News / Species Spotlight / Stars & Stripes Pufferfish (Arothron hispidus) (03/28/18)

Stars & Stripes Pufferfish (Arothron hispidus)

Species Spotlight - Stars & Stripes Pufferfish (Arothron hispidus)
If you were to explore the coral reefs of the Red Sea, Hawaii and western coast of Mexico, there wouldnt be many species common to all three regions, and this is particularly true for those fishes found within the aquarium trade. One exception to this is the Stars & Stripes Pufferfish (Arothron hispidus), a species which truly ranges across the tropical Indo-Pacific. But are these populations all actually identical?

The short answer is no. There is almost certainly some hidden biodiversity hiding among these farflung populations, but the differences are subtle and have largely gone unnoticed. For instance, the population from the Red Sea tends to have a greater proliferation of fine white spots across its body, especially in larger specimens, while these spots are generally quite sparse in distribution in specimens from the West Pacific. And the stripes alluded to in the Stars & Stripes name are typically only obvious in those from the Pacific, with those in the Indian Ocean having a mostly white belly.

But, as far as aquarium care goes, these are all still very much the same fish. Arothron hispidus is a massive animal when fully grown, able to grow well in excess of a foot in length. Given the prodigious amount of food this pufferfish will require, a robust filtration system will be necessary to properly break down the large quantities of nitrogenous wastes created. Its best to avoid overfeeding this gluttonous creature, which can be hard to do given how fun and interactive they are when meals are dropped in the water. Along with discretion, variety is key. Try offering whole shrimp with the shell on, as well as crabs and crayfishes, which, if fed live, allows one to better appreciate the natural hunting strategies of this species.

In general, pufferfishes are mild-mannered among most fishes, though mixing tetraodontid species can result in quarrels as they mature. Its wise to include a number of smaller zooplanktivores (like Chromis or Dascyllus damselfishes) to help clean up the small bits of food creating by pufferfish chewing. Like that annoying friend who talks with food in their mouth, pufferfishes spit food EVERYWHERE. But what they lack in social grace, they more than make up for with their charming demeanor. They are in many ways the ultimate fish pet, with a puppy-like demeanor that is impossible not to enjoy.