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 known by many common names, including the Amazon puffer and South American puffer (SAP). 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. The SAP can be found in the Amazon basin and nearby areas in many habitat types, from floodplain lakes to rushing riverbeds.
South American puffers love to explore every corner and crevice 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. 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 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. To ensure that all eggs hatch and are removed, you will need to use multiple deworming treatments. 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.
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. 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. 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 are you allowed to keep in your tank? You can either keep them as an individual, or in groups 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?
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. 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. 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. To prevent them from starving, you need to clip the tips of their teeth using a pair of 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. 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.