Guineafowl Puffer

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Arothron meleagris - (Lacépède, 1798)
Guineafowl Puffer

Xanthic or yellow form at Coiba National Park, Panama. Laszlo Ilyes/Creative Commons.


This is a fish in great demand among aquarists, with the more common form bearing white spots over a dark background. A xanthic yellow or gold form is more rare and commands high prices when available.

It is best kept singly, although it is not aggressive toward other fishes, even other puffer species.

As with most puffers, it tends to be shy at first, and the tank should have a large cave or overhang where the puffer can take shelter. It will chew up hard coral skeletons, faux corals, and aquarium equipment.

This and other puffers can be poisonous to eat, having the lethal tetrodotoxin in their internal organs. Dozens of poisonings and up to six human deaths a year in Japan are attributed to the consumption of pufferfishes. The skin of pufferfishes also contains the toxin, and hobbyists should only handle these fishes when wearing rubber gloves as a precaution. (This is a prudent approach when handling all fishes.)

Common black and white form. NPS photo by Bryan Harry.

Family: Tetraodontidae

Other common name(s):

  • Spotted Puffer
  • Sapo Puffer
  • Golden Puffer

Native range:

Habitat: This species demands open swimming room and will not thrive if housed in cramped quarters. The larger the tank the better.

Maximum length: 50 cm (20 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 285 L (75 gal)

Water: Marine 24 °C (75 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: All levels.


Its natural diet includes benthic invertebrates of all sorts (crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms, algae, sponges, and others). In the aquarium it will greedily eat most foods, but should be offered a varied diet of meaty foods, including chopped shrimp, squid, clams, enriched krill, and fish—as well as preparations designed for herbivores. Feeding crabs, shrimp, snails, clams, mussels in the shell will help keep a puffer's teeth from becoming overgrown.

Aquarium Compatibility

Not recommended for aquariums with reef invertebrates. Will eat sessile invertebrates and coralline algae.

Special Care

It will probably need to be dewormed and the teeth may have to be filed down to prevent overgrowth, which can impede feeding.


The pufferfishes are demersal spawners, building a nest and guarding it. Larvae are planktonic and sometimes are carried long distances by currents before settling out.

Text credit: SWM