Your Complete Guide to Green Spotted Puffer Care & Keeping

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

The green spotted puffer, scientifically known as Tetraodon nigroviridis, belongs to the family Tetraodontidae. This family is commonly referred to as pufferfish. Pufferfish are a diverse group of fish characterized by their unique ability to inflate themselves when threatened, puffing up like a balloon to deter potential predators.

The Tetraodontidae family includes various species of pufferfish, ranging from small freshwater species like the green spotted puffer to larger marine species found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. Some pufferfish species are highly toxic, containing tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin that can be deadly if ingested. Because of this, they are considered delicacies in some cultures but require careful preparation to ensure they are safe to eat.

Dichotomyctere nigroviridis was first described in 1822.

The green spotted puffer (Tetraodon nigroviridis) is a freshwater fish that is native to the brackish waters and estuaries of Southeast Asia. It inhabits in coastal regions, including river deltas, lagoons, and mangrove swamps, streams and floodplains. As they prefer brackish environments, which are a mix of saltwater and freshwater, they are often seen in areas where rivers meet the sea.


As the name suggests, green spotted puffers have a greenish coloration on their body, which can range from olive green to light green or even yellowish-green. Their color may intensify or change depending on their mood, environment, or diet. One of the most notable features of the green spotted puffer is the presence of small, dark spots covering their body. These spots are typically black or dark green and are evenly distributed across their skin, giving them a speckled or spotted appearance.

Green spotted puffers have a round, elongated body shape with a slightly compressed appearance. They are not streamlined swimmers like some other fish species but have a more chubby and unique physique.

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. Green spotted puffers have specialized teeth that are adapted to their unique diet and feeding habits. These teeth are one of the distinguishing features of pufferfish in general.

Pufferfish teeth are fused into a beak-like structure called a “beak” or “beak-like jaw.” This beak is powerful and robust, designed to crush and consume the hard shells of crustaceans, snails, and other small invertebrates that form a significant part of the pufferfish’s diet in the wild. Like other fish, pufferfish teeth have the ability to continually grow throughout their lives. This growth compensates for the wear and tear they experience while grinding down hard shells and ensures their beaks remain effective for feeding.

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.

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.

Are green spotted puffer fish poisonous?

Yes, green spotted puffer fish (Tetraodon nigroviridis) are poisonous, specifically in regard to their ability to produce and store a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. This toxin is found in various tissues of the pufferfish, including the skin, liver, and certain internal organs.

Tetrodotoxin is one of the most potent neurotoxins known, and it can be lethal to predators and even humans if ingested in sufficient quantities. The toxin blocks sodium channels in nerve cells, leading to paralysis and potentially death by respiratory failure.

In some cultures, certain pufferfish species, including the green spotted puffer, are considered delicacies and are prepared by specially trained chefs who remove the toxic parts, leaving only the safe and edible portions. Despite these precautions, consuming pufferfish remains risky, and it is essential to be cautious and only eat pufferfish from reputable and knowledgeable sources.

As such, green spotted puffers should not be handled or consumed without appropriate knowledge and care. When keeping them as pets, it’s essential to take necessary safety precautions and avoid potential exposure to the toxin. Proper handling, good tank maintenance, and avoiding contact with any open wounds when working in the aquarium can help ensure your safety when keeping green spotted puffer fish.

How big do green spotted puffers get?

Green spotted puffers are relatively small fish, but their size can vary depending on factors such as genetics, diet, and the quality of care they receive. On average, green spotted puffers can grow up to approximately 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) in length when kept in suitable conditions.

As with many fish species, females tend to be slightly larger than males. It’s important to note that keeping puffers in an improper environment, such as pure freshwater, can stunt their growth and lead to health issues. To ensure your green spotted puffer reaches its full potential size, provide it with a well-maintained brackish water aquarium and a varied, balanced diet.

How long do green spotted puffer fish live?

In captivity, green spotted puffer fish have an average lifespan of about 5 to 10 years when provided with proper care and a suitable environment. Some individuals may live slightly longer, while others might have shorter lifespans, depending on various factors such as genetics, diet, water quality, and overall health.

Providing a well-maintained brackish water aquarium with the correct water parameters, a balanced diet, and an enriched environment can contribute to the longevity and well-being of green spotted puffers. As with any pet, attentive care and regular monitoring are essential to ensure they live a healthy and fulfilling life.

Scientific NameDichotomyctere nigroviridis (syn. Tetraodon nigroviridis)
Common NameGreen Spotted Puffer, Leopard puffer
HabitatBrackish waters, estuaries in Southeast Asia
Water ParametersSpecific gravity: 1.005 – 1.015
pH: 7.0 – 8.5
Temperature: 75°F – 82°F (24°C – 28°C)
SizeUp to 6 inches (15 cm)
Lifespan5 to 10 years (in captivity)
BehaviorCurious, intelligent, can puff up when stressed
DietCarnivorous – small crustaceans, snails, shrimp, occasional plant matter
Tank SizeMinimum 30 gallons (larger tank preferred)
FiltrationEfficient filtration system required
SubstrateSand or mix of sand and crushed coral
DecorationsRocks, caves, driftwood, live/artificial plants
CompatibilityCan be aggressive, best kept with compatible tank mates or in a species-only tank

Difficulties in keeping

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

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. 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.

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.

Keeping in a tank

Tank size

For a single green spotted puffer, a minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended. However, it’s important to note that pufferfish are active and intelligent fish that benefit from having ample swimming space and an enriched environment. Therefore, providing them with a larger tank, such as 40 to 50 gallons or more, is preferable if possible.

A larger tank allows the green spotted puffer to have more room to explore, establish territories, and engage in natural behaviors. It also helps to maintain water quality more effectively, which is essential for their health and well-being.

If you plan to keep multiple green spotted puffers, you will need an even larger tank to accommodate their territorial nature and reduce aggression. A general rule of thumb is to add 10 to 20 gallons of water per puffer when keeping them together in a species-only tank.

Saltwater or freshwater?

Are green spotted puffer freshwater?

In their natural habitat, green spotted puffers are accustomed to waters with varying salinity levels, which can range from completely freshwater to slightly salty. They are well-adapted to these conditions and possess specialized kidneys that allow them to tolerate a wide range of salinities.

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.

How long can green spotted puffer live in freshwater?

Green spotted puffers are primarily brackish water fish, meaning they naturally inhabit environments with varying levels of salinity, such as estuaries and river mouths. While they can tolerate a range of salinities, they are not true freshwater fish, and keeping them in freshwater for extended periods can be detrimental to their health.

In freshwater conditions, green spotted puffers may survive for a limited time, but they will not thrive or live their full potential lifespan. The absence of essential minerals and other elements found in brackish water can lead to health issues and a shortened lifespan.

If you have a green spotted puffer, it is essential to provide them with the appropriate environment, which is a well-maintained brackish water aquarium with a specific gravity ranging from 1.005 to 1.015. This setup will ensure they can exhibit their natural behaviors, remain healthy, and potentially live their usual lifespan, which is typically around 5 to 10 years in captivity when properly cared for.

As always, it’s crucial to research and understand the specific needs of any fish species you plan to keep in captivity, and provide them with the best possible environment to ensure their well-being and longevity.

Water parameters

Tetraodon nigroviridis are brackish water fish, meaning they naturally inhabit environments with a mix of saltwater and freshwater. It’s essential to maintain specific water parameters to create a suitable environment for these fish in captivity.

Here are the recommended water parameters for green spotted puffers:

  1. Specific Gravity (Salinity): The specific gravity is a measure of the salt content in the water. For green spotted puffers, the ideal specific gravity range is between 1.005 to 1.015. This is lower than what you would typically find in a marine (saltwater) aquarium but not completely freshwater.
  2. pH: The pH level should be maintained within the range of 7.0 to 8.5. Brackish water fish like green spotted puffers can tolerate a slightly alkaline environment.
  3. Temperature: Keep the water temperature between 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C). Providing a stable and suitable temperature is crucial for the well-being of the puffers.
  4. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: The fish is very sensitive to the level of ammonia and nitrates in the tank water. These are important water parameters to monitor regularly to ensure a healthy environment for the puffers. Ammonia and nitrite levels should be at or near zero, and nitrate levels should be kept as low as possible (less than 20 ppm).
  5. Water Hardness: Green spotted puffers can adapt to a range of water hardness levels, but a moderate to slightly hard water (dH 8-20) is generally acceptable.

It’s crucial to remember that maintaining water quality is essential for the health and well-being of green spotted puffers. Proper filtration, regular maintenance, and a well-balanced diet are also vital factors to ensure their overall health and longevity in captivity.


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%).

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.


Green spotted puffers are carnivorous and primarily eat meaty foods. In their natural habitat, they consume small invertebrates like snails, crustaceans, insects, and small fish. 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.

Offer live or frozen foods to mimic their natural diet. Suitable options include live or frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, blackworms, and small pieces of shrimp or fish. It’s essential to provide a varied diet to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. Feeding a mix of different foods helps keep them healthy and stimulates their natural hunting behavior.

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.

How many green spotted puffers in a tank?

The number of green spotted puffers that can be kept in a tank depends on several factors, including the tank size, water quality, and the temperament of the individual puffers. It’s important to consider the well-being and territorial nature of these fish when determining the stocking level.

Green spotted puffers can be aggressive and territorial, especially toward their own species and fish with long, flowing fins. Due to this behavior, they are often best kept in species-only tanks, meaning only green spotted puffers are housed together. Additionally, providing plenty of hiding spots and visual barriers can help reduce aggression within the tank.

For a community tank, it’s essential to select tank mates carefully, opting for species that are compatible with the puffers and less likely to trigger aggressive behaviors.

As a general guideline, here are some recommendations for green spotted puffer stocking:

  1. Species-Only Tank: For a species-only tank, each green spotted puffer will need sufficient space to establish its territory and minimize aggression. A good starting point is to provide at least 10 to 20 gallons of water per puffer.
  2. Community Tank: If you intend to keep green spotted puffers in a community tank, you may need a larger tank to accommodate both puffers and compatible tank mates. In such cases, consider at least 30 gallons of water per puffer to allow for proper swimming space and territory.

Always monitor the behavior of the puffers and other tank inhabitants closely. If aggression becomes an issue or if a puffer shows signs of stress, it may be necessary to rearrange the tank setup or consider separate housing for the aggressive individual.

Gender differences: male vs female

It’s still unclear how to see between male and female. Determining the sex of a green spotted puffer can be quite challenging, especially when they are young or not in breeding condition. Unlike some other fish species, green spotted puffers do not have external sexual dimorphism, meaning there are no distinct visual differences between males and females.

As green spotted puffers mature, subtle differences in behavior and body shape may become apparent, which can help in distinguishing between males and females. However, these differences can still be quite difficult to spot, and the best way to determine the sex definitively is through dissection or observation of breeding behaviors.


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