Map Puffer

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Arothron mappa - (Lesson, 1831)
Map Puffer

A magnificent species for the dedicated aquarist. Scott W. Michael


This is a prized fish among advanced aquarists, with highly variable and sometimes magnificent color patterns. It is also an impressively large species at adult size and one that demands an enormous aquarium and some dedicated husbandry.

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

A Map Puffer 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.

Yellow juvenile. Image by Mike Maddox.

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.)

A smaller, more easily housed and more commonly available member of the genus is the Blackspotted Puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus.

See: A Puffer Primer by Mike Maddox.

Family: Tetraodontidae

Other common name(s):

Native range:

Habitat: In the wild, it is usually found in the relatively calm waters of lagoons and protective reefs.

Maximum length: 65 cm (26 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 908 L (240 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.

Feed no fewer than 3 times a day.

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.

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Marine Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM