Tetraodon MBU, The Under Water Giant Puppy
The Tetraodon MBU puffer is the largest freshwater species of puffer fish. Getting 22+ inches in a home aquarium. With the fish getting so big, most aquarists struggle to keep one healthy. Although my largest fish is only 22 inches in size, I believe they will grow to be as big as 30 inches depending upon how they are raised.
The first question is always what size of an aquarium? Some estimates range from 300 to 1000 gallons. The reality is the foot print is much more important than how many gallons. For a fish with a length of around 30 inches, a tank that measures 8ft in length and 4ft forward to back and is only 2ft high works better than a tank that is 8ft tall, 8ft wide, and only 2ft deep. More area to swim will always be better and the more gallons of water generally makes waste management easier in an aquarium.
My current aquarium for my second MBU puffer is 72x48x24 inches tall which is 360 gallons. The MBU itself is about 13 inches currently. My previous MBU was 22 inches before he passed at 5 yrs old. He passed much too early to a wild caught disease with no known cure as the necropsy revealed. It had created many lesions on his heart, other organs, and taxed the system over time.
As far as waste management goes, I change 100 gallons from the 340 daily. This keeps nitrates at 0 in the aquarium. The automatic water change system ensures that the aquarium is always topped up. Live plants are also beneficial in the reduction of waste in this aquarium. If you have a 22-inch fish eating 6-8oz of food per day, the fish’s feces are about the same size as small dogs.
Most owners find it difficult to manage their diet. Shelled food is what they need the most. These include clams, muscles and snails as well as crayfish and crayfish. This helps keep their oversized teeth also known as a beak trimmed down. I feed my MBU puffers shelled foods 5 days a week and softer foods 2 days a week. Fozen blood worms, cocktail shrimp and fozen cocktail shrimp are some examples. These can be soaked in vitamin supplements. I haven’t had luck getting any of my MBU puffers on dry foods after trying for years. There are others out there who have had success. If they grow large, you should be prepared to pay up to $10 per day for food. The $300 monthly is akin to keeping a very large dog on a specialized diet. A variety is important as it’s too easy to rely on only one type of food and develop vitamin deficiencies.
While live foods stimulate the hunt instincts of puffers, parasites can also be brought in by them. Also, there can be danger from claws from crayfish and fiddler crabs etc. It is recommended to cut one of the claws before feeding so the live food can’t clamp an eye of the puffer.
One benefit to feeding lots of shelled foods is that the shells can be left in the aquarium and it helps buffer the water. The shells can be almost turned into a crushed coral substrate. This helps buffer up the pH and alkalinity of the water. They eat more shells as they grow and become larger. If you are using sand, you may use a coarse net or a sifter to collect shells and sand.
Maintaining a pH greater than 7.0 is advisable. My puffer is 7.4 pH. If my tap water were higher, I would also keep it at that level. Because so much water is changing, it’s more sensible to adapt the puffer for the tap water pH plus shells rather than to alter it. This is especially true with automated daily water changing.
The puffers have excellent vision and will grow to recognize their owners from across the room easily, which makes this puffer a great wet pet. Their eyes become closer to each other as they grow larger. This causes the puffer to have to look at its food from the side, then line itself up and then eat it. There are times when tank mates swim in for food at the right moment and can be eaten by mistake. It happens about once in six months.
The right tank mates can help reduce casualties. It is best to choose peaceful and passive tank buddies. Loaches and corydoras love clams and other meaty food and will eat them at any time. An Ellipsifer Eel was found in Lake Tang. It was my first MBU puffer. My MBU puffers’ tank mates have been fancy guppies and tetras as well as siamese alga eaters, plecos and rainbow fish. Geophagus species are also good choices. Flagtail Prochilodus (or Giraffe Catfish), were not good choices.
Anything pointy is best when it comes to decorating a MBU Puffer aquarium. The puffer can be sent running if it is scared. A sharp object or rock can cause severe damage. I like to line the sides and back of my aquarium with live plants. This provides visual barriers and allows the fish to hide in the weeds if they’d like to. I like to use lots of Anubias sp. and Java ferns as MBU puffers like to move the sand around hunting for snails etc.
My tank stays at mid 70s for temperature. I don’t use aquarium heaters, I heat the whole room. Partly because I run a lot of aquariums, but mostly so I can eliminate any heater malfunction from the list of potential killers for a MBU puffer. An advanced fish like a puffer requires extensive care. It is important to automate as many problems as possible and prevent them from becoming a problem.
Moving a MBU puffer is best done under water. They can trap air if they get too puffy. They can get trapped air if they cannot expel it. MBU puffers will stretch and inflate and deflate quickly from time to time in the aquarium. This is normal, as long as it’s unrelated to stress factors like loud noises or other stressors. I liken a puffer to a human fainting. A human fainting takes as much shock as a puffer puffing up. It’s simply a defense mechanism.
Check out my MBU Puffer species profile video for more information and to see some concepts in action.