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FAQs about the Puffers Called Burrfishes, Porcupinefishes 1

Related Articles: Puffers in General, Puffer Care and Information, A Saltwater Puffer Primer: Big Pufferfish! by Mike Maddox, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, BoxfishesPufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo, Puffer Care and Information by John (Magnus) Champlin, Things That My Puffers Have Told Me by Justin Petrey,

Related FAQs: Diodontids 2, Diodontids 3, Burrfish Identification, Burrfish Behavior, Burrfish Compatibility, Burrfish Selection, Burrfish Systems, Burrfish Feeding, Burrfish Disease, Burrfish Reproduction, Puffers in General, Puffer Identification, Puffer Compatibility, Puffer Behavior, Puffer Selection, Puffer Systems, Puffer Feeding, Puffer Disease, Puffer Dentistry, Puffer Reproduction, True Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes

A Diodon holacanthus in captivity.

Tank Size For Porcupine And Lionfish? <Hi Pufferpunk here, answering the puffer portion of your question.><and Mike D here on the lionfish> Is 90 gallons sufficient for a fully grown Porcupine puffer (being the ONLY fish in the tank) with adequate filtration, skimming, etc? <It depends on what kind of porc puff you have.  If it is the Diodon holacanthus, they grow to 18", so you need a tank at least that wide.  If it is the Diodon hystrix , I've seen them as large as 3" in the wild.  Not for your average aquarist!  See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm  ~PP> Also wondering Tenecor 150gal (72"x24"x20") is sufficient for 2-3 adult Volitans Lionfish?<My first impulse is to say "NO", so I will.  While they MAY not get as large as they do in the wild, there's a very strong chance that they will.  I currently have 2 P. russellii and one P. Volitans in a 72" 125, where they've grown from the 3" size, with now all about 8"-9", and it's getting hazardous to maintain. In the very near future, all three will be going in the 300, which is much more appropriate.>  Thanks!!!! Tank Size for Porcupine Puffer  5/3/04 Hello, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a 3 month old 80 gallon saltwater tank with an Emperor 400 filter and an undergravel filter with two power heads.  The substrate is about 2 inches of coral gravel.  There are two large volcanic rocks and two coral skeletons.  The livestock consist of one 5 inch Porcupine Puffer (just got him three days ago and he is doing fine so far) and two small 1 inch yellow tail blue damsels (they have lived in the tank for 2 and a half months.  They were the guinea pigs.) For the most part, the damsels have learned to live together...one lives in the middle of the tank and the other lives on the right.  The Porcupine Puffer has tried to eat one damsel but the damsel is quick and hides immediately.  I am sure the puffer has tried more than once to eat the damsels but I was a witness to this attack only once. My questions are: 1) Do I have room for more fish?  I want about two more fish. That's it.  If so, what type of fish would you recommend to be compatible with the puffer?  I am interested in getting a Naso Tang, a Blue Regal Tang or a Yellow Tang. <An 80g tank would be the very minimum for an adult porcupine puffer.  I usually like to see them in at least a 100g.  As you have already observed, your puffer is aggressive, even at a young age.  It won't get any better.  You could try some other small, quick fish, like more damselfish, that can get out of the way fast & hide.  I also suggest a more heavily decorated tank.  The bioload that your puffer will produce in a "small" tank as a 12" adult, will be enough to deal with.>   2) Should I get a protein skimmer and if so, which one? <Yes, you definitely need a protein skimmer!  Actually, on my 55g puffer tank, I have a HOB filter, a canister filter & a skimmer.  Look through the FAQs at WWM on skimmers.  Puffers are messy eaters and high waste producers. Extra filtration is necessary for these dirty fish. Immaculate aquarium upkeep is a must.> 3) What should I feed my puffer in addition to the krill I already feed it and how frequently should it be fed?  I have been told by my aquarium shop to feed the puffer 2 to 3 krill every three days.  He seems to be too hungry and seems to be  happy to be fed at least once per day, 2 shrimp each time. <One of the most difficult aspects of keeping these special fish is their diet. All puffers are predatory fish and need hard-shelled, meaty foods to keep their teeth trimmed. Like rabbits, their teeth grow constantly and can overgrow enough to cause starvation in the fish. Puffers eat crustaceans in the wild. Foods for smaller puffers are frozen/freeze-dried krill/plankton, gut-loaded ghost shrimp, glass worms, crickets, worms and small snails (the size of their eye). Snails are an essential food to a puffer's diet, especially when small. Many serious puffer keepers breed their own snails. As your puffer gets larger, there are many more crunchy foods for them to eat. Larger puffers will eat cut-up pieces of scallops, shrimp, crab legs, whole mussels, clams, oysters, squid, lobster and crayfish. Mine love to chase live crayfish, fiddler crabs and gut-loaded ghost shrimp. I gut-load (pre-feed) my live food with algae wafers, so my puffers get their veggies. I buy most of these foods at the fish department of my grocery store, freeze and later thaw in warm vitamin water as needed. Smaller puffers (under 2") need to eat every day, skipping one feeding/week. Feed them until their bellies are slightly rounded. Medium sized puffers (2-4") should be fed every other day. Larger puffers (4-6+") should be fed well every 3-4 days, with 1 smaller feeding in between. You may find this schedule difficult, as puffers are very adept at begging for food! Feeding puffers every time they beg will cause fat, lazy fish and eventually you will be killing them with kindness.> Thanks for any help and advice you can give me.  Irene <You're welcome!  Enjoy your puffer friend!  ~PP>

Sick Puffer? <Greetings Puffer Person... Positively Pleased to Peruse your Post. Anthony> I've had a porcupine puffer for over a month now. For the past two weeks he's been breathing heavier than he should. He's been eating good during this whole period of time of breathing heavy. However during the past couple days he has not been eating as good as he's usually does. Instead of eating 4 silversides a day he only goes for one. When I try adding other silver sides he will grab it chew on it then spit it out and not return for it. He does this to krill too. Why is he not wanting to eat as much? <check water chemistry (low pH, high Ammonia, etc.) and look for signs of disease (scratching/glancing, closing one gill while pumping the other, excess slime/mucus, spots> I have him in a 120 with a 4 inch Percula and 3 damsels. The puffer is only three inches long. The water is testing good. <what is it specifically?> I have a lot of filtration. What's causing him to breath heavy when he doesn't have any visible signs of disease? I check through your site and I haven't found the answer to this problem. So please I beg help me. Thank you. < if not a biological water quality issue, that leaves toxin in water (unlikely) or the pre-cursor of a disease not showing symptoms yet. Review the above and post again if necessary. Anthony>

Fish Compatibility <Anthony Calfo here in your service> Can you keep a Burrfish or porcupine fish in a twenty long <tank is too small for either one of these fish alone... Burrfish are not at all hardy anyway... please do avoid> with a fire goby, scissor tail goby and a purple Firefish, <in most parts of the world... the above listed fish are considered "bait" for Pufferfish. Please consider a good marine aquarium reference book to help you through the wonderful maze of questions you have as a beginner. Bob Fenner's Conscientious Marine aquarist, Dick Mills The Marine Aquarium and Mike Paletta's The new Marine Aquarium are all good choices to start with> some other like shrimp and crabs in a reef tank if so what species and any special requirements? <none of the fish you mentioned above are suitable beginner fish... I'd recommend you start with more durable fish at first like clownfish. Anthony>

Puffer Foods <Hi, Nico. Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob is away> Are silver sides a good choice of frozen food to feed a porcupine puffer? <they can be a small part of a puffer's diet, but other foods are more appropriate. Hard shelled crustaceans are a necessary part of a puffers diet. In part they help to wear down their naturally fast growing teeth. Without it the teeth may overgrow and cause a fatal complication. Frozen whole cocktail shrimp (raw, with legs, head, guts if possible) and krill are good choices . Live ghost/grass shrimp for small puffers or crayfish for larger specimens are also good. However, no whole prey item is a complete food. A homemade food recipe designed for your fishes needs is best, inexpensive to make and incomparable in nutritive quality. Bob describes how to make such food in his most excellent marine aquarium reference, The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Many other similar recipes can be found on the Net. Get cooking! Anthony>

Puffer vs. Puffer Hello Bob, I'd like to thank you for all of your help in the past and hopefully you can help once again. Just got a dog face puffer and introduced him into a tank with a Niger trigger, porcupine puffer, Koran angel and bird wrasse. He's half the size of the porcupine and the porcupine has been taking advantage of this. He's bitten him numerous times and the dog face has big round bite marks that look like outlined circles on his skin. He has places to hide and has been doing just that. Its only been two days but he's been beaten up pretty badly. He still makes attempts to come out from hiding but one look at Mr. Porcupine and back to his hiding place. Do you think that he can survive in this tank?  <Likely not... once this sort of "bullying" is established, puffers can be merciless, unending in their heckling... A mechanism for assuring forage between/amongst similar-niche using species. Unless you have a huge (hundreds of gallons) system, I would separate these two immediately> If so, is there any medication I can give him to help him heal from all the bites? <Best to soak the animals food in a liquid vitamin supplement. Perhaps try one of the popular "tonics" like Aquarium Pharmaceuticals "Melafix". Puffers do have amazing "powers of regeneration". Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Ben Ventura

Did Puffy Huff or Puff? <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob travels> We have a spiny box puffer fish. He is pretty small still and we had him about a month. He has been fine and eating fine but we have noticed that he is swimming weird lately. He seems to struggle to swim and swims at an angle with his tail fins upward. He can dive to the bottom of the tank but it looks like he is struggling. Does this mean that he has swallowed air? <possible but uncommon once established... usually occurs after netting out of water when sold/moved> Since this swimming problem has started he does not seem to eat anymore either. We also have some larger fish that are bothering him. The fish who are the villains are a Sailfin tang, blue tang and a Heniochus. What can we do to help puffy? <needs quarantine immediately. Ultimately may never work with current tank mates, but suffer and die if forced to do so> If it is air, how exactly do we help him release it without getting bit or hurting him? <gently net underwater with a soft nylon cloth net (not coarse green fabric). Securely grab the fish through the net and orient the fish tail-down/ mouth- upward. The struggle to get free will often massage a burp of air out if it exists. You should only need 5-10 seconds to complete if it will work at all. Quite frankly, it may not be air at all and the symptoms are general. Stressed by harassment from other fish, it could have a pathogenic infection... that is why quarantine for isolation, treatment and observation is critical to save its life>  Thanks for any help with our little guy. <please write back with a success story! Anthony>

Porcupine Puffer Problem. Kelly, any input? Hi! I have a problem that I noticed some of your other readers have had with their Porcupine Puffer. That is, he has suddenly stopped eating and hasn't in about a month. Like the other stories, he used to eagerly eat , but now, he tries to get the food in his mouth and can't. I guess this is common and I tried your advice which was to force-feed him. but I have a couple questions regarding this. When I hold him, he starts to inflate and ends up expelling the food back out when he begins to deflate. So am I supposed to hold him tight enough that he cannot inflate? <No... actually more gently, underwater... so it doesn't want to inflate> If so, how will I know if I am squeezing too tight. If this does not work, is there a chance that he may just start eating normal again? <Yes, for sure> How long can a puffer go without eating?  <Some for weeks, others, a few months> Thanks for the help. Take Care, Eric <Good luck, life my friend. Bob Fenner>

Please help w/porcupine puffer- swollen spot I have found a treasure trove on info on your site- Thanks! I bought a Porcupine puffer Saturday. I was extremely careful handling him, but we did feed him two large dried shrimp before he was bagged. <Before? Oof!> I poured him into my net and then placed him in the tank. He has a swollen spot on his right side about 2/3 way back. It obviously makes it hard for him to swim as it causes him to be very buoyant. I was misinformed by the LFS that this transfer method would be ok. I think he has swallowed some air. He has come out a few times briefly, but mainly is under a ledge of rock, probably to keep from floating up. Is there any way to tell for sure or anything I can do- I really want to help this little guy make it. I tried to offer some food down to him but he puffed up so I left him alone. I have noticed that my clown is hovering by him, like he is guarding him or something. He also rubs his back fin on the puffer. Have you ever heard of such behavior? <Yes> He is in a 29 gallon (I have a 50 just for him, long term, haven't set it up yet), with a clarkii clown, yellowtail damsel, coral beauty. I have a flower anemone, cold water anemone, curlicue, and Sebae have 4 or 5 snail, equal # hermits, couple of emerald crabs. Thanks Pete Schmitz <Please try to be patient here... the absorption or expulsion of the trapped gas will take a few days to weeks... but should work out over time. In the meanwhile not much to do but wait. Don't be discouraged if this specimen doesn't feed for the duration. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Skin Tags Bob, I recently set up my first Marine Aquarium and just finished reading The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, awesome book. I was just admiring your website when I thought of my own question. I have a 75 gal tank and have only stocked a Yellow Tang and a Porcupine Puffer to date. My Porcupine has little white skin tags (for lack of a better description) mixed in among his spines.  <A good description> The 7 or 8 "tags" seem to be normal, but do cause a little concern. They seem to be mostly on the lower half of his body (below his eyes) and they are not real long, NOT as long as the spines at least. I looked at the pictures you had posted and thought that I could also see them, but I'm not sure. Are these normal, will they grow, go away, gain more, and what are they?  I appreciate you insightfulness and willingness to help. -Mark <As I do your participation. These tags of skin are what the terms define... and do occur in the wild and on captive Diodontids, especially ones that are growing quickly as young. Nothing to worry about. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Stars and stripes puffer problem HI, First off, just wanted to say that your website has the best info I could find around on the net! <Thank you for this. We try> Now to address the crisis at hand. I have a stars and stripes (green, white spotted) puffer fish and he exists in a 55 gallon tank with about 40 lbs of Fiji live rock. He exists with a porcupine puffer, striped damsel, blue damsel, tomato clown, panther grouper, yellow grouper, yellow angel, file fish, Singapore fish, and three hermit crabs. I read on this site that that is too many fish for a 55 gallon, <Yikes, yes!> however, they all exist peacefully. <Maybe not as "peacefully" as they seem... likely there is a great deal of "chemical" interaction amongst these animals... that is stressful> Prior to reading the info on this site, I made these purchases from recommendation of the salesperson at my local pet shop. <And your own determination> The problem with the puffer is that he seems to be quite inactive and I haven't seen him eat. When he moves sometimes, and he touches a surface (fish, rock, sand, whatever), he flip-flops around until sitting on either the sand or a rock. Prior to last week, he was fine, swimming up and down the tank. This behavior is strange and since I am new to salt-water fish, I have no idea what's going on. I heard you suggest cleaning shrimp or cleaning fish, but if I need them what should I get with the types of animals that exist in my tank? <... You don't need this sort of Cleaner/s here... the shrimps would be quickly consumed.> And what is a protein skimmer? <Yowzah! Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm and get one of these tools quick!> I feed him frozen food mixed with shrimp, krill, etc. I feed the others dry tropical fish food, and I take care of the water. So far these two months, <This system has been up this short of time... and you have all this livestock? Please do consider trading some of it back in... or securing larger, much larger quarters for it. Am going to send your message to Kelly.J, the "Puffer Queen" for her further input.> the water has no nitrites and a perfect ph of 8.1 with salinity of 0.023. I appreciate your help in this matter as no one else seems to know what could be happening, and how to treat it. <Study, contemplate, plan and act my friend... you do need more volume, a skimmer... Bob Fenner>

Re: new setup (too brisk a current for a Diodon?) is it possible to have too strong currents for a porcupine puffer?  <Yes... but not practically... that is, I have never seen such a situation> he seems to be able to swim ok but when he's out in the open his little fins are going a mile a minute just to stay stable. other fish such as damsels have no problem. <Likely just doing what it does...> also this may be normal for the puffers but he always seems to kinda face down when swimming or resting on the bottom. is this normal? <Some downward orientation is natural. See pix here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm > I now have 2 power heads facing each other on a 46 gal. bow front, along with currents from mech./bio filter and skimmer. I'm trying to stay away from the tornado effect like you have discussed but I don't see any livestock being thrown around in circles so I assume it's ok. <I wouldn't be overly concerned... these puffers are "smart" animals (as fishes go)... can/will choose to "stay out of the current" if it pleases. Bob Fenner>

Lifespan of Diodon holacanthus Hi Mr. Fenner, <Hello> I have been a longtime reader of your material, and your knowledge has helped me tremendously throughout the years. Thanks a lot for that! <Glad to share> My girlfriend and I had a porcupine puffer for about 5 years. He had his battles with illness here and there, but he always recovered brilliantly. He was a remarkably healthy fish. I recently tried adding a new fish into his tank (100g), and unfortunately I did not quarantine this fish previous to adding it to the system. The new fish (Kole Tang) did not show any symptoms of illness other than heavy breathing. One morning I looked at the tank and saw a dead tang, with much of its rear body bitten off. I have no doubt it was the Pufferfish that did this, while the tang was still alive. I saw the tang swimming happily the night before. <Mmm, just as likely that the Tang perished and was partly consumed thereafter> The next day the Pufferfish started acting ill, his eyes looked a bit cloudy and he was showing white spots on his fins. Instead of removing him and hospitalizing him right away, I figured he'd recover much like he always did. That was my biggest mistake ever, as 3 days later he died. My girlfriend is devastated, and I feel completely responsible. I am surprised this fish did not recover to tell you the truth, considering how well he's done with illness in the past. I attributed the illness of the puffer to the introduction of the tang, since there had been no disease in this particular tank for over 2 years. <Mmm... a likely possibility... would like to know "what else" is alive in the system... could well be that whatever the root cause/s of mortality are/were that they might have been environmental> This is my question: Is this considered an "old" Pufferfish for tank life?  <Well, not really... members of this species have been kept in captivity for more than twenty years (Public Aquariums keep records)> Was his immune system weak perhaps due to old age? I can't find reference on the internet about the natural lifespan of this particular fish, although my best guess would be about 10-12 years in the wild, and about 7-8 in captivity? Thanks a lot for your time, I really appreciate it. Sincerely, Chris George <Take a look on WetWebMedia.com's links pages to Public Aquariums. Some list longevity records for the animals in their care. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lifespan of Diodon holacanthus Bob, Thanks for the speedy reply. As far as the tang perishing first.....I'm not so sure about that. This puffer had a history of eating tankmates that were smaller than him. This tang was pretty large though, so I thought I was safe. I believe I was wrong though, and the puffer bit off a portion of him and then the tang died. The tang was eating and swimming the night before. <I see> One thing I didn't mention was how old the puffer was before I purchased him. Maybe you can help me out with this. He was 2.5 to 3 inches when purchased, presumably straight from the wild. How old would you guess a porcupine of this size to be? <A few to several months.> Thanks again for your time, Chris George <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Diodon holacanthus, appetite for destruction!! Hi Robert, my newest addition to my tank is "Canth" a 4" Diodon holacanthus. He's terribly cute, even without his tail. I must report however that his last problem would be eating!! He's successfully taken out half of the pajama cardinal fish population(2 fish) in one day, this a mere 24 hours after eating about 7 goldfish (bad combo I know, I thought they'd be too big for him). He's also tried so far unsuccessfully to devour everything else in sight. Rocks, fingers, decent sized yellowtail blue damsels, tomato clowns, and any unlucky feeder fish who ventures into the system, no one seems safe. He's a strange, yet endearing little character, who has been known to puff up (very much unprovoked) at will, and perform all sorts of aquatic acrobatics. In short, I'm in love, but I can't stand the thought of devoting the whole tank to this ferocious little angel- faced demon. What short of some large pelagic marine mammal will be safe from that ravenous appetite? (Also I'd like him not to loose any more body parts of his own). Thanks for the insight. -Ben PS: for your peace of mind, the rest of his peace loving tankmates are going back to the pet store tomorrow (those who make it through the night anyway) <Mmm, this does appear to be an extreme case of a puffer "eating everything, everybody"... sometimes over a period of a few weeks, such individuals will "slow down" and learn to take just certain preferred foodstuffs... otherwise, it's the "Bass and Triggerfish" possibilities for tankmates... fast, smart, otherwise unpalatable life that can/will not be eaten. Some examples of this more tough fare can be found under "Bass", "Triggerfish" on the WetWebMedia.com site. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Male/Female? Hey! I got good news, and bad. My puffers are getting along perfectly, they love each other.. But my female black boxfish has recently pecked some skin off of my puffer, what should I do so it doesn't get infected, etc? <Is this fish in a tank by itself? I would place it so... Boxfishes can be quite toxic, and shedding is a bad sign of potential release... Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfshfaqs.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks a lot for any help! Colin Davis

Re: Porcupine Puffer Male/Female? Thanks for your help, it answered a lot of my questions. Even though I have a relatively small tank (30-33gallons tall), I have two puffers in there. They are both the same size (3-4" inches). I know I have done everything wrong by putting in another one after the original one has already claimed his territory. But is there anyway to gradually and peacefully let them get used to each other? <Sometimes these (Diodontids) Puffers can be kept more than one to a system, but yours is way too small for any long term habitat... Two won't go in a 33 gallon volume. Bob Fenner> Or do you have any suggestions? I would appreciate it if you could help me out. Thanks again, Colin Davis

Porcupine Puffer Male/Female? Hi, I checked out your site about the porcupine puffer. But it did not answer any of my questions.. <Hmm> I recently purchased my second porcupine puffer, they are both adjusting, gradually getting used to each other (they were in the same tank at the store before). But my question is, the new one I just received, is much lighter in colour, almost white, where as the original one is much darker, almost a dark brown color. <There are differences here... and they can/do change with mood, foods, water quality as well> How can you tell which one is the male, and which one is the female? <No external differences... you'd have to "take them apart" (not able to put back together)> And how is it possible to breed porcupine puffers?? <Has been observed (I've even see this "in the bag" during oxygenating...). Not been spawned, young reared in captivity that I know> Any information would be appreciated, thanks a lot. Colin Davis <There are a few "puffer" websites. You can use your search engines to locate them, or look on our WWM sites Links Pages. Do read through them for input as well. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine puffer Good Day, I recently added a porcupine puffer to my 55 gallon aquarium, he was only the third fish in the tank with a small damsel and a small file fish. He seems to spend most of his time up by the outtake of my emperor filter system. He eats regularly and the water tested out fine. Is this typical for activity for this type of fish. Thank you for your advice. <Not atypical at all... Bob Fenner> Paul Cannariato

Fred from Puffernet--help needed ASAP! Hi Bob, I'm writing you on behalf of many aquarists who seem to be having similar troubles with puffers and green water in their saltwater tanks. After experiencing an algal bloom (green), their puffers are unable to open their mouths to eat. Their fish seem hungry and attempt to eat, but can't. I have never encountered this problem before when coupled with an algae bloom. <Mmm, me neither. Mysterious> The only experience I had that was similar is a friend's fish whose teeth had overgrown. We trimmed the teeth and that fish is doing fine. This doesn't sound the same, and it doesn't sound like their fish have much time. I've pasted two of the emails below: Hello, We have had a saltwater set-up for over 5 years and are currently experiencing "green water" for about 4 weeks. We have been told that what we have is an "algae bloom". After many, many water changes, we just can't get rid of the unsightly and stinky water! (I thought Aiptasia was bad!) Now our porcupine puffer, that we have had for about 7 months, is not feeding. He seems to put his mouth by the food but doesn't open it. Is his behavior from the poor water conditions? I have ordered a product called, Algone from Algone.com. Have you ever heard of it? It is suppose to clear up the water from an algae bloom. I'm very hesitant to put anything into the water, but I'm at the end of my rope! If you need more information on our set-up let me know. Or if you are to busy I understand! Thanks! Lisa Desmond   Our dog faced puffer from work cannot open his mouth to eat. He seems hungry and tries to, but can't. The tank he has been in has been green for about a month. Everything has been tried. Water has been changed numerous times, filters, etc. We have had our local fish store people here twice. They can't figure it out. The green water hasn't seemed to bother him at all, except in the last few days. Can you help? Anita <Don't know what the link between the puffer not eating and the algal bloom itself might be... But I do have numerous suggestions re controlling pest algae on our (WetWebMedia.com) site. Perhaps starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm and the links beyond. It may be that by improving water quality your puffer will resume feeding. Feeding strikes with these fishes are commonplace: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/diodontidfaqs.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine puffers I've been reading some of your FAQs. I realize now the store I purchased by porcupine puffer at didn't know a whole lot about them. He caught him in a net and brought him out of the water where the puffer immediately puffed up. I casually mentioned that I didn't think he was supposed to do that and he put him back in the water. It took about twenty minutes for him to expel the air.  <Quite stressful, as you understand> I thought he was a goner. Well I own him now but I have questions. Some I answered while reading your letters, but one... His belly has been very dark almost black since I got him. I never thought anything about it, but while I was looking for answers as to why he's not eating. I found this mentioned. What does a dark belly mean? <Perhaps nothing... but if I hazarded some sort of guess, maybe the equivalent of broken blood vessels, a bruise> He hasn't eaten since September 11th. When he was eating, I fed him frozen krill. He would eat like it was his last meal. After he stopped eating (he's still interested in food he just can't seem to open his mouth) I tried feeding him frozen clams and freshwater snails. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer. Patty  <September eleventh is getting to be too long for me. I advise force feeding this specimen (with it held in a wet towel, underwater) with a plastic turkey baster, meaty food and vitamins (liquid)... with the help of another friend to hold/feed. Please write back if this is unclear, incomplete. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer/herbivores I have a year old, 45 gallon marine tank with a Porcupine Puffer, a tomato clown, a Cheekspot wrasse (I think) <Does it look like Halichoeres hortulanus pictured here?: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/halichoeres.htm> and about 25 pounds of live rock. I'm running a Fluval 302 canister filter, a 9 watt UV sterilizer, red sea hang on protein skimmer, and two power heads for circulation. I need herbivores! About 2 months ago I lost my yellow tang to ick :-(. I'm not sure I want another, the one I had was so aggressive and territorial! I'm planning on going to my LFS this weekend to get a hippo tang, (this tang is less aggressive and territorial then the yellow?), but thought I would check with you for a second herbivore that will go with my current livestock. <For small algae of most kinds consider a Tang of the genus Ctenochaetus: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ctenocha.htm> Eventually I would like to get a bubble tip anemone for my tomato clown, and possibly a snowflake eel. I would like to keep the tank load light, and keep my algae under as much control as possible. I toss in about 15 hermit crabs every 3 or 4 months, but they end up as midnight snacks for the puffer, and the wrasse too probably.  <Yes> I have tried to keep turbo snails and Astrea snails, but for some reason they just keep dying. Is this common?  <Under some circumstances> Is the puffer eating these too? <Very likely> Any advise you have will be much appreciated. <Read here re algae eaters for marine systems: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algeatrcontfaqs.htm and consider the species listed there. If this is mainly a "filamentous algae concern" get one of the two blenny species listed... Also, peruse the "algae control" links/sections... there are many ways to curtail pest algae in captive systems. Bob Fenner> Rebekah Dupre

Puffers I figured I would give this a try since I couldn't find out how to post a message on wetwebmedia.com so here goes... I have 4 tanks in my room 2 are fresh 1 is brackish and one is marine, I have 3 puffers in my 10 gal brackish aquarium I have a spotted and 2 figure 8's they seem to be getting a long fine and aren't having any problems yet but I was wondering more about my 55 gal marine tank, it only has live rock in it, not coral but live rock, I was told that a porcupine puffer needs a 75 gal aquarium, but I was wondering if it was just about the only fish in a 55 if it would be ok, the other fish are just cleaners and hide in the rock all the time. thanks for any help you can give me, -Brandon <A nice mix of tanks... reminds me of my room years back. You should be able to have a Porcupine Puffer in your fifty five for a good long while, starting with one not too big (let's say three, four inches in length). It may well eat your "cleaners" if they're crustaceans. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffers I assume that Bob is out diving now (I'm so jealous, maybe next time he would pack me in his suitcase  <Do have some pretty good size luggage...> so I can go too!) so this is for Zo. <Not to pre-empt that bad boy, but am not outtahere till tomorrow AM...> I good friend of mine has her heart set on getting a porcupine puffer fish. We have been tank and accessory searching and she has found a 54 gallon corner tank that she loves. It has a built in overflow with holes drilled in the bottom of the tank. Is that an ok shape for a puffer or do they need more side-to-side room?  <Should be okay for a couple of years> I told her that she needs a heck of a filtration system as puffers are very messy eaters and she has decided to get some live rock for biological filter (we know that the puffer will snack on it but she doesn't care much about inverts right now) and a really good skimmer, maybe an ETSS or such, opinions?  <All good ideas... but the skimmer, I'd save a few dollars and settle on just a HOB model like a Turboflotor, CPR Bak-Pak or Aqua-C Remora... or something equivalent> And finally she would like the puffer to have a tankmate. Maybe a trigger, or an angel?  <A tang would be better... like a Yellow, Zebrasoma flavescens... not a trigger, too mean... and large... and the Angel would likely hide in this size system (could only have a Dwarf variety due to volume)> She wants to do this right and I want her to be successful as I have been with my little 46 gallon.  <I will help you... this is my desire as well> Thanks for any advice you can give. As always, keep up the good work,  Olivia Guthrie <Please introduce your friend to our site (www.WetWebMedia.com) and have her contact me if she has questions, concerns. Bob Fenner>

Question about puffer fish Hi Bob, I've got a porcupine puffer fish who I have had for almost 2 years now! But I noticed a strange marking on his belly recently. It looks like green algae. Its green and splotchy all over his white belly.. I never noticed it until today.. I'm wondering if it could be algae?  <Actually, yes. It could be> Or is it more likely some other kind of disease? In any case is it dangerous? How would you recommend curing it?  <Improved water quality, change of foods/feeding, addition of vitamins and iodide to the food, water...> BTW, my tank does have some algae growth but I try to keep it under control so its not THAT bad. Your help is appreciated, thanks! Steve Weatherly <Perhaps related issue (algae in tank, on puffer) in that water quality, conditions dictate both... Do you have live rock? Macro-algae growing in the system or sump? These would help indirectly to vastly improve conditions, health. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine puffer sick? hi bob, I've recently introduced my porcupine puffer (3 inches) into my 125 FOWLR system one week ago after a two-week quarantine. now I've noticed that it has a speckled white coat on the upper half of both eyes. what is this and how do I treat it? the puffer is otherwise healthy, very active and eats well. <Hmm, just on the "upper half of both eyes"... I would likely not treat it... Do read over the entire section on "Marine Fish Disease" posted on our site (www.WetWebMedia.com) however> tank conditions: temp 81 1.022 nh4 0.25 (doing partial h20 exchanges weekly) nitrite 0 nitrate 0 thanks again, Knef <I would "wait and see" at this point... the spotting may very well likely not be parasitic, infectious per se, but environmental/stress markings. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Robert, We just purchased a porcupine puffer for our 75 gallon aquarium. Where I purchased him they suggested I feed him only 3 times a week. I have read on the internet that he should be fed twice a day. How much should I feed him? Also, what other things should I feed him besides krill? <Three times a week is about right (unless this specimen is very small, let's say just 2-3 inches total length). All sorts of meaty foods should be welcome. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/puffers.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks, Crissy

Max. size for Porcupine Puffer I've heard a lot of difference in the maximum size a porcupine puffer will grow in captivity. What is the largest you have seen one get? I've heard from 6 inches max to over 20, and I need to know what size of tank to get. <Hmm, depends on the setting (size of tank, foods/feeding...) and species... a large one in an aquarist's tank is probably under a foot. Take a look on this part of our site to identify yours, read about the maximum size in the wild: http://wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer, why did it puff? While getting ready to do a water change on our porcupine puffer's tank a few minutes ago, I looked down and noticed it had puffed. We were quite frightened, as we have never seen it do this before. Why?  <Why did it "puff up?"... hard to say... either something startled it, it's practicing, or even (I swear) just having fun... Nothing to worry about unless it has difficulty "unpuffing"> It did it only for a few seconds (under a minute) and when un-puffing spit out some stringy white stuff (maybe part of the oyster it had for lunch?) <Perhaps> I was just wondering if you had any insight into what would make our fish puff. We have cleaned the tank before, and it has never reacted like this! <See this occasionally underwater (sans molestation of course) and in tanks. As I say, nothing to be alarmed over. Bob Fenner>

Live Rock, Nitrate I am very new to saltwater tanks, and I have a few questions. <Okay> First off I have a acrylic hexagon tank (about 18 gallons) with one porcupine puffer, about 4.5 inches long, and one blue damsel. The porcupine puffer is a very messy eater and the damsel doesn't seem to help much. <Not "its" job> Do you know of any small scavengers that wouldn't be eaten by the porcupine puffer? <Not really... in this setting... the size, shape of the tank... are too limiting... it's too small for the puffer alone in reality> I have about 1.5 pounds of live rock. I was wondering if it really does remove nitrate from the water, and if you would recommend getting more live rock. At what nitrate level do you recommend doing a partial water change? Thanks, Ariel <More live rock would help, and I would do regular water changes (likely 20-25% every two weeks, with pre-made water... Please read over the following parts of our website on water changes, puffers...:http://wetwebmedia.com/diodontpuffers.htm, http://wetwebmedia.com/water.htm And live rock, nitrate FAQs...Bob Fenner>

Spiny puffer I have recently (meaning within the last few months) conformed  <Like this choice of word> to saltwater fish keeping. I currently have in my 37 gallon an undulated trigger as well as a yellow tailed damsel. I've had two spiny puffer which I regret to inform I could not keep and they died.  <This system is too small for this species, ultimately even for the Trigger you now have> I read all of your faq's on them and it was saying that they can go on food strikes for up to and possibly past 3 months.. So I took that into consideration and kept food available to them.. but it did not help .. the first one slept a lot.. (whatever you consider sleeping for fish)  <Hmm, resting on the bottom for this species.> always laying at the bottom. The second one was active didn't seem to have any problems but it would not eat either.. I have had no problems at all with the trigger or the damsel.. and from other things I've read the puffers are just as hardy as the triggers. <Some> I'm trying to figure out what's wrong. the trigger is an active participant in feeding time as well as the other fish. and they both seem to be fine. You think I might have just gotten bad fish from the store?  <A distinct possibility. Did you ask the shop to feed them in front of you?> This has happened with a snowflake eel as well.. I would appreciate any information or recommendations you could give me...thanks, Chris <Please read through the "Livestock Selection" parts on the Marine part of our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for many insights into how to go about getting the "right" species, specimens for your set-up. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Hello. I found your wonderful website while searching for an answer to my porcupine puffer dilemma and thought I might e-mail you to ask your advice... <Okay> We have had our porcupine puffer for about 2 ? -3 years. In this time, he's been happy and (presumably) healthy, eating vigorously (but we try not to overfeed him).  <Ah, good> He's in the tank with a yellow tang, coral beauty and algae blenny - our tank also has live rock and a good amount of well-established corals. Water quality is consistently fine. So. Here's the problem. Four days ago, I was going to feed puff (freeze-dried krill, soaked to rehydrate) & he seemed to have his usual interest in the food, struck at the krill, but couldn't seem to eat it. So then I tried a krill soaked with a little brine shrimp & he wouldn't eat... then I tried a little piece of frozen mussel with no luck. Today we tried breaking the krill into small pieces, but still no luck. He sees the food, strikes at it, but it doesn't go into his mouth. I have read your advice regarding hunger strikes, but this doesn't seem like a hunger strike to me because he's going after the food & he's his usual bright-eyed & perky self. He just can't physically seem to eat the food. It's almost as though he can't open his jaw wide enough to get the food in... <Not good... maybe it's teeth are too large, need some trimming... or worse, a deficiency disorder may be manifesting itself as this inability to open the jaws> I have your book & have looked at puff's teeth & they don't seem to me to be overgrown (but what do I know?). To be honest, puff has been receiving a diet primarily composed of krill (with an occasional smattering of something else). Therefore, it's very possible that the teeth (or something else?) haven't been worn down the way they should... When we previously provided food with shells (e.g., crabs) he wasn't too interested - hence, the krill diet. <Yes> Here are the questions: Could his teeth, etc. be so overgrown that he physically cannot eat?  <Yes, this does happen> If so, would this have manifested itself overnight? <No, would have been more gradual...> ...or could his inability to eat be the result of a nutritional deficiency from years of eating a diet primarily based on krill?  <Oh! Yes> ...or is there something else that you can suggest? Based on your information regarding hunger strikes, it appears that puffers can go for quite a while without food - so I'm not concerned that he'll starve this week, I'd just like to rectify this problem if possible. <I understand, and agree.> Wow. Sorry to be so long winded. Any information you can provide to me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance for your help! -Stefanie <At this juncture I would wait, see if this animals jaws, eating do resume within a couple of weeks. If not, do have another "Puffer proficient" aquarist take a look at this specimen, consider grinding its teeth down. In the meanwhile do try applying liquid vitamin preparation to the fish's water. It will be getting this into itself via drinking. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine puffer fish (image) Hi, I noticed that you don't have a picture of a porcupine puffer fish. Enclosed is a picture of my puffer for your site. If you want to see him live go to http://www.catalfamo28.com/pufferfish.htm thanks, Phil Catalfamo <Do have images of Diodon... though not "blown up" as your image shows... Don't want to encourage folks to disturb Burrfishes, Porcupinefishes to evidence such behavior, but thank you for your kind offer. Bob Fenner>

Healing puffer I think I had mentioned this fellow to you before, asking questions about resilience, etc. Anyway, he [Holocanthus] had a tank mate at the LFS who chewed his tail fin, pretty much down to the base. He had been separated for a week or so when I bought him and was definitely on the mend from times previous. Anyway, now that he's "under observation" the tail had always a thin filament of [what I assumed to be] bone around which tissue is growing back. Now after a week, that filament, which was at one point bleach white (like the tissue around it) is now red-ish brown... the other tissue looks the same as before, and is still growing. <Okay> My question(s): is the redness blood supply or infection? What can be done to stave off infections? Vitamins? <A good idea... more likely re-growth than infection> Tank finished cycling about two weeks ago and since then have had a small ammonia spike due to chunk of live rock bailing out, but things are now as normal as they can be, but I was concerned that an antibiotic or similar treatment would behave like copper and wipe all cultures without discrimination.  <Hmm... depends on antibiotic type... and more> Silly me, don't have a quarantine tank yet [got to your site after the tank was going] but will have one completed by tomorrow evening. <Now you're getting smarter> Could treat in there I suppose, or should I just keep observing. Fish is quite healthy otherwise, and is quite active/animated. <Don't move it> TIA. <You're welcome as quickly. Bob Fenner> J --

Porcupine Puffer with swollen spot... I've had my porcupine puffer for about a month, and he has been doing great. This morning when I got up and turned the light on for the tank I noticed he had a swollen part on his left side ... up towards his back. It has made it so that he can't use his top fin. I'm wondering if he may have swallowed some air during the night or something. <Perhaps... but much more likely a resultant symptom from the collection, handling processes from the wild...> Yesterday at feeding he had an altercation with an eel over some food but I don't think he got bit. He seemed fine after the feeding. <Hmm> What should I do with him??? <Really "nothing" other than the "usual" of providing consistent, high quality water, a stable environment, food... These fishes (puffers in general) are quite "changeable", "adaptable" but do go through marked changes in behavior (feeding, sitting about, swimming...). Please read over the various "Puffer FAQs" posted on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com for much more here... that will inform you, place your mind at rest. Bob Fenner> Thanks for any help, Nathan Best

Re: Porcupine Puffer with swollen spot... Thanks for the quick reply. I've looked over the FAQ, but didn't see anything quite like this. I just got finished feeding everyone, and he ate fine ... but it looks like the swollen part got a little bigger ... could it be food???  <No, very unlikely.> His color and everything seems ok ... he's just struggling to keep from floating to the top of the tank. <Not uncommon... resultant as previously stated...> Thanks, Nathan Best <Bob Fenner>

Skipped the clown trigger and went with a small Holocanthus puffer instead... he's a funny one. Was kind of beat up at the LFS but on the mend and eating well. <Yes, very resilient fish> Am I to understand that [given reading all I can read from WetWeb] as long as this joker is eating well he/she is ok? It's been scooting around for days and chasing the damsels. This morning it was sulking on the bottom, but came out of the funk to eat rather energetically and then returned to the sit on the bottom mode. <Yes, par for the course> This is normal puffer behavior, all other things being equal, yes? <Yes, affirmative> How is their sensitivity to water anomalies? I might have had a live rock cure unsuspected and spiked the ammonia for a day but it's in decline today, and I could always do a water change to smooth things back out. Are they [the puffer] hearty - delicate? No one else in the tank seems to mind the ammonia and the pH is on the money so... <Not delicate at all... able to withstand pollution to about the limits of all fishes> Like I said, all is returning to normal tank-wise so I'm guessing this is just puffer-funk. <Actually just how these fishes are... Puffers, like the related Triggers are "very advanced" fishes of curiosity, intelligence... and playfulness. Bob Fenner> Cheers. Thanks in advance. J --

Re: skipped the clown trigger As suspected, it was taking a daytime nap. Up and about like normal. <Yes... Bob Fenner>

Re: skipped the clown trigger Is there a non-invertebrate sand-cleaner that would come survive my Huma trigger and Holocanthus puffer? <A few family choices here... Look at the Mullids, Goatfishes. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Diodontids/Burrfishes? Dear Mr. Fenner, I have a question for you concerning puffers: I would like to get a brackish-water puffer, and I have been told that there is a brackish-water Burrfish. Is this information true? <Hmm, not as far as my sources show... Joe Nelson, fishbase.org for instance states that all six genera, nineteen species of the family of Burr/Porcupine Pufferfishes (Diodontidae) none are fresh, or even brackish... all marine. Many brackish tetraodontids ("smooth" puffers) are conditioned, otherwise sold as freshwater organisms... and there are indeed true freshwater members of that family... but Burrfish, no. Our Puffer coverage and pix archived on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com. Bob Fenner> Thanks. Ronald P. Jean 

Porcupine puffer with a swollen eye I wonder if you can help, I recently acquired a Porcupine puffer about 3 inches in length. he currently shares a 180L tank with a small Volitans, a 3 inch Clown Trigger fish, a 5 inch Pink tail trigger, a Powder Blue Tang, and an Imperator Angel. All the water parameters are in very good shape, but about 1 week after being added to my tank, he suddenly developed a very, very swollen eye. The eye enlarged in the space of an hour just after feeding. It's now about 3 weeks later and the situation has worsened, the swelling is massive and looks very uncomfortable, a significant amount of air is clearly visible behind the eye cover and in front of the eye itself. The poor creatures buoyancy is clearly affected yet he feeds enthusiastically. have you ever experienced anything like this before? <Yes... first hand and otherwise. Popeye, aka exophthalmia is a condition... that has several etymologies/causes... If it's one-sided typically this is resultant from a mechanical injury... a bump in the night or some other organism bruising the animal... likely one of your triggers or the Angel...> do you know of any treatments? <For advanced cases like this? Best to just "wait, hope, see" what happens... Please see the "Popeye" and related sections on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more here> Thanks in advance for your help, I've been very impressed with the words of wisdom you have offered others. Regards, Ian <Thank you for your kind words... don't know about wisdom, but collective experience, yes. Bob Fenner>

RE: Porcupine puffer with a swollen eye Thanks for the speedy reply Bob, just a quick update, last night the eye deflated substantially.  <Ah, good> It's now about the same size as the good eye but looks a real mess (very opaque and the eye cover surface is rough and flaky). As for the porky himself, well he seems very busy and active (getting on the nerves of the Pink Tail seems to be his favorite pass time!!!) <Also good> Thanks again for the help, I'm just about to move all my guys into a 190 gallon (UK gallons) system and build a 90 gallon reef system, so I'm sure I'll be in touch again if that's ok <Absolutely my friend. Bob Fenner> Cheers from the UK, Ian

Parasite? Dear sir: I have a porcupine fish. I noticed a small flat translucent worm about 2/16 long and 1/16 wide crawling on my fish. When I came home from work I did a fresh water dip with Meth blue. I dipped for about ten minutes and brought him out and back into the tank. He had a lot of these that I hadn't noticed because the dye had turned them blue and they are falling off. My question if you would be so kind is, what are they and what is protocol to rid the fish of them. I'm hoping quarantine with copper will not be called for. Any info you could provide on life cycle, etc., would also be appreciated. <There are a few possibilities... likely these are some sort of "Fluke"... mono- or digenetic Trematode species...  and are likely best treated by way of a freshwater and formalin (ten drops per gallon of 37% solution) dip of about  five minutes duration... and then placed in a new setting... lest this is a worm with direct life cycle (the ones that entail  another one or two intermediates are likely to not have those other transient hosts in place...). See if this works...  and if you're so inclined, search about for "Fish Disease" works by "Yamaguti" or "Noga" for tremendously more detail... Or write me back for more if unclear... Bob Fenner>

Crowding Large Marine Puffers, other fishes together Hello, I've got a question about adding a new fish to my tank one day this week I am going to be getting a Mappa puffer and I was wondering how should I put him in my tank with another puffer. My other puffer is a stars and stripes and he usually don't get along with other puffers. I think the only reason they don't get along because the last puffer I tried I just adjusted him and put him in what other way should I go by doing this? <I hope this is a very large system, relative to the sizes of these Diodontid puffers... they can be mixed but the bigger the tank, the better. Please read over the sections on "Acclimation", "Dips, Baths" posted on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com, and consider placing a transparent (acrylic panel, sturdy, chemically inert netting...) between these two puffers for a few days... and being around when you remove it for the day to watch them> Have you ever seen the mappas do fine with other puffers because this is only a 125. The other fish is an Asfur angel and an assasi trigger. I talked to the guy at the marine center and he said he wouldn't recommend the one they have their now because it probably wouldn't last with any other fish like that is that usually true for the mappas? <If these puffers are small (four inches or less) for now (they get MUCH larger) I give you better than good odds for now... you will need a much larger system in future> The angel has been finning my puffer is what it looks like because the angel goes up next to my puffer then my puffer just takes off swimming is this stressing out or hurting my puffer? <Probably not helping it...> What should I do with the angel? <You need a larger system> Do you think he will be a problem? <Get a BIGGER TANK, or trade your livestock in for smaller species> What could I do to stop this? What other fish would you recommend in my tank for now it doesn't matter how big they will get because I will have a bigger tank with in about a year and a half? <This is too late... too long. Read over the livestock selection, survey materials on the WWM site, invest some time in reading current reference books on marine aquarium keeping, join a marine hobby club in your area, attend hobby conferences, develop a relationship with a local "marine" guru who can help guide you, join the hobby listservs (they're free) on the internet and browse them and their archives daily... open your mind to the possibilities, probabilities, potentialities of what you're doing here.... Would you like to live in a ten by twenty foot "world" with three, four other large animals? Trade these animals in... or provide them with what they need to live in the way of space, etc...Bob Fenner>

Fish Compatibility Hi Bob, I recently found your site and have been spending many hours reading the FAQ's section. Your definitely a first rate source for info. <Glad we have found each other> I'm setting up a 125 gallon Sea Clear system II as a fish only tank. It has the optional skimmer installed as well as 8 24" mixture of actinic, trichromatic and 50/50 tubes (Which it came with). <The skimmers on these units are puny... I would add another> I also installed a UV sterilizer for as a extra measure. The live stock I currently have are 1 blue damsel, 1 yellow tail damsel and 1 Long spined porcupine, and just about 20 pounds live Fiji rock (I plan to purchase more in a few weeks). Question 1: Will the addition of a Naso Tang, 3 Yellow Sailfin tangs, 1Emperor Angel, and 1 Percula clown be a good mix for the livestock I already have? <I would place a smaller species of Angel... perhaps a Centropyge or Genicanthus species> Question 2: Will the addition of a Copperband Butterfly eat brown glass anemone? <Likely yes... but do wait for your new live rock to cure before trying one of them... not easily adapted to changing conditions> as well as mix with the other live stock I plan to purchase? <Yes, it should> Question 3: Will a orchid dotty back do well as a later addition to the tank as well as eat bristle worms? <Possibly, but you're getting to a crowded state here with these animals growing...> Question4: What supplements other than (Kent) Calcium (for the LR) should I use for this tank? <Possibly an alkalinity booster...> Any help from you will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Steve- <You're well on your way. Keep studying... the more you know, the greater your enjoyment, appreciation and expertise at the interest will be. Bob Fenner>

Re: Fish Compatibility Dear Bob, Please help me identify the "could be" reason why my porcupine died. I bought him from a reputable fish shop about five days ago along with 20lbs. cured Fiji LR, I made sure to acclimate him in his plastic bag to my system water for about 15 - 20 minutes (the pet shop were purchased is only 10 minutes away)`, then slowly added my tank water to his bag. He seemed fine. All my water parameters are good with the exception of high phosphate, which I recently added Hagen "GREEN" phosphate remover filters (I added tonight after he died). This morning he was fine, he ate and was swimming around normally. (The past 5 days I have been feeding him frozen brine and a bit of flake) I was going to start feeding him frozen krill as well. Tonight around 6pm I noticed he was breathing sporadically and his spins were a bit erect, just enough to notice. The porcupine soon started to look like he was "chocking" the he completely puffed up and then he died. His tank mates, 2 damsels, did not harass him. Could he have had some sort of parasite that caused this? I don't understand why he died. Any information you can give will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Steve <Very sorry to read of the loss of your Puffer. From what you relate, it does seem that this specimen was adapting well to its new home... I don't doubt the possibility of some sort of internal problem, parasitic or otherwise. More likely is the consequence of capture, handling from the wild... and even greater the chance that this specimen ate something in your system it shouldn't have (like a rock, hermit crab, shell...). You might want to dissect/have the animal dissected if this will grant you peace of mind. Otherwise, I would not be dissuaded from trying another in this system. Bob Fenner, who refers you to the Diodontid puffer FAQs on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com for much more.>

Sick Porcupine...again Well...sorry to be on to this again but things don't seem to be getting any better. It's been a week now since my porcupine (Diodon Holocanthus) has gone in hiding and now I notice his eyes are getting very cloudy and his breathing is more labored. Water parameters are still O.K. and I hooked up a U.V unit this morning. I've read your book and reread the disease section over and over. He does not have ich. I have experience with this and know what it looks like. Is there anything else I should look for? It very frustrating to just watch as he deteriorates. Thank you once again, Joe <Not much... a cathartic bath/dip in a two teaspoon per gallon magnesium sulfate and diluted seawater (from the system) in conjunction with the forced garlic feeding previously alluded to might help... but may do more harm, no good at all. Have you read through the archives on Diodontid, tetraodontids puffers on the www.wetwebmedia.com site? Any similar experiences related by folks on the associated FAQs that offer solace, direction? Bob Fenner>

Puffer Fish Hi Bob, I hope you can give me an answer to my question. I have gotten lots of conflicting answers in the last few weeks. I have a 46 gallon tank. Has been up since Nov. and all levels are perfect. In it is 50+ lbs of live rock, the substrate and 25 lbs of the rock were from my smaller tank that I put in the new one to jump start the cycling and add the micro inverts, etc. The rock is covered with coralline and macro algae, small sponges, and hard corals. A mantis shrimp hitched a ride with the new rock so I have a Niger Trigger in there right now to help get rid of the shrimp but I do not plan to keep him. I also have a small yellow damsel (also not keeping). I was thinking about a Porcupine Puffer for a centerpiece. Will he destroy my rock, etc? Will I be able to have other fish with him or will he kill them too? If he is not suitable will a Foxface be ok with a pearly Jawfish, a couple of Percula clowns, and maybe a Banggai (sorry, I can't spell) cardinal? Thank you in advance for any info you can offer. Olivia <Hmm, I would skip on the Puffer, as it is too messy and would likely eat too much of your live rock organisms... The "other" list should work out together> I loved the wetwebmedia.com site!!! It has such great advice and wonderful pics. Keep up the great work! <Thank you. Will endeavor to do so. Bob Fenner>

Sick porcupine Hi Bob....Wonder if you could help with something. I have a Porcupine Puffer that I've had for about 4 months. He has always been healthy and happy. Suddenly last knight he would not come out of his "cave". This morning he is listless swimming around slowly, after I encouraged him to come out to take a look at him, and he will not eat. His coloring is darker than usual I think his belly is a little swollen and his underside that is usually white has turned brown as well. His eyes are also a little darker than usual. I can think of three factors that may have caused some reaction. 1. Despite repeated attempts he has never shown any interest in eating anything except feeder minnows. Recently I have gotten him to eating frozen "silversides" from the pet store. I noticed yesterday that he was sort of farting with a cloudy stringy discharge coming from his butt. (Sorry to let you in on this). Possibly indigestion due to the change in diet? <Maybe... or the whole situation due to a nutritional deficiency... just like a child only eating s/he's favorite food> 2. He got into an altercation with a piece of live rock (stupid fish) as he tried to squeeze his body into a two inch crack between two pieces and caused some damage to one of his fins. Possibly a opportunistic infection? <Very common and maybe> 3. I introduced a brain coral last knight. I know Puffers and coral don't usually mix but In his infancy since about two inches I watched him grow up in a tank at the LFS with a tank full of corals as well as hermit crabs ( he was sort of the pet stores pet and wouldn't sell him for the longest time ) and I Have both in the tank with him . He has never shown any interest. I was very careful about not dumping the transport water from the coral into the tank and it was almost 100% tank water when introduced. <Unlikely here...> So there you have it. Maybe with some of the symptoms described you could shed some light and advice on any action I might take. Thank you in advance. J. Currah <And thank you for writing... Actually suspect maybe some/all of the above may be/have contributed to your puffers retiring behavior... but having dealt with many such anomalies, I encourage you to "keep faith" that your fish will "change" of its own accord. For whatever "reasons" puffers just "do this", go on feeding strikes, hide out, sit on the bottom for days, weeks, occasionally months at a time... who can say why? Perhaps internal parasites? Maybe a mechanism to prevent starving in lean times? To fool potential predators? I don't know. But am aware that these situations almost always resolve/solve themselves... with the puffers/Burrfishes (see www.wetwebmedia.com re more) just as quickly deciding to "join the living world". Just keep your eye on this specimen. Bob Fenner>

Re: sick puffer Hi Bob, I was talking to you earlier about the porcupine that was sulking. Well when I got home from work I noticed that he is now convulsing, sort of the way a cat does when its about to throw up and at the same time puffing about half way. When he finished he did throw something up, a small white pebble looking thing. Any ideas? <Sounds like this animal may have swallowed something (or knowing these puffers, eaten something) that didn't entirely agree with it... Might even be a tumorous growth of some sort... but I suspect your Diodontid is even on a faster route on the road to recovery... Bob Fenner>

Re: sick puffer Hi again Please excuse me if I'm being annoying! I deal with the public as well as a Horticulturalist and I know how annoying people can be but shouldn't the change of coloration on the under belly be a concern. I realize that they have the ability to change color but I think I read once that the color of the under belly can be a signal to the health of the fish and he's still just curled up at the very back of hid cave. One more thing, how long should I let him go without eating before I get concerned? I was hand feeding him every day. <Coloration and behavior are indeed indicative... but as a person with a great deal of personal and "other hand" experience with this group of fishes, I assure you, in almost all cases all that is required is patience at this point. I would continue to offer food daily... and have faith. Sometimes these fishes shun food for several weeks. Bob Fenner>

Re: sick puffer again Hi again Bob!...My Puffer is still in the same condition. Sulking, sitting on the bottom at the back of the tank. I sort of encouraged him to come out yesterday and managed to get him to eat a couple of minnows. I know these are not the best food but its the only thing he'll show interest in and I did manage to get four small ones into him. However after he ate he just went to the back gain and sat on the bottom of his cave and his under side is still very dark. <To be expected... as I said, patience... you may well be causing more damage by manipulating this specimen...> I noticed on the FAQ's there is mention of a friend of yours that uses garlic as a purgative and for digestive problems for her puffers. I could see this since garlic in humans clean the blood. If I were to try this how might I prepare something? Might I mash some fresh cloves with some vitamin supplement and syringe it down his little throat? <Yes to this protocol. The garlic is best fresh (as in human applications). Use a plastic syringe, baster, catheter...Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer My name is Chris Paul and I have encountered a problem with my porcupine puffer and would appreciate any advice you have. He has developed a case of ich and is not eating, to battle it we have been adding Kent's RxP and Poly ox and we are in the process of lowering the salinity and raising the temperature. We have also added a UV sterilizer to the system that is running 24-7 and have added cleaner shrimp on the assumption that he will either eat them or they will clean him, both positive outcomes. I have also freshwater dipped him in a bucket of pH adjusted freshwater and Aquatronics Dip A Way. He has not eaten any of the shrimp, but we have included some freshwater fiddler crabs (bright colored and crunchy) and they have been found missing limbs, but not anywhere near a full puffer meal. At this point, he hasn't eaten in about a month. <Doubt if this is "ich", just some sort of manifestation of undesired water chemistry... Would stop (never have started) with the "medicines" you list... STOP using them if you haven't already... And puffers do go on feeding strikes... Give yours time, it will very likely "self-cure" and recommence feeding> At this point the ich seems to be in remission (at least that which is on his body). He seems to be "less" visibly infected, although I know the ich will remain a problem for a long time. Two questions: 1) In the question included below you mention catching the puffer and turkey basting "one of the aqueous garlic remedies offered on the market to your puffer," I know you are not a fan of the garlic oil, so what product are you speaking of?  <"Just" chopped garlic in water/aqueous solution... best made fresh (by you)> A brand name would be great. 2) Am I not doing something that could help/What would you do to try to remedy this situation? (I know about dip and quarantine, unfortunately I had to learn the hard way and I am paying for it now.) Thank you for any help you are able to give, Chris Paul <Only time needs to go by. Patience my friend. Bob Fenner>

Porcupine Puffer Not Eating! Help! We have a Porcupine puffer who has not been able to eat in over a month.  After reading about puffers in "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", it seems to me that his teeth plates have overgrown so that he is not able to get food into his mouth.  I am trying to feed brine shrimp with a syringe. He allows me to do it but when I put the syringe in his mouth, I hit something hard. I can't get past it. I think it is his plates and I can't tell if the brine shrimp are getting past and into his mouth.  Is there anything we can do for him? Please advise.  <<The overgrown tooth plate problem is generally very obvious from viewing the animal head-on... the teeth appear "buck-like"... not an internal problem... These fishes can/do go on lengthy food strikes so don't give up... Instead, try offering a "human" cocktail shrimp every other day, soaked in a vitamin preparation. You can buy the latter specified for pet-fish use, or just use a "baby formula" liquid product... Otherwise, and I am serious here, do consider administering (watch your fingers) one of the aqueous garlic remedies offered on the market to your puffer... need to net it and hold in a wet towel and "force feed" the material as in a plastic syringe, into its back throat (buccal) region. Bob >

Sick Puffer I have a porcupine puffer who has white spots on his fins, breathes heavy, doesn't move much, looks bloated, and is just floating against something or lying under the coral. My trigger and sweet lips show no signs of disease. What can I do? Is this a parasite? Will copper do the trick? Do I need to buy another tank to treat him? Ben Ventura <Much to say here... It may be that the spots are not parasitic... but if it were me, I'd start on environmental manipulation and likely copper treatments... and treat the other fishes at the same time. Do read over thoroughly the sections on marine parasitic disease, copper use, puffers and FAQ files on all these posted on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com Bob Fenner, and soon!>

Porcupine Puffer question I have a porcupine puffer (about 7 in long) in a 35 gal long tank, shared with a small lion fish (about 5 in long)...nothing else in the tank except for a crab to clean up the substrate. My puffer has one eye that is the translucent blue coloring which is normal...the other eye does not. and reveals the large dark iris in the back of the eyeball. My water parameters are fine, from what I can tell (salinity good, no ammonia). Both fish eat well .... no hesitation. Behavior is fine (no change from when both eyes were blue). Any ideas on what would cause this...and how it can be corrected ? thanks... Jeff McFadyen <Hmm, could be nutritional in part... perhaps an internal parasite of some sort... maybe the result of a mechanical injury that didn't quite heal... Other than placing these fishes (and crab) into a larger system, I wouldn't do anything else to try and "cure" the one dark eye... As far as I know, there is little that COULD be done. One note re: I fully suspect that the Puffer is fine, "happy" otherwise, and will live a good time, even if the one eye should be inoperable. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Puffer Time! Hi Bob, I recently bought a 3-4 in. long-spine porcupine puffer to add to  my 55 gal. tank. I have a blue fin damsel, maroon clown, yellow tail damsel,  and a lawnmower blenny. when I first introduced him into my tank he was up  and swimming around., but the next day he way really shy and stayed in the  corner of my tank all day. he had more than enough swimming space, for there  is only about 30 lbs. o live rock. he also hasn't been eating anything, I  tried feeding it frozen brine shrimp, he didn't eat that, and also tried to  feed him beef heart (frozen) he didn't eat that. what is wrong with him?  please help! <<Actually probably nothing is wrong with your new Puffer... these intelligent animals just get sort of depressed at times... particularly when being moved about... Do have patience, and I'll bet it will be up and eating like a veritable pig in a week or so. In the meanwhile don't worry about it starving. These fishes often do go on feeding strikes, sometimes for weeks at a time. Try feeding it something like krill or an opened shellfish every few days. Bob Fenner>>

Starving puffer Thank you so much for your rapid response. We will try the vitamin soaked shrimp and see what happens. My only concern is getting the syringe into his mouth, past the teeth plates, they seem to prevent the syringe from getting past. If we try the garlic, what would be the dosage? We will let you know the results. thank you again Mike & Rena <<A few folks of good standing stand by the "garlic treatment" for internal, digestive matters (I am dubious about ectoparasitic treatment claims however)... Kelly Jedlicki, nurse and general good pet-fish friend, even uses a Dremel (tm) tool to trim her Diodontid (blowing up types of puffers family) "buck teeth" and swears by garlic... for ceasing feeding strikes and as an all around cathartic... Don't be bitten!, but the animal will "gasp" and this is your opportunity to use a turkey baster... or similar to (no dosage prescribed) get some of the Onion family member down the hatch... Have no fear, this will work. Bob Fenner>>

Eye Growth I have a small Porcupine fish (about 4 1/2") that has been doing well for 4 months. Now he looks like he has something around one eye. It looks like a growth, but it's not puffy. It's a major change in coloration, but it's localized around one eye. I never noticed this before. Please help! <From reading your missal here, I suspect this damage is due to a physical trauma... maybe the Puffer bumping into something in the night... and would not add to the animal's stress by handling, treating it per se... just keep it fed, happy in place and it should heal> I have a 90 gallon tank that has been set up for about 4 months. I let it cycle with damsels for about two months everything was great( although I had 15 damsels when I started and ended with 4). I have since added 2 yellow tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens), a clown fish ( Amphiprion ocellaris), and a Long-Spined Porcupine Puffer (Diodon holacanthus). I understand that the puffer is not good with invert's. I would like to start adding live rock and corals is this a good idea, if so how much rock should I add and how fast should it be added. <<Adding the live rock is a great idea on several counts... You won't regret it... better livestock health, easier maintenance, never ending fascination with what comes out of it. The Puffer will likely chew on bits of the live rock... and in all likelihood your corals, other invertebrates. Do start with a few hardy soft corals if you want to try your Puffer with the non-vertebrates. Maybe a leather, toadstool... Bob Fenner>>

Porcupine puffers What can/should you feed a Porcupine puffer? <<Most anything meaty that is discrete... that is, whole, likely to not "fall apart" when bitten and make a mess. Porcupines go especially wild for krill and other shrimp-like animals. Bob Fenner>>

Long Spined Porcupine Fish Bob, I have a long-spined porcupinefish (Diodon holacanthus), approx. 4" long,  that I've had for 8 months. He stopped eating about 7 weeks ago. Before  this he ate nothing but frozen krill and had a great appetite (four  krill/day). He still looks fine and seems to get around all right. The  only odd thing I've noticed is that he does a funny thing with his lower  lip, he keeps moving it in and out. How can he be surviving without eating?  I've heard that sometimes they will go on fasts, but 7 weeks without a  thing! The water parameters (ammonia=0ppm, nitrite=0ppm, nitrate=5ppm,  O2=7ppm, copper=0ppm, Redox=300mV, pH=8.2, dKH=7, SG=1.021,  temp=78F,PO4=.1ppm) are all excellent. The other fish in the tank are doing  great (One 4" Naso Tang, one 3" Yellow Tang, one 4" Regal Tang, one 2" Flame Angel, two 2" Clowns and one 3" Picasso Trigger). The tank specs are: 110  gallon, Red Sea Berlin Skimmer, Wet/Dry filter, Eheim 3 stage filter, 75 lbs  LR, 220W florescent lighting. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks, CB <<Hmmm, well appearances can be deceiving, but I'd bet your Puffer is probably eating something when you're not looking... and even if not I wouldn't give up hope that s/he will resume feeding... The longest I have heard of such feeding strikes of Diodontid puffers is three plus months... I would occasionally offer that same krill, maybe with a bit of vitamin mix on it (Multi-vit, Selcon...). And be even more patient. The lip movement is nothing to be concerned about, IMO. Bob Fenner>>

Injured Fish Question I have a 110gal fish only. I purchased a 4-5 inch Spiny Box puffer from the LFS about three weeks ago. About a week ago I noticed he got ruffed up, probably by a 12 inch Banded Moray Eel. Of the three fins near his tail, one is down to flesh, and the other two are 80%gone. He also has a lot of trauma near his tail. He still eats like a pig. I soak his food of choice (raw shrimp) in Vita-Chem every day, and Iodine twice a week. Is this too much iodine? Is he gonna be OK? Is there anything else I can do? He's a cool fish and I don't want to lose him. And thanks for the great column! <<Hmm, do you have another tank to move the puffer to? Is anything still chewing on it? I would only add some iodine to the food once a week. If the areas where the fins are growing back (they will if not chewed all the way to their bases) look reddened... do contact me and I'll tell you how to make an antibiotic laced food. Eating heartily is a good sign... and I've seen puffers recover from much worse injuries. Keep your water quality high and stable, and s/he should get better.  Bob Fenner>>

A Tale of Tails Happy New Year, Bob! I have noticed something peculiar occurring with the 2 Banggai cardinals in our tank. Both of them have mysteriously lost about 1/2" from their tails, one on the upper portion and one from the lower. The Christmas wrasse also seems to have had a little of his tail nipped as well.  Based on the listing of our inhabitants below, I am curious as to whom you think may be the culprit, and if I need to be concerned. All three fish seem to be eating normally, and, except for the tails, have good appearances and behavior. We do notice the squirrelfish chasing the wrasse quite a bit, but the squirrel seems to chase many of our fish, including the cardinals and the Anthias.  Here are the inhabitants of our 95-gallon tank: 2 Banggai cardinals, 1 blue hippo tang, 1 yellow-eyed (Kole) tang, 1 squirrelfish, 1 clownfish, 1 Christmas wrasse, 1 porcupine Pufferfish, 1 flame hawkfish, 1 coral beauty, 1 female lyretail Anthias and 1 Foxface Rabbitfish.  Also, I am thinking about adding a longnose hawkfish and a pair of Banner Butterfly (Heniochus acuminatus). Do you foresee any problems with adding these three fish based on our current inhabitants? Any possible problems between the longnose hawk and the flame hawk? Thanks, Mitch <<Hmm, off-hand I'd suspect the Puffer... these can be wily and nippy in the cover of night... The new possible additions should go... and maybe even lessen inter-species aggression by crowding... And the two Hawks should strike a balance in your size system... If it were me, I'd start that Puffer on a steady diet of Krill (frozen/defrosted). That should take his mind off his tankmates tails... And if I were you, I'd start saving, planning for your next (reef) tank... where you can move the more peaceable animals to... as you are mixing a wide range of behavioral types... and seem ready for the personal evolution. Bob Fenner>>

Porcupine Puffer - Help Dear Mr. Fenner, I'm new to saltwater marine keeping and I purchased your book, "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist". It is a very informative book! I like it very much! :-) I know in your book to specify not to lift puffers out of the water but to scoot them into a small container. I needed to move my puffer quickly without access to such a container. I thought if I netted it and let it inflate with water first there would be a problem with it swallowing any air.  Unfortunately it did swallow some air and now it has trouble getting rid of the air. You mentioned that it was stressful on the fish to swallow air but you never mentioned whether it was fatal or not or what to do about it.  What can I do to save my Puffy?  Please help! Thanks, Alec <<Arggghhhh, no container? What? Not even a jar you could give a quick wash and rinsing? If you and your puffer are fortunate it can/will discharge the air on its own... if not, you may be still lucky to be able to catch it (underwater) and tilting the fish up (be careful to not be bitten) gently squeeze the air from its stomach...Bob Fenner>>

Porcupine fish Hi Bob. I'm writing to ask you about the porcupine fish ( Diodon Holacanthus ), I have a 55g with four fishes, a damsel, royal Gramma, clown and a Heniochus butterfly, I have seen them and they look so cute that I would like to get one. What can you tell me about them, are they easy to keep ? Thank you for your help. Americo. <<This is a hardy puffer species. I would start with a small (3-4") specimen to give your three small fish species a better chance to "get to know" the Porcupine before it gets large enough to try eating them (a possibility in this stocking plan), and feed the puffer sparingly. Often, these intelligent fishes take a while to catch on to captive foods, and do go on the occasional feeding strike. Don't let either worry you. They almost always learn what's what within a few days to weeks. But don't overfeed the newbie, even on just good principles; you don't want to have that porker get too big too fast. Bob Fenner>>


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