Mbu Puffer – Species Profile & Facts

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If you love pufferfish, I have a unique challenge for you. Meet the Mbu puffer, the proclaimed king of pufferfish that’s bound to win your heart. If the name Mbu pufferfish doesn’t ring a bell, try Giant pufferfish.

This one is the largest specimen of the Tetraodon family, with some specimens growing over 30 inches.

You want a lot of space to house this one, especially since the Mbu pufferfish pairs its size with a fiery temperament and an energetic personality.

But can you take care of a Mbu pufferfish, and what do you need in the process? Let’s have a look.

What is a Mbu Puffer?

The Mbu puffer is a pufferfish that belongs to the Tetraodon family. The fish comes with the standard flat-torpedo look with a flat and wide head and a cone-shaped body.

The fins are small and transparent, and the tail is generally yellow and powerful.

The fish’s body displays an intricate black and yellow pattern in a leopard-like style, making the puffer stand out in a lush and well-lit environment. The fish’s eyes are positioned laterally and tend to bulge out with age.

His mouth is unusually small for a puffer, but it can grow in size fast when feeding, revealing the trademark rat-like frontal teeth.

You know what pufferfish can do. These aggressive, territorial, and voracious predators can destroy shelled creatures like crayfish, crabs, snails, and other animals with hard exoskeletons. Now multiply that by 10, and you’ve got yourself a Mbu puffer.

Mbu Puffer Requirements

Unfortunately, housing the Mbu puffer can be quite a challenge to overcome. The main reason is that this fish requires a lot of space and a special care routine to keep it healthy and safe.

So, let’s get into that!

Tank Size & Setup

I’ll put it out plainly – you’re not ready for this one. Even experienced large-tank aquarists find themselves challenged when trying to house a Mbu puffer.

You need at least 500 gallons for an adult Mbu puffer, although you may require 1,000 gallons for a really large specimen.

Consider a tank at least 100 inches long, 50 inches wide, and around 35 inches deep.

This should be enough to accommodate the puffer and the plants and decorations you might add along the way.

Fortunately, the Mbu puffer doesn’t need too many water decorations. This is an active animal that likes to swim, so it requires a lot of free swimming room.

That being said, consider creating a lush environment with some live plants available. They shouldn’t impact the fish’s ability to swim freely, but their presence is necessary to ensure the puffer’s comfort.

These agile and explosive fish like to scan and explore their environment constantly. You’ll often see your puffers popping in and out of the vegetation during their playful endeavors.

I’m speaking in plural here, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have more than one Mbu puffer in one tank.

These are extremely aggressive and territorial fish that cannot stand any live animal in their vicinity, including other Mbu puffers.

Regarding the substrate, consider sand. Mbu puffers are not bottom feeders, but they’ll dive towards the substrate frequently when feeding or playing.

This will cause them sometimes to get mouthfuls of substrate, especially when feeding.

Substrates like gravel are dangerous in this case because they can cause the fish to choke on the larger particles.

Also, avoid sharp, rugged, or large decorations, rocks, or plants that could harm the puffer. In typical pufferfish fashion, the Mbu puffer has a smooth body with no scale protection.

So, it’s quite easy for them to get hurt.

Water Requirements

The water temperature should vary between 75 and 79-80 F with a pH of 7.0 to 8.0 and water hardness of up to 25 KH.

Most importantly, the Mbu puffer requires clean waters with stable and healthy parameters.

These fish react poorly to improper water conditions or when placed in unstable environments with fluctuating parameters. They require frequent tank maintenance, substrate vacuuming, and water changes to remain healthy over the years.

You also need a reliable filtration unit (at least one) to aerate and clean the water.

The good news is that your fish-keeping efforts will be repaid in full. The higher level of care will allow the puffer to grow larger and live longer than those kept in subpar conditions.

Feeding and Diet

The Mbu puffer is a molluscivore, but you probably saw this coming. This fish is equipped to literally destroy hard-shelled animals like mussels, crabs, crayfish, snails, clams, shrimps, etc.

They can also consume earthworms and insects occasionally, but their main diet should consist of shelled live food.

Mbu puffers’ teeth keep growing throughout their lives, so they need a way to grind them to prevent them from growing too much.

Otherwise, the puffer will soon become unable to eat and will starve to death. Beavers and rabbits deal with the same problem.

So, you should feed your puffers shelled animals regularly to help them avoid this physical problem.

You’ll enjoy the feeding process, too, since many people grow puffers specifically to see them eradicate their prey.

Just remember always to clean after your Mbu puffer. They’re not gracious about their eating behavior, so expect a lot of food residues to pollute the water.

Do Mbu Puffer Need a Heater?

Yes, Mbu puffers need a heater, despite them requiring moderate temperatures. It’s quite easy to achieve 75-79 F, but, as you can see, the margin for error is quite small.

Mbu puffers won’t mind if the water temperature drops or rises outside the recommended parameters, but they mind frequent fluctuations.

The heater’s role is to prevent these fluctuations and keep water parameters stable throughout the 24/7 period.

The heater is that much more important if you live in a geographical area with drastic temperature changes between day and night and different seasons.

Do Mbu Puffer Need a Filter?

Yes, the filter is absolutely necessary to keep the puffer happy and healthy. These carnivorous fish are extremely sensitive to changes in water parameters.

A dirty tank will affect them more than other fish.

When discussing the puffer filter, consider the following 2 aspects:

  • One may not suffice – We’re talking about a 500-1,000-gallon setup. One filter is almost definitely insufficient, no matter what the filter’s specifications may…specify. One filter can only manage the entire system at a very high flow rate, but this isn’t ideal for Mbu puffers since they don’t like water currents. So, you most likely require 2 filtration units placed on opposite sides of the tank to get the job done.
  • Filters are not sufficient – Mbu puffers are notoriously messy eaters and require pristine water conditions to thrive. Remember, these fish don’t have scales or any type of skin protection. This makes them vulnerable to skin lesions even by rubbing against some harder plant stems. While these would not qualify as serious problems under normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances. Dirty tank water will subject the Mbu puffer to a bacteria-infested environment where even a minor scratch can trigger a life-or-death scenario.

To summarize, the filter is a vital component of any Mbu puffer environment, but it’s only part of the solution.

You also need to adopt a robust aquarium maintenance routine to keep the fish’s setup within optimal parameters.

How Much do Mbu Puffer Cost?

The price of a Mbu puffer varies wildly depending on the specimen, the seller, and many other factors. Expect to pay around $150 to $500 or more per specimen.

The main problem is that Mbu puffers are very rare and difficult to care for, which, naturally, makes them expensive too.

More importantly, the price isn’t really the problem, but the availability. You will have difficulties finding a Mbu puffer, to begin with, and those that are available come from the wild.

In other words, you have no guarantees that they’re perfectly healthy or lack any genetic issues.

Only get your Mbu puffer from an experienced and prominent puffer grower. It may take time to find one, but the efforts are worth it.

What is the Lifespan of Mbu Puffer?

Mbu puffers can live up to 10 years in ideal conditions, although most don’t reach that age. Fortunately, you can influence your puffer’s lifespan considerably.

Provide it with a nutritious and well-rounded diet and ensure optimal living conditions in a stress-free environment, and the giant carnivorous will thrive.

How Big do Mbu Puffer Get?

The smallest Mbu puffer will easily get over 22 inches. Expect the largest specimen to reach 30 inches or even more in some cases.

This is a large and energetic fish that needs a lot of space.

Mbu puffers rank as apex predators thanks to their astounding size, voracious appetite, and energetic temperament, making the fish need more space than its sheer size suggests.

Are Mbu Puffers Aggressive?

Yes, Mbu puffers are aggressive, so don’t expect to tame them anytime soon. They cannot be bothered to share space with any other fish species or members of their own species, for that matter.

Males are particularly famous for their violent outbursts against one another, so I wouldn’t recommend having more than one per tank.

Mbu puffers are even aggressive towards the opposite sex, making the breeding process more difficult than it should be.

Mbu Puffer Tankmates

I don’t recommend keeping Mbu puffers with any other fish species, no matter the size, demeanor, or any other specifics.

Adult Mbu puffers are far too aggressive and antisocial to live in harmony with any living animal.

Fortunately, there are ways around it. You can use feeder fish to provide your Mbu puffers with some temporary companionship. It’s temporary because the pufferfish will eventually terminate any lifeforms roaming through their habitat.

Small groups of guppies or tetras are good picks in this sense because they’re cheap and easy to breed.

The Mbu puffer will eat them occasionally, but the rest will swim around and provide the Mbu puffer with some company along the way. Until their time comes.

On a more serious note, Mbu puffers like to live alone and are too large and violent for any potential tankmates.

Are Mbu Puffer Good for Beginners?

No, they’re not. Mbu puffers are aggressive, large, and demanding, all of which are features incompatible with a novice aquarist.

These fish are even challenging for more experienced aquarists due to:

  • The high costs – One Mbu puffer alone can cost you at least $200 on average. Larger specimens can go as much as $1,000, so long as the seller can guarantee the fish’s profile sheet and health. Then you have the cost of the tank, which can vary between $600 and $2,000, depending on materials, manufacturing, and other features. And finally, you have the cost of care to consider. One adult Mbu puffer can cost at least $15-20 per day, including electricity bills, food, maintenance, etc.
  • The fish’s sensitivity – If you’ve ever performed tank maintenance, including water changes and substrate vacuuming, you know how much of a chore these are. Now consider doing the same for a 500-gallon++ tank. The amount of work needed for maintaining a 500-1,000-gallon setup is sufficient to scare off even the more experienced fish keepers.

I know that the Mbu puffer sounds appealing due to its exotic profile and presence, but I recommend avoiding the fish as a beginner.

Gain more field experience, and only then consider investing in such a monster.

How to Tell if Mbu Puffer is Male or Female?

You can’t. There are no visible differences between Mbu puffer males and females.

This makes the breeding process even more difficult because placing 2 males in the same habitat will result in mutually-assured destruction.

That being said, the situation won’t be too different no matter the sex of the 2 fish.

How do Mbu Puffer Breed?

This is another question that we lack an answer to. There are no records of Mbu puffers breeding in captivity, so I don’t recommend trying it.

The fish requires specific environmental conditions to get into the love-making mood, including an obscene amount of space, precise water quality, temperature, etc.

For this reason, we are yet to observe Mbu puffers breeding in captivity.


In theory, Mbu puffers are easy to keep. Have sufficient food for them and keep the water quality in top conditions, and they won’t ask for much else.

The situation is vastly different in practice. Mbu puffers require a lot of space, a specific aquatic setup, and a lot of food to remain healthy over the years.

They are also extra sensitive to improper water quality and unfit aquatic setups with rugged or spiky decorations.

I don’t recommend Mbu puffers to complete novices, but you can try them out as a more experienced fish keeper.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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