Fahaka Puffer (Tetraodon lineatus) Keeping, Breeding & Feeding

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I don’t think there can be any doubt if there is one species of fish that has come into the spotlight in the last 10 years or so, it has to be the freshwater pufferfish.

There is now a fairly long list of species available for us hobbyists to choose from. We can now choose a pufferfish to match every tank size and every budget. From the tiny Dwarf Puffer which might only reach 1″ (2.5cm) long to the mighty Mbu Puffer which can measure up to 30″ (75cm).

I have been keeping freshwater puffers for a number of years now, and I currently have 6 different species in my fish room including 2 Fahaka Pufferfish.

Overview of the Fahaka Pufferfish

The Fahaka Puffer (Tetraodon lineatus) is the second-largest pufferfish kept in the freshwater hobby. They can grow up to about 18 inches (45cm) long. Fahaka Puffers can be found in the Nile River in Africa, which contributes to their common name, the Nile Puffer.

Fahaka Puffers are aggressive and should be kept in an aquarium without other fish. Caution should also be shown by the aquarium owner as Fahaka Puffer has an incredibly strong bite. A large Fahaka Puffer can easily take a finger off if they were to bite it.


Common Name:Fahaka Puffer
Scientific Name:Tetraodon lineatus
Origin:Central and Eastern North Africa
Tank Distribution:All areas
Adult Size:18 inches (45cm)
Life Expectancy:10+ years
Care Level:Intermediate to Difficult
Minimum Tank Size:100 Gallons
Breeding Method:Egg Scatterer
Temperature:75°F – 79°F
pH:6.5 – 7.5

Fahaka Puffer Common Names

Like so many fish, Fahaka Puffers are known by so many different common names. These names often vary by location. Some of the most often used common names are;

  • Nile Puffer
  • Stipped Puffer
  • Strippy Puffer
  • Lineatus puffer
  • Globefish
  • Pyjama Puffer
Fahaka Puffer Origins Map

Fahaka Puffer Habitat

Fahaka Puffers live in various rivers and lakes across much of central and eastern areas of North Africa including The Nile, Chad Basin, and the Niger River, Geba River, Senegal River, and Volta River.

Fahaka Puffers inhabit both open water and more sheltered areas which have heavy vegetation.

What Do Fahaka Puffers Eat in The Wild?

In the wild, Fahaka Puffers are primarily molluscivores, meaning they eat mainly shelled aquatic life such as snails, crabs, mussels, and clams. Baby and juvenile Fahaka Puffer undoubtedly also consume bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and other small water-borne creatures.

Like so many other pufferfish, Fahaka Puffers have to eat hard-shelled foods on a regular basis to keep their teeth trimmed. Failure to do so would result in their teeth growing so long that eventually, they wouldn’t be able to open and close their mouths.

How Large do Fahaka Puffers Get?

The typical size for an adult Fahaka Puffer to reach is 18″ (45cm). To reach maximum potential, the Fahaka Puffer will require a good size tank, a proper, well-balanced diet, and good clean water.

Fahaka Puffers are fast-growing fish. They can easily grow to 10″ or 12″ (25cm – 30cm) in their first year and reach full size by the end of year two.

Fahaka Puffer’s fast rate of growth is a natural adaptation which, in the wild, reduces the chances of small Fahaka Puffers being eaten by a larger fish. It is common for Fahaka Puffers to grow by 1″ (2.5cm) per month for the first 10 to 12 months of their life.

Due to their rapid growth rate, if you are planning on getting a Fahaka Puffer, make sure you have their forever home ready because they will need it sooner than you might think.

Housing A Fahaka Puffer

Fahaka Puffer Tank Size

Fahaka Puffers require a large aquarium. A minimum of 100 gallons is required, but 155 would be better. The tank should measure at least 2ft (60cm) front to back to allow the full-grown puffer space to turn around.

I currently keep each of my Fahaka Puffers in 155 gallons (600 liters) aquariums. These are 2′ (60cm) wide and 2′ (60cm) deep which is about the minimum for a full-grown Fahaka Puffer.

Fahaka Puffers do require space to swim, so a tank that measures at least 5′ (160cm) is required. Any shorter and the puffer won’t have a chance to swim back and forth without feeling confined.

Don’t forget to make sure your Fahaka Puffer tank has a tight-fitting lid as Fahaka Puffers will jump!

Substrate in a Fahaka Puffer Tank

Bearing in mind how large Fahaka Puffers get, consider adding a layer of sand deep enough for the puffer to bury itself. I know a lot of aquarists worry about having deep layers of sand, but the Fahaka Puffer will stir the sand on a regular basis, so anaerobic pockets won’t have a chance to form.

In my own Fahaka Puffer tanks I use Caribsea Natural Sand which I just order from Amazon.com. Both my Fahaka Puffers love to bury themsleves up to there eye where they sit, waiting for dinner to swim past.

I would recommend keeping away from either a gravel substrate or dirt. Gravel can be sharp, and your puffer may injure himself when he tries to bury down into it, and dirt will make a real mess in your water every time your puffer disturbs it.

The other potential issue when gravel is used as a substrate is there is the risk the Fahaka Puffer could swallow some gravel when they grab their prey.

Their internal systems are designed to cope with sand that gets sucked in during eating, but large pieces of gravel could cause impaction in their intestines.

Decorations in a Fahaka Puffer Tank

In my own Fakaha Puffer tanks, I use large rocks to give the aquarium a natural feel and make the tanks more interesting for the puffers. I also use a lot of live plants such as Amazon Swords and Vallisneria.

Decorations in the tank should not include anything sharp, like long pieces of wood. A startled Fahaka Puffer can accelerate and swim very quickly, leading to them injuring themselves on sharp objects in the aquarium.

Fahaka Puffers will tolerate plants in the tank, although as they get bigger and swim around, they may end up uprooting all plants.

Fahaka Puffers like a substrate that is soft. Fahaka Puffers love to wallow and bury themselves, so sand makes the ideal substrate.

Filtering a Fahaka Puffer Tank

Fahaka Puffers can be very messy eaters. Couple that with the fact they rarely allow other fish to live in the same tank as them, and you can end up with a lot of uneaten food particles in the water.

Due to their large size and large appetites, when a Fahaka Puffer goes to the bathroom, it can be like a small dog has pooped in their aquarium.

Bearing the above in mind, having good filtration on a Fahaka Puffer tank is essential.

I like to use a Fluval 407 on my Fahaka Puffer tanks (see more on the Fluval Filter here). This filter has enough power to keep the water clean, without turning it over so often the fish can swim against the current.


Are Fahaka Puffers Captive Bred Or Wild Caught?

Currently, almost all Fahaka Puffers in the aquarium hobby are wild-caught. From my research, at present, there are no breeders commercially producing Fahaka Puffers. There have been some reports recently of hobbyists managing to successfully breed Fahaka Puffers in captivity.

Due to the Fahaka’s aggressive nature, breeders require very large tanks, or even ponds to get Fahaka Puffers to spawn successfully.

The ICUN Red List currently has the Fahaka Puffer wild population listed as ‘least concern’ of extinction. Hopefully in the future efforts to breed the Fahaka Puffer commercially will see captive bred numbers available increase.

Are Fahaka Puffer Fish Aggressive?

Fahaka Puffers are essentially aggressive fish, that are well known to be intolerant of other fish. As such, Fahaka Puffers should be kept alone. There is a good chance a Fahaka Puffer will kill any other fish kept in the same aquarium.

These puffers have sharp, powerful beaks which will not only take a chunk out of any other tank inhabitants but potentially a chunk out of the hand or arm of a careless keeper.

If you do want to keep tankmates with a Fahaka Puffer, ensure they are a fast-swimming species so they can keep well away from the puffer.

What Do Fahaka Puffers Eat in Captivity?

Fahaka Puffers are molluscivores in the wild. Their natural diet consists of snails, crabs, mussels, and clams.

In captivity, Fahaka Puffers eat;

  • Snails
  • Worms
  • Crabs
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Crayfish

It is essential that Fahaka Puffers eat shelled food on a regular basis in order to trim and maintain their sharp teeth. Fahaka Puffers’ teeth grow continually throughout their lives. If they are not regularly trimmed they can cause problems.

I have a really good article dedicated to the question What do Fahaka Puffers Eat?

Fahaka Puffers are messy eaters, and as such, good filtration is required to prevent uneaten food from building up and subsequently rotting in the aquarium, causing an ammonia spike.

Caution Feeding Live Prey!

Whilst I generally stay away from feeding any of my fish live foods, especially feeder goldfish, there are occasions when live feeding is essential. Feeding Fahaka Puffers live crabs or crayfish is one of those occasions. Feeding live foods to Fahaka Puffers exercises their natural hunting instincts and is an important part of preventing a Fahaka Puffer from becoming bored in the aquarium.

The problem is live crabs and crayfish can and will use their claws to defend themselves against the puffer. I have seen a number of Fahaka Puffers in aquariums that have permanent injuries, including the loss of an eye, due to crabs or crayfish claws.

To prevent a crab or crayfish from injuring your Fahaka Puffer at feeding time, you will need to break or remove the claws before adding them to the aquarium. This is not an especially pleasant job, but better than your beloved puffer losing an eye!

How often should Fahaka Puffers Eat?

How often a Fahaka Puffer needs feeding will vary largely by age and size of the individual Fahaka Puffer. A small Fahaka Puffer will need to be fed 3 or 4 times a week.

When they are growing they need lots of small meals and their food should be as varied as possible. A mid-sized Fahaka Puffer only needs to be fed a couple of times a week. They will probably have a large meal each time, then spend a day or two digesting it.

A large adult Fahaka Puffer will probably only eat once a week. It can be hard to feed a varied diet when feeds are so sporadic.

Can You Sex Fahaka Puffer Fish?

There is no way to sex Fahaka Puffers just by looking at them. Fahaka Pufferfish are not sexually dimorphic (males and females look the same). Prior to breeding, a female may become slightly more rounded due to her becoming full of eggs. Just prior to spawning the females’ ovipositor will be visible.

Breeding Fahaka Puffers In Captivity

Breeding Fahaka Puffer Fish is extremely difficult due to their aggressive nature. However, in recent years there has been an increasing number of reports of hobbyists successfully breeding their Fahaka Puffers.

Fahaka Puffers become sexually mature at around 12 months old. Fahaka puffers don’t form any sort of relationship bond with the opposite sex like some Cichlid species do. When the female is ready to spawn she will develop an ovipositor which will become visible. Females will spawn with any male Fahakas that are ready to spawn.

At spawning time, the male and female will swim together around the aquarium. After a few minutes of swimming, the male will invert himself under the female. He will grip the underside of the female, positioning himself so that both their sexual organs are in contact. Once in position, the actual spawning process takes place.

Spawning is a vigorous affair during which both eggs and sperm are released at the same time. The female will release thousands of eggs. Spawning may be repeated several times. Once spawning has finished the two Fahaka Puffers should be separated.

Somewhere between 72 and 96 hours after spawning, the eggs will have turned into fry, either sitting on the substrate or stuck to the tank sides. Reports suggest Fahaka Puffer fry need access to the water surface, although the reasons seem unclear.

After 6 to 8 days the fry become free-swimming. Regular feedings of microscopic food such as infusoria should be given several times a day. As the fry grow, they should progress on to freshly hatched Brine Shrimp.

The developing fry will need multiple feedings throughout the day. As the fry develop, they should be separated according to their size to prevent larger fry from predating on smaller fry.

Fahaka Puffers Inflating

Fahaka Puffers, like all pufferfish, have the ability to increase their size rapidly by inflating their bodies. This adaptation is designed to prevent the puffer from being eaten.

Pufferfish can rapidly fill their bodies with water, increasing their size by 2 or 3 times their normal size. Often, when a pufferfish is grabbed by a larger fish or maybe a mammal predator such as an otter, it will rapidly inflate, forcing the predator’s jaws open, allowing the pufferfish to escape.

In our aquariums, Fahaka Puffers can occasionally be seen ‘exercising’ the muscles they use for inflation. They will rapidly inflate, then deflate. We only get to observe this inflation if we are in the right place at the right time.

Pufferfish should never be made to inflate, especially out of the water. Inflation out of water is a stressful process for pufferfish and they may not be able to expel all the air from their bodies, which can cause them long-term issues.

Common Fahaka Puffer Pests and Diseases

Internal Tapeworms

The most common issue with Fahaka Puffers, and in fact, with just about all wild-caught fish, is internal tapeworms. Fahaka Puffers are often infested with internal tapeworms which will need dealing with as soon as the Fahaka comes into your care.

Internal tapeworms will consume all the goodness from your Fahaka’s food before the puffer has a chance to. Essentially the result is, no matter how much the Fahaka Puffer eats, it will lose weight and eventually die from starvation.

When a new Fahaka Puffer comes into my care I treat for tapeworms straight away. I use Paracleanse, which is made by Fritz (see the current price of Paracleanse on Amazon.com).

To ensure a Fahaka Puffer is completely free of internal tapeworms may require more than one treatment. I tend to treat my pufferfish 3 or 4 times over the first 6 months in my care.

Ich (whitespot)

Ich is another extremally common issue with Fahaka Pufferfish. Ich is often present in new fish and is well known to take advantage of stressed fish. Fahaka Puffers can become very stressed during transport and so it is common for new fish to need treating for Ich.

If treated early, Ich can be completely cleared and shouldn’t cause a Fahaka Puffer any long-term issues. To treat Fahaka Puffers with Ich, I use Ich-X which is made by Hikari. If you are based in Europe, eSHa 2000 is an extremely effective treatment for Ich.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fahaka Puffers

Are Fahaka Puffers Poisonous?

Yes, Fahaka Pufferfish are poisonous, but only if eaten. Certain parts of the Fahaka Puffer fishes body contain the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin. If consumed in sufficient quantities the neurotoxin causes paralysis and eventually death.

Are Fahaka Puffer Fish Freshwater?

Yes, Fahaka Pufferfish are 100% from freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes. They don’t require any salt in their aquariums.

How Qucikly Do Fahaka Puffer Grow?

A healthy Fahaka Puffer will grow at a rate of around 1 inch per month for the first 12 months of its life. It will then continue to grow slowly over the next 1 to 2 years. Be aware, a small puffer doesn’t necessarily mean a young puffer.

A Fahaka Puffer could have suffered from stunted growth due to a poor diet or being kept in an aquarium that was too small.

How long do Fahaka Puffers Live?

The life expectancy of a Fahaka Puffer in captivity is between 10 and 15 years. In the wild, they probably would not live as long.

It can be hard to find hard data on captive Fahaka Puffer’s life expectancy, due to the fact that historically so few have been bred in captivity. When specimens are wild-caught, it is very hard to know how old they are, and therefore determine how long they have lived, even after a long period in a home aquarium.

Do Fahaka Puffers Jump?

Yes, Fahaka Puffer will jump given the opportunity. Ensure their aquarium has a tight-fitting lid at all times.

Does A Fahaka Puffer Need Sand?

Whilst Fahaka Puffers don’t need sand, they do like to bury themselves occasionally and they will find that easier to do in the sand than in gravel. Pool filter sand, play sand and silica sand can all be used as suitable Fahaka Puffer substrates.

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 available range from the relatively cheap and easy to care for Pea 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.

In Conclusion

Fahaka Puffers are truly stunning fish. Not only do they look impressive swimming around an aquarium, but they actually have personality. They are a true ‘wet pet’ that you can interact with. Don’t be put off by having such a large tank with a single fish in it. The investment of both time and money will more than pay off in the enjoyment you get back from your Fahaka Puffer

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

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