Care Guide for Amazon Puffers: Freshwater Puffer for Community Tanks
Puffers are fascinating fish in the aquarium hobby because of their unusual, globelike shape and intelligent personalities, but many species grow incredibly large, require brackish water, or are too aggressive to be kept with other tankmates. Fortunately, the Amazon puffer is one of the few freshwater “community puffers” that only grows to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long and can live with other fish. Find out how to care for this amazing oddball and see if it’s the right pufferfish for you.
What is the Amazon Puffer?
Colomesus Asellus has many common names including South American puffer (SAP) and Amazon puffer. Its golden yellow body is covered with splotchy, dark bands that look like a bumblebee pattern, and it has a white underbelly with a black spot near the base of its tail. You can find the SAP in all parts of the Amazon basin and its surrounding areas, including in floodplain lakes and rushing rivers.
South American puffers are curious creatures that love to examine everything in their environment.
Fish farms have not found the secret to profitably breeding Amazon puffers in captivity yet, so all of the ones sold at your fish store are caught from the wild. Many of them might be extremely thin and have parasitic infections. Therefore, do not buy a puffer that has a concave abdomen or is covered in white spots. Even if the specimens are healthy, it is important to quarantine them first in an additional tank to prevent spreading diseases to other aquariums. Due to the possibility of them contracting pathogens, it is a good idea to treat them immediately with a trio quarantine medication. (This process is similar to the vaccination of pet dogs and cats that you bring home.)
How do you deworm a puffer? Pufferfish are especially prone to internal parasites like tapeworms, but the dewormers only get rid of adult worms and do not affect unhatched eggs. Therefore, you must apply multiple deworming treatments to ensure all the eggs have hatched and are eliminated. We treat our puffers with the three-week-old quarantine medication trio, then wait two more weeks. Next we follow up with a 5-day treatment of Fritz ParaCleanse (using the instructions on the box) and then wait a month. The final step is a seven-day PraziPro treatment. For more information on how to treat fish parasites, read the full article here.
Are Amazon puffers puffy? They can take in water and air to defend themselves, but they are not stressed out for this purpose. There are many pictures of them in an inflated state online. If you need to transport them, consider using a small plastic tub or catch cup instead of a fish net to prevent them from sucking in air.
How long do Amazon pufferfish live? Hobbyists have reported owning their South American puffers for up to 8-10 years and sometimes even longer.
How to Set up an Aquarium for Amazon Puffers
These puffers can swim quite well so we recommend that they be kept in at least a 30 gallon aquarium. 55 gallons would also be a good choice. They can be kept in a pH level of 6.0-8.2, soft or hard water, 72-82degF, or 22-28degC, because they have lived in so many habitats.
How much Amazon puffers can one person keep in a tank? A group of six is best. If they start to fight and become territorially aggressive, you should consider keeping them in a group of at least six. You can add decorations, aquarium plants and hardscape to block their sight lines and give them new areas to explore.
Use tall background plants like vallisneria as moving obstacles for the pufferfish to swim around, thus providing greater enrichment in their environment.
Can Amazon puffers live with other fish? Yes, we consider them to be “community fish” compared to other puffers, but they still have a bit of attitude and sometimes can nip at slower, long-finned fish. They are also prone to eating shrimp and invertebrates. Instead, keep them other similar-sized, peaceful fish that are equally as energetic, such mollies, swordtails, larger tetras and rasboras, and dwarf cichlids.
Why do my Amazon puffers keep glass surfing? “Glass surfing” is when a fish repeatedly swims up and down along the tank walls, and it could be caused by stress, boredom, defense of territory, and other reasons. Although there are no cures for glass surfing, hobbyists have tried many things to help their fish. They’ve added black paint to reduce reflections, increased flow with a powerhead and blocked their favorite corner with tall decorations.
What Do Amazon Puffers Eat?
SAPs, like many puffers have four teeth that are constantly growing in their fronts. This “beak” allows them to chew through hard shells of crustaceans or mollusks, just as other puffers. To prevent their teeth from becoming too long, you must grind them down by feeding all sorts of crunchy foods, such as bladder snails, ramshorn snails, and freeze-drilled krill. It may be hard to train, but some hobbyists have been able to feed Repashy gel food mixed in crushed oyster shells (sold for chicken feed), or dipped rocks with Repashy so the Amazon puffers can scratch against hard surfaces. You can try frozen blackworms and bloodworms if your puffers are struggling to put on weight. Although these foods won’t reduce their tooth size, they can be very helpful for puffers.
Frozen bloodworms are a good treat to help new Amazon puffers gain weight, but then transition them to hard, crunchy foods to grind down their teeth.
How do you clip a pufferfish’s teeth? If the hard foods are not filing down their beaks enough, your puffer’s teeth may become so overgrown that they can no longer properly eat. You can prevent them starving by trimming their tips with a pair sharp cuticle trimmers. You can do your research to determine which method is best for you. However, a common technique to use is to add 2 to 4 drops of clove oil to 1 liter (4.25 cups) of warm water. Add the puffer into the mild anesthetic solution and it should become sedated within a minute or two. Hold the drowsy puffer gently in your fist; if the puffer is too slippery, use surgical gloves or a fish net (wrapped like a blanket around the puffer) to get a better grip. As needed, trim the tip of the lower and upper teeth with the cuticle scissors. Place the fish back into fresh water and it should wake up again within a few minutes. This process may need to repeated depending on how often the fish eats.
If the thought of fish dentistry is not appealing to you, consider one of their smaller relatives, the pea puffer or Indian dwarf puffer. They only grow to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, can be kept in smaller fish tanks, and do not have a problem with overgrown teeth.