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Carinotetraodon Irrubesco Pufferfish Care Sheet

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

This care sheet is written with the aim of providing the optimal care for this species of fish.

Pufferfish Enthusiasts Worldwide endeavours to inspire and promote the highest standards of care - not basic or minimum care - using the best evidence available at the time.

Carinotetraodon irrubesco pufferfish
Male Carinotetraodon Irrubesco

The irrubesco is a species of freshwater pufferfish from the Carinotetraodon genus, which is endemic to Indonesia.

It is famous for its red eyes and tail, earning it several common names which include Red-Eye Puffer, Red-Eye Red-Tail Puffer and Red-Tailed dwarf puffer. Females are sometimes referred to as Crested Puffers.

The specific name comes from the Latin word Irrubesco, which means "to be red" or "to grow red".


In the aquarium

Carinotetraodon irrubesco pufferfish
Male Carinotetraodon irrubesco

Owing to their full grown size of just 4.5cm (1.77 inches), the C.irrubesco is a very popular choice of pufferfish for small aquariums.

Imports of wild-caught C.irrubesco are reasonably common in most areas of the world. Although this is a species that has been successfully bred in captivity, most specimens available for sale are wild-caught.

These fish best thrive and exhibit their most natural behaviour in a heavily planted aquarium which offers an abundance of vegetation that will provide harbourage (hiding areas). Large bushy aquatic plants (e.g Java fern), and stem plants (e.g Limnophila sessiliflora) are perfect for creating a dense scape which will give these fish the cover that they need to feel safe and secure. These fish will be much more active in the open areas of the aquarium (in view) if these conditions are met.

Although the tank should be well filtered, these fish do not appreciate a strong flow. The flow in the aquarium should be slow to medium and never overpowering.


Tank size

A single C.irrubesco can be housed in a 40cm x 40cm x 40cm (15.75 inches) tank (64 litres/16.91 US Gallons). For a group of five (read Group Sizes), the tank should be approximately 90cm (35.43 inches) x 35cm (13.78 iches), with a height of 50cm (19.69 inches). This translates to a tank volume of approximately 160 litres or 42.27 US gallons.



It is important that the C.irrubesco is provided with a very soft, sand substrate - at least 2cm deep (0.79 inches) - so the fish is able to wallow (read Notable Behaviour).


Water values

Maintain the following water parameters:

  • PH: 6.0 - 7.5

  • Temp: 22-28°C (71.6 -82.4°F)

  • NH3/NH4+: 0ppm

  • N02: 0ppm

  • N03: below 15ppm *ideal

  • GH: 2-12 dGH


Group sizes

This species is one of the more 'peaceful' members of the Carinotetraodon genus and can be kept in a group. They can either be kept singularly or in a group of at least five to evenly distribute any aggression.

The tank should always be scaped in the aforementioned fashion. Such a scape with lots of visual barriers and hiding spaces will allow each puffer to find their own areas in the tank to claim as their own, which will strengthen the chances of successfully keeping them in a group.


Male to female ratio

Males of this species can be territorial, so it is recommended to keep at least four females to every male.

Example, a group of five should contain four females and one male.


Sexual dimorphism

Males (Photographed - top of article) have brown/greyish bodies with an uninterrupted cream coloured stripe extending from the eye to the caudal peduncle and a plain cream stomach.

Females (photographed) are smaller and have a more mottled irregular appearance.

Their pale bellies are decorated with dark coloured lines and specks.

Red eyes can be observed in both sexes.


Tank mates

A species only tank, containing only C.irrubesco, is recommended but this fish can be housed with some other carefully selected fish. However, the C.irrubesco does have the potential to harm other fish, so allospecifics (members of a different species) must be very carefully considered.

Any potential tankmate must be non-aggressive, fast-swimming, short-finned and able to thrive in the same water values. This rules out fish like guppies, angelfish, gourami and Betta.

Celestichthys choprae (Glowlight danio) and similar Cyprinids usually make excellent tank mates. They are a sensible size, will not compete with the C.irrubesco for food or territory and will act as a nice dither fish, which will both reduce timidity of the C.irrubesco and enhance the viewing experience for the aquarist by shoaling in the aquarium.

This species of pufferfish should not be housed with any bottom-dwelling fish, such as corydoras, who may encroach on their hiding spaces within the scape. However, providing that the water values are suitable and that the aquarium is both large enough and mature enough to support a group, the smaller species of catfish from the Otocinclus genus may be used in the C.irrubesco tank for minor algae control.

Keeping this fish with tankmates is not without risk and the keeper should monitor the behaviour and be prepared to separate any tankmates if the C.irrubesco exhibits any aggression towards them.


Notable behaviour

During a contest, males will erect their middorsal and mid ventral keels of skin to make themselves look larger. They will approach their opponent side-on, with their tails curved in the direction of the challenger. This behaviour can also be observed when the fish is investigating an unfamiliar object.

Little known fact, species from the Carinotetraodon genus will bury themselves (wallow) in the substrate at night as protection against predators. They will also wallow when scared. They nose dive the bottom of the aquarium when they feel they are at risk of predation and disappear into the substrate like a bullet. This is why the substrate must be fine, soft sand to avoid injury to the fish when they do attempt to do this. Aqua-soil and gravel is unsuitable.

They have been known to jump out of the water when being pursued by one another, so they must only be housed in an aquarium with a tight-fitting lid.

They are very interactive and will beg their owners for food once they have made the association.



The C.irrubesco will seldom take to flake food or pellets or show any interest in freeze-dried foods. Live and frozen foods are usually excitedly devoured.

Our preferred foods for these fish include:

  • Small snails - read below

  • Small earthworm

  • Small insects (Aphids, small crickets)

  • High quality pellet food (such as JBL NovoGranoColor, JBL GranaDiscus, JBL GranaCichlid)

  • Repashy - GrubPie Fish

  • Repashy - Soilent Green

  • Fluval® Bug Bites

  • Bloodworm (rarely)

Not any one food should make up more than 20% of the fishes overall diet, with bloodworms not exceeding 10%.

To ensure that their nutritional needs are being met, a varied diet of the correct foods should be provided.


Feeding snails and hard-shelled foods

The C.irrubesco will eat small snails, such as young Segmentina nitida (ramshorn snails) and Physella acuta (Bladder snail), but they do not need to be fed these snails on a very regular basis.

The beak of this species does not grow as rapidly as some others, so the need to feed hard-shelled foods is reduced.



This pufferfish is intolerant of poor water conditions, so a high level of biological and mechanical filtration is needed to deal with the amount of waste that this fish produces. However, these fish do not appreciate a strong flow.

Good filtration combined with excellent husbandry is essential to the health of this species. Frequent water changes must be carried out to maintain N03 (nitrate) levels below 15ppm; or as close to zero as possible. Extra attention should be afforded to ensure that the base of the dense scape is free from detritus.



C.irrubesco can inflate themselves when frightened or stressed.

They should never be provoked into inflating.

If the fish needs to be moved for whatever reason, it should be herded into a watertight container under the surface of the water to prevent it from inhaling air.


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