Congo Puffers are ambush predators and hard-core carnivores. Their diet should primarily be made up of snails, prawns, mussels, crabs, and other crustaceans. Most Congo Puffers will be wild-caught and initially will want to feed on live foods, but the majority can be transitioned onto frozen or pre-killed foods.
If there is one family of fish which have seen a massive surge in popularity in recent years, it is the freshwater pufferfish. Whether you are looking for an unusual addition to your community tank, like the Dwarf Puffer, or you are looking for a spectacular specimen for your pond, like the Mbu Puffer, there is now a freshwater pufferfish to suit every aquarium.
I have been keeping and attempting to breed puffer fish for more than a decade and I currently have a number of different species in my fish room. My Congo Puffer is by far one of my favorite pufferfish. Although he lives alone in a 20-gallon tank, it is still one of my favorite tanks to look at.
I have lost count on the number of articles I have written about pufferfish over the years, but if you are looking for a really good guide to the Congo Puffer, have a look at this article I wrote titled Congo Puffer Ultimate Care Guide.
What Do Congo Puffers Eat?
Congo Puffers are true carnivores. They will not eat any prepared fish foods such as flakes or pellets. Instead, their diet should be made up of meaty foods. Congo Puffers primarily need to eat foods with hard shells to keep their ever-growing teeth trimmed. Failure to feed enough hard foods will result in your Congo Puffer’s teeth growing to the point where it can no longer open or close its mouth.
I currently feed my Congo Puffer a mix of the following;
Snails are one of the easiest, most readily available foods we can feed our Congo Puffers. Ramshorn snails are probably the most commonly fed snail, but Malaysian Trumpet Snails and Pond Snails will also readily be taken.
Ramshorn Snails are really easy to reproduce at home. I keep an aquarium that is just dedicated to breeding Ramshorn snails. That way I have a constant supply, and I can just grab a handful whenever I want to feed my Congo Puffer.
When feeding snails to your Congo Puffer, just put in about as many as it will eat. It can seem like a good idea to throw a whole handful of snails in, with the theory the snails will live in the aquarium until the Congo Puffer is ready to eat them.
In my experience, however, the Congo Puffer will eat a few, then simply kill and leave the rest which just ends up rotting in the aquarium.
Crabs and Crayfish
Congo Puffers will readily eat small crabs and crayfish. All puffers have a strong natural instinct to hunt, and feeding your Congo Puffer crabs and Crayfish stimulates this instinct.
Do be aware that both crabs and crayfish have the ability to pinch your Congo Puffer with their claws. I had a situation a few months back when a crab took hold of the face of my Congo Puffer and I had to intervene to separate them. Fortunately, no damage was done to my puffer.
Some puffer keepers will break the crab’s claws before putting them into the pufferfish tank. I have to be honest, I am a little too squeamish to do that. In the future, I will just feed small crabs and crayfish.
Worms don’t have a hard shell but are still a useful addition to a Congo Puffers diet. When small, Congo Puffers will readily take bloodworms. As they grow, they will take small earthworms or tiger worms.
The great thing about earthworms is you can dig them up from your own yard, wash the earth off and feed them to your puffer. I also collect tiger worms from my compost pile. I am all in favor of a free source of food, just be careful you don’t feed your Congo Puffer worms that have been exposed to chemicals like pesticides.
Prawns and Shrimp
Both prawns and shrimp make useful additions to a Congo Puffer’s diet. Usually, prawns are bought frozen from the pet or grocery store whereas shrimp are fed live.
I have Red Cherry Shrimp in nearly all my community aquariums, so I have an almost endless supply. I will often drop a few into the Congo Puffer tank. They are quickly devoured.
When I feed prawns I tend to feed 3 or 4 at a time, allowing them to thaw for a couple of hours before feeding them to my Congo Puffer. Prawns are said to be great at enhancing the natural colors of fish, especially red colors, but I haven’t really noticed a difference.
Clams and Mussels
Congo Puffers will readily accept small clams and mussels. Both are available frozen and will keep in the freezer for months.
Unlike some of the really big puffers, Congo Puffers usually need the clams and mussels to be defrosted before feeding as they don’t have the strength to bite through a frozen clam. They also won’t be able to eat the really large clams that you might feed to a Fahaka Puffer or Mbu Puffer
Clams and mussels are both great for keeping Congo Puffers’ teeth trimmed. They usually end up biting through the shell to get to the meat.
Why Do Congo Puffers Need To Eat Shelled Foods
Congo Puffers, like almost all freshwater pufferfish, have teeth that are constantly growing. Congo Puffers need to eat foods that naturally file down their teeth as they bite through them. Snails, clams, mussels, and prawns are all great at keeping a puffer fish’s teeth trimmed.
If Congo Puffers don’t have access to hard foods, their teeth will continue to grow until they get to the point where the puffer can no longer open or close its mouth.
At this point, we may have to manually trim the puffer fish’s teeth for them, otherwise, they will eventually starve to death.
How Often Do Congo Puffers Need To Eat?
Young Congo Puffers will need to be fed 5 or 6 times a week. A balanced, varied diet made up of snails, bloodworms, and brine shrimp will deliver a good mix of vitamins and nutrients to keep your Congo Puffer growing.
A juvenile Congo Puffer should be fed 4 or 5 times a week. As with young Congo Puffers, variety is the key. If possible, feed a different food each day so the Congo Puffer gets a balanced diet. Only put in as much food as your Congo Puffer will consume in a few minutes, otherwise, uneaten food may spoil your water quality.
An adult Congo Puffer usually won’t need to eat as often as a juvenile. I only feed my Congo Puffer 3 or 4 times a week. Usually, it works that I feed him every other day. If he has had a couple of large crabs or a big crayfish, he may not eat again for a couple of days. I usually judge it based on how active he is when I approach the aquarium.
Congo Puffers, like so many members of the pufferfish family, need a balanced diet that includes lots of hard, shelled foods to keep their teeth trimmed. It is best not to feed the same foods every day, and ideally, a mixture of live and pre-killed foods should be fed.
With a bit of effort, you can create an almost endless supply of free live foods including snails, shrimps, and worms.