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 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. The SAP is found all over the Amazon basin and surrounding areas in many different kinds of habitats, ranging from floodplain lakes to rushing rivers.
South American puffers are very curious and like to closely examine every nook and cranny of their surroundings.
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. Don’t buy a puffer if it has a concave abdomen, or is covered with 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. Because of the high likelihood of pathogens, we recommend proactively treating them with a trio of quarantine medications to clear them of any bacterial, fungal, or parasitic illnesses they may have. This is the same process as when you bring your pet cats and dogs home for vaccination.
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. For our personal puffers, we treat them with the quarantine medication trio and then wait 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. As our final deworming treatment, we apply 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. Images of their inflated state can be found 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
Because these puffers are fairly active swimmers, we recommend keeping them in at least a 30-gallon aquarium, but 55 gallons would be even better. These puffers can be kept in any pH level between 6.0 and8.0 and soft or hard water. They are able to withstand a variety of habitats and temperatures of 72-82°F (22-28°C).
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. Also, they are prone to eating invertebrates like snails and shrimp. 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. In order to prevent their teeth becoming too long, grind them with all kinds of crunchy foods such as bladder snails or ramshorns. 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. While these foods will not help file down their teeth, few puffers can resist them.
Frozen Bloodworms are a great treat for new Amazon puffers to gain weight and then transition to harder, crunchier foods to reduce 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. Use a pair of sharp cuticle scissors to trim the tips of their teeth. This will prevent them from becoming starving. Make sure to research the best method for you. A common technique is to add about 2-4 drops clove oil to 1 Liter (or 4.25 cups) water. In a mild anesthetic, add the puffer to the solution. The puffer should feel sedated within a matter of 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. 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.