Do Dwarf Puffers Puff Up? (Find out the truth!)

Dwarf Puffers do occasionally puff up. The ability to puff up is a defense mechanism Dwarf Pufferfish use to prevent themselves from being eaten. In the aquarium, Dwarf Puffers may puff up in defense of another fish, or just to practice and exercise their ‘puffing’ muscles.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

Freshwater pufferfish are rapidly growing in popularity. From the tiny Dwarf Puffer to the mighty Mbu Puffer, there is now a pufferfish to suit every tank and every budget.

I have been keeping, and trying to breed, freshwater pufferfish for over ten years. I have a number of different species in my fish room. My largest pufferfish is my Fahaka Puffer and my smallest is my Dwarf Puffers.


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Why Do Dwarf Puffers Puff Up?

Pufferfish have developed the ability to puff their bodies up as a defense mechanism. In the wild, there are a number of natural predators that would love to eat a pufferfish. Birds, snakes, and mammals like river otters will all try to eat pufferfish.

In the aquarium, a Dwarf Puffer may puff up because they feel threatened either by a tank mate or by something outside the tank. Puffing up is stressful for pufferfish, so if we are keeping them with another fish that is making them want to puff up, we should consider removing one of the fish.

Dwarf Puffers need to exercise the muscles that allow them to puff up. Occasionally you may see one of your Dwarf Puffers puff up just to practice and flex their ‘puffing’ muscles. I haven’t seen my own Dwarf Puffers puff up very often, but when they do it is always impressive how large they get.



How Do Puffer Fish Puff Up?

Dwarf Puffers, in fact, ALL puffers, puff up by drawing water into their bodies to dramatically and quickly increase their body size. They do this much like we draw air into our lungs.

Whilst Dwarf Puffers can puff up very quickly, it can take them a little longer to expel the water, so if you see one of your Dwarf Puffers is puffed up, just leave it alone and it will expel the water and return to its normal size.

Is It Bad For Dwarf Puffers To Puff Up?

Dwarf Puffers have evolved to puff up when they believe they are about to be attacked by a predator. As such, it is not bad for them to puff up, it is perfectly natural. It is however very bad for Dwarf Puffers to puff up out of water. If Dwarf Puffers puff up by drawing in the air instead of water, it is usually fatal.

Bearing this in mind, when catching Dwarf Puffers to move from one tank to another, never catch them in a net and lift them out of the water. If you do, and they puff up with air, there is a good chance your Dwarf Puffer will die.

When I have to move my Dwarf Puffers I prefer to catch them in a net, then transfer them into a cup, which I keep underwater, then move the Dwarf Puffer in the cup of water so it never has a chance to draw in air.

Can You Make A Dwarf Puffer Puff Up?

They say that a Dwarf Puffer puffing up is similar to human fainting. Bearing that in mind, we would never want to deliberately make a human faint.

There are plenty of videos on the internet showing people lifting puffer fish out the water which naturally makes them puff up. This would be considered animal cruelty and would be extremely bad for the Dwarf Puffer.

In Conclusion

Dwarf Puffers do puff up. They have evolved the strategy as a natural defense against predators eating them. In the aquarium, you may occasionally see one of your Dwarf Puffers puff up. Dwarf Puffers will sometimes puff up just to exercise their ‘puffing’ muscles, ensuring they are ready should a predator ever strike!


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor