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20 Types of Pufferfish: Species, Facts and Photos

This article explores the different types of Pufferfish, including their habitats and diets. Beyond their well-known defensive tactics, this article also tackles additional distinguishing features and behaviors for each species.

Join us on this journey to the world of Pufferfish and learn more about these inflating marine animals.

Pufferfish Classification

Aside from Pufferfish, this inflating creature also holds other names, like puffers, balloonfish, blowfish, bubblefish, globefish, swellfish, toadfish, honey toads, and sea squab.

This fish is part of the Tetraodontiformes order, which includes around ten families of primarily marine and estuarine fish species. Pufferfish is under the Tetraodontidae family, with approximately 193 species across 28 genera.

Pufferfish commonly live in tropical and subtropical oceans, but some are brackish water species. For example, the Fahaka Puffer Fish lives in the freshwater currents of African river systems. In contrast, the Blue Spotted Puffer Fish lives in the salty waters of the Indo-Pacific region.

For more details, see the following sections, which discuss the habitats and distinguishing features of the most well-known types of pufferfish.

Read More: Pufferfish Facts, Ugly Fish From Around The Globe.

20 Types of Puffer Fish Species

1. Green Spotted Pufferfish (Dichotomyctere nigroviridis)

Green Spotted Pufferfish
Photo by Starseed on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Green Spotted Pufferfish is a native of South and Southeast Asia. It has an emerald green body with black spots and can grow around 6 inches long. The fish has four teeth that come together to form a beak, which it uses to crack open the shells of its prey. 

Moreover, young Green Spotted Puffers are initially a brackish-water species and then become acclimated to saltwater. Aside from being aquarium pets, these types of puffer fish are model organisms for genetic studies since they have the smallest genome among vertebrates2.

2. Blue-Spotted Pufferfish (Arothron caeruleopunctatus)

Blue-Spotted Pufferfish
Photo by Bernard DUPONT on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Blue Spotted Pufferfish lives in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It has a light grey oval body reaching up to 31.5 inches. It also has blue spots, which can intensify or dim based on the fish's mood, believed to be a form of communication within their underwater environment. 

This puffer species is active mainly at night and feeds on invertebrates such as crustaceans, clams, and worms. Its strong teeth can easily break their shells open.

3. Flower Pufferfish (Takifugu rubripes)

Flower Pufferfish
Photo by Totti on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Flower Pufferfish primarily feeds on shellfish, crustaceans, and mollusks. It is also called Torafugu in Japan, which translates to Tiger Pufferfish. It lives in the mild saltiness of coastal regions, estuaries, and rivers around Japan, Korea, and China. 

Moreover, the Flower Pufferfish stores a deadly neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin in its liver, skin, and reproductive organs. Despite the danger, this fish is a sought-after delicacy in Japan. Chefs with special licenses undergo rigorous training to remove the toxic parts, leaving behind a delicious dish.

Like green-spotted pufferfish, this type of pufferfish also has a compact genome that can aid in studying vertebrate genome evolutions1.

4. Northern Pufferfish (Sphoeroides maculatus)

Northern Pufferfish
Photo by Cliff on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Northern Pufferfish inhabits the northern parts of the western Atlantic Ocean. This solitary species prefers dwelling in depths of up to 600 feet, within inshore waters, estuaries, and coastal bays, on sandy or muddy bottoms. 

Despite its size, averaging 8 inches in length, the Northern Pufferfish has a unique defense mechanism. It can inflate its body when faced with danger, turning into a nearly perfect sphere. Its skin is light gray or brown, adorned with dark spots, and covered with tiny, prickly spines that become more visible when it inflates, protecting it from predators. 

5. Immaculate Pufferfish (Arothron immaculatus)

Immaculate Pufferfish
Photo by Philippe Bourjon on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Immaculate Pufferfish, also called Yellow-eye Puffer,  is a species in the Indo-Pacific region stretching from East Africa to the Hawaiian and Marquesan islands. This species can survive in depths from 1 to 100 feet.

It grows to almost 15 inches and has a grey to brownish scaleless body with dark bars on the side of its head.

6. Fahaka Pufferfish (Tetraodon lineatus)

Fahaka Pufferfish
Photo by Earedien on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Fahaka Pufferfish, also called  Globe fish or Lineatus puffer,  is a tropical freshwater fish living in African rivers and lakes. These mollusk-loving puffers are known for their striking dark stripes. 

Moreover, they are unsuitable for community aquariums due to their aggressive behavior and require expertise to care for. Still, they can recognize their owners and exhibit interactive behavior, making them popular among experienced aquarium enthusiasts. 

7. Striped Pufferfish (Arothron manilensis)

Striped Pufferfish
Photo by David Burdick on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

In the Pacific Ocean, particularly around the Philippines, Indonesia, and northern Australia, one can find the Striped Pufferfish. It is also known as Narrow-lined puffer and Manila pufferfish. 

This species is notable for the black and white stripes on its body, which effectively camouflage it among the coral reefs and lagoons it inhabits. 

Despite reaching a considerable size of up to 12 inches, it inflates its body to deter potential predators. Moreover, its skin and internal organs contain tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin. 

Its primary diet consists of hard-shelled invertebrates such as crustaceans and mollusks, and its powerful jaws can crack open the shells and reach the soft morsels inside. 

8. Bandtail Pufferfish (Sphoeroides spengleri)

Bandtail Pufferfish
Photo by Andrew David on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Bandtail Pufferfish has a distinctive appearance with black spots on its head and lower part of its body, which is pale to dark brown. 

These types of pufferfish live in the warm, shallow waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean, from seagrass beds in Massachusetts to coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Like the other fish relatives, they feed on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms. 

9. Golden Pufferfish (Auriglobus modestus)

The Golden Pufferfish, also called Bronze puffer,  is a freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. It is named for its stunning golden-yellow coloring, offset by random dark spots. 

It is tiny compared to others, with a maximum length of only seven inches. Still,  like other species, it can inflate its body as a defense mechanism against predators. 

This omnivorous species feeds on invertebrates, smaller fish, and plant matter. 

10. Canthigaster Pufferfish (Canthigaster valentini)

Canthigaster Pufferfish
Photo by Manfred Werner / Tsui on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Canthigaster Pufferfish is a small marine creature with a dark body covered in white specks. It is also called the Saddled puffer because of its four black stripes on its back. Its body is white, covered with bluish spots, and its fins are tipped with yellow. 

Living in the Indo-Pacific, these small pufferfish reach up to 4.3 inches in length. It uses coral branches and rocky nooks to hide and play. 

Moreover, it also contains a deadly neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin in its skin and organs. Interestingly, a type of filefish, aptly named False Puffer, evolved to look like Saddled puffers gain protection by looking like the poisonous fish3. This type of phenomenon is called Batesian mimicry.

11. Giant Pufferfish (Tetraodon mbu)

Giant Pufferfish
Photo by Tiia Monto on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Giant Pufferfish, also called Mbuna or Mbu Puffer,  is a freshwater fish species in Africa's Congo River Basin and Lake Tanganyika. It is one of the largest pufferfish species, with a maximum length of 26.4 inches. 

Aside from their size, Giant Puffers are distinguishable by their beige or brown body with maze-like patterns, which get more detailed as it ages. Like most pufferfish, they have an inflating defense mechanism and bodies filled with tetrodotoxin. 

12. Guineafowl Pufferfish (Arothron meleagris)

Guineafowl Pufferfish
Photo by Cliff on Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Guineafowl Pufferfish can grow up to 20 inches long and live in the tropical waters of the Indian and eastern Pacific oceans. It lives in coral reefs and eats the ends of its branching corals, which can easily crack open with its beak-like mouth. It also feeds on algae and sponges.

This type of puffer fish has three color variations. The first kind of Guineafowl puffer exhibits a dark-brown body dotted with white spots. The second is a yellow body with black spots. Lastly, a unique blend of the first two with brown, white, yellow, and black details.

13. Dogface Pufferfish (Arothron nigropunctatus)

Dogface Pufferfish
Photo by Totti on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Dogface Pufferfish is a tropical marine fish in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, living in coral reefs and lagoons. It is active during the day and feeds on sponges, algae, coral tips, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Also called Blackspotted pufferfish, its skin boasts blotches of darkness dotted across shades of gray, brown, blue, or yellow, especially around the eyes and mouth, reinforcing its title.

14. Crowned Pufferfish (Canthigaster coronata)

 Crowned Pufferfish
Photo by Rob on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Cropped from original).

The Crowned Pufferfish or Crowned Toby inhabits the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. They make their homes among the corals and rocks of reef habitats.

It has a pale grey to tan body adorned with three saddle-like brown bars. Its body and head feature many small pale spots, complemented by narrow, pale bands around the eyes. 

Despite their small size of just 4.3 inches, they can puff up their body several times their average size when threatened. 

Crowned Pufferfish have a beak-like mouth that they use to rummage through the crevices of coral reefs and feed on algae, small crustaceans, and benthic invertebrates. 

15. Redeye Pufferfish (Carinotetraodon lorteti)

The Redeye Pufferfish inhabits the slow-moving fresh waters of the Mekong River basin, primarily in Indochina, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It feeds on mollusks, zooplankton, crustaceans, and other invertebrates.

Only stretching up to 2.4 inches, this small type of pufferfish has distinguishable red eyes and a pale body with lacy dark patterns that are more detailed in females.

16. Hairy Pufferfish (Pao baileyi)

The Hairy Pufferfish is a freshwater fish species found in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Mekong basin. Its scaleless body has hair-like protrusions called cirri, which give it an unkempt appearance.

Despite its predatory nature, the Hairy Puffer exhibits a gentle side in captivity. It can recognize its owners and accept food directly from human hands.

17. Star Pufferfish (Arothron stellatus)

Star Pufferfish
Photo by Diego Delso on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (Cropped from original).

The Star Pufferfish or Stellate Pufferfish has a round, bulky body covered with dark spots contrasting sharply with its lighter skin. This marine species lives in the warm, tropical seas of the Indo-Pacific region, inhabiting coral reefs and lagoons.

Moreover, it is the largest pufferfish, with a maximum length of 47.2 inches, but the average is about half of that. This diurnal and territorial fish feeds on algae, crustaceans, sponges, mollusks, invertebrates, and coral polyps. 

18. Green Pufferfish (Dichotomyctere fluviatilis)

Green Pufferfish
Photo by H. Zell on Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (Cropped from original).

The Green Pufferfish sports a metallic yellow or green top adorned with black spots and a white underbelly. It is native to South and Southeast Asia's rivers, estuaries, lakes, and floodplains.

Known for its toxic flesh, this species primarily feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, and vascular plants. Despite its aggressive nature, it's common in the aquarium trade.

19. Congo Puffer (Tetraodon schoutedeni)

The Congo Puffer is a freshwater pufferfish from the Congo River Basin in Central Africa. Growing only up to 3.5 inches, Its body and fins are yellow or brown, with black spots. 

Inside an aquarium, this small fish prefers a habitat that resembles its natural environment, with ample hiding spots. They feed on insects and invertebrates such as live or frozen shrimp, snails, and worms. 

20. Nano Puffer Dwarf Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)

Nano Puffer Dwarf Puffer
Photo by 5snake5 on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

The Nano Puffer Dwarf Pufferfish or Malabar pufferfish inhabits freshwater bodies in India, where it feeds on insects, crustaceans, and worms.

Its other names are pea puffer and pygmy puffer due to its size reaching a maximum of 1.4 inches. Moreover, its body blends a soft yellow into a lively green speckled with iridescent dark spots, allowing it to blend in with its surroundings. 

Sadly, these tiny freshwater puffers are vulnerable due to deforestation, habitat conversion, and overharvesting for the pet trade.

1

Wang, K., Kikuchi, K., Tohari, S., Chew, A. K., Tay, A., Fujiwara, A., Hosoya, S., Suetake, H., Naruse, K., Brenner, S., Suzuki, Y., & Venkatesh, B. (2011). Integration of the Genetic Map and Genome Assembly of Fugu Facilitates Insights into Distinct Features of Genome Evolution in Teleosts and Mammals. Genome Biology and Evolution, 3, 424–442.

2

Jaillon, O., Aury, J., Brunet, F., Petit, J., Stange-Thomann, N., Mauceli, E., Bouneau, L., Fischer, C., Ozouf−Costaz, C., Bernot, A., Nicaud, S., Jaffe, D. B., Fisher, S., Lutfalla, G., Dossat, C., Segurens, B., Dasilva, C., Salanoubat, M., Levy, M. A., . . . Crollius, H. R. (2004). Genome duplication in the teleost fish Tetraodon nigroviridis reveals the early vertebrate proto-karyotype. Nature, 431(7011), 946–957.

3

Caley, M. J., & Schluter, D. (2003). Predators favour mimicry in a tropical reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 270(1516), 667–672.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by MonicaVolpin on Pixabay.
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