News / Species Spotlight / Spotted Sharpnose Pufferfish (Canthigaster punctatissima) (11/03/16)

Spotted Sharpnose Pufferfish (Canthigaster punctatissima)

Species Spotlight - Spotted Sharpnose Pufferfish (Canthigaster punctatissima)
Like a miniature version of a Guineafowl Pufferfish, the colors and pattern of the Spotted Sharpnose Pufferfish is a study in subtle geometric beauty. Adorning its dark-brown body are countless white polka dots, which grow to become more numerous in the adults. In fact, the scientific name quite literally translates as meaning covered in small spots, in reference to its distinct appearance.

It belongs to Canthigaster, a diverse genus of small-bodied pufferfishes which seldom grow to more than a few inches in length. Youll find C. punctatissima only in the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean, from the Gulf of California south to Ecuador and at offshore islands like the Galapagos. It was for many years treated as identical to the widespread Honeycomb Toby (C. janthinoptera) of the Indo-Pacific, which has since been divided up into several smaller species, with C. jactator in Hawaii and C. punctatissima further east.

Toby Pufferfishes are an interesting mix of personalities, equal parts introvert and extrovert. They tend to spend much of their day gingerly swimming about, ducking in and out of caves and crevices in their surroundings, frantically waving their tiny little fins to propel themselves forward. But they are quite capable of going on the offensive, picking on slower fishes and invertebrates. In general, it is best to mix these fishes with relatively robust tank mates that are able to hold their own against this mischievous little fish. For a regional biotope based off the Eastern Pacific, one could mix this fish with some Barnacle Blennies (Acanthemblemaria & Ekemblemaria) and a Clarion Angelfish.

Like other pufferfishes, it is unwise to attempt to add this fish to a diverse reef aquarium. While most corals will be left alone, certain groups are likely to be nibbled upon and many other invertebrates will fare equally poorly. Canthigaster are a bit like small infants, investigating the world around them by putting things into their mouth. For this reason, they are more often recommended for fish-only setups, particularly smaller systems where other types of pufferfishes would be inappropriate. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of a species like the Spotted Sharpnose Pufferfish, as it provides all the joys of inflatable piscine ownership without the hassle of needing to provide a gigantic fish tank.