How Big Do Hairy Puffers Get? (You might be surprised!)

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Hairy Puffers (Pao baileyi) grow to around 5” (12.5cm) in length. In captivity Hairy Puffers don’t grow as large as they do in the wild where they may grow to 6.5” (16.5cm). It is not known why they don’t grow as large in captivity.

Freshwater pufferfish are really popular at the moment. Their popularity has probably partly been due to the rise in fishkeeping YouTubers promoting freshwater puffers and partly due to the increase in available species thanks to the internet.

I personally have been keeping puffer fish for over 10 years. At the time of writing, I have a number of different puffer fish in my fish room including two Fahaka Puffers, a Congo Puffer, a Hairy Puffer, and a group of Dwarf Puffers.

I have written countless articles on freshwater pufferfish and a fair number on Hairy Puffers. If you are looking for more information on Hairy Puffers, check out my Complete Guide to Hairy Puffers.

What Affects Hairy Puffer Growth Rate?

There are a number of factors that can affect Hairy Puffer’s growth rate. These include the food we feed them and the quality of the water we keep them in.

A varied diet

Feeding your Hairy Puffer a varied diet is the secret to healthy growth. Hairy Puffers enjoy eating snails, worms, crabs, mussels, and clams. The more variety we give them the better.

As with almost all pufferfish, their teeth are continually growing, so ensure they are fed hard-shelled foods such as snails, mussels, and clams to wear the teeth down. If Hairy Puffers aren’t fed enough shelled foods their teeth will keep growing to the point where the Hairy Puffer can no longer open and close its mouth.

If this happens, either the Hairy Puffer will starve to death, or the fish keeper has to sedate the fish and trim its teeth!

I try to feed my Hairy Puffer small crabs and crayfish a couple of times a month as it really exercises their hunting instincts.

Clean water

Hairy Puffers like really clean water. In the wild, they are often found in fast-flowing, highly oxygenated waters. Hairy Puffers can be very sensitive to nitrate levels in the aquarium.

High nitrates can prevent Hairy Puffers from regulating fluid intake and output. High Nitrates can put tremendous stress on Hairy Puffers, and research has shown that high-stress levels affect fish health, including growth rates.

A good quality filter will convert the fish waste (ammonia) into the less harmful nitrate, but it is our job as fish keepers to remove that nitrate by carrying out regular water changes. In my Hairy Puffer aquarium, I try to change up to 50% of the water every week. This is the only way I have found to keep the nitrates below 10 PPM.

What Size Tank Does A Hairy Puffer Need?

The ideal tank size for a Hairy Puffer is a 30-gallon (115 liters) aquarium. I recently wrote an article about tank size and setup for Hairy Puffers.

A Hairy Puffer aquarium needs a good thick layer of sand so the Hairy Puffer can bury himself if he wants to, plus lots of rocks or caves for hiding places.

In Conclusion

Hairy Puffers grow to around 5” (12.5cm). To ensure your Hairy Puffer reaches its maximum potential size, make sure it is fed a varied diet and kept in an aquarium with very low levels of nitrates.

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