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Tetraodon Schoutedeni Pufferfish Care Sheet

Updated: Nov 10, 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 Tetraodon schoutedeni is a species of freshwater pufferfish, from the Tetraodon genus, which is endemic to Africa’s Congo Basin.

This species is named in honour of the Belgian zoologist Henri Schouteden. The spotted pattern of this species has earned it the common name of “Spotted Congo Puffer”, which it is frequently advertised as.

Owing to the convenient size and mild temperament of this pufferfish it has become very popular with enthusiasts

across the world.


In the wild

The Spotted Congo Pufferfish is the smallest species of African pufferfish and is believed to be endemic to Pool Malebo (formerly Stanley Pool), a large opening that resembles a lake.

It is located in the lower reaches of the Congo River system, within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It has a surface area of approximately 500km2 (22miles long, 14miles wide), with a varied depth between 3 and 10 meters.

T.schoutedeni naturally inhabits clean, fast-flowing waters where it can be found lurking in-between rocks and vegetation. Their waters are filled with tall grasses which grow in a substrate of silt and mud. This species feeds on benthic animals - such as snails and worms - and are in constant search for food.


In the aquarium

The Tetraodon schoutedeni was one of the most common species of pufferfish in the ornamental fish trade during the 1960s and the first instances of captive breeding took place around this time.

The captive breeding of this species was not prioritised and the fish almost completely disappeared from the hobby due to civil wars in the Congo; which made collectors of this fish reluctant to catch from the area in which it is found.

Imports of wild-caught T.schoutedeni from the Congo are still quite sporadic, but this pufferfish is now the subject of several modern captive breeding programmes, which has greatly increased its availability. The most successful of these being in Indonesia and Germany, where most of the world’s captive-bred specimens originate.

T.schoutedeni require 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. Providing an abundance of hiding spaces and visual barriers will allow the pufferfish to establish and claim their own territories which will help minimise aggression.

Thick leafed plants, water-logged mangrove roots, Mopani wood/roots and caves can be utilised in their aquarium for these purposes.

Bite marks on Anubias leaf.

T.schoutedeni 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, as they do seem to enjoy biting through them.

Even the toughest plants, such as Anubias, will suffer from the occasional bite wound so it is important to choose hardy species

which can withstand and recover from these bites.

Hardy plants like Anubias, Java Fern, Bolbitis and Amazon Sword are good choices for these fish.

The flow in the aquarium should be slow to medium and never overpowering.

The strength of the flow is usually achieved with spray bars from canister filters angled towards the top of the water. Keeping a slightly dropped water level, so that the returning water from the filter splashes down onto the surface, creates agitation and facilitates a gas exchange for high levels of oxygenation.

Powerheads with narrow gaps in the grill may be used to create additional flow. We would advise that cages or guards (such as anemone guards) are used on powerheads to prevent injury to the fish if they become trapped.


Group Sizes

The T.schoutedeni is only loosely gregarious and they should be housed either individually or kept in groups comprising of at least 6 individuals to disperse aggression among conspecifics.

Some aquarists enjoy success keeping groups consisting of smaller numbers, but it is important to recognise that these fish are very much individualists and behaviour may change over time; especially when they reach sexual maturity.

The best minimum male to female ratio is believed to be 2 females to every male.


Tank size

The tank should be approximately 80cm (31.5 inches) x 35cm (13.78 iches), with a height of 40cm (15.75 inches) for a single Tetraodon schoutedeni. This translates to a tank volume of approximately 112 litres or 29.6 US gallons.

For a group of six, we recommend a tank at least 120cm (47.24 inches) x 45cm (17.72 inches) with a height of 50cm (19.69 inches), which is 270 litres / 71.35 US gallons, with additional space for extra stocking.


Water values

Maintain the following water parameters:

  • PH: 6.5 - 7.5 (in the middle is ideal)

  • Temp: 26-27.5c

  • N03: below 15ppm *ideal

  • NH3/NH4+: 0ppm

  • N02: 0ppm

  • GH: 4-10 dGH



Contrary to advice on some areas of the internet, the Spotted Congo pufferfish is not suitable for the typical community aquarium.

Although the T.schoutedeni is relatively peaceful, it can show signs of unprovoked aggression. Aquatic stores have now begun to retract their claims that the T.schoutedeni is the “perfect community puffer”.

Allospecifics must be very carefully considered.Any potential tankmates must be fast-swimming, short-finned and able to thrive in the same water values.

Although they are not short-finned, the Phenacogrammus interruptus (Congo Tetra) make good tank-mates because of their fair size and schooling behaviour. They also make good tank mates because they will not over compete with the pufferfish for food.

Other members of the Phenacogrammus genus are ideal, but they are less commonly available.

T.schoutedeni are unlikely to nip the fins of this fish as

they can out-swim the puffers.

Synodontis Schoutedeni can make good tank mates and will scavenge any uneaten food from the substrate and between plants. Both the S.schoutedeni and T.schoutedeni are found in Pool Malebo and are named in honour of the Belgian zoologist Henri Schouteden.


Sexual dimorphism

A fully mature female T.schoutedeni will grow to approximately 9-10cm. Males are smaller, reaching approximately 7-8cm. Males have a slimmer body than the females with a more pointed face. Females typically have a larger body, especially around the stomach area.


Notable behaviour

T.schoutedeni pufferfish are capable of slight colour change, depending on their environment and mood. They have a distinctive stress pattern which can be seen in even slightly irritated specimens. The stress pattern is displayed as darkened areas that resemble black bars which arch across the back.

Photo credit: Matthew C Reed

T.schoutedeni have the ability to retract their eyes (photographed) when injured or irritated.

The fish will periodically exercise the muscles responsible for this movement, so don’t be immediately alarmed if you see it. However, if this behaviour is sustained check the water parameters and observe the other fish for signs of aggression.

The mating ritual of this species consists of the male biting the stomach of the female and hanging on to her underside until she releases eggs.



One of the most important elements of keeping the Tetraodon Schoutedeni 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:

This species should not be offered cockles, mussels, clams, oysters or similar mollusks.

Feed a ratio of at least 50% snails and 50% insects, worms and foods such as Repashy. It is best to feed several small meals everyday, rather than one big meal.


Feeding snails

It is essential that the T.schoutedeni is offered snails on a regular basis in order to maintain their fast-growing teeth. Failure to provide these foods will result in serious dentistry complications that will require veterinary attention.

It is recommended that keepers of this pufferfish breed aquatic snails in a separate system so they can offer a constant supply. Maintaining a high mineral content, using buffers if necessary, in the water of the snail breeder can help the keeper in developing shells of the desired hardness.

This pufferfish prefers some species of snails over others. The shells of Melanoides tuberculata and other trumpet snails are too hard for T.schoutedeni 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. Adequate 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.



T.schoutedeni can inflate themselves when frightened or stressed. They should never be provoked into inflating!


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