Amazon Puffer – Species Profile & Facts
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Amazon puffers are your best initiating species if you’re unfamiliar with pufferfish. Amazon puffers are smaller than other pufferfish and generally easier to accommodate, given that you need a smaller tank.
It’s also worth noting that these puffers can display social behavior. So, you can keep them solo or in groups, whichever option suits you better.
But let’s find out more about these fish’ lifespan, aquarium requirements, and everything else we can find.
What is an Amazon Puffer?
Amazon puffers are tiny pufferfish, the smallest of their kind, coming from the Amazon. They’re native to that area, so you can’t get them anywhere else.
They are cute yellow fish with five dark vertical stripes traversing their body head-to-tail. The bulgy eyes are there, too, along with the meaty lips and 4 frontal teeth used to crush and chew shelled invertebrates.
These fish are also aggressive killers, but you couldn’t tell that from their appearance alone.
Amazon puffers are clearly cuter and more harmless in appearance than their larger counterparts, which is what makes them so beloved, to begin with.
They are also intelligent and energetic and, in typical puffer fashion, require more space than you would expect.
So, let’s see what you need to house an Amazon pufferfish.
Amazon Puffer Requirements
Fortunately, the Amazon pufferfish is relatively easy to accommodate. Unfortunately, knowing how to house other pufferfish doesn’t tell you much about the Amazon puffer.
That’s because these fish are different from other puffers. Let’s see how!
Tank Size & Setup
In theory, you need at least 30 gallons for a group of 4-6 Amazon puffers, but I doubt that’s safe.
I recommend at least 55 gallons for several reasons:
- The social aspect – Amazon puffers can live alone, but there’s no point in keeping just one. After all, this puffer is smaller than other pufferfish, so you can easily house several of them in the same tank. You can’t have 2-3, though, since this will lead to territorial aggression. A group of at least 5-6 puffers is recommended, for which you need considerably more than 30 gallons.
- The fish’s behavior – Amazon puffers are extremely energetic and curious, so expect them to roam the entire tank around the clock. This means that they can get bored if they don’t have sufficient space for their needs.
- Their eating behavior – All pufferfish are messy eaters, and the Amazon puffer is no different. These fish will often fight during their meal time and display voracious appetites in the process. Puffers are known for their brutality during feeding, especially when consuming shelled animals like crabs and crayfish. This can be a problem because the smaller the tank is, the faster it will get dirty. Increasing the tank’s size will allow you to keep the puffers’ environment cleaner with less effort.
Finally, you may decide to transform the puffers’ tank into a community setup which isn’t abnormal for Amazon puffers. While these fish are aggressive and territorial, they are easier to fit in a community setup.
Naturally, some preparation is necessary to mitigate the tiny predators’ aggression. We’ll get into that shortly.
Amazon puffers are sensitive fish that require optimal water conditions and stable environmental parameters.
Aim for water temperatures around 72-80 °F which shouldn’t be difficult to achieve and maintain with a heater in place.
But the thing that makes Amazon puffers difficult to care for is their extra sensitivity to poor water parameters. These fish don’t have scales and don’t produce mucus to shelter them from environmental threats.
So, they’re more prone to infections, skin parasites, and skin tears or lesions that can degenerate into full-fledged bacterial infections.
You need to clean their habitat regularly and monitor water quality 24/7. A water tester kit is necessary to check the water for ammonia and nitrites and weekly water changes are religiously needed.
Also, given that the fish is an extremely messy eater, you must constantly monitor its feeding habits.
You should always remove uneaten food soon after the meal is over. Otherwise, the environment will get toxic fast.
This cleaning aquarium routine is even more important if you aim to keep the Amazon puffer in a community setup with other fish species.
The puffers’ tankmates will have difficulties feeding and thriving when housed with the voracious and messy Amazon puffer. Extra care is required in that scenario.
Feeding and Diet
Amazon puffers are carnivorous predators and prefer to consume shelled animals. They also showcase their trademark puffer teeth, but with a twist. This time, the puffer’s teeth are fused together, forming something like a hard beak.
The beak’s utility remains the same, though, allowing the fish to crack invertebrates and chew through foods like crab, shellfish, ramshorn snails, etc.
That being said, the Amazon puffer’s diet is slightly different from that of larger puffers. We’re not talking about content but rather the presentation.
Amazon puffers are a lot smaller than other puffer species, like the Mbu or Fahakas. So, they can’t consume the same animals. Amazon puffers will attack the crab’s legs, for instance, rather than having a go at the whole animal.
So, you need to provide the Amazon puffer with easier-to-consume food options like live insects, mysis shrimps, woodlice, brine shrimp, aphids, bloodworms, etc.
Don’t become over-reliant on these, though. They might be easier to culture and feed, but they’re not ideal for your Amazon puffers.
The reason isn’t the food’s content, since they’re all nutritious and ideal for your puffers. The reason is the lack of external hardness.
You can’t feed your puffers too much soft food; otherwise, their teeth with grow uninhibited, causing puffers difficulties eating.
It’s common for improperly-fed puffers to grow oversized beaks, affecting their ability to eat and causing them to starve.
Do Amazon Puffer Need a Heater?
Yes, Amazon puffers need a heater. Puffers require tropical-style temperatures and stable conditions to thrive.
Sudden or massive temperature fluctuations will cause them to experience stress which is bad for their immune system.
Do Amazon Puffer Need a Filter?
Few fish require a good filtration system more than the Amazon puffer. These little guys demand pristine water conditions, and the filter is necessary, especially since the fish are messy, to begin with.
Have a good filtration unit in place and pair it with an impeccable maintenance schedule for best results.
How Much do Amazon Puffer Cost?
The standard cost of an Amazon puffer is around $25 for a 1.7-inch fish. You can work your way around this topic since other marketplaces offer various price ranges.
The fish isn’t too expensive, but it’s clearly pricier than your common livebearers, for instance.
Part of that is due to its limited availability. Amazon puffers only reside in the Amazon basin, and they aren’t quite easy to collect. Another aspect influencing the fish’s pricing is the offer/demand ratio.
The demand is higher, leading some websites to list the Amazon puffer as ‘Currently Out of Stock.’ So, you may need to stay on a waiting list to have a chance of getting one or several puffers.
What is the Lifespan of Amazon Puffer?
Amazon puffers live around 8-10 years in ideal conditions. The problem is that most puffers don’t even come close to that age. The most often-cited reason for that is improper keeping.
These are pretentious creatures that demand a specific care routine to remain healthy in the long run. So, you might want to avoid Amazon puffers as a complete newb in the industry.
How Big do Amazon Puffer Get?
Your typical Amazon puffer will only grow up to 3 inches. Most puffers remain smaller than that, in the neighborhood of 2-2.5.
You can help your puffer grow larger with a well-balanced diet and impeccable environmental conditions, but expect it to be a bumpy journey.
Are Amazon Puffers Aggressive?
Yes, Amazon puffers are aggressive and territorial, but you must have seen this one coming. They wouldn’t be true puffers if they wouldn’t show at least some aggression.
But their territorial aggression isn’t the only naughty quality that they possess.
Amazon puffers are energetic and curious swimmers, showcase bullying behavior, and are messy and violent eaters. This makes them rather unfit for a community setup, although you can make things work.
The main advantage is that Amazon puffers are smaller than other puffer species, making them less of a threat to their tank companions.
That being said, you should never count puffers out. If there’s anything that they’re great at, that’s their aggressive tendencies and bullying mentality.
Amazon Puffer Tank Mates
Unfortunately, there aren’t many fish species that could share space with the Amazon puffer. While this puffer species is less violent than others, they like to misbehave, nip, and bully other fish.
So, choose the puffers’ tankmates carefully if you wish to form a community tank.
Avoid long-finned fish and slow swimmers and eaters. Amazon puffers will outcompete them in all areas and nip and attack them constantly.
Fast swimmers and fish keeping a low profile are your best bet. Plecos and other bottom lurkers fit this profile just fine.
Also, keep in mind that Amazon puffers are toxic, just like all other puffers. Their tissue contains tetrodotoxin which is a potent neurotoxin that can paralyze and kill small animals and even humans in some cases. So, don’t touch the fish.
This means that you can’t pair the puffer with larger fish species that could try to attack or eat them. The attackers will most definitely encounter a slow and painful death in the process.
So, while I don’t recommend keeping puffers with other fish species, I also admit that there are ways you can do it.
Consider the following:
- Create a more fitting layout – Add more plants, rocks, and tank decorations that can serve as hiding places for fish. This allows fish to flee their attackers, hide, and reset when things have cooled off.
- Add more puffers – This may sound counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense. Puffers are most aggressive when kept in pairs or very small groups. Aim for at least 6 puffers to create a more stable community setup.
- Choose the fish carefully – You should aim for fast swimmers with short fins and an explosive temperament. We’ve already mentioned plecos as the masters of disguise. Other notable mentions include dwarf cichlids, large tetras, mollies, etc.
However, things might fall apart despite all your precautions. While Amazon puffers aren’t as aggressive as other pufferfish, they aren’t exactly peaceful, either.
So, always monitor your fish dynamics, especially during feeding time, to make sure things don’t get out of line.
Is Amazon Puffer Good for Beginners?
No, they’re not. You should stay away from Amazon puffers as a novice fish keeper until you get more experience.
These fish are a pain to keep for an inexperienced aquarist due to their need for:
- A varied and nutritious diet with a variety of live food options
- A good selection of hard-to-crack foods like snails and crabs to help the fish grind their teeth
- Impeccable water conditions to prevent parasites and bacterial infections
- Constant monitoring of water parameters
- Aggression management strategies, given that Amazon puffers, can get snappy at times, etc.
Creating a community setup will complicate things even further. So, I recommend skipping Amazon puffers for now.
How to Tell if Amazon Puffer is Male or Female?
You can’t sex Amazon puffers until the mating season comes. This is typical for puffers, as they show no clear distinctions between males and females.
It can also create problems as you risk introducing more than 1 male to your tank, which can spell disaster fast.
Male puffers are notoriously aggressive and competitive. Always source your Amazon puffers wisely to prevent that, and, more importantly, watch their interactions carefully.
If 2 or more puffers display excessive aggression, they might be males, so remove them from the environment until you figure things out.
How do Amazon Puffers Breed?
Amazon puffers are egg-layers, so the breeding process is quite straightforward from this perspective. The problem is that Amazon puffers don’t breed in captivity.
Or, if they do, we still haven’t figured out how to do it.
All Amazon puffers currently for sale are caught in the wild, which explains their steep prices compared to fish of similar size and spread.
Amazon puffers are amazing little creatures with a voracious appetite and a rich personality.
These fish aren’t as aggressive as other puffers, but they’re not quite angels, either.
- Avoid Amazon puffers if you’re a novice fish keeper
- Keep Amazon puffers solo or in groups of 5-6 individuals to mitigate the fish’s aggression
- Provide puffers with hard foods to keep their teeth in check
- Ensure optimal water quality and regular maintenance to avoid health problems
- Don’t attempt to breed puffers in captivity
- Don’t touch the puffer to save yourself from a potentially deadly sting (Amazon puffers have small poisonous spines that protrude when the fish inflates)
- Don’t stress or scare your puffer on purpose to force it to inflate (this goes for all puffer species)
If you’re determined to invest in a group of Amazon puffers, make sure you do your research about these toxic little carnivores before getting them.