Eye Spot Puffer – Species Profile & Facts
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It’s hard to resist a pufferfish, but even harder to resist a small pufferfish. The eyespot puffer is among the smallest species of pufferfish, other than the pea puffer.
This small, colorful, and aggressive swimmer comes with a colorful personality and an equally wild temperament.
Aquarists either love or hate them, there’s no in-between with puffers.
Today, we’ll draw out the story of the eyespot puffer and, hopefully, make you love it. So, let’s get into it!
What is an Eyespot Puffer?
Eyespot puffers are small pufferfish that dwell in brackish waters all over Southeast Asia. You can recognize the fish by its rounder, puffer-specific body with bulbous eyes and a yellow/black color pattern.
The eyespot pufferfish has a leopard-like color pattern allowing it to stand out in a lush-green setup.
This doesn’t make the pufferfish any more vulnerable to predators because it uses its viciousness and cunningness to even the playing field.
These are aggressive fish that can inflate when threatened to intimidate any potential predator targeting them.
While the eyespot puffer hasn’t been completely domesticated, it has reasonably adapted to life in captivity. We’ll get into this shortly.
Eyespot Puffer Requirements
Fortunately, despite its exotic origins, the eyespot puffer isn’t too demanding in terms of overall water requirements and layout.
But, as you know, the devil is in the details, so let’s have a more detailed look into the matter.
Tank Size & Setup
Despite the fish’s small size (less than 3 inches), you need at least 15 gallons per fish.
That’s because eyespot puffers are very active and demand both a variety of hiding locations and open swimming space to remain healthy and active.
Make sure to add a variety of rocks, driftwood, and other decorative elements that the puffer can use for hiding.
This point is important whether you keep puffers alone, in a puffer group, or in a community setting, provided you can actually make that work.
Eyespot puffers are more intelligent than your typical tank fish and tend to get bored more easily. They should live in a lush and rich habitat to keep them occupied with exploration and discovery.
A sandy substrate works great for them, but the situation isn’t so clear when it comes to plants.
Eyespot puffers are carnivorous, so they won’t attack your plants directly. But they will damage them indirectly due to them being messy and aggressive eaters.
It’s common for these fish to destroy live plants and bite them accidentally when trying to devour their food.
So, look for hardy and easily-replaceable tank plants.
The ideal temperature range rests between 72 and 79 °F with a pH range of 7.0-7.5 and water hardness up to 12 dGH.
The difference comes in overall water quality requirements since these fish are notoriously sensitive to ammonia and nitrites.
You should keep their environment clean and perform regular water changes to keep the fish healthy.
In typical pufferfish fashion, eyespot puffers are messy eaters, so you might want to clean after them frequently.
There’s no doubt that eyespot puffers demand more care than other fish, which means that these aren’t ideal for beginners.
Feeding and Diet
This is another point that disqualifies novice aquarists as compatible puffer keepers. These carnivorous fish are extremely pretentious about their food.
This is due to them not being fully domesticated yet, so they will inevitably revert to their natural food preferences.
You can’t feed them flakes or dry food because they prefer to starve instead. These fish should get a specialized diet consisting exclusively of live food.
And not just any live food, but primarily shelled animals like krill, oysters, clams, snails, crayfish, etc. You can also throw in shrimp and worms in the mix to go for as diverse a diet as possible.
It’s worth mentioning that some puffer keepers have had success feeding them frozen meals.
If you want to try that yourself, only go for quality products and get several types to provide your fish with more options.
Do Eyespot Puffers Need a Heater?
Yes, they do. Eyespot puffers aren’t particularly sensitive to environmental changes, but they have small wiggle room in terms of water temperature.
With an ideal temperature range of 72-79 F, you can’t afford to leave things to chance.
A heater is necessary to keep the water temperature stable, especially in areas with frequent temperature fluctuations.
It’s important to note that eyespot puffers are territorial and aggressive, and their temperament can worsen in situations of stress.
Do Eyespot Puffers Need a Filter?
A filter is absolutely vital for any pufferfish tank. These are messy eaters that also poop a lot, making them more than capable of fouling their habitat fast.
Eyespot pufferfish are notoriously sensitive to poor water conditions that involve ammonia, nitrites, or nitrates above the safe limit.
Their water conditions should be pristine, in which case a filter is absolutely necessary. Just keep the water movement low, as to not disturb the fish, and, most importantly, consider the filter as the backup maintenance unit.
The real maintenance system involves cleaning the fish’s habitat regularly to prevent ammonia and nitrite buildup.
The filter is there to oxygenate the water and remove floating particles, but you’re the one doing all the hard work.
This will keep your puffers healthy and less aggressive in the long run.
How Much do Eyespot Puffers Cost?
Eyespot pufferfish are quite cheap, going as low as $25 for 6-10 specimens, depending on the seller and the fish’s size and age.
There’s an important point to mention here. Eyespot puffers are nearly impossible to breed in captivity, so all puffers come straight from the wild.
This means that quality is important when looking to acquire your first batch of eyespot puffers.
Wild-caught fish are more likely to be sick or infected with various parasites or bacterial organisms that can infect the main tank.
Always get your puffers from trustworthy sources that can guarantee the fish’s health and impeccable profile.
What is the Lifespan of Eyespot Puffer?
Eyespot puffers can live up to 5 years in captivity in good conditions. You can prolong the fish’s lifespan by providing it with an optimized diet and pristine water conditions, but that’s not an easy task.
It’s one of the reasons why eyespot puffers are more fitting for experienced aquarists.
How Big do Eyespot Puffer Get?
Your typical eyespot puffer will only grow up to 2.5 inches. Some get closer to 3 inches, but none will go over that threshold.
Are Eyespot Puffers Aggressive?
Eyespot puffers are aggression incarnate. They exhibit excessive territorial and bullying behavior, making them incompatible with community setups.
I say almost because it is achievable, but it’s definitely not easy work.
There’s a point to touch upon here. Many puffer sellers offer them in batches because you can keep eyespot puffers in groups in theory.
The problem is that you need to get them acquainted with one another as juveniles. Adult eyespot puffers won’t accept the introduction of a new puffer in their habitat.
If you want to set up a group of eyespot puffers, you better buy them all at once while they’re still young. This way, they will grow together and create a stable hierarchical ladder where everybody knows its place.
Even so, violence is common in puffer communities due to the fish’s unhinged territorial behavior. Always monitor your puffers’ dynamics to make sure they remain reasonably tolerant of one another.
Eyespot Puffer Tankmates
I don’t recommend pairing eyespot puffers with any other fish species. Shelled animals like shrimp, snails, crabs, or crayfish are already out of the question.
They occupy the very bottom of the food chain in a pufferfish tank.
Some aquarists have reported pairing eyespot puffers with brackish-water species like bumblebee gobies or mollies, but I don’t advise that.
That’s because eyespot puffers can be very deceiving.
Younger eyespot puffers are deceivingly tolerant of other fish, but they will grow more aggressive with age. This can lead you to integrate them into a community setup, only to see them turn violent with time.
Overall, I recommend avoiding any type of community setting and sticking to a puffer-only tank.
Are Eyespot Puffers Good for Beginners?
No, they are not. There are simply too many floating pieces in motion for puffers to qualify as beginner-friendly.
- Are overly sensitive to poor water conditions and demand strict aquarium maintenance
- Are extremely pretentious about their food and have strict dietary requirements
- Cannot adapt to a community setting due to their extra-violent behavior
So, you should stay away from the eyespot puffer and pufferfish in general until you get more experienced as a fish keeper.
How to Tell if Eyespot Puffer is Male or Female
There are no visible differences between eyespot puffer males and females. You can only differentiate between the sexes during mating and breeding.
The fish that lays the eggs is the female.
However, good luck observing that behavior, given that these fish don’t breed in captivity.
How do Eyespot Puffers Breed?
The breeding process is typical for fish in general. The male and female undergo the natural mating dance, with the male chasing the female to force it to give in.
Once the mating is over, the puffer female lays the eggs on a hard surface and leaves, leaving the male to guard them.
Eggs take approximately 5-7 days to hatch, depending on the environmental conditions, primarily temperature.
That being said, this is breeding behavior observed in the wild because eyespot puffers don’t breed in aquariums.
Some aquarists have claimed to breed eyespot puffers, but I would take that with a spoon of salt.
Don’t try to breed your eyespot puffers because you will most likely fail.
Eyespot puffers are cute, violent, and sensitive, which makes for an awkward blend, but that’s the pufferfish for you.
This fish is clearly not meant for inexperienced fish keepers due to its demanding nature.
However, if you already possess the knowledge and competence necessary to handle the fish properly, the eyespot puffer is a joy to have.