Green spotted puffer care guide

Green spotted puffer fish (Dichotomyctere nigroviridis) is a unique fish. Its back has saturated green color that contrasts beautifully against its white abdomen. The 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.

Green spotted puffer (Dichotomyctere nigroviridis)

Habitat in the wild

Dichotomyctere nigroviridis was first described in 1822. Green spotted 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 spotted 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 fishes in brackish water.

Scientific NameDichotomyctere nigroviridis
Common NamesGreen spotted puffer; leopard puffer;
Ease of keepingDifficult
Lifespan10 years
Tank size200 liters (44 gallons) and more
Tank typeCommunity of large fishes
Temperature75–81 °F (24–28 °C)
Water hardness9–30 dGH
Size6 inches (15 cm)


Green spotted puffer comes from Tetraodontidae 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 fish 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 fish protects itself from being eaten. Green spotted puffer as well as other tetraodons has some substances in its flesh which become poisonous if its enemy eats them.

Difficulties in keeping

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

Green spotted 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 fish requires brackish water.

Adult fish requires complete change of its tank water parameters, that’s why it’s recommended for more experienced aquarists. Juveniles can live in freshwater, but the adult requires water with high salinity level, around 1.015 salinity (saltwater 1.021~1.025).

Also puffer’s teeth grow very fast and it needs to have some snails with hard shells in a tank to keep the teeth worn down. Also due to the fact that the fish are scaleless, they are more prone to illnesses and treatment.

They needs more spacious tank than other species. So, one adult fish in average requires a tank of not less than 44 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 food should contain lots of hard-shelled shellfish.

Keeping in a tank

Tank size

Taking into account the size of adult species you’ll need a tank of about 44 gallons capacity. However, you can keep the juveniles in a smaller tank. You’ll need a very powerful filter when keeping green spotted puffer in a tank, since there are lots of leftovers after they feed.

Water parameters

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 °C; hardness 7-12°; pH 7.0-8.0.

Besides, the fish inhabits in rivers and it needs some flow to be created in a tank.

It’s desirable to install canister 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.

Green spotted puffers 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.

Tank decor

If you have plans to keep several fishes 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!


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

Be careful when feeding – 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.

Tank mates

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

Green 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 tank mates.

Malawian cichlids are good tank mates for green spotted 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, green spotted puffers aren’t compatible with small and long-finned fishes. You can’t keep them together with neon tetra, platy, guppy and etc.

Also when choosing tank mates you should consider that the fish requires brackish water. Some fishes won’t do with this – for example, the majority of catfishes.

Gender differences: male vs female

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


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

Advantages and disadvantages of keeping:


  • 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);
  • juveniles lose their bright coloring in time;
  • the necessity to have a spacious tank.


  • 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;