Pao Palembangensis Pufferfish Care Sheet

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.

More photographs coming soon!

The palembangensis is a species of freshwater pufferfish belonging to the Pao genus.

The P.palembangensis previously belonged to the Monotrete and then the Tetraodon genera, until being reassigned to Pao in 2013.

Common names for this species include Humpback Puffer, Palembang Puffer, Dragon Puffer and Red-Eyed Dragon Puffer.

The specific name is an amalgamation of the word Palembang (capital of Indonesia’s South Sumatra province) and ensis (originating in).

In the wild

The Pao palambangensis inhabits freshwater streams, slow-moving rivers and ponds in Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia. It lurks within the dense submerged vegetation of its suitable habitats, ready to launch a surprise attack on any prey items that swim within striking distance. It feeds on smaller species of fish, freshwater crustaceans and benthic animals such as worms.

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.

In the aquarium

The P.palembangensis is probably the most frequently seen species of Pao in the aquarium hobby and remains a popular choice for odd-ball enthusiasts.

Although this is a species which has been bred in captivity, most specimens available for sale are wild-caught and imports are quite common.

The P.palembangensis is a relatively shy and crepuscular species, so it will be most active in the hours of dawn and dusk. Typically, they are not very active and they can take a long time to settle into their surroundings once moved.

It must be provided with subdued lighting and a scape that offers an abundance of spaces in which it can hide. Driftwood, caves and Redmoor branches and lots of soft-leaved aquatic plants are perfect for creating an aquarium that is reminiscent of its natural habitat. Such a scape, in which the fish can take cover quickly, will actually encourage more active behaviour.

Stem plants, such as Limnophila sessiliflora (Asian Marshweed), are ideal for creating a soft, shady and dense scape which this species prefers.

The flow in the aquarium should be slow to medium and never overpowering. The tank should always be scaped in the aforementioned fashion.


Contrary to popular belief, the P.palembangensis is actually a wallowing species.

Although it will very rarely indulge in this behaviour, it is still important that it is provided with a very soft, sand substrate - at least 5cm deep - so the fish is able to exhibit its natural wallowing (burying) behaviour when it chooses to without injuring itself.

It is recommended that the keeper regularly stirs up the substrate to prevent the sand from ‘compacting’ and to prevent the build-up of anaerobic bacterial populations.