News / Species Spotlight / Popular Piscines: Porcupine Puffers (03/05/14)

Popular Piscines: Porcupine Puffers

In the Wild

One of the worlds most widely distributed aquarium fish, Diodon hystrix are considered circumtropical, meaning they can be found in every ocean around the world in tropical and subtropical areas. Generally they are found in between 10 and 50 feet of water and associated with areas where there is ample cover for them to hide in.

The common max size of this fish is about 16 inches in the wild, though the record for a male is just shy of 3 feet long! Juvenile fish have an extended pelagic state. Adult fish are solitary outside of breeding; very little is known about reproductive habits. They are generally nocturnal, preferring to lodge themselves in a hole during the day. They feed on shelled invertebrates like clams, snails, crabs and even urchins.

In the Aquarium

What we call Porcupine Puffers (Diodon hystrix), go by several common names including Spot-fin (and Spotted) Porcupinefish. No matter what you call them, you shouldn't startle them into puffing up. This aside, they are one of the most popular and "personable" fish in the marine aquarium hobby. These fish quickly learn to recognize people as sources of food and have an engaging demeanor with us.

They do not share this "friendliness" with their tankmates. They have a high likelihood of nipping the fins of less aggressive fish they are housed with and consuming, or attempting to consume all the smaller fish they can. While Porcupines have been listed as a "reef safe" from more than one source, we would strongly discourage hobbyists from attempting this, as they are known to consume (or at least gnaw on) corals and inverts of all types. In house here, they are never housed anything but singly, and we do not recommend keeping more than one Porcupine Puffer in a tank.

This puffer is a pretty easy fish to keep and doesn't need a ton of space. Just feed it a couple times a day and take a few precautions. Make sure to quarantine this fish (like all fish) as this species does occasionally get intestinal parasites. Expect to replace cleaning crews more frequently in aquariums that have puffers, which isn't a bad thing as you should be offering them snails, mussels and other shelled foods anyway because they need it to wear down teeth that constantly grow. Follow those precautions, and use some common sense when picking tankmates and you can keep one of the hobby's coolest fish for years to come.

Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2001).
In House Sources: Eli Fleishauer, Adam Mangino