Green spotted puffer fish (Tetraodon nigroviridis)

Green spotted puffer fish (Tetraodon nigroviridis) or the spotted puffer, leopard puffer as it’s also called is a unique fish. Its back has saturated green color that contrasts beautifully against its white abdomen.

The fish uncommon body shape and its pugdog-like face, protuberant eyes and little mouth add even more unusualness to the fish appearance. Green spotted puffer behavior is also quite far from the one peculiar to other fishes – it’s a very playful, active and curious fish. You may also say that the fish has a personality – it recognizes its owner and becomes very active when it sees him.

Spotted puffer will quickly gain your affection, yet keep in mind that green spotted puffer fish care is rather difficult, since it has some special requirements to tank conditions.

Adult green puffer fish requires complete change of its tank water parameters, that’s why it’s recommended for more experienced aquarists. Leopard puffer fish juveniles can live in freshwater, but the adult fish requires water with high salinity level.

Also leopard puffer’s teeth grow very fast and it needs to have some snails with hard shells in a tank to keep the fish teeth worn down.


Inhabitance in the wild

Green spotted puffer was first described in 1822. Green puffer habitat is in Africa and Asia, its area of distribution spreads from Shri Lanka to the North of China.

As we’ve already mentioned above, the fish is also known as spotted puffer, leopard puffer fish.

It inhabits in freashwater and brackish lagoons, streams, rivers and floodplains, where you can encounter the fish both in a school or just by itself.

Green spot puffer feeds on snails, crustaceous and other spineless species as well as on plants. In the wild the fish lives in a brackish water.

Its juveniles spent their life in freshwater since they are born during the rains season, therefore the juveniles go through the water change from brackish to freshwater and then to saline water. Please, mention that it’s advisable to keep adult green spotted puffers in brackish water.


Tetraodon comes from Puffers family and it has quite a serious weapon to protect itself: strong jaws and 4 crushing teeth-like plates in its mouth instead of teeth.

The fish doesn’t have pelvic fins, however due to the strong pectoral fins Tetraodon is very manoeuvrable – it can swim backwards and hover over some place in the water.

Green spotted puffer fish size may be up to 15 cm and its lifespan is up to 10 years.

Tetraodons are famous for their ability to ‘puff up’ themselves with air or water if they see some signs of danger.

When the fish inflates its spines come outwards and this way tetraodon protects itself from being eaten. Green puffer as well as other tetraodons has some substances in its flesh which become poisonous if its enemy eats them.

Difficulties in keeping

Green spot puffer isn’t a fish that any aquarist can keep in its tank. Though it’s rather easy to grow its juveniles – they are quite ok with freshwater, the adult green puffer requires brackish water. Also due to the fact that the fish are scaleless, they are more prone to illnesses and treatment.

Green puffer needs more spacious tank than other species. So, one adult fish in average requires a tank of not less than 35 gallons capacity.

One of the problems you will encounter is that green puffer’s fast growing teeth have to be worn down continuously. For this purpose green spotted puffer food should contain lots of hard-shelled shellfish.


Green puffer won’t eat dry feed, its diet should consist of live feed – earth worm, large blood worm, small fishes and, what is the most important, snails – for example, malaysian trumpet snail or Ramshorn snail or ramshorn snails.

One more time, it’s crucial for green puffer to have live shellfish in its diet. The fish have 4 dentoid plates in their mouth which grow through all their lives, so they need to wear them down when eating hard-shelled snails. For the same purpose small grained sand should be used as a tank bottom substrate – tetraodons use it the same way as snail shells to wear their teeth down.

If tetraodon doesn’t have enough of feed sooner or later it inevitably will start nipping other fishes’ fins. That’s why you mustn’t keep tetraodons with long finned fishes.

Be careful when feeding tetraodon – don’t overfeed them! The fish are gluttonous and they can eat quite a lot. In the wild it spends all its life searching for feed, hunting and there’s no need to do this in a tank, so the fish gets fat and dies quite early.

Keeping in a tank

Taking into account the size of adult green spotted puffer species you’ll need a tank of about 35-50 gallons capacity.

However, you can keep the juveniles in a smaller tank. You’ll need a very powerful filter when keeping green spot puffer in a tank, since there are lots of leftovers after they feed. Besides, the fish inhabits in rivers and it needs some flow to be created in a tank.

It’s desirable to install external filter that pumps about 5-10 tank volumes in an hour. Don’t forget about weekly water renew (about 30%). The water should be salted a bit: one tablespoon of salt for 20 liters of water is quite enough.

Scientific NameTetraodon nigroviridis
Common NameLeopard Puffer, Green Pufferfish, Green Spotted Puffer, Burmese Pufferfish, Spotted Green Pufferfish, Spotted Puffer
Tank size50 gallons (200L) and more
Temperature75–81 °F (24–28 °C)
pHрН 7.0-8.0
Size6 inches (15 cm)

Tetraodons can be successfully kept in freshwater (especially the juveniles), however sometimes they may get ill in it – in this case you should add some salt into the water.

The fish is very sensitive to the level of ammonia and nitrates in the tank water. Proper water parameters are the following: temperature 24-28°С; hardness 7-12°; рН 7.0-8.0.

If you have plans to keep several tetraodones in a tank, take into consideration that the fish is rather territory-dependent one and if they don’t have enough space for each there will be fights. Lots of covers will be required in the tank, so the fishes could avoid each other and the tank should be spacious, so each fish could have its own territory.

Keep in mind – tetraodons are poisonous! Don’t touch or feed them with bare hands!


It’s possible to keep tetraodons with small fishes only at the early stages. I carried out the experiment – I put several guppies into the tank with 7 small green tetraodones (4-5 cm long each). Tetraodon juveniles didn’t show any interest to the small fishes, however at that they had good and diversified diet.

Spotted puffer size may be up to 15 cm (6 in). The older the fish is, the higher are chances that it’ll treat small fishes as feed. When buying tetraodon, please consider that it grows to become a large fish and some time later it’ll be impossible to keep it in one tank with small fishes, even provided with good and variable diet.

If species tank still isn’t an option for you, you may take African cichlids as green spotted puffer tank mates. Malawian cichlids are good tank mates for green puffer, since their aggressiveness doesn’t hurt tetraodons in any way because they are very unlike cichlids in their appearance and Malawians don’t even take them for fish.

However, tetraodons aren’t compatible with small and long-finned fishes. You can’t keep them together with neons, Carassius auratus, guppy and etc. Also when choosing green spotted puffer fish tankmates you should consider that the fish requires brackish water. Some fishes won’t do with this – for example, the majority of catfishes.

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Sex differences

It’s still unclear how to see between green puffer male and female.


Green puffer isn’t bred for commercial purposes, its species are caught in the wild.

Advantages and disadvantages of keeping spotted puffer fish:


  • Specialized diet in which live shellfish prevail;
  • aggressiveness when the fish becomes adult;
  • becomes a predator as an adult fish;
  • adult species are rather large (more 15 cm);
  • green puffer fish juveniles lose their bright coloring in time;
  • the necessity to have a spacious tank.
  • Advantages:

  • green puffer fish juveniles are brightly colored;
  • compatible with Malawian cichlids;
  • distinguished appearance;
  • the ability to ‘puff’ themselves up;
  • interesting behavior and the way they move and swim;