Fahaka puffer care guide

The fahaka puffer (lat. Tetraodon lineatus, Arabic: فهقة) is a large puffer that can’t be seen in aquarist tanks quite often. This is a freshwater fish which in the wild inhabits in the Nile river and also it’s known as nile puffer. All tetraodon fishes have strong teeth and puffer uses them to tear the pieces from its tank mate bodies.

Habitat in the wild

Fahaka puffer is a tropical freshwater demersal (bottom-living) fish which inhabits in large rivers and other surface waters in the West, East and North-East of Africa. The fish can be encountered in the river Nile basin including White Nile, Turkana lake, Lake Nasser reservoir (Sudan), Baro River (Ethiopia), Lake Chad basin, rivers Niger, Volta, Gambia, Geba and Senegal.

Water temperature in the wild is about +24…+26 °C and its habitat is among thickly planted areas where it feeds on shellfish.

Scientific NameTetraodon lineatus
Common NamesFahaka pufferfish; Nile puffer
Ease of keepingMedium
Lifespan10 years and more
Tank size88 gallons (400 litres) and more
Tank typeCommunity of large fishes
Temperature75–81 °F (24–29 °C)
Water hardness10–15 dGH
SizeUp to 45 cm (17-18″)


Just like all tetraodon species color may vary depending on the fish age, environment and mood. Juveniles are more bright colored and the adult species have more contrastive coloring.

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

When they do this their spikes are directed outwards and it’s rather difficult to swallow such a prickly ball. Besides, all puffers are more or less poisonous and fahaka puffer isn’t an exception.

This is a very large tetraodon – size can be up to 43 cm (17 in) and its lifespan may be up to 10 years.

Difficulties in keeping

Care isn’t difficult at the condition that you provide the fish with proper tank environment and conditions.

Fahaka puffer is extremely aggressive and it should be kept alone in a tank. Tank size should be about 400 liters (105 gal) and more for an adult fish. Fahaka puffer has a very curious and intelligent nature and it becomes domesticated quite easily, however at that the fish is rather aggressive towards other fishes. Its very likely that puffer will kill or hurt other fishes that will inhabit in the same tank with it.

Requirements also include a very powerful canister filter and weekly water renew. Feeding the fish may become quite costly, since the fish requires only qualitative feed.

Care and keeping in a tank

Adult requires a lot of space, therefore aquarium should be of at least 88 gallons (400 litres) capacity. The fish should have the ability to turn around and swim in the tank, so keep in mind that Nile puffer growth rate is very high and the max size is up to 45 cm.

The best tank substrate for the fahaka puffer is sand. There’s no need to add any salt into the water, since fahaka puffer is a freshwater tetraodon. For tank setup you may also use smooth rocks, snags and sandstones. The fish is very likely to damage any tank plants, so don’t waste your time on planting them.

The fish is rather sensitive to nitrates and ammonia content in the water, that’s why it’s necessary to put the fish into the completely set and stable tank.

Besides, the fish is rather messy and there are quite a lot of leftovers after its meals, so a strong external filter is required (to pump up to 6-10 tank volumes per hour).

Required water temperature is 75–81°F (24 – 29°C), pH about 7.0 and water hardness is about 10 -15 dH. It’s important not to keep in very soft water, it is harmful for the fish. Don’t forget that tetraodons are poisonous – don’t touch them with bare hands.


In the wild fahaka puffers feed on insects, shellfish, spineless species, therefore snails, crabs and crawfish are just the right thing for this fish.

In the tank it may feed on small fishes and frozen krill meat. You should feed juveniles every other day, as they are getting older the number of meals should be decreased up to 2-3 times a week.

As we’ve mentioned above fahaka puffers have rather strong teeth, that grow throughout their lives. It’s necessary to give them snails and crustaceous species, so the fish could wear its teeth down continuously.

If the teeth become too long, fahaka puffer won’t be able to feed and you’ll have to cut its teeth yourself.

The diet changes with the age of fish – the juveniles feed on snails, prawns, frozen feed, however, you should feed the adult (over 16 cm long) with large prawns, crab legs, fillet. Fahaka puffer may be also fed with live fish, however the possibility is very high that the fish may be infected this way and get ill.

Tank mates

Fahaka puffer is a very aggressive fish, so it should be kept alone in a tank. There were some cases when the fish was successfully kept together with other fishes, but it was only in very big tanks and tank mates were so fast, that the fish couldn’t catch them (but it’s not african cichlids!) or fishes like arowana.

The fish can be kept in one tank with related species only if they have enough space for each of them to avoid any contact, otherwise there will be a fight each time they see each other. The fahaka puffer is very intelligent and it seems as if it communicates with its owner due to its unique mimics.

Gender differences: male vs female

Sadly, it’s impossible to see between fahaka puffer male and female, however during their spawning period the female becomes more rounded than the male one.


Still there’s no commercial breeding of this fahaka puffer, however some aquarists succeeded to get juveniles. The difficulty of breeding is that this tetraodon is very aggressive and in the wild the fish breeds very deep in the waters.

Taking into account the adult fish size it’s almost impossible to simulate the conditions required for its spawning in a tank.