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 is also known as the Amazon puffer or South American puffer (SAP). Its golden yellow body has dark, splotchy bands that look similar to a bumblebee swarm. The underbelly is white with a black spot at 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 these puffers may be very skinny and infected with parasitic diseases. Therefore, do not buy a puffer that has a concave abdomen or is covered in white spots. Even if you purchase relatively healthy specimens, make sure to quarantine them in a separate tank first to ensure they do not spread diseases to your 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 that of your pets cats and dogs.
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. You must use multiple deworming methods to make sure all eggs are hatched and eliminated. Our personal puffers are treated with the trio of quarantine medications and left to wait for two weeks. We then follow that up with a 5-day Fritz ParaCleanse treatment (using the instructions in the box), and then wait for 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.
Do Amazon puffers puff up? Yes, they can suck in water or air as a defense mechanism, but do not deliberately stress them out to see this behavior. You can view pictures online that show them in an inflated state. 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
We recommend keeping these puffers in at most a 30-gallon aquarium. However, 55 gallons would work well. Because they live in such a wide variety of habitats in the wild, they are quite hardy and can be kept in pH levels of 6.0-8.0, soft or hard water, and 72-82degF (22-28degC).
How many Amazon puffers can you keep in a tank? They are best kept either as an individual or in a group of six or more. If they start to fight and become territorially aggressive, you should consider keeping them in a group of at least six. To block their view and provide them with interesting areas to explore, add decorations, aquarium plants, or hardscape.
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 can also be prone to eating insects like shrimp and snails. 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?
Like many puffers, SAPs have four, continually growing teeth in the front of their mouths that form a “beak,” enabling them to chomp through the hard shells of crustaceans and mollusks. You can grind their teeth by feeding them a variety of crunchy foods like bladder snails and ramshorn snails. This will prevent them from getting too long. 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. Frozen bloodworms or live blackworms are great options if you have trouble getting your puffers to weigh in. These foods won’t help your teeth get straighter, but they are very popular with 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. Do your research to find out which method works best for you, but a common technique is to add 2-4 drops of clove oil per 1 liter (about 4.25 cups) of water. The mild anesthetic solution should be added to the puffer. It should go unconscious within a few minutes. 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. Use the cuticle cutters to trim off the pointy tips of the upper and lower teeth as needed. 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.