Marine puffers are fun, cute, interactive,
and big—all true marine puffer species attain at
least 12 inches in length. Take into account their
active nature and messy feeding habits, and you
have a handful. Of course, these hurdles have never deterred me,
so I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me in my decade-long care of marine pufferfish.
Housing and Filtration
Your first tasks will be housing your potential eating machine
and maintaining good water quality. Like most marine fish,
puffers won’t tolerate measurable levels of ammonia and nitrite,
or nitrates higher than around 30 ppm. Maintaining proper
water parameters in your puffer aquarium is easier said than
done: You’re going to need a big tank with a big filter. An
aquarium with a capacity of 125 gallons is going to be the
minimum size for any Arothron or Diodon species, and you’ll
need an even bigger tank for some of the rare but beautiful
giants like the map puffer Arothron mappa. Obviously, the larger
the aquarium, the better. I house my map and dogface puffers in
a 225-gallon system.
Once you have the aquarium, you’ll need a filtration system.
An oversized protein skimmer and a high-capacity biological
filter should be used, as your puffer will produce copious
amounts of waste. There are many efficient protein skimmers
available on the market today, and I recommend purchasing a
protein skimmer that’s one size larger than the one rated for
your aquarium size. For biological filtration, I’ve found wet/dry
or fluidized bed style filters to be effective for detoxifying the
large amount of ammonia your puffer will produce. My puffer
system is filtered by a 60-gallon wet/dry filter and two protein
skimmers to ensure pristine water conditions. Don’t forget the
most important aspect to keeping your water quality in tip-top
shape: water changes! Weekly or bi-weekly water changes of at
least 25 percent are necessary to maintain proper water quality.
Ensure that the temperature, pH, and salinity of the new water
are matched to those of your aquarium water.
Choosing a Healthy Puffer
When considering a puffer in a pet store, look for one that
appears alert and has clear eyes, a slightly rounded stomach,
and no signs of disease. Signs of disease can include small white
spots, open sores, fin rot, cloudy or opaque eyes, or an emaciated
look. Once selected, your new puffer should be isolated in a
separate quarantine tank for a few weeks to ensure that it’s eating
and disease-free before introducing it to your display aquarium.