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FAQs about Puffer Behavior

Related Articles: Puffers in General, A Saltwater Puffer Primer: Big Pufferfish! by Mike Maddox, Puffer Care and Information, True (Tetraodont) Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes, (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: Puffers in General 1, Puffers 2, Puffer Identification, Puffer Behavior, Puffer Compatibility, Puffer Selection, Puffer Systems, Puffer Feeding, Puffer Disease, Puffer Dentistry, Puffer Reproduction, True (Tetraodont) Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Boxfishes

Puffers are intelligent, curious animals... real characters all.

Web burr puffer mating behavior.      7/5/15
Thank you for taking the time to help me with my problem. I have a 700 gallon saltwater, fish only tank. I have a sailfin tang, yellow tang, blonde Naso tang, baby clown trigger,
<Yikes.... keep your eye on this fish... may turn very aggressive>

Fiji puffer, porcupine puffer, and web burr puffer. All parameters are healthy, ph 8.4, 76 deg Faren,
salinity 1.022.
<I'd raise this... see WWM Re>
For the last six months or so my web burr puffer has been acting aggressively towards the porcupine puffer.
<Happens; on an individual basis... puffers are like "Malawi" Cichlids in this regard... and like them, will often cease if crowded w/ more puffers>
He swims put to my porc, and places himself on top of the porc and appears to be trying to push him down. My porc gets angry, and they start fighting, and after the web burr gets bitten by my porc, he swims away. It is very unusual, and actually
seems like my web burr is trying to mate. My web burr does not do this with any other fish in the tank. I have had the porc for about 7 years, and the web burr for 4.5 years so they have lived happily together for many years.
I just do not know what to do or how to help.
<As stated, perhaps adding yet another Diodontid, Tetraodontid>
It happens regardless of whether they are hungry, the lights are on/off, salinity...I am really starting to worry because it is not getting any better, and I am afraid my porc is starting to get stressed and my web burr always has healing bite marks. Any suggestions or information would be very appreciated.
Thank you,
Mona Daneshi
<Do consider the addition; really; to diffuse aggression here. Bob Fenner>

Rabbit fish getting aggressive with puffer fish. Beh. chg. w/ the addn. of Hippolytid cleaner    7/4/13
Hello WWM crew,
I have a 110 gallon tank with a 20 gallon refugium set up.  Nitrates nitrites and ammonia are not detectable.  Ph 8.4, dKh12 specific gravity is 1.023, I have an Eshopps skimmer, a Fluval 405 canister filter that has carbon and PhosBan media in it that is changed out on a regular basis .  I do  a 15 gallon water change once a week.
The tank has been up and running for 3 years.  The inhabitants of the tank are a scribbled rabbit fish that is about 6 inches in size and a porcupine puffer about the same size.  Both are about 3 years old.  I am saving for a bigger tank.  I have 3 mushroom corals and a Kenya tree coral. I have lots of live rock and plenty of hiding holes for the fish. All are doing well.
My question is this, about a month ago I added a skunk cleaner shrimp knowing full well he may end up a meal for my puffer.
 Since adding him Roger my Rabbit fish has become increasingly aggressive to Kirby the Puffer fish.  I believe he even invenomated him once on his back with how my puffer was swimming around the tank after incident, it was a bit frightening.  The puffer was a little lethargic after the incident. He is doing well now with no apparent after effects. It appears as if Roger is protecting the skunk shrimp. 
<Does happen... recognized as a help... cleaner>
If my puffer ventures near the shrimps hiding area while the tank lights are on  Roger is over there popping his spines at him and trying to nail him.  He will also block the puffer from getting near the shrimp with his body. He will then chase the puffer away from the area fins popping all the way.
Roger has also started to release small clouds of venom from his spines every once in awhile, he will then turn around and take them into his mouth and blow them in the direction of the puffer if he is nearby.  This behavior has happened 4 or 5 times now so I know it is not a one time thing.  However this is a new behavior since I added the shrimp.  I don't recall seeing this behavior before the shrimp was added.
When the moon lights come on in the tank and Roger is sleeping.  The puffer goes over and is cleaned by the shrimp.  I think there is a truce between the two.  The puffer will open his mouth and the shrimp cleans it for him.
<Ah yes>
Should I be setting up a separate tank for one of them? 
<Mmm, no; likely all will settle down...>
Or should I be getting a second cleaner shrimp since it would be harder for Roger to protect two shrimp at one time?  Or should I be adding another small fish so not all the attention or rather aggression is directed at Kirby?  They have shared the same tank for around 3 years.   The rabbit fish has never shown any aggression until now.   Do you think that the aggression is due to the addition of the shrimp or something else?
<Likely the shrimp>
  Do you thing Kirby would
be put in danger if he gets invenomated multiple times by Roger the Rabbit fish?
<Might die as a consequence if jabbed but good>
Any insight you could offer would be appreciated.   Thanks again for an amazing site.   I find myself reading on this site for hours sometimes.  
I have learned a ton and it has made me a better fish keeper.
<I'd leave all as is for now; keep planning on the new, larger system. Bob Fenner>

Inflated Porcupine puffer   7/25/06 I read the article and my puffer doesn’t have any air trapped.  He is on the bottom of the tank partially inflated with water.  He doesn’t have air trapped in him, because I burped him several times, if he does its very, very minimal.  The problem is, he seems he can’t expel the remaining water.  He can inflate fully and can expel the water down to about half his size, but no further. Any other ideas? <<Puffers are built to inflate, and expel water with water with ease.  Does a little bit of air come out when you burp him?>> Thanks John

Re: My Poor Puffer Part II  11/16/05 Hello again, Since I last emailed my puffer has gotten better and worse. First off, I checked all the nitrate and waste output and found them to be quite too high, so...I lowered them. <From, to?> However, my fish did get better after that, but I had found him floating at the top of the tank, upside down! Imagine my surprise and horror. I did the first thing I could, I put him head up, underwater and gently shook him, in case he was just full of air. He Lived! Thanks to your site again (tear)! All I need to know now is why he may have possibly puffed up and do anything to prevent that.  <... many possibilities... poor water quality, crowding, behavioral troubles with other livestock...> Plus, he is still rather sluggish and just drifts around everywhere, he doesn't really even move. I desperately need your help! Please write back soon! Sincerely, Jamie D. <You need to read... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fishindex3.htm.  Scroll down to the Puffers area.  Bob Fenner>

Intentionally Puffing a Puffer  8/24/05 Hola from Cozumel Mexico, <Hi, from Pufferpunk in Chicago> I am hoping you can help.  I am a SCUBA Instructor and dive shop owner in Cozumel, Mexico.  Our coral reefs are part of a protected marine environment.  We strictly enforce the no touch rule for ALL marine life, including coral, fish, sponges, etc. <I am also a diver & underwater photographer of 7 years.> There seems to be a controversy regarding the harmful effects of intentionally inflating a puffer fish/porcupine fish.    <Hmmm, what about the no touch rule?> Obviously this behavior is annoying, particularly when a diver or a dive guide intentionally inflates a porcupine or puffer fish for photo opportunities or just for the "entertainment" value.  My question is this:  Is this in fact harmful for the fish?  Many sources say they will die after so many inflations, others say they can die if overly stressed causing them to over inflate, and so on. <I think pictures of purposely inflated puffers are disgusting (especially if in someone's hands)!  It shows a severely frightened fish that is stressed out.  You are correct on your 2nd assumption.  The puffing in general is a defensive move so it can't be devoured by predators.  It is indeed stressful to frighten a fish unnecessarily, to cause it to puff up.  The repeated stress can eventually kill the fish.  What is definitely deadly, is for it to puff with air, as it cannot deflate itself or upright itself.> Your expert opinion/advice on this topic is greatly appreciated.  I look forward to your reply. <Thank you for posting this question for folks to read at our website.  I also this will hinder the unnecessary stressing of this wonderful species.  ~PP> Sincere regards, Christi Courtney Blue XT~Sea Diving Cozumel, Mexico

Puffer nutrition, behavior, using the Google tool on WWM 8/1/05 Hi, I'm having a problem with my puffer I have a large dog puffer, I call him a dog puffer but not sure He looks exactly like a dog face other then color, he's brown and white spotted from head to tail He is a large puffer, have had him for about six months, apprx 12 inches long He was tank raised I was told and al he would eat was freeze dried krill, <Not good nutrition, nor behavioral...> I got him eating the frozen krill about a month ago, I give him the freeze dried as a treat once in a while during the day Anyway he loved to be hand feed and everything was fine until this week I noticed Monday and Tuesday he was not eating like he normally does ,seemed he was chewing and spitting out wasting more then he was eating Come Wednesday he's not eating at all, comes to the food/my hand like he is going to eat but then looks and acts turned off by the food Knowing that's all he ever ate and would eat I tried other food for the heck of it, still wont eat, even tried shrimp and squid Now when I come to the tank instead of being happy and rushing over tome he runs from me Water is fine, tested everything and then some, all other fish doing good, no one bothers him as he is the big boy of the tank, everything else is a quarter of his size ,he wont eat tank mates, I even had a 1 inch wrasse in there with him at one time Also I noticed a few things, not only has he not eaten in five days but he has not pooped in five days, I know this because he goes like a horse and I have to clean the tank twice a day sometimes, have not had to clean the tank all week Also his white spots use to be the size of a dime with a brown background, now his spots have changed to a small line, in other words they now look like sprinkles on an ice cream cone, weird that his design has changed Anyway someone suggested Epsom salt ,said maybe he is stopped up ,I added as a tea spoon per 10 gallons today Any idea whats wrong with him, he is clean, don't see anything on him, water is great ,cant figure it out, he swims around, still active just wont eat which is weird because this is a fish that demanded to be feed at 7 am and if I ran late boy he let me know by splashing and making all sorts of noise to get my attention <Please read here: http://www.google.com/custom?q=puffer+feeding%2C+disease&sitesearch=wetwebmedia.com and the linked files where you lead yourself. Bob Fenner>

Puffer Behavior... actually aquarists behavior, illiteracy, using WWM 7/28/05 Hello my name is Danny I have just recently purchased a stars and stripes puffer that is approx. 1 in and a half pretty small. <Wow, tiny> He was dull in color when I got him <Stress> and has been in the tank for about two weeks his other mate is a snowflake moray that is about six in. in length I think that he (eel) took a nip at the puffer cut his skin a little. <Unusual> I have begun to medicate the water with MelaFix. <Not a good idea> It has been three days now since I started the meds for him and his cut is healing well. I am feeding him mysis I think is what that is called, shrimp, krill, brine for right now and is still eating great. however I have a question and this is my problem that I am having which began half way through the medication period. He is swimming vertically a lot with his tail suspended above his head for ten min periods at the max. He has also got his color back his dark brownish black back ground is darker and his white star and stripes are brighter. If there is any reason for concern, can you let me know what I can do if you think that it is an air bubble of some sort, and what I can do with him being so young and small in size to treat what might be wrong if anything at all thank you Danny <... please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/QueryCorrsRefPg.htm and http://wetwebmedia.com/pufferdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above, and use the search tool on the homepage, indices to read re Melafix... Bob Fenner>

How do puffers deflate? How do salt water puffer fish deflate after they inflate? Jenna Stout <By exhaling the large quantity of water they've swallowed... Bob Fenner> 

-Research WWM First- Why does the Dog Face Puffer change from a dark color to a light  color? <Well the puffer and its closely related cousins the Diodon, Burrfish, and other puffer type fish can alter their colors to blend into scenery, as a sign of stress, as a simple sign of their sleeping, or many other reasons.  Most have a very wide range of changing the brightness of their patterns and some can alter their patterns to the point that you mistake them for not having patterns when they are simply washed out.  My Diodon holocanthus when I bought it had its entire blotchy patterning so washed out I mistook it for a Diodon hystrix since all you could see was its spots.  Mostly puffers change colors in response to something, and usually when they are sick or stressed.> <Justin (Jager)>

Puffer fish - Dichotomy of Behavior, Puffs Every Day Please help. I have searched through many of the FAQ pages to see if anything could help me. For the last 2-3 weeks, my porcupine puffer refuses to eat. He seems lethargic at times and then he swims around angrily and bites and spits water out at the top of the tank. When he is lying on the bottom his breathing seems labored and forced. I feed them krill, squid, octopus, fish, clams, mussels, flakes, etc. and after the first week of no eating, I have added garlic to the mix. If he is at the top of the tank when I put the food in, he just ignores it.  He used to follow us around when we walked into the room, now he is apathetic. The tank conditions are optimal and my husband and I tried a large water change last week to see if it would help. He is showing no physical symptoms except the weight loss.  He is also puffing up at least once a day now while he is laying on the bottom. He just started puffing himself this last week. It is a 240 gallon tank and his friends are, dog faced puffer, yellow tang, Vlamingi tang, yellow eye tang, Niger trigger, snowflake moray eel, 5 damsels, Hawkfish, harlequin Tuskfish, cowfish, and a tomato clown. All of them have been living together for at least one year, except for the Hawkfish & yellow-eye tang which we acquired 2.5 - 3 months ago. I do not know what else to do for him.  Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.  <Honestly sounds like he is being harassed by something or someone. The fact that he continues to puff up usually shows that something or someone is harassing him. Is he able to eat? Puffers often have issues with their teeth? Are his in good shape? Have you checked the tank for nitrates? It should have zero nitrates and that will be hard to do with fish like that. I would also suggest that you check the oxygen saturation of the tank, those fish are going to require a lot of oxygen. Your pH might also be doing major swings at night. Major being more than two points or so. You should check that as well. Good luck, MacL> 

-Please deflate the puffer - Hi, <Hello> I need some expert help! My porcupine puffer isn't himself at the moment. <Will do what I can.>  About 2 months ago he seemed to have white spot so I treated him in the usual way. < Which was how? Hyposalinity, or meds or what?>  He picked up and has been generally fine, never loosing his appetite but his skin still looks a bit blotchy. <blotchy skin is hard to diagnose as their skin is normally varying color according to mood and hunting etc.>  He has been scratching himself a bit on the gravel and in the last couple of days he has puffed up twice which I have never seen him do before. After he eats he lays in the corner of the tank and seems to pant a bit heavy. Do you think anything is wrong or is it just me been a bit over cautious?! <No, I think you are right to be worried. I would q/t this fish again for further observation and begin to lower the salinity of the q/t to 1.011 over a week or so. Keep that around 1.011 for a week or so and see if it doesn't improve color wise and breathe slower. Also while in the q/t watch the puffer with the lights on the tank and I the room dimmed at night and see if the fish is more active or continues to lay around. If it isn't active it is distressed and possibly sick, which the hyposalinity and q/t should help. Also vacuum the gravel and do a water change on the display tank and check the water parameters to fix anything off there as well.> Thanks for your help Phil Mercer <No Problem> <Justin (Jager)>

What's Wrong with my Puffer? Hi! <Hello> We have a porcupine puffer and he seemed to be okay for the last five weeks. <Ok>  But lately, my son said he's eating the coral gravel on the bottom of the aquarium. <This is a common problem but the puffer is probably picking at food in the substrate between the rocks rather than eating them.>  What is causing this and what can we do to stop him from doing this?  <Nothing really, this is a common thing that all porcupine puffers do as they are ambush hunters who pick over the rock and substrate looking for hidden foods that they can "blow out" using water and then eat.>  Will this behavior kill him?  <Not usually. In rare cases the fish actually swallow rocks and cannot pass them back up and it obstructs the bowels and that can kill them. However, puffers swallow wastes and other non edible things all the time in search of food so I would no worry. Mine does this a lot and is perfectly healthy.>  Please get back to me as soon as possible. I don't want to lose him. Thanks, Pat <no problem I think your puffer is fine, however if it really is eating the rocks themselves you might put it into another tank with no substrate and feed it there until it eats the foods you offer faster. but I think it is fine.> <Justin (Jager)>

Re: Puffers Fighting M. Maddox, Thank you for the quick response. I'm surprised to hear that my tank is too small for my porcupine. My understanding was that his adult length would be approximately 12", and it was also my understanding that 12" was the adult size of the dogface and Burrfish as well. If a 117 gallon tank is too small for a porcupine, then what size would you consider to be the minimum for the porcupine? <The common porcupine puffer, Diodon holocanthus, (according to www.fishbase.org) attains an adult size of app. 50 centimeters, or ~20 inches. This is likely to be slightly smaller in captivity, from 12-20 inches. For a 12" fish, I wouldn't go smaller than a 150 gallon breeder> Lou  <M. Maddox> 

Tank Mate for Eel Hi there, <Hello> Good day to you. I've a 55g FOWLR tank that's been running fine for 3 months now. I've a 12" zebra moray, 2" porcupine puffer and a medium sized red hermit crab. <That puffer will get quite large and need a much larger tank.> All are doing fine though the eel tried to eat the hermit at first. I got the hermit a large round hard shell which he moved into and the eel can't get to it now.  <That is normal, both the eels and the puffer eat crabs, snails and other inverts normally in the wild.> The porcupine puffer is eating well but is always at the bottom in a corner. It doesn't swim around at all. Why's that?  <well they are wild caught and they are ambush predators mostly in that they hide and wait for food to come to them.> Anyway, I'd like to get one more colorful and active fish for the tank. I understand that it may be overstocked so I'm willing to trade the shy puffer away. What fish would you suggest? Thanks in advance for your advice. Desmond <A wrasse like the 6 line would work as well as damsels and or a clownfish, a Hawkfish or a dwarf angel is also a good candidate. As for the puffer it will get very large, but to help it swim around more you can try rearranging the rock in the tank to be move a series of caves and overhangs, they like to hunt and search through areas so that might entice it to swim around more, though they are nocturnal fish so late evening is when they swim around the most. Justin (Jager)> 

- Puffer Questions - I added a dogface puffer to my 55 gall tank yesterday morning. By the afternoon he wasn't moving around much and his coloring changed to very dark. The next day he still hasn't moved much and is almost black in color. The tank has 8 pinfish, a few hermit crabs, and a couple of snails. The tank has been operating for about 3 weeks and all fish have been doing well till we added the dogface and he doesn't look well. What do you suggest?  <I suggest you test the water... sounds to me like this purchase may have been a bit premature for the system.>  I am getting the water tested today but do you think he could have gone into shock?  <Possible, yes... or just bumming out because of the water quality.> I believe he is a juvenile and it seems as though he is being left alone by the other fish.  <I imagine it would be... puffers live near/at the top of their food chain; is why people leave bears and large cats alone.> Thank you, KC <Cheers, J -- >

Porcupine Puffer Query 1/2/05 Hi to whoever is catching this - I recently purchased a small (approximately 3 inch) Porcupine Puffer from a very reliable store. While at the store, it was free swimming the length of the tank and appeared very healthy and curious. Since introducing it to my 75 gallon FOWLR tank, populated with a small Fuzzy Dwarf, a Heniochus BF, a Foxface and a clown fish, the once out-going puffer now hides his face in the live rock and stays in one corner of the tank. He still appears outwardly healthy and eats well but just seems terrified to be out in the open. I have seen no real aggression towards him by any of the other fish, except the BF has "brushed against" him a few times. This BF has always done this and no one else in the tank seems to be bothered by it. Is this normal puffer adjustment behavior or should I be more concerned? The 20-gallon tank he was in at the store contained a dwarf angel and a bird wrasse, two fish I would think that would have bothered him even more. Thanks for your assistance. <Your puffer could be bothered by the sheer amount of activity or by some subtle harassment by other fish, especially the Heniochus.  Despite their aggressive nature when established, these fish are often quite timid upon introduction.  I would give the fish a few days to socialize and consider giving it up if it doesn't.  Remove it ASAP if it stops feeding.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Porcupine Puffer Hiding and Inactive 9-30-04 Sorry to bother you again, <It's no bother that's what we are here for > but I forgot one thing. The porq puffer that I have is eating fine, but when he is not eating he insists on hiding in the live rock. I hardly ever see him swim around the tank. He basically lays around in the same spot all the time. Is something wrong with him? <Hard to say, as I did not see the prior email. My porcupine Puffer has quite a big appetite and when he stuffs himself he lays around. Perhaps you are over feeding your Puffer. Another possibility is that one of the other fish is bullying him. HTH, Leslie>

Porcupine puffer I have a porcupine puffer that I have had for over a year. 95% of the time eats krill. Starting about 2 weeks ago he would chase after the food and bite at it when he did he would spit it back out and do this twitching like he has a tooth ache and then go after it again and he would do it again. <Okay bear with me on this but I believe they do get toothaches and as I understand it they need to have their teeth filed down if they aren't given very hard things to keep them chewed down.  Take a look at this article about Kelly Jedlicki from KY.  http://www.petsforum.com/cmas/cmas0403.pdf>  Now he will follow the food but not eat it. <take a look at this as well http://www.lmas.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=19&page=1> I have tried to feed it beef heart, krill, brine, bloodworms, salad shrimp, tiger shrimp, guppies and ghost shrimp. He wants none of it. <Maybe something smaller? Mysis or brine soaked in vitamins.> Now when it is feeding time he will come out of his hole that he sleeps in all day and will start to move his mouth when he does he starts to do flips and turn overs then will start to puff up. He will deflate and then try the same thing again. I had a smaller puffer (could never figure out what kind) that was doing the same thing a couple of months ago and he died. Do you have any idea what this could be? <The other option is that he's got some type of infection are you seeing any other signs?  It doesn't sound good that you've gone through this once before. good luck, MacL> Any help or info would be great. Thanks Jake

New Dogface Puffer Hiding (9/8/04) WetWeb Crew, <Hi there Leslie here for the crew this evening.> First of all, I must say that you can combine my compliments with the thousands of those you’ve received before me, and still not have enough compliments for the quality and quantity of information available on your website – it’s just amazing. <Thank you kindly. It is a pleasure to provide such a valuable service.> I typically search the depths of your website every time I have a problem in my tank, and the solution is shortly at hand. I come to you this time in desperation:  I purchased a new 2.5-3” Dogface Puffer this weekend for my tank – and I’m afraid he’s not doing well. <Utto > Before you kill me for not having quarantine and the like – please forgive me. < Your forgiven and no one will kill you promise :). Just glad you have seen the errors of your ways :). > I hadn’t read that I needed to quarantine my new fish until I was researching today.  I thought they were reserved for sick fish, etc. <Unfortunately it is best to pass the sick fish by > Anyways, back to the tank – I have the water tested by my LFS every weekend almost without fail.  This weekend it tested at all 0’s for everything, and the specific gravity was 1.021 (up .001 from the weekend before.)  The tank is 100 Gallons with approx 60-80 lbs of live rock. <Sounds good so far> In it are a Sail fin Tang (maybe 3-4”), a Niger Trigger (3” or so at most), and a Clown Trigger (1-1.5” at most).  The clown trigger is about a month old in the tank, and appears to be the only really aggressive fish in the tank, sometimes harassing the larger hermit crabs or Turbos to see if he can get an expensive meal. < These fish have a capacity to get pretty big and you will find your tank soon over crowded and over stocked especially for these more aggressive species who appreciate lots of territory.> When I bought the puffer, I personally fed him some live brine and Mysis at the store to see if he was eating, and he was.  <That's excellent!> When he came home and after acclimation, he hid of course.  When I fed everyone else that night, he came right out and mixed it up with everyone, eating well. <Also very good. > This went on throughout the weekend, and all seemed well.  He was a bit shy towards people coming up to the tank, but never shied away from a meal.  However, starting on the morning of 9/7/04, he would not come out for his meal.  When I came home in the evening, he was hiding at the top of the tank near a power head.  Now, he typically hides in a rock cave, with his tail tucked – much like his first couple of hours in the tank. I’ve read where they take hunger-strikes, which is what I pray this is.  I’m concerned that there’s maybe some fighting (although he’s probably the 2nd largest fish in the tank), but I haven’t seen anyone so much as chase him or go near him when he’s hiding or otherwise. The only fish I would reasonably suspect of possibly coming after him is the clown, who is at least ? the size of the puffer, at best. < I am not convinced he is on a true hunger strike. I think the Clown Trigger may very well be keeping him in hiding. All the fish you have in your tank currently are usually the fish that should be added to the tank last. The Clown Trigger has a reputation for being amicable for months often, then suddenly becoming quite nasty. They are know to nip and even kill tankmates. They have even been known to attack owners. If they are to be kept with other fish a very large system with suitable hiding places is recommended.> Please let me know your thoughts as soon as possible – I know you’ll give me the best information available.  I just want to do the right thing for the fish, and the tank. < I am sure you will.> I take fish casualties very personally and seriously. <As we all should >. This little “water dog” already means nearly as much to me as my Labrador that I’ve had for 8 years. <Well I can certainly relate to that. They are amazingly endearing fish and one of my favorites!> I hate to see him suffer for another second, if that in fact is what is happening. <You have a few options. If you are attached to the Clown Trigger you can try rearranging the rock and decor to change established territory or  remove him to a smaller quarantine tank for a few days to weeks hopefully upon his return he will be  the low man on the totem pole so to speak . However you do risk the chance that yours is one of nastier ones. Another option would be to return the Clown Trigger or Puffer to the LFS. In all honesty I would have trouble returning a Dogface Puffer. >   Thanks for all your time, Brian <You are most welcome. Best of luck with your new Puffer they are amazing fish. HTH, Leslie > (I presume that you answer in email, as well as posting on the website – I’m not familiar with the process.) <Yes we answer the queries and they are then posted on the website

Pufferpoo???  8/9/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Our dogface puffer is excreting what looks to be clear balls. Are these eggs or what their feces generally looks like? Please let us know if there is something we should look for or do. Thanks so much! <Sounds like pufferpoo to me.  I remember a fellow on our site that was so excited his puffer was laying eggs.  He had collected them up & photographed them & everything. I almost didn't have the heart to tell him they were never going to hatch, since it was only pufferpoo.=o{  ~PP> Frantic fishy pacing 7/29/04 Mike, <Yep, I'm here again!> Thank you for the directive.<Well, it was more of a suggestion really **blush**  Sorry for not having written back sooner, but I have been spending every free minute making sure that Gizmo is handling this emergency well.  I took your advice and began a formalin/malachite green treatment (Quick Cure) at 1/2 dose and kept an eye on the water chemistry.<Many people are hesitant to use this on porcupines, but it's the only thing I've had consistent success with>  My ammonia has stayed at zero for the past four days, but the nitrite has been steadily creeping up.  It hit 0.2 this afternoon, and I did about a 75% water change at which time I vacuumed out what little substrate material remained in the tank after my last water change.  I now have absolutely no substrate remaining in the tank and it is as reflective as a mirror at the moment.<Well done, my friend!>   After stopping the freshwater dips, Gizmo has calmed down and no longer paces the tank in a frantic fashion.<Many people swear by the dips, but they just haven't yielded all that much success for me>  He comes to the front of the tank to greet me each morning when I wake up and each afternoon when I return home from work.  He is eating very well again, and I have been alternating between chopped clam and shelled shrimp sections, both of which I purchase fresh from the seafood section of my local grocery store.  Gizmo seems to enjoy eating the meat out of the shrimp shell, and then chewing on the remaining shell.  He is taking care of his teeth, no doubt.<You couldn't be doing it any better!> My intentions are to continue to keep an eye on the water chemistry and do water changes as often as necessary for another week and a half.  I am adding medication at 1/2 strength each time that I do a water change, and there is no activated carbon in my filtration system.  I have been artificially cycling another tank for the past two weeks, and anticipate that it will be ready to receive an Ich free Gizmo once I am done with his treatment.  I then intend to drain the tank that he is in now, refill it with new water, and artificially cycle that tank until it can process a 5 ppm concentration of ammonia in an 8 hour period.  The tank that I am currently cycling can accomplish a complete conversion of a 5 ppm concentration of ammonia into nitrite, but my nitrite levels are still through the roof, so I'm assuming that I have another week left before that tank is ready to receive Gizmo.<Probably. You're using the chemical method? I've always used crustaceans to cycle tanks, as it doubles as a live crab holding pen while going through the process, and there's nothing porcupines and puffers like more than small live crabs>   Once I have cycled the tank that Gizmo is currently in, I will use it as a quarantine tank for all new acquisitions to prevent having to deal with this problem again.  I learned some serious lessons from this event, and I thank you very much for your assistance.  I'm confident that Gizmo will pull through this without issue.<It sounds like he's in the best of hands and you two will have much enjoyment to look forward to. If you ever feel up to a challenge, Burrfish make excellent tank mates for porkies, similar and yet distinctly different and with every bit as much personality> Lou Hoffman

Porcupine puffer I have A 55 gallon tank, fish only. I bought a porcupine puffer about a week ago, he was very active in the store. <I just wanted to start off the email with telling you that a 55 gallon tank will not be large enough to accommodate a full grown porc puffer.  The puffer will become large, but the other issue that these fish are so messy that they need the largest tank available to help dissipate the waste they put out.  A single adult porc will need over a 100 gallon tank.> I put him in my tank and he doesn't swim. the first 3 days he wouldn't eat. Now he eats but he doesn't move.  He just hides in the corners or behind my protein skimmers motor. WHY? <It's unusual for a Porc not to be active.  They are some of the fastest fish to be acclimated to captive life.  You didn't mention you had put him in a quarantine tank.  This is something you HAVE to do when dealing with saltwater fish, most of these fish have parasites that can and will be spread to your main display tank.  Having the fish in a smaller quarantine tank offers you time to look the fish over for illness, and have it quickly adapt to you being it's source of food.> I also have checked my ph which is normal and my ammonia levels which are safe. My salinity is normal between .22-.24. My other fish are active just as usually just not the puffer. <Other fish.  Hmmm> I have a Huma Huma trigger, a bi colored angel, a goby, and a tri colored clown fish (Nemo) if that helps you to determine his unusual behavior. <You will definitely need a bigger tank for these fish!  The problem with placing a porc in a tank with these fish, especially without quarantining them is that if your puffer had a parasite, it is now been exposed to the tank and the other fish.  Also, a Huma Huma trigger can be quite territorial, and it probably has already established a territory in that small of a tank.  It is probably picking on your porc puffer.   I have even seen clown fish that are very territorial, picking on otherwise larger aggressive fish added to their established tank.  I would suggest you set up a quarantine tank (20 gallon tank would work), set it up and get it cycling because you might need to move your porc to another tank so it can get used to you and get back to normal.  I suggest you look over the articles on this site: http://www.reefnut.com/Articles.htm They give info on quarantine tanks as well as one written on Puffer care.  They will no doubt help you!> Thanks you for helping me. James <Good luck with the Porc. -Magnus>

Puffed-Up Puffer  6/14/04 Hi, I'm really needing some advice right now <Hi, Pufferpunk here.> My valentini has been inflated on and off for over an hour. This happened after feeding him a shrimp tail (his favorite). He's never puffed up like this. <Something must have spooked him.> I put in a PolyFilter just in case of unknown toxins. I also did a 50% water change even though water levels were good: Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate zero, salinity 1.019, temp 80. <SG sounds a little low.  Better at around 1.023.> He's really upset and jumpy (he's usually very mellow) and is seems to be drifting like a balloon. <He sounds like he must have swallowed some air..  Hold him vertically, tail down, head under water & give him a few gentle shakes, until he "burps" it out.  He may inflate again while you're doing this, but he'll be sucking in water, so it'll be ok.> He uninflated a couple of times (very briefly) then puffed up again. I didn't see him ingest any air but I guess it's a possibility.  He's in a 10g. QT and has been for 3 weeks.  Poor little guy. I feel totally helpless:( Thanks much -Angela <After burping him, I'd leave the lights off & let him rest.  Good luck with the little fellow.  ~PP> Puffer acting normal? Hello- I have a narrow line puffer, i got him when he was really small. <Very nice puffer, one of my favorites! Arothron manilensis> I`ve had him about 2 months. he lives in a 60 gallon saltwater tank with live sand and rock. The rock has tons of holes and caves. He's in the tank with damsel fish, nothing aggressive. <Sounds like a good set up.  But keep in mind this fish can get over 10 inches long as an adult.> The tank is tall. My question in this. During the day he swims all about the tank, no fear at all. He even hangs out in the rock. But one night I went to the tank in the middle of the night and he was hanging out (not swimming) by the filter. This has been his nightly routine. I don't understand. <doesn't sound unusual to me. Not sure what about it you don't understand. Remember, fish don't swim all the time.  They need to rest just like the rest of us.  He just picked that spot to sleep at night.  I have one puffer that sleeps on top of the powerhead!  It's just the place he feels safest to sleep at night.> Also, even though he's quite small, I tried to give him a little variety in his diet of frozen shrimp. <Always a good idea with puffers.  Variety diet is one of the best things any puffer owner can do.> I bought some margarita snails and small crabs. But he shows no interest in them...Should I be worried about this bazaar behavior, or is this normal. Please help! <Each puffer has a different personality, some are voracious snail eaters, others will pick at them when the easier food (like free shrimp) isn't around.  I have two Green Spotted puffers in a tank together and each one of them have such distinct personality and eating habits that it's hard to believe that they are the same species.  One will tear up any snail/crab/crustacean in the tank.  The other doesn't care what's there.  I wouldn't be worried, as long as the puffer is healthy and active then no need to worry.  You can offer it other bits of seafood in it's diet if you wish.  Squid and clams from the local grocer will be a nice addition to it's diet.  Good luck with the puffer!  If you need any other help please let me know. -Magnus> Puffer Breathing With One Gill 6/10/04 Hi crew <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I'd like to know why my puffer (Arothron meleagris) often during the day breath by only one gill keeping the other closed and sometimes it has both gills opened normally? <Is he "flashing (scratching) it's gill against objects?  Is it breathing rapidly near the surface, or normally? These symptoms can be a result of gill flukes, but if he isn't showing any of these, it can be common for puffers to choose to breathe through one or the other gill.  See:  http://article.dphnet.com/cat-02/flukes1.shtml  Also, always check your water parameters, when a fish is acting different.  Are you doing regular water changes?> Two weeks ago I dipped it in formalin for three times and it had both gills opened.  Now one closed !!!!!  What can I do?  Please help me, I like that fish very much! <It is never a good idea to medicate a fish, until you are sure of a disease.  Puffers especially, are sensitive to meds & it can do more harm than good.> Thanks, Lorenzo <Good luck with your puffer friend!  ~Pufferpunk>

Unusual Porcupine Puffer Behaviour 4/19/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a 125gal saltwater tank and my puffer likes to lay against the blower that circulates the water (I think that's what it is called). Do you know why he does that? <That sounds a little unusual for a porcupine puffer. I would check the water parameters. Ammonia, nitrite, etc. If he's hanging out where the water is constantly circulating he may be having oxygen issues.> Lisa Riley <Check all water parameters and get back to me. ~PP>

Puffer question Hello, I keep getting conflicting information on this. I am trying to find out if a spiny box puffer (Chilomycterus schoepfi) and the dog face puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus) release poison under stress or when they die. Some websites say yes, some say no. I was wondering if you guys knew. Thank You, Jonathan <it's actually a weird sort of answer... It depends on how long the fish have lived in captivity.  the longer the puffer/boxfish lives in captivity the less toxic it becomes.  These fish create their neurotoxin thanks to their choice in diets.  snails, crustaceans, etc...  Once placed in the home aquarium the humans are unable to duplicate the exact meals they would eat in the wild.  and their toxic levels decrease.  At one time the aquarium hobby thought that marine puffers would shed this poisonous mucus sporadically threw out it's life and kill the tankmates.  which kept many people away from these amazing fish.  They realize now that the toxin is held within the skin more so than on it,  also the gonads, and liver of the fish.  The real threat is other tankmates nibbling on the body after the fish has died.  I know many sights have said both yes and no... and ironically the are both right.  I have seen a large recently wild caught puffer die in a tank, and other tankmates became sick.  while I have seen puffers that are 10 years old die in a tank and the other tankmates seem totally unaffected. Here is a article on puffers that I think you might enjoy. deals with puffers, but makes mention of poisons and dangers. http://reefnut.com/Puffer%20Article.htm Thanks, -Magnus.>

Puffer question Hello! <Hi! Ananda here today...> I am new to the hobby and just got a 125g saltwater tank. Please excuse me in advance if I am listing too much info! <Too much info? Truthfully, more is better.> The setup has fish, live rock and live sand. Wet/dry system w/ protein skimmer.  There were 9 assorted fishes (yellow tang, a large Emp angel, yellow cow, powder blue tang, 3 blue damsels, a percula clown, and a semi-large maroon/gold clown) that came with the tank, all of which I had quarantined at my LFS until my tank was ready.  All of the fish get along great and have been together for at least a year. <Oh, my, that is a volatile mix. The cowfish will get huge. Do research their special needs. The maroon clown is likely to get mean and harm the percula clown -- you've got the most aggressive clown (the maroon) in with one of the least aggressive clowns, and that's a recipe for clown wars, which the percula is likely to lose. I'd get the Perc into a different tank.> I decided to pick up an additional fish at the store which I thought was so cool- a rather small Hawaiian blue puffer. <Canthigaster jactator, presumably.> I had seen it in the store for at least 2 weeks and it looked rather healthy w/ no signs of problems; it was isolated in a small tank of its own. <Watching it for a while is a good idea.> The LFS is a very well run/maintained, clean store. I decided to drop all the fish in my tank simultaneously (after acclimating them) and they all immediately were in heaven (my 9 were in a 20g QT at the store, so I'm sure they were happy to be back in their 125). No signs of stress- all 10 immediately swimming about and eating well. <Yikes on several fronts: the 20g QT, dropping all the fish in at once (which could lead to a massive ammonia spike!), and adding the puffer along with everything else without QTing it at home first -- and not having a QT tank yourself! I'm amazed every fish is okay so far.> Later that evening, I couldn't find the puffer anywhere- turns out it went underneath a live rock and mounted itself upside down, belly flush rock AND changed colors (maybe shape too?) to blend in perfectly w/ the rock. It was like that again this morning only this time on top of a rock. It eventually woke up and started swimming about and eating this morning- colors are back to normal. <Surely, it was significantly stressed by the introduction.> I couldn't find any listing of this "camouflage" characteristic listed anywhere about this fish. I didn't know if this was normal (if it is, how cool!), or if it is sick? <I don't have experience with this species, but I have known puffers to change color to blend in with their surroundings and darken when stressed.> I also noticed a small blotch this morning which looked like sand or salt on one side of it, but it seemed to be gone an hour later, so I'm assuming that it was substrate. <Maybe. Keep an eye on it.> Anyway, appreciate any 411 you can give me on my new fish! <Start with the WWM site and info about puffers, and with Fishbase, at http://www.fishbase.org > Thanks! Sincerely, Michael Becker <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

Re: puffer question Hi Ananda! <Hi!> Thanks for getting back to me!  Well, a week has gone by and so far so good; the small blotch on the puffer must've been sand as it was only visible for about an hour or so and I haven't seen anything since. All ten fish get along great, the puffer blended right in and it's very funny how the cow and it share freeze dried shrimp- taking turns nipping at it back and forth. It's like watching a ping pong match! <Sounds amusing.> The puffer does the "camouflage" thing every night when going to sleep, I'm assuming that it's just what it does for protection at night- very cool to watch him "turn off" his colors and blend in to the rock! I'll check out the sites you mentioned on puffers to see if it mentions this characteristic, although I have yet to find anything on it. <There are many fish that change colors at night... good to hear it seems to be his normal thing to do.> As far as the maroon and the percula, all I can say is this: the maroon is close to 4" and the Perc is close to 1.5". They swim together, eat together and sleep together- pretty much inseparable, and have been together for about a year. I hope what your predicting doesn't happen, and I'd really hate to separate them since it seems like they're buds! <Yours is the one-in-a-million maroon that's tolerating a Perc, then... sounds like the maroon is probably female and has decided that the Perc is her mate. Go ahead and keep them together, but watch closely for signs that the relationship may be souring.> In fact, I avoided getting a lion fish for fear it would eat the Perc and then the maroon would be sans it's pal!   <Good decision.> I have seen no signs of aggression from the maroon, but I will continue to monitor. <Good idea.> You'll be happy to hear that I set up my own 20 gal QT last week, <Yup> and I just bought a few new fish which are in it for now: a relatively small-med blue "hippo" tang, a med blonde Naso tang, and a small marine Betta. <Oy. Never QT more than one fish at a time -- if one gets sick, they *all* get sick, and you risk losing everything in the QT. And I'm not sure all those tangs will work out and am concerned that you may have exceeded a good stocking level in the main. I will see if I can have one of the others comment on that aspect.> I plan on monitoring them in the QT for at least 2 weeks before putting them in my 125, then I think I will just about be done. <Make it four weeks, minimum. Marine ich has a long lifespan, and can easily "hide" for more than three weeks before appearing on fish in a QT.> I'll keep you posted! Thanks again! sincerely, Michael Becker <You're quite welcome. Do check out the forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk , too. --Ananda>

Puffer question III (2/26/04) Hello Ananda! <Hi again!> Thanks once again for such a quick reply! <I try!> The maroon clown is definitely a female as she just started doing the "curly shuffle", moving sand all over the place with her tail. I can't imagine her laying eggs though unless the little percula REALLY is her mate!   <Well, one of two outcomes come to mind: the maroon thinks that the Perc is her genetically compatible mate, may start to spawn, and then beat up the Perc because he isn't helping out. > Nevertheless, I will continue to monitor. Maybe this is the one in a million scenario! <Do monitor on the chance that it ends up being one of the 999,999 in a million cases!> Heck, nothing in this tank makes sense to me: the yellow long horned cow follows me around the room,  will come right up and eat out of my hand, let me pet it, and will even let you hold it in your hand! <An amazingly tame individual. Did I give you the link to the Cowfish, Puffers, and More discussion list? If not, enjoy: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CowfishPuffers_andMore/ > The puffer doesn't just change colors at night! It does this when it decides it is gonna go incognito and hide for a nap. I have named the fish "Houdini" as it can blend into the rock and completely disappear- then it takes about 30 minutes to spot it (have to look for its eyes). <Maybe it's just challenging you to play another game of Find the Disappearing Fish.> Too many tangs? Too many fish? Hmmm....  Well I did mention it was a 125 g (60w x 20d x 24h), with a 40 g sump, but perhaps I should have mentioned that I do have a lot of live rock and dead (dried?) corals all over the place, so there are tons of hiding places? <That will help, but I would still consider a tank double this size for the future.> The previous owner had a huge unicorn tang, a marine Betta, a diamond goby, and couple more damsels in there (but elected to keep those) for over a year without any prob.s (not saying that he was right to do so, but I was just kind of following the formula which he had success with).  I had also read one inch per every three gallons was a good barometer. <Eeek! For freshwater, it might not be too bad. For saltwater, though, 1" per 10 gallons is closer, but still not at all a good way to stock a tank.> I currently have about 24"s between the 10 fish and when I add the new 3, I will be adding another 9" for a total of 33".  According that formula, I should be in the clear, but I also took into account the dimensions of the tank, the tank's setup (wet/dry, bio balls, protein skimmer, UV sterilizer, 125 lbs live rock and 120 lbs live sand), and will be having my tank serviced every two weeks. <If you can learn to service your tank yourself, you can use the $$ you save to get yourself a bigger tank down the road.> Please let me know if my calculations are incorrect- I have only been going on what I've read on the web and been told by the LFS! <Do realize that most LFSs have their bottom line as their first priority.> Four weeks it is then in the QT !  and now that I know for future reference, no more than one fish in the QT at a time (although it appears that I'm pretty much on my tank's inhabitant limit!). <Aye, if not over that. Frequent water changes and aggressive skimming can help. But learn how to maintain your tank yourself so you can get a bigger tank for when these juveniles get bigger.> Thanks again for all of your help! Best always, Michael Becker ps. I have attached a pic of my tank just in case your were interested. <Thanks for the photo! Do check out the WetWeb chat forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk ,too! --Ananda>

Puffers sleeping nose-up! (02/23/04) Dear Ananda, <Hi!> Hello, I was frequenting your Sharpnose puffer FAQs and came across the attached question from Elizabeth Mackie, and would like to contribute some info. <I'm including a snip from the post you've mentioned: "...at night when he "sleeps," he hangs vertically (nose-up) at the very top of one of the corners of the tank.  I have never seen a fish do that before." > I have a Canthigaster compressa Sharpnose puffer, and he WILL sleep in the vertical position if there is light bothering him. <Ah! Good to know!> Sometimes he will go up in the corner vertically and sleep, but usually he sleeps horizontally on top of a powerhead (for warmth perhaps? Tank is around 78 degrees.) <For warmth, perhaps, and there's the possibility he likes the massage action from the powerhead. Your puffer is not unique in this, at least.> Anyway, I often catch him sleeping vertically behind the powerhead, and my only guess is because I have the lights in my room on past his bedtime when this happens. He is the cutest fish! I have had him for several years, and this seems to be normal behavior for him (well, his actual gender unknown!) Hope I could help! Rob Lewis Long Beach, CA USA <Thank you for the info. I ALWAYS appreciate getting more or better info relating to puffers! --Ananda>

What do Those Puffers do?  They Sets and Thinks and Swims and Sets Thanks Pufferpunk, <It's me PP, again> My puffer is about 5 to 7 inches, big guy! I worried and stewed all night about him, Do they do a lot of sitting on the bottom or hiding in the rocks? <During the day they can.  Most puffers are nocturnal. when I go scuba diving, I rarely see puffers during the day, but plenty at night.> Gizmo has been for the last 2 days. He will come to the glass and greet you like he is hungry like this morning,   <aren't they always?> then later he goes to the bottom and stays for quit awhile like tonight when I got home from work. I will go over to the glass and get his attention . he will come to the top, like he is awaiting food. I usually work all week and all day, so I never paid much mind to it.. Is it normal? Or am I just Puffer-ed out? I never know what to think, but I do know when he is not acting right... I think something is still wrong. Water is good, Skimmer is skimming, not to much current, but enough. He doesn't usually play in the bubbles, but has spent some time there the last little while. <If he is still greeting you, playing in the bubbles & eating, what are you worrying about?  Here's a cute link to some home puffer movies you might like: http://www.puffers.org/  Maybe this will cheer you up!> This could drive me crazy.   Thanks Sandy <Stay calm, your precious puff sounds fine.  Try feeding him a little less, maybe he's just full--PP>

Puffing puffer 12/12/03 Hi, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I am forever searching online for answers to this question: What freshwater/brackish Puffers Actually puff up like the saltwater ones do?! <All puffers puff when frightened, threatened or stressed.> My husband and I adore puffers but are not ready to take the plunge into a huge saltwater tank, so we are trying to find puffers for our fresh/brack tank that actually puff up! <What's a fresh/brackish tank?  Either it's FW or BW, it can't be both.> We recently went to a local pet store and they told us that the Green spotted puffer would puff up. Needless to say, here it is about a month later and the only time that he puffs is when he eats a lot of food! He is doing well though, and we love him, but we are still in search of a Puffer that actually puffs! I don't know if this is asking too much, but is there any way you could give me a list of puffers that actually puff, for a fresh/brack tank ? <Bad idea!  It is very stressful for a puffer to puff.  Please don't try to make them puff!  It can eventually kill them.  Also, you keep mentioning a FW/BW tank.  GSPs are BW fish that prefer high-end BW-SW as adults.  They grow to 6" & need at least a 20-30g tank by themselves.  As they get older they get very aggressive & kill their tankmates.> I WOULD BE SO THANKFUL! If not possible, could you lead me to the right path to find it myself online? < http://biomechanics.bio.uci.edu/_html/nh_biomech/pufferfish/puffer.htm> Thanks So much for having such an informative website, and so much help! Meghan~ <I hope you will leave your puffer deflated & happy--Pufferpunk>

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