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. While my largest one has only gotten to 22 inches, I suspect they’ll grow to as large as 30 inches depending on how they are raised throughout their extended lives.
The first question is always what size of an aquarium? Some estimates range from 300 to 1000 gallons. The truth is that foot prints are more important than the number of gallons. If a fish can reach 30 inches in length, a tank with 8ft of height and 4ft front-to-back that is only 2ft tall is more efficient than one that is 4ft tall, 8ft long, and only 2ft forward to back. 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 is currently 13 inches in length. My MBU before he died was 22 inches. He passed at five years old. As the necropsy showed, he succumbed to a wild-caught virus with no known cure. It had caused many lesions in his heart and other organs, and it had taxed his system over time.
I manage 100 gallons of the remaining 340 gallons’ waste each day. 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. A 22-inch fish that eats 6-8 oz per day will have feces the same size as small dogs.
Their diet is another difficult aspect for most owners. They need most of their diet to be shelled foods. These include clams, muscles and snails as well as crayfish and crayfish. This keeps their beaks, also known as their large teeth, trimmed. MBU puffers get shelled food five days a semaine and soft foods two days a weeks. Fozen blood worms, cocktail shrimp and fozen cocktail shrimp are some examples. These can be soaked in vitamin supplements. After years of trying, I have not been able to get any MBU puffers from dry foods. However, there are others who have succeeded. You should expect a $10 per day food bill if they get very large. The $300 monthly is akin to keeping a very large dog on a specialized diet. It’s easy for a dog to become deficient in vitamins if they only eat one type of food.
Although live foods can stimulate the hunting instincts in puffers, they can also attract parasites. The claws of fiddler crabs, crayfish, and other animals can pose a danger to the puffer. 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. This can create a substrate that looks like crushed coral. This helps buffer up the pH and alkalinity of the water. They become more savage and eat more shells, which causes more litter to build up on the bottom. If you’re using sandy sand you can use a net to pick up shells.
A pH of above 7.0 should always be maintained. My pH has been 7.4 in my case, but I would prefer it to be higher if I had tap water that was more acidic. 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. With automated daily water changes, this is particularly important.
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. The puffer is forced to see its food from the side, then align itself with the food and then eat it. Tank mates can sometimes swim in for food and eat by accident. It seems that this happens only once every 6 months.
You can reduce the number of casualties by selecting the right tank mates. You want calm and passive tank mates. Things like corydoras and loaches love clams. They can also eat meaty foods, so be careful. I once lowt an Ellipsifer Eel from Lake Tang, early on with my first Mbu puffer to this, a mortal wound do the tail end of the eel when they both went for the same piece of shrimp. For my MBU puffers fancy guppies are siamese, plecos or rainbow fishes. Things that didn’t work out well, Flagtail Prochilodus, Giraffe Catfish, basically anything that would touch the MBU puffer or be a pig when it came to food time.
Anything pointy is best when it comes to decorating a MBU Puffer aquarium. Puffers can be sent running if they become scared. A sharp stick or rock can do a lot of 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. Anubias sp. are my favorite. Java ferns and MBU puffers love to move the sand around looking for snails, etc.
I keep my tank 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.
You want to keep a MBU puffer under water when moving them. You can trap air in your MBU puffer if it puffs up from water. It can cause them to die if they are unable to expel the air. MBU puffers will stretch and inflate and deflate quickly from time to time in the aquarium. This is normal, as long as it isn’t caused by stress factors like loud noises or stress hormones. I liken a puffer puffing up to a human fainting. It takes so much shock to the system to have a human faint as well as a puffer puff up, it’s purely a defense mechanism.
My MBU Puffer species profile has more information.