Congo Puffer

As its name suggests, the Congo Pufferfish lives in the Congo river in Africa. It is an ambush predator and burrows in the substrate, waiting for invertebrates or small fish to come close to it. When they are close enough, it suddenly leaps out and catches them in its ‘beak’, which consists of stong teeth that are fused together. Another interesting thing about this fish is that it can take on a lighter or darker shade to match the substrate it is hiding in.

Species NameCongo Puffer (Tetraodon miurus)
Water Temperature Range23 to 26 °C (73.4 to 78.8 °F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)5 to 15 °d
pH Range6.8 to 7.5
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size6 in (15 cm)
Min tank size35 Gallons (132 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank1
TemperamentAggressive
Lifespan10 Years

2. Dwarf Puffer

Dwarf Pufferfish are the smallest freshwater Pufferfish species. They are very territorial, and attack any tankmates that come inside their territory.

Species NameDwarf Pufferfish / Pea Pufferfish / Pygmy Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)
Water Temperature Range25 to 28 °C (77 to 82 °F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)5 to 10 °d
pH Range6.5 to 7.0
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size1.4 in (3.5 cm)
Min tank size15 Gallons (56 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank4 to 6 (Species-only tank)
TemperamentAggressive
Lifespan4 Years

3. Fahaka Puffer

Common name: Fahaka Puffer

Scientific name: Tetraodon lineatus

Max adult size: 18 inches (This species is a Tankbuster and should not be kept in a home aquarium)

4. Golden Puffer

These are the most unique of the freshwater Pufferfish. They have an iridescent golden colour on the upper half of their bodies, with the lower half being an iridiscent white / silver. They even eat seeds in the wild, unlike other Puffer species. Their body shape is more elongated and they are much faster swimmers compared to other Pufferfish.

Species NameGolden Puffer / Bronze Puffer (Auriglobus modestus)
Water Temperature Range23 to 28 °C (73.4 to 82.4°F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)4 to 18 °d
pH Range6.0 to 7.8
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size4.5 in (11.4 cm)
Min tank size25 Gallons (95 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank1
TemperamentAggressive
Lifespan10 Years

5. Mbu Puffer

Common name: Mbu Puffer

Scientific name: Tetraodon mbu

Max adult size: 26 inches (This species is a Tankbuster and should not be kept in a home aquarium)

6. Red Eye Puffer

Red eye Pufferfish are small species that are nocturnal and spend most of their time hunting for prey.

Species NameRed Eye Puffer / Crested Puffer (Carinotetraodon lorteti)
Water Temperature Range20 to 28 °C (68 to 82.4°F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)3 to 10 °d
pH Range6.5 to 7.0
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size2.5 in (6.3 cm)
Min tank size20 Gallons (75 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank4 to 6 (Species-only tank)
TemperamentAggressive
Lifespan8 Years

7. Red Tailed Dwarf Puffer

Similar in behaviour to the Dwarf Pufferfish, the Red Tailed Dwarf Pufferfish is endemic to Indonesia. It is quite rare in the aquarium hobby and will do well water that has a little movement.

Species NameRed Tailed Dwarf Pufferfish / Red Tailed Red Eye Dwarf Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon irrubesco)
Water Temperature Range25 to 28 °C (77 to 82 °F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)2 to 12 °d
pH Range6.0 to 7.5
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size1.7 in (4.3 cm)
Min tank size20 Gallons (75 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank4 to 6 (Species-only tank)
TemperamentAggressive
Lifespan4 Years

8. South American Puffer

As far as Pufferfish go, these guys are very peaceful. They do not form territories and ca even be kept with other species of fish. However, they will still attack fish with long, flowing fins and other appendages (like the ones gouramis have).

Species NameSouth American Puffer / Amazon Puffer (Colomesus asellus)
Water Temperature Range23.3 to 26.6 °C (74 to 80 °F)
Water Hardness Range (°d)3 to 10 °d
pH Range6.0 to 8.0
Hobbyist LevelIntermediate
Max Adult Size6 in (15 cm)
Min tank size50 Gallons (190 L)
Min number of individuals to keep per tank4 to 6 (Species-only tank)
TemperamentRelatively Peaceful
Lifespan6 Years

Syed Baseeruddin Hyder

I’ve been keeping fish and invertebrates in aquariums for over 5 years. Over the years, I’ve kept more than 15 different species of fish and invertebrates. Through ParadiseInATank.com, I hope to guide new and experienced fish keepers alike with as detailed information as I can get.

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