Tetraodon mbu Puffer Fish Lair

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This is my T. mbu, that I adopted from Tetraodon. This year, he passed away. A bacteria or parasite infested the gill area unknown to me. He showed no symptoms of distress until one evening with a rapid demise. Puffer's gills are inside the gill opercules, with a thin membrane flap over the opening. It is difficult to check the condition of the gills as a result, preventing us keepers from seeing certain types of problems until it is too late. Slides revealed some monogenic flukes, but we could not get a good sample from the gill area, and I feel certain one of the bacteri groups was responsible.

A true part of my family, I miss him and grieve his passing. Following is a little about the species.

T. mbu is from the Congo River in Africa. The largest true fresh water puffer, specimens of 30" have been recorded. A huge appetite goes with this huge puffer. Shrimp, krill, slices of fish, mussels, cockles, clams, crayfish, crabs, lobster, squid, cuttlefish and really any type of shellfish was readily accepted. Snails are also a huge favourite. Often seen blowing away the sand substrate with bursts of water to find the snails. A large specimen as this requires a huge aquarium. Small tanks will severely shorten the life span and quality. Recommend at least a 200 gallon, and more if you can get it. An active swimming species, making sure the tank is deep and wide enough for the fish to make turns without beating up that magnificent tail fin is critical.

Formidable teeth are present, so watch those fingers when feeding and cleaning the tank. I found that keeping the fingers close to each other, or not extended at all made tank cleaning less hazardous, as they look remarkably like shrimp to them!

A soft sandy substrate is best, as partially burying in the sand seems to be normal. Also, the snail and food hunting technique can be witnessed with a soft substrate. Plus it must feel better on that soft belly. I also found that having a natural light source nearby was appreciated by the fish. Eating habits and general swimming around and exploring were improved with a natural light source available.

Large filtration is required, and frequent water changes. This species produces huge waste. Using a dedicated net to scoop out feces, or a vacuum powered by an air pump is highly recommended. Temperature seems more critical than hardness of the water. Maintaining 80°F goes a long way towards a happy Mbu.

Recently I viewed a skull of a T. mbu at the Steinhart Aquarium's Skulls exhibit that was massive. The beak was almost two inches from the skull to the edge. Nearly 1/4 inch thick, the process of layering was visible, showing that wear on the beak was solely to the points. I can only hazard a guess that it came from full grown specimen due to the sheer size.