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 exactly?
Colomesus Asellus is also known as the Amazon puffer or South American puffer (SAP). It has a golden yellow body with dark bands that look like a bee pattern. Also, it has a white underbelly and a black spot near 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. Avoid buying a puffer with a concave stomach or white spots. Even if your specimens are in good health, you should quarantine them in separate tanks to prevent them spreading disease to other aquariums. We recommend that you proactively treat them with a combination of three quarantine medications in order to eliminate any parasitic, fungal or bacterial diseases they might have. (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. 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. The final step is a seven-day PraziPro treatment. For more information on how to treat fish parasites, read the full article here.
Can Amazon puffers puff up. 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
We recommend keeping these puffers in at most a 30-gallon aquarium. However, 55 gallons would work well. 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 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 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 Does 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. Although it can be difficult to master, many hobbyists have succeeded in feeding Repashy gel food with crushed oyster shells (sold under chicken feed), or they have dipped rocks into Repashy so that Amazon puffers scratch their teeth against hard surfaces. If you are having a hard time putting weight on your newly purchased puffers, try frozen bloodworms and live blackworms at first. 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. 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. 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. The cuticle cutters can be used to trim the tips of the lower and upper teeth. 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.