Tired of your neon tetras? Gouramis aren’t doing it for you anymore? Rainbowfish letting you down? If your tank seems overly drab, it’s time to cycle out to a new fishy community- one that includes a whole bunch of pudgy, smiling faces. The Amazon Pufferfish is a charming little companion that brightens any tank and offers an abundance in the personality department. And, if you’re worried about having to switch to a brackish set-up, you can swallow those concerns. Luckily for us, these chubby pals are freshwater fish.
South American Roots
Amazingly, the Amazon Puffer (otherwise known as Colomesus asellus, South American Freshwater Puffer, Bumble Bee Puffer Fish, and Brazilian Puffer) has never been successfully bred in captivity. Therefore every Amazon Pufferfish you come across is direct from its home in the Amazon River in South America. It migrates both up and down rivers to different flood estuaries, which means that it is a hardier puffer than usual and is tolerant of a variety of different conditions. They feed naturally on things like plants and crustaceans, and are unique in that they do not guard their eggs but instead leave them on the river bottom to drift downstream as larvae. As fully grown adults they are usually around 3-inchs long, but have been recorded to get as large as 5-inches.
The “Overstuffed Bee”
The Amazon Puffer is nicknamed the “Bumble Bee Puffer” because of its round yellow body and splotchy black markings. While markings may be different for each puffer as well as how bright its colors are, every Amazon Puffer has a distinct spot on its underside that is large and dark. This is how it can be differentiated from the Banded Puffer, which has similar looks. All pufferfish have beaks which are actually teeth, giving them their comical pooched-lip look. Amazon Puffers will puff up if threatened as a defense mechanism- but it’s highly advisable to keep them from ever being in a situation where they feel the need to do so.
In My Aquarium?
Amazon Pufferfish are, happily, not like other puffers such as the Dwarf Pufferfish (or Pea Puffer) which loves to terrorize other tankmates. Instead, Amazon Puffers do amazingly well in non-aggressive communities with plenty of space. They do best in schools of three or more, but need a larger tank when kept together, as they usually do use all of the space at hand. A live-planted tank with hiding spaces and stalks for the puffers to move through is advisable as well. While these puffers aren’t aggressive, they may nip at long fins of slower-moving tankmates, so fast-moving schools of community fish or larger, more intelligent fish are better as companions.
The Bad News
Remember the puffer beak we mentioned earlier? Unfortunately, those beaks are made out of teeth- growing teeth. And these teeth need to be trimmed. Some sources say that feeding your puffer dried shrimp and snails will help keep the teeth trimmed appropriately, but others say that, inevitably, you’ll have to trim those teeth yourself. The jury is out on that one, but either way, if your puffer’s beak isn’t taken care of, it will eventually become overgrown to the point where it won’t be able to eat anything. A varied diet for your puffer including dried shrimp, frozen or dried bloodworms, snails, and other tasty treats will help not only keep its weight on but also keep its beak from being overgrown.
The Good News
But they’re so darn cute. They are very intelligent and full of spunk, constantly watching you and their surroundings for entertainment and food. They’ll even obsess over their own reflections if your tank doesn’t provide proper planting along the glass in the corners. Their method of swimming is fascinating to watch and their smiling faces won’t fail to make your day just a teeny bit better. They may be hard to find, and they may be a little hard to feed, but they’re worth every nuisance snail you pick up from Petco (they’ll give them to you for free- just ask nicely). Your puffers will love your tank community, and when they associate you with the food you give them, they’ll love you too. For pudgy aquarium pals, Amazon Puffers are your best bet.