Red-Eye Puffer (Carinotetraodon Lorteti) Keeping, Breeding & Feeding

Over the last 10 to 15 years there has been a definite increase in the popularity of pufferfish. From the tiny Dwarf Puffer to the mighty Mbu Puffer, there is a pufferfish to suit every budget and aquarium size.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

I have been keeping freshwater pufferfish for over 10 years now and I have to say my Redeye Puffer is one of my favorites. These tiny little characters are great fun to keep and they have true personalities. It is not uncommon for fish keepers to form a bond with their Redeye Pufferfish.

Redeye Puffers are often considered a great ‘gateway’ fish to some of the harder puffers to keep.

The Redeye Puffer (Carinotetraodon Lorteti) should not be confused with the Redeye Red-tail Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon Irrubesco) as they are two different species of fish.

Redeye Puffer General Description

Redeye Puffers are small but aggressive pufferfish that originate from the Lower Mekong Basin in Thailand. The males tend to be slightly larger than the females and are certainly more aggressive. The Redeye Puffer usually only reaches around 2″ (5cm) long, with males being slightly larger than females.

The Redeye Puffer has a mainly grey upper body and back with a lighter belly. Their distinctive red eye gives them their common name.

Characteristics

Common Name:Redeye Puffer, Somphong’s Puffer, Crested Puffer
Scientific Name:Carinotetraodon lorteti
Family:Tetraodontidae
Origin:Lower Mekong basin in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
Tank Distribution:All areas
Adult Size:2” (5cm)
Life Expectancy:5+ years
Care Level:Difficult
Minimum Tank Size:20 US Gallons (75 Litres)
Breeding Method:Egg layer
Temperature:75°F to 82°F (24°C – 28°C)
pH:6.0 – 7.5
Hardness:18 – 215 ppm

Redeye Puffer Origins

There are two main areas the Redeye Puffer is known to inhabit and these are the lower Mekong basin in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia as well as the Chao Phraya watershed in central Thailand.

It is also widely believed that the Redeye Puffer can be found in some of the waterways between the two main locations.

Redeye Puffer Origin Map

Redeye Puffer Habitat

Unlike some other members of the Pufferfish family which can be found in really fast-moving rivers and streams, the Redeye Puffer prefers very slow-moving and even static waterways.

Its natural habitat is floodplains, forest streams, and minor tributaries. The water is often overhung with vegetarian and fallen trees and tree roots make up a large part of its aquatic environment. The floor of the streams are often covered in a deep layer of fallen leaves, sticks, and branches.



What Size Aquarium For Redeye Puffer?

Redeye Puffers are small fish and they don’t demand a lot of swimming space. An aquarium measuring just 15 gallons (54 liters) will be sufficient for an individual Redeye Puffer. I kept my Redeye Puffer in a 20 gallon (75 liters) and it was more than happy.



How Should A Redeye Puffer Aquarium Be Set Up?

Any aquarium setup for the Redeye Puffer should be set up with the fish’s needs in mind. When I set my 20-gallon tank up for my Redeye Puffer I added lots of aquarium wood. I also added in a few rocks and lots of live plants including Cryptocoryne wendtii and Java Fern. The addition of some floating plants made the aquarium feel shady which was exactly what my Redeye Puffer wanted.

When lighting your Redeye Puffer aquarium, the light should be sufficient for growing plants, without being so bright it unnerves the Redeye Puffer. In my own Redeye Puffer tank, I use the Fluval Aquasky LED light.

For substrate in a Redeye Puffer tank, I would recommend using soft sand such as Super Naturals Aquarium Sand (check the current price on Amazon.com). I have had great success with this sand in multiple puffer tanks.

Filtration needs to be good enough to keep the water quality up, but shouldn’t have lots of flow. For my Redeye Puffer, I use a Fluval 207 (I have written more about Fluval filters in this article). Low flow is extremely important in a Redeye Puffer aquarium. If the flow is too high the puffer will be stressed and may not settle and may refuse to eat.

Be aware, Redeye Puffers are intolerant of poor water quality, so regular water changes are a must!

Redeye Puffer Behavior In The Aquarium

Redeye Puffers are best kept alone, or if the tank is large enough, in a group with their own kind. Redeye Puffers will take a bite out of almost all tank mates and will certainly eat smaller fish when given the chance.

If you are planning to keep a group of Redeye Puffers together, ensure the aquarium is large enough and there are sufficient hiding places and ‘line of sight’ blocks.

Redeye Puffer Tank Mates

As mentioned above, this fish is best kept as a single specimen in an aquarium on its own, or with another Redeye Puffer, which is the opposite sex.

This fish will almost certainly attack and kill any other fish placed in the same aquarium as it. Redeye Puffers are territorial and aggressive, making them a poor choice of tank mate for any other fish.

If you were to attempt to keep other fish with a Redeye Puffer, ample space should be provided, allowing the Redeye Puffers to claim a territory, and any tank mates should be very quick swimmers, such as danios, rasboras, or barbs.



What Do Redeye Puffers Eat?

Like so many other pufferfish, the Redeye Puffer needs to eat shelled foods in order to keep its teeth short and sharp. Failure to feed sufficient shelled foods can lead to their teeth growing so long they can no longer eat.

I found my Redeye Puffer would readily accept snails, small crabs, chopped earthworms, mealworms, and bloodworms. I tried my Redeye Puffer on pellets and dried foods, but he never took them.

Young Redeye Puffers will need feeding every other day. As they grow, they need feeding less often. A young adult may only need feeding every 3 or 4 days and a full-grown adult once a week to every 10 days.

The list of foods I would recommend offering to your Redeye Puffer includes;

  • Ramshorn Snails
  • Bladder Snails
  • Mosquito Larvae
  • Mysis Shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Mussel Meat (chopped)
  • Cockle Meat (chopped)
  • Small Prawns and Shrimp

Any food which is not eaten quickly by the Redeye Puffer should be removed from the aquarium before it has a chance to break down and affect water quality. Uneaten food quickly rots in an aquarium and may cause an ammonia spike, which will no doubt affect your Redeye Puffer.

Redeye Puffer will not accept dry foods such as flakes or pellets, so don’t waste your time trying to feed them to your puffer.



Sexing Redeye Pufferfish

Not all pufferfish are sexually dimorphic (meaning you can tell males from females). Luckily, we can tell males from females just by looking at the Redeye Puffer.

Assuming the fish are mature, male Redeye pufferfish are slightly larger than females and have more or less solid gray coloration across their backs and upper bodies. Females on the other hand tend to have a mottled gray pattern across the same areas.

Male Redeye Puffers show a red line on their bellies, although this is often only visible during spawning.

Males can also be distinguished from females because they have well-developed dorsal and ventral keels on their bodies. During both courtship and threat displays, these fins are used to display dominance.

Breeding Redeye Puffers In Captivity

Redeye Puffers are one of the few species of pufferfish which is occasionally bred in captivity.

However, breeding the Redeye Puffer can often prove a challenge to the home aquarist, not least because just having a male and female Redeye Puffer sometimes isn’t enough, the pair have to also be compatible, otherwise, they will not spawn

When the Redeye Puffers mate, semi adhesive eggs are deposited on vegetation. Research has shown that very fine-leaved plants or aquatic mosses like Java Moss are preferred.

Once the female has finished laying eggs, the male will chase her away from the spawning site. For her own safety, she should be removed from the spawning tank at this point.

As with other species of pufferfish which have been bred in captivity, it seems the male takes charge of looking after the eggs until they hatch, which reports say take between 60 and 72 hours.

Several reports on breeding Redeye Puffers have shown that once the fry become free swimming, both males and females will happily eat the babies, and so the parents should be removed from the breeding tank.

The young Redeye Puffers live off their yolk sacs for the first day or so, then they will accept infusoria, microworms, and freshly hatched brine shrimp. Redeye Puffer fry can be fussy eaters, so a variety of foods should be on standby prior to the fry becoming free swimming.

Common Redeye Puffer Diseases

Redeye Puffers are no more prone to pests and diseases than other fish. The most common diseases to affect Redeye Puffers are;

  • Ich (whitespot), which is often a result of the fish being stressed during transportation or because it was kept in poor conditions at a wholesale facility.
  • Finrot, which is usually a result of a large group of Redeye Puffers being placed in the same tank at either the wholesalers or the fish store.

Both Ich and fin rot are treatable providing the correct medication is used promptly.

Internal parasites such as tapeworms are also a regular problem for Redeye Pufferfish. Tapeworms use intermediate hosts such as snails and crustaceans as a way to get into the Pufferfish system.

I treat all pufferfish that come into my care with Paracleanse, a dewormer made by Frtiz Aquatics (see more about Paracleanse on Amazon.com).

Redeye Puffers may need to be treated more than once to rid them completely of internal tapeworms. Failure to do so may lead to the eventual death of the Pufferfish through starvation as the tapeworm will consume all the nutrients from the puffer’s food.

How Much Do Redeye Puffers Cost?

As with any fish, price varies due to numerous factors, including the availability of the fish, size, and how much quarantining the store has done prior to selling the fish.

I have seen Redeye Puffers for sale at between $10 and $30 per fish. Personally, I paid $20 for my Redeye Puffers.

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 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

Pufferfish are not for the new fish keeper and the Redeye Puffer is no exception. If however, you are ready to take on the challenge of something which is a little more demanding, but does not require a huge aquarium, maybe the Redeye Puffer is worth a try.

I thoroughly enjoyed keeping my Redeye Puffer and I look forward to the day I have another one.


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