Care Guide for Amazon Puffers- Freshwater Puffer to 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. It has a golden yellow body with dark, splotchy bands that look similar to a bumblebee design. The underbelly is white with a black spot at the base of its tail. The SAP can be found in the Amazon basin and nearby areas in many habitats, from floodplain lakes to rushing streams.
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. Don’t buy a puffer if it has a concave abdomen, or is covered with 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. A trio of quarantine medicines should be used to prevent them from contracting any parasitic, fungal, or bacterial illnesses. 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. We treat our puffers with the three-week-old quarantine medication trio, then wait two more weeks. Then we give them a 5-day Fritz ParaCleanse treatment, following the instructions on each box. After that, we wait a month. We then use a 7 day treatment with PraziPro to deworm the fish. 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 Setup 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 can live in many different habitats, these puffers are very hardy. You can keep them in pH levels between 6.0-8.0, hard or soft water, and 72-82degF (22 to 28 degC).
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. Add lots of decorations, aquarium plants, and hardscape to block their line of sight and give them interesting areas to explore.
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 the tank walls to reduce reflections, increased flow with a powerhead and blocked their favorite corner with tall decorations.
What Do Amazon Puffers Eat?
SAPs are like other puffers. They have four permanent growing teeth in their front that form a “beak,” which allows them to eat the hard shells and mollusks. To keep their teeth from growing too long, grind them down with all kinds crunchy foods, including bladder snails, ramshorn and freeze-drilled Krill. 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. These foods may not be good for your teeth but will help you keep them healthy.
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. A pair of sharp cuticle snippers can be used to trim their tips. This will help prevent them becoming hungry. You can do your research to determine which method is best for you. However, a common method 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. 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.