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Dog Faced Puffer Fish | Arothron nigropunctatus Care & Info

Looking for an unusual addition to your saltwater aquarium? You might just have found it! The dog faced puffer fish (Arothron nigropunctatus) is a pretty funky-looking species. It can make a great choice for the somewhat experienced aquarist.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about dog faced puffer fish and keeping one in your own aquarium!

Name (Common, Scientific)Dog faced puffer fish, dogface pufferfish, blackspotted puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus
Minimum tank size100 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature74-78 °F
Difficulty levelIntermediate

Dog faced puffer fish (Arothron nigropunctatus) description

Given its pointy, snout-like face, we probably don’t have to explain where the dog faced puffer fish got its common name. This species is a typical puffer: it sports an oval body shape with big teeth and no scales.

Dog face puffers are generally greyish to brownish, with a white stripe over the nose, darker coloration in the face and some black spots over the entire body. Interestingly though, there are also dog face puffers with yellow bellies or even a bright yellow body.

This is not a small species. Dog faced puffers can grow to over a foot in length.

Did you know? Like other puffer species, the dog faced puffer can indeed puff up its body when it feels threatened. Don’t try to provoke your fish into puffing though, as it greatly stresses them out. Also avoid ever exposing this species to air, as they can ingest air while trying to puff and might not survive the ordeal.

Close-up of a Dog Faced Puffer Fish in darkness

Dog faced puffer fish (Arothron nigropunctatus) aquarium

As mentioned above, the dog faced puffer fish can reach a size of over a foot. That means a small aquarium is not going to cut it if you’re interested in keeping one. An aquarium of 100 gallons or more in volume is a good start.

Standard reef parameters work fine for a dog faced puffer fish. Make sure to keep water quality high, as this species doesn’t respond well at all to fluctuations in ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels. Overfiltration can be handy, as they are messy eaters.

The layout of the aquarium doesn’t matter much as long as there’s plenty of space available.

Dog faced puffer fish (Arothron nigropunctatus) compatibility

It’s important to remember that dog faced puffer fish are considered to be at least semi-aggressive. They are predators and grow pretty large, so they can pose a threat to some types of tankmates.

Puffers like this one are particularly focused on invertebrates, which make up their natural diet. If you keep shrimp, crabs, clams and other inverts in your tank, you might want to think twice about adding a dog faced puffer fish to the mix. Other fish will generally be left alone, but still, it might be best to avoid anything that fits into the puffer’s mouth.

Better tankmates include similarly large species, though preferably nothing overly aggressive. Peaceful or semi-aggressive fish like triggerfish, angelfish and snowflake eels should do alright.

As for coral compatibility, dog faced puffers are generally considered to be pretty much reef safe. Although they love munching on invertebrates, corals seem to be mostly left alone.

Did you know? Dog faced puffers don’t really play nice with other dog faced puffers. It’s best to keep these guys solo.

Close-Up of light yellow Dog Faced Puffer Fish swimming close beside orange coral

Dog faced puffer fish (Arothron nigropunctatus) diet

Their diet is the main reason why the dog faced puffer fish is generally considered a species of ‘moderate’ difficulty. As we discussed, their natural diet consists of invertebrates: clams and other molluscs, crustaceans and even sea sponges. That’s why they have those powerful teeth, which come in handy for cracking even the toughest shells.

In the aquarium, you won’t get away with offering your dog faced puffer fish flakes or pellets. They need a diet similar to what they eat in the wild. Not only will they likely refuse commercial foods, they can even cause issues.

Puffers have evolved to sport ever-growing teeth, a bit like rabbits, as their chompers are naturally worn down by the hard foods they consume. If you feed soft foods in the aquarium, your dog faced puffer might end up with horribly overgrown teeth. It’s possible to give a puffer a tooth trim, yes, but it’s always better to try and avoid the issue altogether.

The ideal food would be live, like crabs, clams and shrimp. As that would quickly get expensive, most aquarists choose to go for frozen.


The dog faced puffer is a fun fish to keep, with interesting looks and fascinating behavior. Some aquarists feel they can really bond with this intelligent species!

Thinking about your own saltwater aquarium (with or without puffer)? FantaSEA Aquariums can design, set up and maintain your tank for you. Just contact us here!

PS: Love puffers? Don’t forget to also check out the fascinating stars and stripes puffer.

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