Tetraodon MBU- The Underwater Giant Puppy
The Tetraodon MBU puffer is the largest freshwater species of puffer fish. Getting 22+ inches in a home aquarium. With the fish getting so big, most aquarists struggle to keep one healthy. While my largest one has only gotten to 22 inches, I suspect they’ll grow to as large as 30 inches depending on how they are raised throughout their extended lives.
The first question is always what size of an aquarium? There are many options. Some suggest 300 gallons while others recommend 1000 gallons. It is important to remember that the footprint is more important than the number of gallons. A fish of 30 inches can be kept in a tank measuring 8ft long by 4ft from front to rear. This tank will work better than one that measures 4ft high, 8ft long, and 8ft from front to back. More area to swim will always be better and the more gallons of water generally makes waste management easier in an aquarium.
My current aquarium for my second MBU puffer is 72x48x24 inches tall which is 360 gallons. The MBU is currently 13 inches in length. My previous MBU was 22 inches before he passed at 5 yrs old. The necropsy revealed that he had died too soon from a wild acquired disease for which there was no cure. It had made lots of lesions on his heart and other organs and taxed its system over time.
For waste management, I change 100 gallons out of the 340 gallons each day. This keeps nitrates at 0 in the aquarium. The automatic water change system ensures that the aquarium is always topped up. Live plants are also beneficial in the reduction of waste in this aquarium. When you have a 22 inch fish feeding on 6 to 8oz of food a day, their feces is the size of small dogs.
Most owners find it difficult to manage their diet. Most of their diet must be made up of shelled foods. These include clams, muscles and snails as well as crayfish and crayfish. This helps keep their oversized teeth also known as a beak trimmed down. MBU puffers get shelled food five days a semaine and soft foods two days a weeks. Things like cocktail shrimp, fozen blood worms etc. These can be soaked in vitamin supplements. I haven’t had luck getting any of my MBU puffers on dry foods after trying for years. I do know others who have been successful however. If they grow large, you should be prepared to pay up to $10 per day for food. A $300 monthly cost is comparable to feeding a large dog a special diet. It’s easy for a dog to become deficient in vitamins if they only eat one type of food.
Although live foods can stimulate the hunting instincts in puffers, they can also attract parasites. Claws from fiddler crabs and crayfish can also be dangerous. It is recommended to cut one of the claws before feeding so the live food can’t clamp an eye of the puffer.
One benefit to feeding lots of shelled foods is that the shells can be left in the aquarium and it helps buffer the water. The shells can be almost turned into a crushed coral substrate. This helps buffer up the pH and alkalinity of the water. They eat more shells as they grow and become larger. If you’re using sandy sand you can use a net to pick up shells.
It is important to maintain a pH above 7.0. My puffer is 7.4 pH. If my tap water were higher, I would also keep it at that level. With so much water being changed it makes more sense to adapt the puffer to the tap water pH plus shells than it does to alter it. Automated daily water changes are a great option.
The puffers have excellent vision and will grow to recognize their owners from across the room easily, which makes this puffer a great wet pet. Their eyes become closer to each other as they grow larger. The puffer will have to see its food from one side and then line up to eat it. There are times when tank mates swim in for food at the right moment and can be eaten by mistake. It happens about once in six months.
Casualties can be lessened by choosing the right tank mates. You want peaceful, passive tank mates. However, things like loaches and corydoras also love clams, and other meaty foods and can go for food at the wrong time. An Ellipsifer Eel was found in Lake Tang. It was my first MBU puffer. For my MBU puffers, fancy guppies have been siamese algae eaters (siamese), plecos, plecos. Things that didn’t work out well, Flagtail Prochilodus, Giraffe Catfish, basically anything that would touch the MBU puffer or be a pig when it came to food time.
Anything pointy is best when it comes to decorating a MBU Puffer aquarium. If the puffer becomes scared, it can run away. A sharp object or rock can cause severe damage. I like to line the sides and back of my aquarium with live plants. This serves as a visual barrier and allows fish to hide from the weeds if necessary. I like to use lots of Anubias sp. Java ferns and MBU puffers love to move the sand around looking for snails, etc.
My tank is kept at a temperature of mid-70s. I don’t use aquarium heaters, I heat the whole room. Partly because I run a lot of aquariums, but mostly so I can eliminate any heater malfunction from the list of potential killers for a MBU puffer. An advanced fish like a puffer requires extensive care. It is important to automate as many problems as possible and prevent them from becoming a problem.
When you move a MBU puffer, you want to keep them under water the entire time. If they puff up out of water they can get air trapped. If they can’t expel it, it can kill them. MBU puffers will stretch and inflate and deflate quickly from time to time in the aquarium. This is normal as long as it’s not related to a stress factor, like a loud noise etc that causes them the stress. I liken a puffer to a human fainting. It takes so much shock to the system to have a human faint as well as a puffer puff up, it’s purely a defense mechanism.
You can find more information about these concepts and see them in a video at my MBU Puffer species video profile.