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September 26, 2014

Happy Friday, folks! This week is all about one fish – the incredibly popular and entertaining South American Puffer.

Colomesus asellus has many common names, including South American Puffer (or SAP), Amazon or Amazonian Puffer, Asell’s Puffer or Colombian/Peruvian Striped Puffer. Occasionally, it is known as the Nice Puffer or the Community Puffer – these adorable, 3-inch pufferfish enjoy the company of others of their own species and will generally not harass tankmates as they explore their home. Their brilliant yellow and black banding over their dorsal side and quick, darting motions bring to mind bumblebees.

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South American Puffers are incredibly intelligent and personable fish – they learn to recognize their owners (at least, those who feed and interact with them) by both sight and sound and will often come to greet them at the front of the aquarium when they enter the room. A complex environment with smooth décor such as large root wood structures, flat rocks and plenty of plants for the fish to explore and sand for them to both search for food and bury themselves in, is greatly appreciated. Shuffling the décor on occasion and providing a varied diet (including live and frozen foods such as frozen Mysis shrimp and live snails) can keep these intelligent creatures (and their owner) entertained as they explore the new layout of their home.

Pufferfish, including the South American Puffer, are molluscivores – their primary diet in the wild is snails and other shelled creatures. The fish possess modified “beaks” composed of two upper and two lower teeth with enough strength to crack through thick shells. These teeth continue to grow over the course of their lives and, therefore, shelled food should be provided on a regular basis to help wear down their beaks. C. asellus are known for their remarkably fast-growing beaks and are best fed hard-shelled food at least once every few days to help wear them down.

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With such an active tendency and relatively delicate temperament – Puffers are scaleless fish and somewhat sensitive to many medications and buildup of organic wastes – a moderately sized aquarium, preferably 25 gallons or larger, should be maintained with regular water changes for a group of three to six Colombian Striped Puffers. Larger groups should be housed in larger aquariums. A single Colombian Striped Puffer can be kept in about 15 gallons comfortably, but may become shy, nervous, or display neurotic behavior when kept individually.

While C. asellus is a comparatively peaceful and non-aggressive fish and can often be housed in community aquaria, they are notorious fin nippers and should not be kept with slow moving or long finned fish. Good choices include Plecostomus, quick and large tetras such as Cardinals or Rummynose, and other short finned or quick fish.

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Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here next week!

Jessica Supalla