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Pufferfish have become increasingly popular in the aquariums hobby over the last 10 years. The Congo Puffer Fish Tetraodon miurus (not to be confused with the Congo Spotted Puffer Tetraodon schoutedeni) is possibly one of the most fascinating members of the pufferfish family. It is a mean, antisocial, ambush predator that spends much of its time hidden away in the substrate.
The Congo Puffer is not one for the new fish keeper, but if you are looking for a fresh challenge, or you genuinely want to keep one of the most unusual fish in the hobby, this guide may be for you.
|Common Name:||Congo Puffer, Miurus Puffer|
|Scientific Name:||Tetraodon miurus|
|Origin:||Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Tank Distribution:||Lower regions|
|Adult Size:||6” (15cm)|
|Life Expectancy:||10+ years|
|Minimum Tank Size:||20 US Gallons (75 Litres)|
|Temperature:||75°F – 82°F|
|pH:||6.8 – 7.6|
Congo Puffer Origins
The Congo Puffer, as the name very much suggests, originates from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been something of a warzone in recent years.
Ironically, this humanitarian disaster has proved positive to the Congo Puffer as there has been relatively little pressure from people collecting specimens to sell to the aquatic trade.
Congo Puffer Habitat
The Congo Puffers natural habitat is large rivers and streams which have high flow. The Congo Puffer is sometimes found in parts of the river which are flowing so fast they would be described as rapids.
The river bottoms in these areas tend to be very sandy. This works well for the Congo Puffer as they choose to bury themselves to wait in ambush for their prey.
Collecting Congo Puffers From The Wild
To the best of my knowledge, the Congo Puffer hasn’t been bred in captivity, which means all specimens in the hobby are wild-caught. In the recent past, there has been little to no fish collecting in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to ongoing conflict. This is now changing and more specimens are being brought in.
One thing to bear in mind with wild-caught puffers is the fact they will almost certainly have tapeworms or internal parasites when you get them. When I first got my Congo Puffer I spent several weeks repeatedly de-worming him and I would recommend others do the same.
What Size Aquarium For A Congo Puffer?
Congo Puffers are not big fish, even when fully grown, and they are not active fish, so they don’t require huge amounts of space to swim in. As such, I would recommend keeping your Congo Puffer in a 29 gallon (75 litres) or maybe a 40-gallon breeder (180 litres) aquarium.
I found, with the Congo Puffer, floor space is more important than water volume. If I had a 2’ x 2’ x 1’ (60cm x 60cm x 30cm) aquarium, I would have used that for my Congo Puffer.
How Should A Congo Puffer Aquarium Be Set Up?
The number one factor to consider when setting up an aquarium for a Congo Puffer is the substrate. The Congo Puffer wants to bury himself up to his eyeballs in the sand. In my Congo Puffer aquarium, I used a 4” (10cm) layer of pool filter sand. This depth is crucial to allow the Congo Puffer to get right down into the substrate.
In my own Congo Puffer tank, I use Super Naturals Aquarium Sand which I ordered from Amazon.com (check the current price of Super Naturals Aquarium Sand)
The rest of the decoration in the aquarium was of little to no interest to the fish. I added some rocks and a couple of plants, but that was about it.
Lighting in a Congo Puffer aquarium is not especially important. I used a decent LED light as I had a few plants growing in the aquarium, but I don’t think the Congo Puffer cared about the lighting at all.
Filtration on the other hand is very important. Almost all pufferfish require stability in their water parameters. It is often said that stability is better than perfect when it comes to pufferfish water parameters. I used a Fluval canister filter on my Congo Puffer aquarium (like the ones I wrote about in THIS article).
Flow is also important to the Congo Puffer. As they originate from fast-flowing rivers and streams I suspect they need high levels of oxygen in the water. I added two wavemakers to my Congo Puffer aquarium to really get the water moving.
Congo Puffer Behavior In The Aquarium
Congo Puffers are mean, aggressive, antisocial and completely intolerant of any other fish in their aquariums. They will readily eat ANY other fish which fits in their mouths and they will simply bite chunks out of those that are too big to go in their mouths. I kept my Congo Puffer alone. Seeing him ‘hunt’ the food I put in the aquarium, I knew he wouldn’t tolerate any tank mates.
I have read reports of some aquarists keeping Congo Puffers with some of the heavily armoured members of the catfish family, but personally, I wouldn’t risk it.
What Do Congo Puffers Eat?
The Congo Puffer is a hardcore carnivore that will not take to any commercial foods. It needs to be fed meaty foods such as prawns, small fish, earthworms etc. It will also take some invertebrates like crickets and beetles, but it won’t come to the surface to catch floating foods.
The Cong Puffer is an ambush predator. As such it will sit buried in the sand with only its eyes sticking out, waiting for potential prey to come into range. I fed my Congo Puffer using a long pair of feeding tongs. At first, he would only take live foods, but he came round after a few months.
A juvenile Congo Puffer will need to eat every day or every other day. As they grow the time between feedings can be increased. An adult only needs to be fed one decent meal a week.
Breeding Congo Puffers In Captivity
During my research, I couldn’t find any record of the Congo Puffer being successfully bred in captivity. I couldn’t even find any reliable information about how the Congo Puffer reproduces.
Other Members Of The Puffer Family
Pufferfish are extremely popular in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby at the moment. There are different sized puffers to suit different sized tanks and different experience levels.
Pufferfish range from the relatively cheap and easy to care for Dwarf Puffer which only reaches around 1.5 inches, to the giant Mbu Puffer which will reach 3ft or more and is only suitable for aquarists with extremely large aquariums, possibly needing 1000 or more gallons.
Below I have listed some of the most popular puffer species available in the hobby. One note of caution, common names for pufferfish vary by country, so always be sure to find the correct scientific name of the puffer you are purchasing before completing the sale.
- Pea or Dwarf Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)
- Fahaka Puffer (Tetraodon lineatus)
- Arrowhead Puffer (Tetraodon suvattii)
- Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer (Carinotetraodon irrubesco)
- Hairy Puffer (Tetraodon baileyi)
- Red Eye Puffer (Carinotetraodon lorteti)
- Dwarf Malabar Puffer (Carinotetraodon imitator)
- Amazon Puffer (Colomesus asellus)
- Humpback Puffer (Tetraodon palembangensis)
- Mbu Puffer (Tetraodon mbu)
The Congo Puffer is making a comeback in the fish keeping hobby. If you are looking for something different to keep, a real oddball of a fish, the Congo Puffer might be for you.
If this is your only tank, or you are new to fishkeeping, the Congo Puffer is probably one to avoid. The reality is the Congo Puffer will spend the vast majority of its time buried in the substrate. All your friends and family will think you are mad for keeping an aquarium that appears to have nothing in it.
The Congo Puffer is a connoisseur’s fish. One for those who know what they are doing and are looking for the next challenge!