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FAQs about South American Freshwater Puffers

Related Articles: The Nice Puffer: Colomesus asellus , the South American Puffer by Neale Monks, Freshwater PuffersAlone But Not Lonely: The Importance of  Keeping Puffers Individually by Damien Wagaman, Puffers in General, True Puffers, Brackish Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes, Puffy & Mr. Nasty(Big) Pufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo Small Puffer Dentistry By Jeni Tyrell (aka Pufferpunk), Puffer Care and Information by John (Magnus) Champlin, Things That My Puffers Have Told Me by Justin Petrey,

Related FAQs: FW Puffers 1FW Puffers 2,  FW Puffer Identification, FW Puffer Behavior, FW Puffer Selection, FW Puffer Compatibility, FW Puffer Systems, FW Puffer Feeding, FW Puffer Disease, FW Puffer Reproduction, BR Puffer Identification, BR Puffer Selection, BR Puffer Compatibility, BR Puffer Systems, BR Puffer Feeding, BR Puffer Disease, BR Puffer Disease 2, BR Puffer Reproduction, Puffers in General, True Puffers,


Amazon Puffer      7/20/17
I've been thinking very hard of adding a trio of Amazon Puffer to what will be a species tank of Clown Loach (5 to 6 total) which will include 1 Pleco (thinking of a golden nugget for algae issues and general clean up --are gold nuggets decent algae eaters? I'm finding conflicting information.)
<Assuming the Gold Nugget Plec you have in mind is Baryancistrus xanthellus, this is a typical Baryancistrus; in other words, it's not a specialist algae eater but actually a substrate sifter, a bit like Corydoras catfish. In the wild at least, they not only scrape rocks for aufwuchs but also consume mouthfuls of silt that they can sift for organic material and tiny invertebrates. Under aquarium conditions they are very omnivorous, happily consuming algae wafers and small frozen foods, as well as soft vegetables like courgette. But rely on Baryancistrus to clean the glass is optimistic. If very hungry they may well suck onto the glass, but they aren't anything like as good as true Hypostomus species or even Ancistrus spp. Bristlenose Cats.>
From my research I've found they share the same soft water requirements, heat requirements, Ick or white spot vulnerability (hence UV filtration), and reduction of medicine if needed sharing the small scales dilemma, similar food requirements. I've found a vet who makes house calls and would be willing to trim teeth (my largest concern.) I'm also planning on adding a steady diet of nuisance snails (not Malaysian though.)
<Baryancistrus xanthellus are Rio Xingu fish, and yes, do need soft, slightly acidic, slightly warmer than normal water to do well. As well as high temperature, the challenge is high oxygen level, which tends to mean under-stocking the tank because, of course, the warmer the water, the less oxygen it holds. They are challenging catfish ill-suited to community tanks, but not hard to keep in the right sort of tank.>
I already feed a steady diet of live black worms, brine shrimp, and ghost shrimp, occasionally frozen bloodworm, and some shrimp pellets (I do not feed flake food because apparently my clown loach are spoiled on live meaty foods and will not take the flake food unless apparently half starved and desperate which doesn't occur).
I also know the puffers are not good with slow moving fish such as Cory or Gourami since they can be fin nippers even though a fairly peaceable fish. I assume, when not at rest, they tend to occupy more of the top half of the aquarium and the clown loach tend towards the bottom half.
<Indeed, though they do sleep among the roots of plants.>
I have a 55 gallon aquarium now to get them started with plans of increasing tank size within a couple of years (I'll upgrade to 100 plus gallon custom corner tank due to space limitations) and I water change / clean usually weekly.
<Sounds nice, but Baryancistrus xanthellus do reach a fair size, so while 55 gallons might be okay for a singleton, the fact you've got Clown Loaches *as well* does put space at a premium.>
My questions is will the clown loach, Amazon puffers and Pleco coexist well in a tank together provided lots of plants, driftwood, and hiding spots.
<Amazon Puffers are, like all puffers, impossible to predict with total certainty
. What I will say is that I've kept them with Panaque nigrolineatus without any trouble at all, Panaque having a tendency to get their retaliation in first, so most fish learn to leave them alone. I would expect Baryancistrus to be rather similar. So given suitable hiding places, they'd reach an understanding where the Puffers left them alone. The Clowns are a bit less of a certainty. While much bigger and very fast, they're also more highly strung. Again, I've kept Cherry Fin Loaches with Amazon Puffers, and they were fine. But I'm less ready to "sign off" on the Clown/Puffer combo compared with the Baryancistrus/Puffer combo. If you do try, keep a close eye on the Clowns for signs of damaged fins especially.>
I dislike when my aquarium is not peaceful excepting the occasional minor squabble. Is there anything more that I need to be aware of regarding the puffers? Any information you may provide would be helpful in making an educated and informed decision. I dislike and find it distressing when I fail to properly provide a proper environment for 'pets.'
<Amazon Puffers are lovely fish. I'm glad you're getting a group because they are nervous when kept singly, and groups tend to be a bit less neurotic. While your water conditions should suit them fine, they do need a lot of oxygen and are extremely active swimmers, so tweaking the tank to have robust (rather than turbulent) water flow and plenty of air/water mixing will be a plus. They like exploring things, floating plants and leaves being particularly favoured. They aren't at all shy once settled, and my specimens quickly became tame enough to hand-feed. Of all the common freshwater puffers, they're the least aggressive, with practically zero territoriality (I believe they're migratory in the wild). But they do nip, probably more out of hunger than anything else, and that needs to be borne in mind.>
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Amazon Puffer       7/28/17

Thanks and Hi, Neale,
I very much appreciate your reply.
I will move away from the Gold Nugget (Baryancistrus xanthellus) and move towards a Pleco with more algae enthusiasm (perhaps the Green Phantom (H. subviridis or B. demantoides) would be better suited?
<Well, Baryancistrus and Hemiancistrus are not really algae eating specialists, but they'll eat some algae; do recall though that both are warm water, high oxygen specialists, with fairly high water turnover requirements, so do design the tank accordingly.>
I had a Butterfly Pleco which I lost to an unfortunate toxic shock issue (LFS recommended adding Texas Holy rock to my aquarium to increase extremely low alkalinity and ph chemistry due to all RO water and lots of driftwood) the Pleco died suddenly within 24 hours of adding the rock. I'm assuming the hollow under the drift wood had a sudden and shocking change and the rest of my fish appeared stressed with fin clamping which was quickly relieved by removing the rock and a water change. I now add chunks of the Texas Holystone to my filter and monitor my Alk and PH with positive results and look for educated opinions or double check information outside of the LFS.
<Sounds a weird situation to me! I'm not a fan of using substrates to modify water chemistry though. Such systems tend to be unstable or at least unpredictable. Much prefer adjusting water chemistry, and then using substrates that support, or at least have no impact on, those conditions.>
He was a good Pleco and I miss his algae cleanup but would prefer a Pleco that looks more appealing against my black sand bottom than the camouflage Butterfly Pleco (I love the coloring of the Gold Nugget.) I would prefer a smaller sized Pleco that is peaceable (but able to hold his own) and is content as a single specimen as I will have the Clown Loach competing for space. (My clown and the Butterfly did not care for one another since he can be a little obnoxious, the Pleco held his one preferred space though.) Any suggestions you may offer is appreciated.
<I'm not sold on any Plec being "the magic bullet" for algae, though Ancistrus and Otocinclus species come close. While the larger herbivorous and omnivorous Plecs will certainly help to keep the glass and rockwork clean, their impact on plant leaves, for example, will be minimal as they can't really latch on properly.>
I will keep you informed as to how the clown loaches and puffers do together. It will take some time as I am transitioning to a new tank (so the old tank can have seals replaced) and tend to be slow and cautious in adding bio load to my tank (especially a newly cycled tank) so I expect I'll have everyone and everything situated by December. �� As per your thoughts, I plan on reinstating my other tank (after seals are repaired) just in case fin nipping is a problem by the Amazon Puffers and the puffers will be the last addition.
I also want to check if you recommend any prophylactic treatment of the puffers, Pleco and/or loaches during quarantine for any potential illness they may be carrying?
<I do not recommend, but do not object _per se_. De-worming is popular, and probably harmless. I'm a bigger fan of quarantining new livestock, providing the best possible diet while the new fish are away from competitors so that they can put on some weight, and then medicating only if problems become apparent.>
The LFS is recommending treatment due to wild caught and susceptibility as well as difficulty in treating once ill for the puffers. They did not say what meds they would recommend. One girl said she always treats prophylactically for Ick for all her new fish but I found this confusing as my understanding is Ick treatments only kill the parasites during the cycle they are free in the water column not when they are either internal (in a possible dormant stage?) or encapsulated as the 'white spot.' If my understanding of Ick is accurate than it would not be possible to prophylactically treat for Ick, correct?
<Whitespot/Ick can only be treated in its free-living stage. Once in the fish, it's untreatable using hobbyist-grade medications. With Puffers being extremely salt tolerant, the old heat/salt method is a no-brainer, and probably worth doing during quarantine for the first week or so. Clown Loaches are also prone, and being sensitive to some medications, salt/heat might well be the better choice, if done carefully (the standard 2g/litre salt concentration won't harm them, but careless use of salt probably isn't good for them). Both Clowns and Puffers are sensitive to copper and formalin, so these should be avoided. I have had good success using eSHa EXIT with Puffers, but do prefer salt/heat for mild/incipient cases.>
Thanks again for your help, Neale.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Amazon Puffer

Thanks, Neale. Much Appreciated.
<Most welcome. Good luck! Neale.>

Compatibility    3/28/12
Hello WWM! I'm here with another compatibility question! So I have a 55 gallon tank with pretty heavy filtration, and I'm soon going to be using it for a puffer tank. I'm going to be getting four south American puffers, and while I don't really plan on putting much with them, my friend is offering me her six inch African knife fish and I was wondering if the puffers would pick on him.
<Probably. They are nippy fish rather than aggressive, but will go for slow-moving tankmates given the chance. If the tank was filled with long, hollow ornaments (like ceramic pipes) where the Knifefish could hide completely during the day, there's a chance the Puffers would overlook it; they don't like swimming into caves. But then you wouldn't see the Knifefish much as they are very nocturnal, especially if harassed during the day.>
My tank has stacked rock and lots of plants. If you think it could possibly work, I would really like to try it, mostly because my friends tank is overstocked to the max, and to be honest, filthy and not acceptable for any fish at all. Luckily, she is finally going to listen and get rid of a few fish, but the store wouldn't take the knife. Sorry for the lengthy question!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Puffer fish question! FW... S. Am.... stkg./sel, & T. mbu sys.     3/12/12
Hey y'all! First off, I love the site, and I'm pretty sure I have read through every puffer question at least twice! Alright, so I have fully cycled fifty five gallon that is currently empty. Its full of fake silk plants and rock, and has two sixty gallon filters in it. I have been researching South American Puffers for probably a month now, but finding solid information isn't easy. My question is, how many could fit in my tank?
<What, which species? Smaller ones, easily six...>
 I don't want to overstock at all, but do plan on doing weekly water changes and keeping up on maintenance. I'm aware they aren't community puffers, but what could I do in terms of tank mates?
<... read>
The puffers are my main priority, But I would like something else in the tank if possible. I'm setting up a snail breeding tank soon, and I'm hoping to order my puffers through my LFS, as I can't find them anywhere online.
One more thing, Mbu puffers are freshwater, correct?
My LFS has one for sale in a full salt water tank.
I assumed they had mislabeled, but after looking them up, it was no doubt an Mbu. I asked the store about it,        and apparently they can live in both fresh and salt.
<... no: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=10103&genusname=Tetraodon&speciesname=mbu&AT=tetraodon+mbu&lang=English
see Ecosystems... Tanganyika, Congo... rivers>
This store has given me wrong puffer info before, so this doesn't surprise me. Hopefully someone gets him out of there!
Thanks for all the help!
<Welcome... Bob Fenner>
Re: Puffer fish question!
Thanks for the reply! As for which species, like I said above, South American, or Colomesus asellus. I have gotten such conflicting information on these little guys. Some say I could have six,
<This is the number I'd settle on>
 some say four, I have even been told I don't have enough room for them at all. When you say the smaller ones, I think you thought I was talking about dwarfs. Sorry if I didn't make myself clear! :)
<I see. Thank you, BobF>

Crew question-HELP  12/7/11
It's about my Amazon puffers
. When I first got them, about three months back I had them in a 30 gallon tall tank with two kissing gourami, two banjo cats, and two white mollies.
<Hmm'¦ South American Puffers are best kept on their own, away from other types of fish.>
After having the puffers a couple of weeks I noticed that they had Ich. The mollies had it really bad, so I moved them to a small 2.5 gallon tank in which I breed snails for my puffers.
<Why not treat all the fish together? If some have Whitespot, then they all do, even if you can't see it.>
I treated the tank and the Ich slowly went away. A couple of weeks later my 55 gallon tank had finished cycling. So I moved everyone into the 55 and added a couple more fish.
<Do try using the salt/heat method next time around. All your fish will tolerate that, and you'll eliminate Whitespot from the entire aquarium.>
I now have all the fish that I had in the 30 except for the mollies because they died. I added a blue and an Opaline gourami, and a striped peacock eel. I noticed one day that I was starting to get Ich again.
So I treated it and it went away on everyone except for the smallest puffer. I've been treating for over a week and my small one is really, really bad. He's covered in white spots, where I almost can't see his beautiful black and yellow coloring :[ my other two aren't that bad, they have a few spots but not near as bad as my little guy.
<Puffers are prone to Whitespot. They're also sensitive to copper and formalin, so medications used to treat Whitespot can end up stressing them. The best approach is to treat all the fish quickly. With South American Puffers you have an extra weapon in your arsenal -- their tolerance for brackish water! You can set up at a tank at SG 1.004-1.005, introduce the very badly infected puffer to that aquarium, and let the brackish water do the job. It'll kill the free-living stages, and it'll also help support the stressed puffer. Acclimate the puffer to the salty water carefully, across 30-60 minutes.>
My kissing gourami are just sitting on the sand all day, they don't look like they're doing very well. And my puffers just float at the top or sit on the sand too most of the time. I don't know what to do, and it's breaking my heart, I've treated with multiple treatments over the past week or so and nothing is working, I've done two 25 percent water changes over the past week. Please, please please e mail me back. I'm so worried. Thank you so much, Rachel. Also, do you email me back or do I just have to keep an eye on the website?
<Both or either. Cheers, Neale.>

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