Do Puffer Fish Eat off the Bottom or Top?

In addition to puffing up, these fish are poisonous to eat.
In addition to puffing up, these fish are poisonous to eat. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The puffer fish might not have the vivid colors of some tropical fish species, but the puffer does something amazing when he senses danger: He uses air and water to puff up into a large balls. A puffer fish who's spiny will make quite a show in your tank. The species is not the easiest to feed, however. Buy a puffer fish -- only one -- if you're an experienced aquarist.

What They Eat

In the wild, the puffer fish enjoys a diet consisting mostly of molluscs and crustaceans, although some specimens eat a bit of algae as well. Hard plates in the puffer's mouth allow the creature to break open the shells of prey to access the tasty meat inside. In your tank, the puffer doesn't need to find prey, but he likes to. Add some snails or live brine shrimp to give your puffer the thrill of the hunt. He'll also enjoy frozen foods such as bloodworms.

Where They Live

Because much of the puffer's prey lives on the sea floor, that's where the puffer fish in the wild typically hangs out. The same is true in your tank. Your puffer likely stays near the substrate or hides at the base of your tank decorations. The puffer fish won't swim to the top to dine on flakes like some other fish; he is more likely to nip at fins of tank mates or eat them whole, especially slow-moving, bottom-dwelling creatures like starfish.

Getting Food to Them

When you give food to your top-feeding fish, it keeps them occupied while you drop heavier food down to your puffer's level. You can push the food down with your fish net if necessary. When providing live food, drop it as close to the puffer as possible and give him a chance to see it and attack. The puffer can eat voraciously, so give yours food until he has his fill and stops eating. On occasion, feed him hard-shelled creatures such as clams or snails; biting through the shells helps wear down his teeth, which grow continuously.

Cleaning It Up

The puffer fish is a hearty eater, and a messy one. Give a puffer only the amount of food he can eat in a few minutes; any leftover food will just dirty up the water quickly and cause problems for the other fish. Remove as much leftover food as possible, including old shells. When providing live food, allow it to stay in the tank until the puffer fish eats it. Live food won't decompose and upset your tank's chemical balance the way frozen food will.

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