Tetraodon Pustulatus 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.


The Tetraodon pustulatus is a species of freshwater pufferfish, from the Tetraodon genus, which is endemic to a small area in Africa.

This pufferfish is generally considered to be the Holy Grail of freshwater pufferfish, owing to the rarity of specimens available in the hobby, and usually command a high price tag.

Common names for this species include the Cross River Puffer and Red-line Puffer. With a standard length of around 40cm (15.75 inches), the Pustulatus is the third largest freshwater pufferfish, after the Tetraodon lineatus and Tetraodon mbu.

In the wild

The Pustulatus is believed to be endemic to the Cross River in Nigeria and Cameroon.

It has occasionally been reported from some localities of the West African coast.

The Tetraodon pustulatus is classified as "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List due to ecosystem degradation, owing to residential and industrial expansion, pollution from oil exploration and military installations. They prey predominantly on snails, small freshwater crabs, insect larvae and other benthic creatures.

In the aquarium

The Pustulatus requires a fair-sized, mature aquarium and prefer a densely scaped environment with lots of visual barriers, hiding spaces and a soft, sandy substrate.

Such a scape helps them feel secure and contained which will encourage natural behaviours and feeding.

Pustulatus are plant biters and plants with long, thin shoots, such as Tiger Lotus, Crinum calamistratum and Crypt balansae, will likely be decimated by the pufferfish within a short period of time. Even the toughest plants, such as Anubias, will suffer from the occasional attack, so it is important to choose hardy species which can withstand and recover from these bites. Plants like Anubias, Java Fern, Bolbitis and Amazon Sword are good choices for these fish. Floating plants, such as Amazon Frogbit, give dappled shade which is also appreciated by this fish.

Cheap stem plants, such as Limnophila sessiliflora grow well in the sand substrate.

The fish will bite at the plants, but they will quickly recover because they grow so fast.

This species prefers a scape which includes an abundance of spaces in which it can hide, but the tank must also provide lots of areas of uncovered substrate to allow for wallowing (read substrate).

The flow in the aquarium should be medium to strong, but never overpowering. The strength of the flow is usually achieved with spray bars from canister filters angled towards the top of the water. By keeping a slightly dropped water level, so that the returning water from the filter splashes down onto the surface, it will create the agitation required whilst also facilitating gas exchange for high levels of oxygenation.

Powerheads with narrow gaps in the grill may be used to create additional flow.