Updated: Nov 5, 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.
The Cutcutia is a species of pufferfish belonging to the Leiodon genus, of which it is the only species.
This species is not very commonly in the aquarium hobby, but it is prized for its small size of only 15cm and intelligence by those who do keep it. They can be remarkably interactive with their owners when settled.
Like many other species of pufferfish, the Leiodon cutcutia previously belonged to the Tetraodon genus, until being reassigned to Leiodon in 2013.
Common names for this species include emerald puffer, red-eye puffer, common puffer and ocellated pufferfish.
In the wild
L.cutcutia is found within ponds, beels, rivers, streams, canals and creeks throughout areas of Southern Asia: India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the Malay Archipelago. It lurks under the shade of submerged vegetation in low-flow areas within its suitable habitats. Research into the stomach contents of wild caught specimens indicates that this species is a frequent scavenger, which eats insects, parts of other fish and is even an opportunistic cannibal.
Other prey items include freshwater mollusks and other invertebrates.
This species is collected commercially for the aquarium trade, but the number of individuals taken from the wild or the size of wild populations is not known.
The Cutcutia has been assessed and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classifies the species as 'Least Concern', as the collection for the ornamental trade is not considered a threat.
In the aquarium
The Cutcutia was one of the first freshwater pufferfish to be kept in captivity after it was first imported from India in 1903. This species was also the first pufferfish to be bred in captivity and successful reports of breeding have continued since. Although this pufferfish is so easily bred in captivity, most of the Cutcutia you will find for sale are probably wild-caught.
This species prefers a scape which includes an abundance of soft leaved aquatic plants and caves for it to hide. Aquatic stem plants, caves and redmoor branches are perfect for creating an aquarium that is reminiscent of its natural habitat.
Stem plants, such as Limnophila sessiliflora (Asian Marshweed), are ideal for creating a soft, shady and dense scape which this species prefers. Such a scape helps them feel secure and contained which will encourage more natural behaviours, bright colouration and confidence.
The flow in the aquarium should be slow to medium and never overpowering.
The tank should always be scaped in the aforementioned fashion.
The minimum aquarium size should be at least 40cm x 40cm x 40cm.
This translates to a tank volume of approximately 64 litres (16.91 US gallons).
Maintain the following water parameters:
PH: 6.5 - 7.5
Temp: 24-28 °C
N03: below 15ppm *ideal
GH: 4-15 dGH
The Cutcutia is among one of the most aggressive pufferfish species and known to prey upon other fish, so they should be kept as a solitary specimen. The experienced aquarist may attempt to breed this species, but the behaviour between conspecifics is highly unpredictable.
A fully mature female L.cutcutia will grow to approximately 15cm.
Males are smaller, reaching approximately 10cm. Males also have a slimmer body than females.
They are known to jump from the aquarium if startled, so they must only be housed in an tank with a tight-fitting lid.
This species is a firm favourite of many aquarists. Although it is rather inactive, they do have lots of character and personality. They will often greet their keeper at the glass and beg for food.
One of the most important elements of keeping the L.cutcutia is to provide a varied and balanced diet, in order to ensure that their nutritional needs are being met.
Our preferred foods for these fish include:
Thiaminase-free fish meat, cut into manageable chunks (read below)
Gut-loaded cockroaches, crickets, locusts and woodlice
Snails (read below)
Repashy Grub Pie
This species should not be offered cockles, mussels, clams, oysters or similar mollusks.
Feed a ratio of 20% fish and 70% insects and worms and 10% snails. Owing to the inactive nature of this species, it does not require feeding daily. Three to four times a week is usually sufficient.
Naturally, the L.cutcutia preys upon a very wide selection of different species of fish in the wild. For this reason, we recommend alternating between as many different suitable options as possible.
Frozen Pond Smelt (Hypomesus olidus) are widely available and they are small enough for the L.cutcutia to eat whole. Pond Smelt is a common choice of food and bait, so it can typically be purchased from all well-stocked aquatic stores and bait suppliers. Some species of smelt such as Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax) contain thiaminase (read Thiaminase), so it is important to ensure that you know what species of smelt you're buying.
Generally, the choices of suitable fish at fish counters and markets are going to be quite limited, but there are several common options.
Larger species of freshwater fish such as Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) and various Talapia species are suitable, but these fish are obviously too big for the L.cutcutia to eat whole so they need preparing and cutting into manageable chunks. Discard of the internal organs, head and fins, fillet the fish and cut the fish fillets (scales and skin attached) into chunks small enough for the L.cutcutia to eat within one minute. These pieces can be frozen and kept for up to three months.
Insects and worms
Gut-loaded insects and earthworms are excellent sources of nutrition for this fish and are used to replicate the gut-content of the L.cutcutia's natural prey.
They are also ideal substitutes for freshwater crustaceans and are arguably far more nutritious than the saltwater crustaceans that most aquarists will be limited to at a fish counter/market.
Some fish and crustaceans contain thiaminase, which is an enzyme that renders thiamin (Vitamin B1) biologically inactive. This means that the pufferfish can not absorb any thiamin from that food.
Thiamin is a crucial nutrient because it is an essential component of energy metabolism and it plays a key role in nerve, muscle, and internal organ function.
If a fish’s diet is mostly or completely made up of food items that contain thiaminase, that fish will develop a thiamin deficiency.
After consulting with veterinary professionals and other specialist keepers, we feel that avoiding foods that are known to contain thiaminase and replacing them with equally nutritious thiaminas-free food items is the safest, long-term option. This is the approach that we have taken with all of our pufferfish.
We do not recommend the use of live feeder fish.
Feeder fish are often bred in squalid and overstocked conditions, where bacteria such as columnaris and mycobacteriums, and parasites such as Camallanus worms and Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (whitespot/ich) spread through the population very quickly.
Feeding feeder fish to your puffer greatly increases the chance of introducing pathogens to your aquarium, which can then infect your puffer and will require treatment. Feeder fish themselves are also usually nutritionally deficient.
L.cutcutia does not need live fish to thrive and will very often readily accept frozen-thawed food immediately after settling into the aquarium.
The use of feeder fish can also cause piscivorous to become very finicky and they may start refusing anything but live fish. This is another reason that we strongly encourage you to begin the weaning process (read below) immediately.
Tips on offering prepared foods / weaning
Although some specimens will be reluctant to eat frozen-thawed foods at first, they can learn to accept it. The best training exercise is to offer nothing but live-earthworms to begin with and when your puffer is readily accepting those, start offering the same earthworms on forceps, building an association between the forceps/you and food.
When your pufferfish is accepting earthworms without hesitation from the forceps, you can then begin to offer other things, such as cockroaches, other insects and pieces of frozen-thawed fish. After several weeks, you won't need the forceps and your fish should readily accept any suitable foods that you drop into the tank.
Snails should be fed to this species on a regular basis.
The shells of Melanoides tuberculata and other trumpet snails are too hard for L.cutcutia pufferfish and may cause them to associate snails with pain/difficulty if they injure themselves trying to eat them.
The aforementioned species also lack substantial amounts of meat. The best snails are Physella acuta (bladder snail) and small/young terrestrial snails which are cultured for reptile and human consumption.
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, they 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.
L.cutcutia can inflate themselves when frightened or stressed.
They should never be provoked into inflating!
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