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Porcupine Puffer Fish

By | Last Updated: 28th October 2020

Porcupine puffer fish of the Diodontidae family is indigenous to the tropical regions of all the major oceans and seas. The several spiny appendages on their body, alongside the spots, give these fish a unique appearance indeed. These reef-safe species are easy-to-maintain and have an innate ability to engage and interact with humans, thus gaining immense popularity in the aquarium trade.

Porcupine Puffer Fish

Quick Information

Scientific NameDiodon holocanthus
Other NamesPorcupine puffer, long-spine porcupinefish, freckled porcupinefish
OriginTropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean (Florida and Bahamas up to Brazil, and then the eastern parts till South Africa), western Indian Ocean (the south Red Sea up to Madagascar and Mauritius), Pacific Ocean
TypeSaltwater fish
Conservation StatusLeast Concern (by the IUCN)
Behavioral CharacteristicsIntelligent, and friendly, but semi-aggressive, sometimes indulging in nipping its tank mates   
School Size2 – 3
Physical Traits (What do they look like)Spiny appendages covering its entire body teamed with dark spots; big-sized teeth that remain fused into a beak-like structure, large pectoral fin mostly helping in movement but no pelvic fin
ColorsPale body with light gray or mottled tan spiny projections and large or small black blotches or spots (though some have claimed to see a blue variety, its availability is rare and also under speculation)
Size (How big do they get)About 30 cm (12 inches)
Lifespan10 – 15 years
Sexual DimorphismNot prominent
Probable DiseasesMarine ich or white spot disease
Approximate Price (How much are they for)$60

Tank Setup & Care Sheet Details

Care LevelIntermediate
Tank Size180 gallons (681 liters) for a single adult porcupine puffer fish

Water Parameters

pH Level7.6 – 8.2
Temperature75 – 80°F
Hardness10 – 15 dGH
Aquarium Water FlowLow

Tank Ambience

Substrate TypeRocks, soft and muddy substrates, plants
Tank MatesCompatible with: They mostly get along well with big fish species like angelfish, wrasses, tangs, foxfish, engineer gobies, and squirrelfish

Incompatible with: Small fish species, those with long fins (since the porcupine puffer is a fin-nipper) alongside invertebrates likecrabs, squids, and shrimps
Suitable Position in the TankBottom


Diet  (What do they eat)Meaty foods like hard-shelled shrimp, squid, clam, and krill, alongside flakes and pellets
Frequency2 – 3 times a day
Porcupine Puffer Fish Habitat
Baby Porcupine Puffer Fish

Important Things To Know For Fish Keepers

  • Since their teeth keep growing throughout their life, it is essential to ground them down by providing the fish with hard food. Exceptionally long teeth would make it difficult for the porcupine puffers to eat, resulting in starvation in extreme cases.
  • They are one unique kind that often attracts their master’s attention for food by performing several amusing antics. As a fishkeeper, you should not always give in to their demands, as overfeeding may lead to many health issues.
  • There is not much to worry about if you find your porcupine puffer lying at the bottom of the fish tank. Most of them, especially the older ones, consider it as their resting place. However, if you find it remaining still and not eating, you need to consult a fish vet or try making a partial water change.
  • They blow or puff up when tensed or sensing danger, their long spines getting erect them. Don’t attempt to disturb or touch them during such a time, as you may end up injuring yourself from their spines.


Q. What is the difference between a puffer fish and a porcupine puffer fish? 

The porcupine puffer fish and the puffer fish are often confused with one another, but they are not the same, having certain visible differences. The puffer fish has thin spines, visible only when they inflate. Their fused teeth are arranged in rows of two. On the other hand, the porcupine fish and most other species of their family are thick and large external spines, while their beaked-teeth remain arranged in just one row.

Q. Can porcupine puffer live in freshwater?

Though mostly found in brackish waters in the wild, they are even known to occupy freshwater habitats. So, they do not have a problem adjusting when given a freshwater dip or in case of a change in the water’s specific gravity level.

Q. Are porcupine pufferfish poisonous to touch?

Like other Diodontidae family species, their internal organs may also contain tetrodotoxin, known for its toxic properties. Though no, there are no reports of their spine being venomous. Owners should still maintain caution while holding them and avoid touching the spines.

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