Tetraodon MBU – The Under Water Giant Puppy
The Tetraodon MBU puffer is the largest freshwater species of puffer fish. Getting 22+ inches in a home aquarium. With the fish getting so big, most aquarists struggle to keep one healthy. My largest fish has reached 22 inches. However, depending on how they’re raised over their long lives, they could grow up to 30 inches.
The first question is always what size of an aquarium? Some estimates range from 300 to 1000 gallons. It is important to remember that the footprint is more important than the number of gallons. With a fish that gets to 30 inches, a tank say 8ft long and 4 ft front to back that is only 2 ft tall works much larger than a tank that is 4 ft tall, 8 ft long and only 2ft front to back. More area to swim will always be better and the more gallons of water generally makes waste management easier in an aquarium.
My current aquarium for my second MBU puffer is 72x48x24 inches tall which is 360 gallons. The MBU measures 13 inches. He was 5 years old when he died. His previous MBU measured 22 inches. The necropsy revealed that he had died too soon from a wild acquired disease for which there was no cure. It had caused many lesions in his heart and other organs, and it had taxed his system over time.
As far as waste management goes, I change 100 gallons from the 340 daily. This keeps nitrates at 0 in the aquarium. The automatic water change system ensures that the aquarium is always topped up. Live plants are also beneficial in the reduction of waste in this aquarium. When you have a 22 inch fish feeding on 6 to 8oz of food a day, their feces is the size of small dogs.
Most owners find it difficult to manage their diet. Most of their diet must be made up of shelled foods. These include clams, muscles and snails as well as crayfish and crayfish. This helps keep their oversized teeth also known as a beak trimmed down. MBU puffers get shelled food five days a semaine and soft foods two days a weeks. Cocktail shrimp, fozen bloodworms, and other foods are all acceptable. These can be soaked in vitamin supplements. After years of trying, I haven’t been able get any MBU puffers from dry food. However, I know of others who have succeeded. Be prepared for a food bill that is up to $10 a day when they get large. It’s like feeding a large dog a special diet. The $300 monthly payment is equivalent to paying $300 per month. Variety is vital as it’s very easy to overeat and become vitamin deficient.
While live foods stimulate the hunt instincts of puffers, parasites can also be brought in by them. Claws from fiddler crabs and crayfish can also be dangerous. You should trim the claws of any puffers before you feed them.
One benefit to feeding lots of shelled foods is that the shells can be left in the aquarium and it helps buffer the water. The shells can be almost turned into a crushed coral substrate. This helps to buffer the pH and alkalinity. They eat more shells as they grow and become larger. If you are using sand, you may use a coarse net or a sifter to collect shells and sand.
It is important to maintain a pH above 7.0. My puffer is 7.4 pH. If my tap water were higher, I would also keep it at that level. It makes more sense to adjust the puffer to the water pH plus shells, as it is constantly changing. This is especially true with automated daily water changing.
Puffers are a wonderful pet because they have great vision and can recognize their owners from far away. As they get larger their eyes get further and further apart from each other. The puffer will have to see its food from one side and then line up to eat it. Sometimes tank mates will swim in to eat food, and sometimes they can make a mistake. It happens about once in six months.
Casualties can be lessened by choosing the right tank mates. You want peaceful, passive tank mates. However, things like loaches and corydoras also love clams, and other meaty foods and can go for food at the wrong time. An Ellipsifer Eel was found in Lake Tang. It was my first MBU puffer. My MBU puffers’ tank mates have been fancy guppies and tetras as well as siamese alga eaters, plecos and rainbow fish. Geophagus species are also good choices. Flagtail Prochilodus and Giraffe Catfish were the things that didn’t work.
Anything pointy is best when it comes to decorating a MBU Puffer aquarium. When the puffer is spooked, it can be sent running. Sharp rocks or sticks can cause serious damage. I like to line the sides and back of my aquarium with live plants. This creates visual barriers for the fish and allows them to hide in the plants if they wish. Anubias species are my favorite. and Java ferns as MBU puffers like to move the sand around hunting for snails etc.
My tank stays at mid 70s for temperature. I don’t use aquarium heaters, I heat the whole room. Partly because I run a lot of aquariums, but mostly so I can eliminate any heater malfunction from the list of potential killers for a MBU puffer. A puffer is an extremely complex fish and requires a lot of care. The more problems you can avoid, the easier it will be to keep it healthy over the long-term.
Moving a MBU puffer is best done under water. Air can build up in their lungs if they are unable to expel it. They can get trapped air if they cannot expel it. MBU puffers will stretch and inflate and deflate quickly from time to time in the aquarium. As long as the stress factor is not a loud noise, this is normal. I liken a puffer puffing up to a human fainting. It takes so much shock for the system to make a human faint. A puffer puffing up is purely a defense mechanism.
You can find more information about these concepts and see them in a video at my MBU Puffer species video profile.