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puffer fish pets species

The Best 9 Types of Freshwater Puffer Fish

When it comes to having a pet at home, you have so many options. If you would like a pet at home that isn’t too time-consuming or challenging in terms of space, though, a little fish might make a lot of sense. Out of all the kinds of fish you could have as a pet, though, the freshwater puffer fish is a really popular place to start. These fish do not tend to be the most challenging to own. The challenge, then, comes from choosing the type/breed of freshwater puffer fish that you want to buy!

There are many different types, and thus you need to be willing to look around a fair bit to find the right type for you. To help you make a more informed choice, we have put together a simple list of the most common freshwater puffer fish out there alongside some photos so you understand what you are buying.

Use this simple guide to get a better handle on what you might be buying, and why a certain type of freshwater puffer fish might be better for you than other types on this particular list.

Owning a freshwater puffer fish

Many are not aware of the challenges that come from owning a fish as a pet. The idea sounds fantastic – you put a little fish into a tank and watch it swim around to its heart’s content. However, for many, the costs involved and the need to keep the tank clean etc. can become quite an expensive challenge.

You might reach a point where you simply underestimate the cost. You might also not buy the right kind of tank for that particular fish. We highly recommend that you look to try and understand this as best you can first. Look into the cost of a tank, of feed, and of cleaning. Look into the time involved for care, cleaning, and general maintenance. It is better, then, to be honest with yourself about whether or not owning a fish would be something that you truly enjoy.

Unlike a dog or a cat, it is hard to know how you will respond to a pet fish until you actually have one in your life. They can be burdensome for those who are not expecting the cost to be so high. Many see fish as cheap and cheerful pits. If you buy a freshwater puffer fish, though, you can be spending more on feed and cleaning than you might have first anticipated.

You also need to take into account size needs. If your fish is quite large, then it might need a larger environment to live within. This is very important if you buy the right kind of living conditions so that your fish can thrive.

We will try and make a note of this below so that you can better understand what freshwater puffer fishes are easy to care for and which pose more challenges.

The different kinds of freshwater puffer fish

Dwarf Puffer Fish


The first puffer fish we wanted to talk about is the Dwarf puffer fish. These are also known as a pea puffer fish. They are very small, and it is rare that one exceeds 1-1.5”. They are becoming rarer as pets as their habitats are naturally over-harvested. As such, they are not as common as they once were.

If you do get one they make excellent pets for their small, manageable size and their gorgeous color palettes. They are among the most adaptable in terms of tank size and water filtration, too, minimizing cost.

Golden Puffer Fish

A highly common breed that many love to have as a pet, the golden puffer fish is available in both bright and dark color schemes. They look somewhat rough and tough, and their little projections end up looking very standout and particular when they puff up in the water.

In terms of size, the golden puffer can be as long as 20” so they should not be trifled with if you want a smaller fish. They are, though, easy to manage, and while they need large tanks they can be quite easy to look after and feed.

Imitator Puffer Fish

The name makes most people think that this is a chameleon-like freshwater puffer fish. They are though very much small puffer fish that are recognized for their bright and shining color scheme. They tend to be quite small, but they need a deep aquarium with at least 30 gallons of water. So, do not think that because they are small you can get away with a tiny little tank.

They can be quite demanding to look after and somewhat expensive, but most find them to be highly enjoyable fish to have both to interact with and look at.

Ocellated Puffer Fish

Another more unique form of freshwater puffer fish, the Ocellated puffer is a great fish for those who like rarity in their pets. They can be quite expensive to buy and they are very popular among their native regions in South Asia. They tend to have quite a lot of personality compared to other fish, but keep themselves quite content if you can pair them up with a partner.

They likely need around 20 gallons of water, but if you buy one be sure to listen very closely to the filtration system needs that the vendor recommends you have. They are essential.

Red Eyed Puffer Fish

The name implies some form of devil fish, but the red-eyed puffer fish is an excellent fish. It is a mixture of different freshwater puffer fish breeds that can be quite aggressive. They are recommended only for those with experience in keeping fish. They should probably be kept in an aquarium themselves as opposed to with other fish as they have the tendency to go snapping and biting at the other fish. Not ideal!

They need a large tank despite maxing out in terms of size at around 2” – they also need a lot of tall plants to be happy. Demanding, but rewarding in the right circumstance.

South American Puffer Fish

The other option you might want to look into if you want a freshwater puffer fish that is found in the wild is this South American version. They are very hard to manage fish because they love the wild. They need a massive tank and they need to have a partner to keep them happy. They tend to be very attractive due to their rich gold and black striping – so, they do look amazing.

They need a rectangular tank at least 47” in size, with very specific filtration and lots of dense vegetation. Again, not easy to keep, but rewarding for those who would like to have a challenge.

Fahaka Puffer Fish

Out of the more common freshwater puffer fish breeds, the Fahaka is probably among the most interesting. They are quite large, capable of hitting sizes of up to 16”, and can be very aggressive around other fish and their keepers. They need large tanks, and they need to be given lots of plentiful and deeply planted vegetation or they become irritable.

Please be aware that out of all of the fish on this list, they are the most aggressive. They will make a habit of going for your hands, so wear protection whilst dropping in food and items.

Congo Puffer Fish

The next fish on our list would be the larger Congo puffer fish. These are African-based and come from the rivers all across the continent. They can become as large as 6” in size, and they tend to be quite likely to spend their time hiding.

They often lie around the sand bed of your aquarium, hiding from any potential predators – even if they are the biggest/only fish in the tank. They make great to good pets, and are available in various colors, but they do need a large tank and heavily filtered water (as is common for most freshwater puffer fish).

Target Puffer Fish

The last fish on our list is the humble Target puffer. They get to around 6” in size, but they do need a large tank of at least 35” in size. They also need lots of strong filtration being used all the time, so you can find that it is quite hard to keep them happy without a large outlay in cost.

They are also predators so you should keep an eye for how it interacts with others. As nocturnal hunters, they will go out feeding during the evening, so you might wish to get a moonlight so you can watch them without disturbing them.

Which is right for you?

Is it hard to choose a pet freshwater puffer fish? Somewhat. They all need some kind of water filtration and the size of the tank might shock you when you see the costs involved. For those who want a really interesting and striking-looking pet fish, though, they make an excellent choice.

You can see that the above all seem to carry both similarities and differences. Trying to get your head around said differences is very important. If you stick to the above list, we hope that you feel a bit more comfortable and confident about owning such a fish.

Fishes can be very easy pets to keep around the place, and they often tend to be quite low maintenance. Pick from the above, and that will surely continue to be the case. Happy fishing!