Kylyssa Shay has successfully kept aquatic creatures for decades. Her fish-care advice has been published in "Aquarium Fish Magazine."
Learn How to Care for Your Porcupine Puffer Fish Before You Bring Him Home
Porcupine puffers are engaging and intelligent saltwater fish that appear—and act—a bit cartoonish. They usually learn to interact with their human caregivers in odd and appealing ways; some even respond to eye contact by swimming up and begging for food! Their engaging personalities combined with their big eyes, chubby cheeks, and silly grins make them adorable pets.
Also sometimes called balloonfish or porcupinefish, these fish are slow-moving and easy for divers to catch, making them readily available for purchase and relatively inexpensive compared to most other saltwater fish.
Sturdy Saltwater Pets
While they get rather large and require a big aquarium, their care is easy compared to that of many saltwater fish. They can handle fluctuations in pH, temperature, and salinity better than many other fish and don't go on hunger strike as often in response to stress. These fish are actually rather sturdy creatures as far as saltwater fish go, so long as you give them proper care. If you maintain a healthy aquarium and feed your pet properly, you can enjoy his antics for many years.
All of these qualities make them very popular in the aquarium trade. This page will give you the basics on how to care for a porcupine puffer. Please research any species of fish you plan to keep as a pet before you buy.
What Is the Minimum Tank Size for a Porcupine Puffer?
The first thing to do before you buy a porcupine puffer is to make sure you have a big enough system to handle his size. To stay happy and healthy, his tank should be no smaller than 100 gallons, both so he has room to swim and to allow for enough biological filtration and water volume to handle his waste.
Why Are 100 Gallons Necessary?
As with all fish, you should always consider the adult size of the porcupinefish when deciding to put one in your marine aquarium. They are big and hefty fish that can reach an adult size of well over a foot long. They are also often sloppy eaters who make a lot of waste. When it comes to aquarium fish, porcupine puffers are like SUVs when it comes to fuel efficiency. They go through a lot of fuel and they create a bunch of pollution.
With Saltwater Tanks, Bigger Is Better—and Easier
It is also much, much easier to keep a large saltwater fish tank than it is to keep a small saltwater fish tank. The added volume creates greater stability, so small changes don't cause big problems nearly as quickly as they do in a smaller aquarium. Bigger is better, and extra gallons buy you time to tweak and and make corrections before your fish suffer from them.
Don't bring your new pet home until you have a big, cycled saltwater aquarium to put him into.
How Do You Keep the Tank Clean Even Though They're Messy Eaters?
These fish require some extra work to keep things clean.
Because porcupine puffers create so much waste, be prepared to do a lot of water changes to remove this waste even if you have a plenum or other nitrate removing device in your aquarium. I'd recommend changing no less than 20% of the tank's water weekly to keep up with his waste production.
Vacuuming (and Reducing) Waste
You can also keep the water cleaner by removing any uneaten food and any visible waste using a tank vacuum to suck it out. If you feed frozen food, be sure to thaw the food thoroughly and discard any water it may have been packed in. The melt water usually contains food juices that will spoil quickly in your display tank. Some aquarists also claim that feeding dry food can create more waste problems as it is not as completely broken down by your fish's digestive tract as fresh or frozen foods are.
This is part of the reason it's a good idea to house your puffer in the largest tank you can manage. A larger water volume dilutes wastes better than a smaller water volume.
Read More From Pethelpful
Refugiums With Macroalgae
I've found the use of a refugium filled with chaetomorpha macroalgae kept on a twenty-four hour light cycle helps a great deal with maintaining high water quality. My Porky's tankmates also enjoy eating the macroalgae that I harvest when it outgrows the hang-on-tank refugium.
Trace Elements Are Important to Porcupine Puffer Care
Porcupine puffers are prone to developing deficiencies or thyroid issues if they they don't get proper levels of trace elements found in seawater. This is yet another reason frequent water changes are important to their health. Frequent water changes help keep the levels of trace elements that are consumed by fish, plants, and invertebrates at the necessary levels.
If you also keep corals or rely on macroalgae filtration to minimize the frequency of water changes, it may be a good idea to supplement your tank with iodine per the instructions on whatever iodine supplement you purchase. Maintaining proper levels of iodine is important for thyroid health in pufferfish.
Supplemental Iodine for Thyroid Health
When added as directed, iodine supplements can help keep your puffer's thyroid healthy. Iodine supplementation is also important to the health of corals and other fish you may keep with him as the iodine in saltwater is usually used up in saltwater more quickly than other trace elements. While water changes can offset some of it, they can't offset enough unless they are done even more frequently than once a week. Iodine supplementation will allow you to strike a better balance, keeping water quality high and trace elements at healthy levels without wasting salt mix or effort.
I like the Kent Marine iodine supplement both because it already comes in a diluted solution which allows for greater accuracy in dosing compared to concentrates like Lugol's solution, and because I've had excellent results with it. Pretty much all of their marine and reef aquarium supplements are foolproof and easy to dose.
Don't Forget They're Predators and Will Eat Invertebrates
Although their temperament is usually mild in regards to other fish, porcupine puffers are carnivores. Snails, crabs and hermit crabs, clams, barnacles, and shrimp of all kinds are all part of their natural diet.
Never forget their predatory nature because some saltwater aquarium inhabitants might be seen as food rather than tank mates. Even that fancy cleaner shrimp may look like a snack to your pufferfish. Mobile invertebrates are almost all on his menu of favorite foods. Corals, however, are a very individualized matter. Some individuals will eat or bite some or all types of coral while others will leave coral alone. Soft fleshy polyps of any sort are particularly tempting, even if not edible, and most balloonfish will take a little taste.
What Do Porcupine Puffers Eat?
Porcupine puffers' teeth continue to grow their entire lives. Their teeth, sometimes referred to as beaks, must be ground down by the consumption of hard-shelled foods. They both love and need crunchy invertebrates to eat.
If your pet's teeth become overgrown, he may become unable to eat and starve to death or require delicate dental surgery few veterinarians are willing or able to perform. If you want to keep your puffer's teeth ground down, be sure to feed him plenty of shell-on seafood, preferably at least a few times a week. While many porkies will crunch on ground coral just for fun you can't count on all of them to do it enough to keep their teeth trimmed.
Warning: Do NOT Feed Them Fish
Balloonfish are not piscivores. That means that, in nature, they don't eat fish. Do not feed fish, live or dead, to them. Feeding fish to pork puffers may cause something called fatty liver disease, a usually fatal ailment. Not only that but the nutrient balance found in fish is very different from that found in mollusks and crustaceans, their natural prey. Feeding fish, especially live feeder fish, to your porcupine puffer can also unnaturally accustom him to eating fish, making him a danger to future tank mates.
What About Prepared Fish Foods?
Carefully read the ingredients of any prepared fish foods you give your pet. Choose those with invertebrates such as shrimp, krill, squid, clams, or mussels listed as their first ingredient. Avoid all prepared fish foods with any type of grain or fish meal listed first in the ingredients.
Can I Feed My Puffer Frozen Seafood?
If you buy frozen seafood, for your porky read the packaging to make sure it has no added preservatives or ingredients. Fish are much more sensitive to odd chemicals than people are. If you buy mussels or clams from the seafood counter, be sure they are closed up tight which indicates they are alive. I prefer to let them sit in a bucket of used saltwater from a water change overnight to make sure they are alive and healthy before giving them to Porky.
Watch a Puffed Up Porcupine Puffer Deflate
This pufferfish parent was quick with his video camera and caught his young porky deflating. I think it's adorable! The little damsel fish popping into view is pretty cute, too.
Natural Defense Mechanisms: Will My Balloonfish Puff Up?
Porcupine puffers have a dual natural defense mechanism. They are called puffers or balloonfish for a very good reason—they fill their bodies with water when frightened. This causes their bodies to look huge and their spines to stick out. Many a predator would change his mind when faced with a weird spiky ball instead of the fish he saw a moment ago or spit out a little morsel that suddenly sprouted sharp spines.
The fish in the picture, Porky, is only partly puffed. It is very hard to photograph him in a puffed-up state as he comes swimming over begging for food as soon as he sees me, deflating along the way.
Don't try to scare your pet into puffing, it's very stressful to them when they puff in a panic. Given time, you'll eventually see him blown up like a balloon, an occurrence more frequent in very young specimens. It is thought that they puff occasionally to keep their skin flexible and to clean off built-up debris that gets on their spikes which usually lay flat and mostly inside their skin.
Their other defense mechanism is having poisonous flesh. Porcupine puffers have a deadly toxin in their internal organs called tetrodotoxin. This makes it unlikely that a fish that eats one will ever eat another as dead things don't eat. Each moderate-sized balloonfish contains enough toxin to kill several human beings.
Oddly enough, the neuro-toxin found in their flesh is exactly what entices foolhardy gourmands to eat fugu, or sashimi made from pufferfish. In very tiny quantities, the toxin causes tingling and euphoria—and sometimes death.
So, whatever you do, don't eat your pet puffer!
How Long Do Porcupine Fish Live?
The lifespan of Diodon holocanthus in the wild is unknown but with proper care, porcupine puffers can live at least 10 to 15 years in captivity. As these fish are relatively slow-growing and take years to reach maximum size, and because of the large size of some specimens observed in the wild suggest it is likely that they have a similar maximum lifespan in the wild.
Your pet fish should outlast the average wild puffer, having the advantage of plentiful appropriate food, protection from predators, and treatment for parasites and diseases. The disadvantage your fish will have is a small living area, even in the largest of tanks but your careful upkeep and attention to water quality can offset that stress.
My porcupinefish is now at least thirteen years old and going strong. He's never had any health problems aside from a few minor wounds he suffered from getting attacked by Grape Tang (aka the Purple $@$&%$#), the purple tang he shares a tank with.
They Don't Mind Tank Mates, But Never Put Two of Them Together!
Like many species of saltwater fish, porcupine puffers should not be housed with others of their same species, which in the aquarium hobby are called con-specifics. If you put more than one in the same tank it will likely lead to the death of one or both of the fish.
They are usually pretty mild-mannered towards other types of fish. I'd suggest avoiding very tiny fish which, although porc puffers aren't piscivores, might be mistaken for food. I'd also suggest avoiding anglers and frogfish as tank mates. The little worm-like wiggling lure atop their heads would be too much for any carnivorous fish to resist.
Lionfish are often paired with porcupinefish but it's a combination I do not approve of. Lionfish have a tendency to stab any fish that frightens them with their venomous spines and pufferfish can seem intimidating due to their excessive curiosity.
Large species of fish make the best tank mates. Tangs, angels, eels, engineer gobies, foxfish, and squirrelfish all make good tank mates for the puffer. Medium sized fish that get along well with balloonfish include hawkfish, large clownfish, and wrasses.
Most invertebrates other than corals will be seen as food and some fleshy coral polyps will be as well.
My porcupine puffer lives with a Regal Tang and a Purple Tang (pictured) in a tank with a frogspawn coral, encrusting montipora, several fungia coral, a favia coral, zoanthids, and an elegance coral.
They Have Cute Personalities, Too!
Porcupine puffers are one of the most personable types of saltwater fish. They quickly learn to come to those who feed them. They can also learn that doing a little dance or spitting water above the surface can get your attention and may earn treats. However, don't give in to their begging too often as overfeeding can cause serious health problems.
This little guy, my Porky, is at the surface begging for food.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are porcupine puffers poisonous to the touch?
Answer: I am unsure, though it's important not to touch them because your skin oils or any soap or chemical residues on your hands can hurt them. Generally speaking, things that are toxic need to be kept out of your mouth, but toxins can enter through cuts or any other broken skin.
Another reason to never touch a puffer is that they can bite your finger off.
Question: How big was your porcupine Porky at thirteen?
Answer: Porky was about nine inches long at thirteen, and never grew any bigger. He died at seventeen at the same size.
Question: How big was Porky the porcupine puffer when you got him and how long did it take him to get to nine inches?
Answer: Porky was about three inches long when I got him and he reached nine inches in length in about six or seven years. He grew quickly at first but slowed down. He was about ten inches long when he died. I had him over fourteen years.
Question: Why did you give your tang a curse word for a name?
Answer: I named my purple tang a curse word for part of his name (and very, very seldom use it) because he's very aggressive and aggressively annoying to any fish he's big enough to bully. I usually just call him "Purple" or "Grape."
Question: Have you replaced your puffer with a new one?
Answer: No, I haven't replaced my puffer. He was too much of a pet to get another of the same sort. It would be too much like getting a nearly identical cat to "replace" one that passed away to me. I may one day get another puffer, but I'd probably want a different type. His purple tang companion still survives and I'm planning to add a few fish others post as unwanted on a local reef aquarium board.
Question: What food did you feed him (specific food brands and names) and what size tank did you house him in?
Answer: I housed Porky in a 100 gallon tank. I fed him clams, mussels, shrimp, crabs, snails, crayfish, octopus, squid, krill, ulva macroalgae, and sometimes other fresh/frozen/freeze dried raw sea foods. The brand doesn't matter, just the absence of preservatives. Just think of it as food instead of something that you buy that's labeled fishfood. Human grade seafood is so much cheaper, fresher, and higher quality than anything you'll buy at a pet store. You can even buy live clams and mussels at seafood counters in some stores. I also like to feed the mixed frozen seafood you can buy in some Asian grocery stores. It contains a seasonal mix of things like shrimp, prawns, crab, octopus, clams, and mussels. It's tasty for humans, too. Just read the label for preservatives and don't buy if a food uses any.
© 2009 Kylyssa Shay
What Do You Think About Porcupine Puffers?
Lawren Domenici on June 23, 2020:
What about bubble tip anemone in the tank long with a puffer? I’d imagine they look awfully tempting to nibble on.
Gordon Brown on October 19, 2019:
Its sad that Porky has passed away but it sounds like he had a good life.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on May 20, 2017:
Is your blue spotted puffer a sharp-nosed puffer, maybe a Canthigaster papau? There are no guarantees, but they would probably work out as tankmates so long as there's plenty of live rock to hide in and the tank is big.
Nick on May 17, 2017:
Will it be ok with other puffers that are not porcupines? I have a blue dotted puffer.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on May 02, 2017:
His teeth are likely still being ground down so long as you are serving the shrimp with their shells on. Another way to grind his teeth down is to feed him some sinking pellet food that is big enough for him to notice, but small enough he has to bring some crushed coral from tank floor into his mouth with it when he picks it off the bottom. Distract him from it while dropping a few pieces of it on the other side of the tank to allow it to sink to the crushed coral on the bottom. Yet another way to be sure his teeth are getting ground is to buy some natural, unbleached, un-dyed seashells and stuff them with whatever he likes to eat.
Even if your puffer likes getting petted, don't do it. Your skin oils and hand soap residue can hurt his delicate skin as he has no scales to protect him and his slime coating is weak. If that's not enough to deter you, please realize he can literally take one of your fingers off if he's big enough.
Teri on April 30, 2017:
I have a porcupine who does like to be petted. but do have a concern if anyone can answer he doesn't seem to like eating anything other that fresh shrimp have placed fresh clams as well as mussels and he only wants the shrimp how do we know if his teeth are not being grounded down enough? he is still a baby but still concerned
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on December 26, 2016:
Like most other fish, porcupine puffers do not like to be petted. It could injure their skin and get you bitten.
Went Brown on December 23, 2016:
Do they like being petted?
Leidy on February 07, 2015:
I ate fugu in Japan at a specialty fugu renutarast in Osaka -- but also have eaten bits of fugu in Hong Kong. At no time did I get that tingly sensation that I was expecting -- and hoping -- to have... Ah well! But, OTOH, I guess I should thank my lucky stars I didn't get sick from eating bits of the fish as well! :D
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 30, 2014:
That's a great idea. I used to feed mine with a turkey baster. When he gets a bit bigger you will want to become fast with it and get it out quickly. My Porky eventually bit the end off getting overexcited at feeding time but he was much bigger than your little guy is now. It was OK though because he just spat the plastic back out in little bits. I do all the fun leading him with the food outside the glass sides and drop it into his open mouth from the top when he comes up to beg now. It's just as enjoyable and everybody gets to keep all their fingers.
You are going to enjoy your little guy so much. Porcupine puffers say cute forever and develop more complex and entertaining behaviors as they get older.
Christine brooks on October 30, 2014:
Thank you for your advice. I will try a turkey baster instead if you think that's ok because he seems to know when i am feeding him and waits for my finger to go in the water with food on
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on October 29, 2014:
It is unwise. His teeth will soon be able to crush clams and the wee bones in your fingers aren't much more substantial. Your pet is a wild animal and he may well bite you eventually. While they can learn some things, they just aren't smart enough to learn to never bite you.
Christine brooks on October 29, 2014:
I have a baby porcupine puffer. He id approximately 2 inches long and he likes being hand fed but does tend to bite my finger. Is this unwise as he is obviously going to get bigger as are his teeth or will he learn to be more gentle. He hasn't broken skin yet.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on July 04, 2014:
@spuddy123: About all you can do for a stressed out or sick fish that doesn't have any infections is to give him supportive treatment like immaculate water quality, fresh food, and steady, appropriate water temperatures. Keep his tank water extremely clean with no detectible nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia. Keep his PH around 8. Keep his water temperature between 75 and 80 degrees. Feed him thawed, invertebrate-based frozen fish food or things like chopped up fresh shrimp, mussels, clams, or crayfish until his appetite comes back.Good luck with your puffer.
spuddy123 on July 04, 2014:
I need help we took our porcupine to a garden center to be put in a bigger tank they mistreated him so we brought him home know he just floats on the top and his eyes are cloudy what should I do.
agiffey on March 24, 2014:
Very interesting. Thanks for info.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 22, 2014:
@agiffey: They crunch the shell into shards and somehow manage to spit out all of the inedible fragments. They chomp as much meat as they can reach out of a half shell then start crunching up the shell to get to the last of it. I'd like to know what exactly goes on in their mouths because they can pick up tiny pieces of food with a mouthful of substrate and only spit out substrate through their gill openings! The really strange thing is to watch Porky eat a small crayfish. He sucks in part, chomping, spits it back just a little, then sucks in the whole thing and spits out all the parts he doesn't want through his gill slits. I have no idea how he sorts stuff inside like that.
agiffey on March 22, 2014:
Curious how the puffers actually eat the small clams. Even clams on the half shell. Do they just crack them open with their teeth and eat the whole thing? Or just try to scrape the meat from the shell?
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 06, 2014:
@bonesindecay: You could have it ready right away if you use water from your cycled 100 gallon and attach the Eheim right to the quarantine tank. Hypo-salinity needs to be phased in slowly. You start at a normal salinity and slowly decrease it briefly to around 1.010. I'll have to hunt up the instructions for that. I've had my fish so long haven't had to quarantine anything but macroalgae for probably ten years.I'd suggest you treat both the display tank and the quarantine tank with a reef-safe ich-treatment. You'll really enjoy the chromis because they are such neat schoolers. In time, you can train them to come to you for food and they all come swimming to you at once. They also don't tend to get nasty or annoying like damsels.
bonesindecay on March 05, 2014:
@Kylyssa: Thanks for the reply. I have a spare 10 gallon tank and a small canister filter I could use for quarantine. How long do you recommend I cycle the quarantine tank before it's safe to put fish in the quarantine tank? Also how long do you recommend doing the hypo-salinity & quarantine before adding the tang and any fish to the main tank? Isn't it more risky putting these fish in a smaller tank? They can still get stressed out because it's too small right?. I do plan on getting a baby Porky and a baby tang. I was thinking I should probably exchange the 4 damsels in my tank right now for a couple chromas since you told me they can be butt heads to the blue tang. Thanks again for your advice.
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on March 05, 2014:
@bonesindecay: Yellow tangs are easier to take care at first of but tend to be a bit more aggressive than blue ones. By aggressive I mean they tend to bully other fish and nip fins even when it might be suicidal and the one I had was a terror on corals and decorative shrimps as well. I gave her away after she killed a big, beautiful foxface fresh out of quarantine, cut his abdomen right open. My experience with all the Zebrasoma tangs is that they can be nippy little jerks. My purple is nicer than the yellow was but he still has the name Purple (bleep) because he picks on Porky and the Hippo. Hippo tangs are harder to care for at first and are susceptible to ich but you can use hypo-salinity in the quarantine tank and nip it in the bud before adding it to your display tank. Everyone I know who has a blue agrees that once you get your blue past its first six months in captivity it's a sturdy critter. Mine's been crazy healthy for the last ten years, even surviving a really big bite out of her cheek from the Purple (bleep) tang about four years ago. Yellows are only slightly less susceptible to ich and seem slightly more susceptible to what they call black ich. The bottom line is that all tangs are ich magnets, there's only different levels of degree. Blue tangs are really calm and pretty smart once they're a year or so old, even feeding off the surface and taking tidbits from your hand in time. In my experience, blues do better at adapting to a wide variety of foods and seem to eat heartily quite quickly and yellows sometimes don't.One weird thing about adding a blue tang is this - if you have a yellow and blue damsel, the damsel may get really aggressive with the blue tang. The yellow and blue damsels don't seem to know that the blue tangs aren't conspecifics. It might not seem like a damsel can do much to a blue tang but they can harry and annoy the poor thing until it stops eating or gets infected from the nips. So I wouldn't do a blue tang with a yellow/blue damsel.You'd probably do better with a tang than a wrasse, especially with the clown in there. I'd keep the Eheim going permanently. You can always use it to stick a sponge filter into mature for you to use in a quarantine or hospital tank and a little extra filtration is never a bad thing even if you don't. It looks like your email went straight to the Spam filter. Yahoo mail can be a pain like that. Anyway, I think you've got a nice looking set-up going and it's going to be awesome once everybody gets settled in.
bonesindecay on March 05, 2014:
Hello Kylyssa,Hope all is well with you.My 100 gallon has been going for almost a month. I have my refuge set up in my 15 gallon tank. I have it set up by the siphon method beside the main tank The timing of the siphon and my return pump has been stable. I recently purchased a protein skimmer, the Eshopps PSK 100H. The skimmer seems to be working really well. I have 6 small damsels in the tank right now for about 5 days now and they are doing well. I do have a couple more questions for you though.In about 1 to 2 months I plan on getting the Porky Puffer as well as an engineer goby or a large gold stripe maroon clownfish. But I am debating over getting a blue hippo tang or a yellow tang. I have read that most tangs are susceptible to ich and the blue tang is one of the worse. Most say the yellow tang is easier to take care of. What are your thoughts about the blue vs the yellow? Also I was considering getting a Lunar Wrasse. But I'm skeptical because I read that they are supper aggressive and I wouldn't want the wrasse freaking out and nipping at the puffer's eyes or other fish... etc. What do you think about me getting a wrasse? Or should I just keep it to having a Puffer, Yellow tang, large maroon clownfish, and damsels in my tank?I am still running my Eheim 2217 canister filter. Do you think I should still run the filter or stop? My tank is filled with about 1/2 live rock, 1/2 fake rock and live sand. I only have a few sponges in my refuge, so If I take away the canister filter I'm not sure if it will be a good idea. I have some photos of my set up that I emailed you.Thank you for your time.Jared
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 11, 2014:
@bonesindecay: It will certainly help. I highly recommend cheatomorpha macro-algae for your refugium. It sucks out nitrates like crazy and you can feed the extra to your tang when it outgrows the refugium. It also doesn't go "sexual" and have die-off like the caulerpas do.
bonesindecay on February 11, 2014:
@Kylyssa: I am putting together a refugium with an old 15 gallon tank I had. I hope that will be good enough. Thanks for your help kylyssa
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 10, 2014:
@bonesindecay: I think that's an awful lot of bio-load for that size of a tank without some extra water volume and/or filtration. Engineer gobies get to be a foot long or even a bit more sometimes. The blue/yellow damsels stay tiny so multiples of them would likely be fine but I'd recommend only one three-stripe damsel (they get bigger and may get aggressive with each other) if you go that way. Any type of damsel will be fine with the puffer as he's likely going to be a lot less aggressive than you may think. They eat mostly invertebrates in nature and won't bother with even small fish unless confused or very hungry. I actually used to use my tank with Porky and the engineer as a tank to put injured fish into to recover because both were very mild fish. Porky takes food from the mouths of fish whose faces he could bite off if he weren't careful. Some damsels may pick at the engineer goby. Engineer gobies are mild mannered fish when it comes to fish too big to fit in their mouths. Engineer gobies tend to hide from any confrontation but they can become friendly enough to hand feed. A ten gallon change per week is a very small change for a heavily occupied 100 gallon aquarium. Such small water changes can be OK if you have a vegetable filter such as a refugium full of macro-algae but I wouldn't recommend it if you just have the tank. The EHEIM 2217 is a good filter for a moderately stocked 100 gallon tank. Even though Eheim claims it's good for much larger tanks, if you compare the volume, amount of media space, and the liters-per-hour of turnover with other brands such as Fluval and see what tank sizes they are rated for, you'll see the Eheim is rated with a very different standard. The Eheim 2217 is a great filter and would be perfect for a moderately stocked 100 gallon, though.
bonesindecay on February 10, 2014:
@Kylyssa: Thank you for the info. My name is Jared. I have the 100 gallon with water live rock and sand in it now. In a couple months I was thinking of getting the Octopus HOB BH 2000 protein skimmer ( especially when the porky is in the tank). I am using a EHEIM 2217 canister filter. I can't afford a sump or refugium set up right now. Maybe in the future. I will try to keep the tank clean as possible and change 10 gallons a week.I think I will start out with some damsels. Then get the puffer, a blue hippo tang and a couple engineer gobies. What do you think? Also you recommended me to get a couple 3 striped damsels in the email you sent me. Are those really aggressive? Wouldn't it be better to get some blue/yellow damsels? If the puffer decided to eat them it wouldn't bother me much.Thank you for your time.Jared
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on February 08, 2014:
@bonesindecay: If you haven't bought the tank yet, you may wish to consider something a little larger. If you already have the tank, I'd suggest a very large refugium or sump under the tank to add water volume. An over-powered protein skimmer would be in order, too. You can put it in the extra-large sump or refugium. Any damsels or chromis that survive will stay small and won't add too much to the tank's bio-load but both porcupine puffers and Picasso triggers get big and hefty. It still seems like an awfully large bio-load for a 100 gallon. Think about how long and how thick a foot-long fish is. Also keep in mind the trigger will grow much faster than the porcupine puffer so you'll probably want to start out with a porcupine puffer much larger than the trigger. That should also help from a cost standpoint as large porcupine puffers are relatively inexpensive and small Picasso triggers are much cheaper than large ones.
bonesindecay on February 08, 2014:
Hello, I'm new here. First off I would like to say that Kylyssa wrote a very good article on the porcupine puffer. The porcupine puffer is an awesome fish! Unfortunately the porky puffer would not do well in my 30 gallon. I have had a 30 gallon nano cube salt water tank for over 3 years with a maroon clown fish, a damsel and the tank is good. I am currently upgrading to a 100 gallon tank because I have fell in love with the porcupine puffer. I have done a lot of research and had mixed reviews on the porcupine purffer. My question is will it be able to handle the porky be able to handle my 100 gallon tank even when it is full grown with the fish I plan to add to my add to my aquarium? I was thinking of having about 5 blue/yellow damsels, 5 chromas, a Picaso Trigger and of course the PUFFER. (Im not worried about the puffer or trigger eating the damsles and chromas) Trust me I will make sure the tank is clean. If anyone can reach out and give me any advice that would make my day. Thank you
Amy Trumpeter from Oxford on October 11, 2013:
Looks really cool!
Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on December 07, 2012:
He kinda looks like a Furby without the ears. Great info - I'd like to have one someday.
mdarbyvancouver on June 15, 2012:
@Kylyssa: Thanks, Kylyssa! Floyd, our groupie...er...grouper is at about 6"-7" now and we are currently in the process of getting a much larger tank. The p.puffers I've seen locally appear to be about 3-4". We're not rushing out to get him as we still need to prepare a much larger tank. Again, thanks for the advice!
Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on June 15, 2012:
@mdarbyvancouver: As with any combination of fish in a tank together there are no absolute guarantees they will get along. However, as long as the porcupine puffer is substantially bigger (when not puffed) than the grouper's mouth they stand a good chance of getting along. One concern to keep in mind is that the grouper, if it hasn't reached its adult size of close to two feet long, will grow very fast in comparison to the porky puffer (my porcupine puffer continues to grow after having him eight years and he's only just reached 8" long) so you'll want to start with a porcupine puffer already too big to be swallowed by a full-grown panther grouper. Porcupine puffers are actually pretty mild-mannered and slow-moving so you may have to hand feed him (it's fun anyway) or risk overfeeding your grouper to get enough food into your porky. Good luck!
mdarbyvancouver on June 14, 2012:
WoW! Great info and great advice! One question: do porky puffers and panther groupers get along? Just askin' as we have a panther grouper(also very playful and very social) and want to bring in a p.puffer. Thank you!
belinda342 on May 12, 2012:
What an adorable looking fish. Makes me wish my son had gone with a saltwater tank instead of fresh water.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on April 24, 2012:
The porcupine puffer certainly is a very unique fish which comes with it's own very distinct care rules. Wise advice.
Rose Jones on April 12, 2012:
Very cute lens, enjoyable. Sent out to Stumbleupon and Google plus, so that others can read this!
Indigo Janson from UK on December 16, 2011:
This is excellent advice for anyone considering a porcupine puffer. It's easy to see why people would rush to buy one, they look so cute and we are all fascinated with the puffing trick too, but they are living beings with their own particular requirements and it is important to stop and consider first whether you can give a puffer the care it needs.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 05, 2011:
Yikes, the porcupine puffer looks like a scary little fish when it gets upset. It is definitely a very distinctive fish so I can see why people would enjoy having one as a pet.
fish_problems on October 12, 2011:
This is a really well put together lens about porcupine puffers! There's a lot of great info :) I'm glad you mentioned that people should never scare their puffers just so they will puff up - I can't tell you how many times I've had to explain to guests that I will not make our puffers puff just so they can see it.
LouiseKirkpatrick from Lincolnshire, United Kingdom on August 14, 2011:
Porcupine Puffers look like very funky fish! An excellent and informative lens blessed by this Squid Angel as part of the "Back To School Bus Trip"!
Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on August 10, 2011:
Your porcupine puffer looks like Gollum in the last picture! Maybe you can make him famous:) I have a fish tank at home, but not saltwater. I would certainly consider buying a puffer fish if I ever make the move to salt water. Blessed
Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on May 29, 2011:
These fish are so unique. Right now I have a small fresh water tank but maybe someday.....
missbat on September 17, 2010:
I believe I saw a porcupine puffer when I was in hospital once. I always wondered what it was. It certainly liked to come right up against the glass when it thought I was looking at it. Thanks for solving that mystery! They're pretty cute fish and thanks for all the tips you've shared about keeping them!
Jeanette from Australia on February 22, 2010:
Too cute! What an informative lens.
strayspay on January 26, 2010:
Wonderful lens - Five stars. I love the information about the Puffer.
VarietyWriter2 on December 06, 2009:
Lots of great info. Love the magnets and buttons from your store too!
norma-holt on June 13, 2009:
Nice lens and thought provoking for carers of them. It is very topical and well written.
Beas on June 02, 2009:
Never heard of these marine hedgehogs, they look really cool and I find the facts you told very entertaining. About them being intelligent and some people eating them just like the fugu fish. Great job! ***** and favorited
x3xsolxdierx3x lm on May 26, 2009:
This lens was fun, Kylyssa :) 5 stars headed your way ;) (*scrolling up to the top of the page* now) lol
anonymous on May 25, 2009:
very good lens with a lot of great advice. Angel Blessings to you!
anonymous on May 23, 2009:
Hey! Didn't I see these guys in "Finding Nemo"?
The Party Animal from Partytown USA on May 23, 2009:
Funny I am reading this - we had a puffer fish in our tank that was aggressive and literally took a bite out of one of the other fish - of course that fish died. My husband watched the whole thing take place. So this week my husband found it a new home with a fish tore employee and may all the other fish in my tank be happy while their fins all grow back.
Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on May 21, 2009:
This is great! Porky is very photogenic.
MikeMoore LM on May 21, 2009:
Love those pictures. You're right, they're extremely cute for a fish. You also did a magnificent job on this lens, giving you five stars from me.
Brookelorren LM on May 21, 2009:
I had never heard of this type of fish before.