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

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It is easy to see why pufferfish are so popular at the moment. From the tiny Dwarf Puffer, which grows to only a couple of inches, to the mighty Mbu Puffer which reaches 30” or more, there is a pufferfish to suit every budget and every tank.

I have been keeping pufferfish for 10 years or more and I still love every aspect of the pufferfish hobby. Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffers are a fascinating species that pose a real challenge to the fish keeper. If you are thinking of trying to keep one yourself, this guide may be for you.


Common Name:Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer
Scientific Name:Carinotetraodon irrubesco
Tank Distribution:All areas
Adult Size:1.5”-1.75” (40mm – 45mm)
Life Expectancy:3-5 Years
Care Level:Moderate
Minimum Tank Size:20 US Gallons (75 Litres)
Breeding Method:Egg layer
Temperature:72°F to 82°F (22°C – 28°C)
pH:6.0 – 7.5
Hardness:36 – 215 ppm

Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer Origins

The Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffer comes from just two river systems. The Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffer inhabits the lower Banyuasin river basin in South Sumatra, Indonesia and the Sambas river drainage in West Kalimantan, Borneo.

Red-Tailed Red-Eye Puffer Origin Map

Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer Habitat

Reports suggest that the habitat chosen by the Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffer is exclusively areas of heavy, overhanging terrestrial vegetation such as trees and bushes. It has been noted that in some collection locations, the water has been a deep brown, murky color with a pH as low as 6.0

Collecting Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffers From The Wild

Although there have been reports that the Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer has been bred in captivity, the vast majority of specimens available in the hobby will be wild-caught. In my experience of wild-caught pufferfish, they almost always come with internal parasites and tapeworms.

I can not recommend enough the practice of quarantining your new pufferfish (in fact, all new fish) and treating them for internal parasites and tapeworms. I have found it is better to rid them of tapeworms in the first few weeks they are with you rather than a few years down the line when the tapeworms are so large the pufferfish can not pass them and end up dying.

To treat your pufferfish for internal parasites and tapeworms, keep them in a separate quarantine tank for a number of weeks after purchasing them. Use a good quality dewormer such as Paracleanse by Fritz (see the current price on

Treat according to the manufacturer’s instructions and repeat until you are confident all the tapeworms have been passed.

What Size Aquarium For Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer?

The Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer only reaches between 1.5” and 2” (35mm to 50mm) long. As such it does not need a large aquarium. I keep my Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer as a single specimen in a 10 gallon (45 liters) aquarium.

How Should A Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer Aquarium Be Set Up?

A Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer aquarium should be set up with lots of wood and rocks and very heavily planted.

My Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer includes lots of floating plants too. Almost the whole aquarium water surface is covered in floating plants. I would also recommend the aquarium has lots of decaying leaves. I use catappa leaves as they are aquarium safe and release tannins, turning the water a weak tea brown color, which these puffers seem to appreciate.

Filtration in a Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer aquarium should be good enough to keep the aquarium water clean, but not so powerful that this little puffer fish gets blown all around the aquarium. I find either a sponge filter or a small hang-on-back filter like the Fluval ‘C’ series is ideal (I have written a number of articles about the ‘C’ Series filters from Fluval).

Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer Behavior In The Aquarium

These little puffers are much less aggressive than some other members of the pufferfish family, but they are best kept in a species-only aquarium nevertheless. I keep my own Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer alone.

I have read reports that some aquarists keep their Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffers with other fish that are fast enough to keep out the puffer’s way, but not so fast they out complete the puffer for food. This isn’t something I have tried.

What Do Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffers Eat?

Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffers are true carnivores. They only want to eat meaty foods. Depending on the size of the puffer they will take anything from bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp, moving on to earthworms and small pieces of fish. My Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer regularly eats small snails too.

There are reports of others managing to get their Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffers to eat processed fish foods like pellets, but I haven’t had any success with mine.

Juvenile Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffers may need to eat every day or every other day. As they age, the frequency with how often they eat reduces. A full-grown adult may only eat once a week.

Breeding Red-Tailed Red Eye Puffer In Captivity

At the time of writing, I was unable to find a credible report of the Red-tailed Red Eye Puffer being bred in captivity.

I suspect the Red-tailed Red-Eye Puffer is an egg scatterer and probably spawns in the same way as other members of the genus.

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.

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