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Freshwater to Brackish Puffers, Part of the Family Tetraodontidae


By Bob Fenner

  Juvenile Tetraodon lineatus

Freshwater Puffers by Genus, Species:


Carinotetraodon lorteti (Tirant 1885), the Redeye Puffer. To six cm. Asia: Indochina, Indonesia, Malaysia. Freshwater: pH range: 6.5-7.0; dH range 3-10, temp. 24-28 C. Feeds on zooplankton and benthic invertebrates. Males and females look very different (i.e. they are sexually dimorphic) Photo at right by Jeni Tyrell/PufferPunk


Carinotetraodon salivator Lim & Kottelat 1995. Found in Asia: Sarawak, Malaysia, in relatively fast-moving streams, around and burrowing in the substrate.

No pic

Carinotetraodon travancoricus (Hora & Nair 1941), Malabar or Dwarf Pufferfish. To an inch in length. Found naturally in India. A current "darling" of the freshwater puffer crowd. Eat small meaty foods, leave plants alone. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/Species

Chonerhinos amabilis Roberts 1982. Indonesia. To three inches in length. Feeds on aquatic insect larvae.

No pic

Chonerhinos modestus (Bleeker 1851). Asia: Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. To four inches in length. Eats insect larvae, fish scales...

No pic

Chonerhinos nefastus Roberts 1982.Asia: Indonesia and Indochina. To three inches in length.

No pic

Chonerhinos remotus Roberts 1982. Asia: Indonesia. To two and a half inches in length.

No pic

Chonerhinos asellus Roberts 1982. Asia: Indonesia. To three inches in length.

No pic

Colomesus asellus (Muller & Troschel 1848). South American Freshwater Puffer. South America: Amazon basin. Occasionally sold in the pet-fish trade. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/Species

No pic

Colomesus psittacus (Bloch & Schneider 1801), the Banded Puffer. Western Atlantic: Gulf of Paria to the Amazon River in Brazil. To a foot (!) in length. Freshwater as juveniles to brackish to marine as adults. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/

No pic

Genus Sphoeroides:


Genus Takifugu: (21 spp.). Mostly brackish to freshwater. Used as sushi bar "highs"... but don't get too close to death!


Takifugu oblongus (Bloch 1786), the Lattice Blaasop. Indo-West Pacific: South Africa; Indonesia to Australia. Brackish to Marine. To sixteen inches in length.


Takifugu ocellatus (Linnaeus 1758). Freshwater, Brackish. Found in China. Rolf Bandsma photo. 

Genus Tetraodon: (23spp.) Some brackish, others totally freshwater, a few travel between both

Tetraodon biocellatus Tirant 1885, the Figure Eight Puffer. Asia: Indochina, Malaysia and Indonesia. Often sold as freshwater, but do best in slightly brackish (spg. 1.005); pH range: 6.5 - 7.5; dH range: 5.0 - 12.0. A fish-biter. To a little over two inches in length. Aggressive fish tanks only. A biter! Tetraodon steindachneri Dekkers, 1975 is an invalid synonym for this species. 

Tetraodon duboisi Poll 1959. To 8.7 cm. Known only from the Stanley Pool area of the Congo. Aquarium photo. 

Tetraodon fluviatilis Hamilton 1822, the Ceylon Puffer to aquarists, Green Puffer to science. Asia: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Borneo. To six inches in length. A common Puffer in the aquarium trade, but an aggressive fish fin and scale nipper as adults. A freshwater to brackish species (higher spg as adults). Feed on crustaceans, worms, mollusks, algae and detritus in the wild. Second photo on right by Jeni Tyrell/PufferPunk http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/

Tetraodon leiurus Bleeker 1851, Asian Freshwater Puffer. Asia: Sundaland, Indochina. Freshwater, brackish; pH range: 7.0; dH range: 12.0. Sometimes imported and sold as an aquarium fish. A terror in the way of being a fin nipper.

No pic

Tetraodon lineatus Linnaeus 1758, the Fahaka, Lined  Freshwater Puffer. Africa: Nile, Chad basin, Niger, Volta, Gambia, Geba and Sénégal Rivers. Freshwater, brackish; pH range: 7.0; dH range: 10.0. Infrequently imported. To seventeen inches in length.

Tetraodon mbu Boulenger 1899, Mbu Freshwater Puffer. Africa: widely distributed in Lake Tanganyika and the Congo basin. Freshwater, brackish. To some twenty six inches in length in the wild. The most commonly imported freshwater puffer from Africa. This eight inch one in a trade show aquarium.

Tetraodon miurus Boulenger 1902, the Miurus Freshwater Puffer. Central Africa: Congo basin. To seven inches. Lays in the sand, waiting to snatch something for food. Second photo on right by Jeni Tyrell/PufferPunk

Tetraodon nigroviridis Marion le Proce 1822, the Leopard or Green Spotted Puffer (aka GSP). Freshwater to Brackish; pH range: 8.0 - 8.0; dH range: 9.0 - 19.0. Tropical: 24-28 C. Asia: Sundaland, Indochina, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Probably found in India. Often seen in the trade, but very aggressive. Should be kept solitarily. Feeds on mollusks, worms, algae and other fish's scales! http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/

Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Tetraodon pustulatus Murray 1857, the  Puffer (aka GSP). Freshwater to brackish; Africa, Nigeria, Gross River. To 36 cm. @ 14 inches overall length.
Images courtesy of Lars Slowak. http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=5142

Tetraodon schoutedeni Pellegrin 1926. Central Africa; Congo Basin. Freshwater rivers, not brackish. To three and three quarters inches in length. Territorial with its own species.  http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/

No pic

Tetraodon steindachneri, the Palembang Puffer. Now recognized as the Figure Eight, T. biocellatus http://www.fishbase.org/


Tetraodon suvattii Sontirat 1989. Found in Asia; Mekong Basin. To about 4 1/2" in length. Occurs in freshwater/rivers on muddy or rocky bottoms. Rolf Bandsma photo. http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/




Unfortunately the majority of "freshwater" puffers sold (which are actually brackish to marine) are quite susceptible to infectious and parasitic disease. Without good water quality (consistent, partial marine conditions) the non-freshwater tetraodonts frequently succumb to ich (white spot disease, ichthyophthirius), or become plagued with unsightly lymphocystis. They respond well to common therapies for all. Shown: an otherwise healthy Tetraodon nigroviridis with ich. 

Bibliography/Further Reading: 


Burgess, Warren E. 1983. The Amazon puffer, Colomesus asellus (Not C. psittacus). TFH 12/83.

Feigs, G. 1957. Tetraodon schoutedeni (Fresh-water puffers spawn). TFH 9-10/57.

Frank, Stanislav & Jaroslav Elias. 1974. Chonerhinus naritus. TFH 4/74.

Glass, Spencer. 1997. Freshwater Puffers. TFH 9/97.

Jackson, Lee. 94. Puffers of the genus Chonerhinos. FAMA 7/94.

Jensen, Christopher. 1993. Pufferfish. FAMA 10/93.

Ladiges. Undated. Puffer Fish. ADI #27.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, NY. 600pp.

Noshnow, Anatoli. 1987. Puffer production: Spawning Tetraodon cutcutia. TFH 10/87.

Ralf, Ricke. Undated. The striped pufferfish (Tetraodon palembangensis). ADI #31

Thomas, Scott B. 1985. Those practical fresh-water puffers. FAMA 5/85.

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