Puffer fish have a great appeal with many fish keepers as they look adorable and there are many species to choose from, some are dwarf varieties, some can grow quite large but most of these species puffer fish can be very aggressive so lots or research should be carried out before they are purchased and added to any aquarium.
They get their common name from their unique ability to inflate themselves with air or water so that they can increase their body size up to three times their original size; this ploy is believed to ward off predators fooling them into thinking that the puffer fish is larger than it actually is. The only other fish that has this ability is the Porcupine fish; these are clearly differentiated from Puffer fish as their bodies are covered in spines.
Puffer fish can be found all over the world in various habitats, they are saltwater varieties, freshwater puffer fish and freshwater puffer fish that also inhabit brackish water conditions. One word of warning, all puffer fish, including freshwater puffer fish have a poison in their bodies, this is called tetrodotoxin and can paralyse humans if large enough quantities are ingested, in some cases it can also lead to fatalities. Some puffer fish are a delicacy in the East but the chefs have to be specially licensed to serve up this fish with the poison glands removed making them safe to eat.
Another reason that many keepers find puffer fish so appealing is their unique personalities, despite their aggression towards tank mates, they do become very tame towards their keepers and will swim to the front of the tank when the keeper approaches as they get ready for their next meal. Many of the species have really cute faces, one that comes to mind is the dog-faced puffer, and this fish has the puppy eyes that many people just cannot resist. The only downside is the aggression that they display to their tank mates and towards each other, this can turn really nasty with some specimens and they may even kill other puffer fish when defending their territories, this can be eased by keeping them in a roomy aquarium allowing each tank member the space to have their own territory, adding dcor and plants will help to divide the aquarium and break up each puffer fishes line of sight. A tight fitting lid should also be used, they are excellent jumpers and the last thing you want to happen is for your puffer fish to finish up on the carpet.
Puffer fish are also high waste producers, an excellent filtration system must be used to cope with the large bio load, regular water changes will also need to be performed, at least 10% weekly to keep the water quality high, any signs of the water quality dropping can bring on the onset of health problems for your puffer fish.
The diet of puffer fish is also crucial to keep them in top health and to keep them interested in eating properly. Puffer fish are greedy eaters when offered the correct foods, they may ignore commercial flakes or pellets, offering them live or frozen foods gives much better results. Prawns, lance fish, chopped earthworms, bloodworms and small pieces of fish can all be offered. One important aspect of the diet is providing the puffer fish with shelled crustaceans or snails to keep their beaks trimmed down, the shells will grind down the beak to an acceptable level, these beaks are growing all of the time, if they are allowed to get too long, your puffer fish will struggle to feed and you may have to trim the beak yourself to correct matters.