Stars and Stripes Puffer Care & Info

They’re not reef safe, will happily munch on anything they can get between their powerful teeth and need a pretty massive aquarium to thrive. Why in the world would anyone want to keep the stars and stripes puffer (Arothron hispidus)? It might be their funky pattern but more likely it’s down to puffers’ amazing personalities. Highly intelligent, they can develop a real bond with their owners and recognize who feeds them.

Keep reading for everything you need to know about keeping a stars and stripes puffer in your own aquarium!

Name (Common, Scientific)Stars and stripes puffer, white-spotted puffer, Arothron hispidus
Minimum tank size250 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature72-78 °F
Difficulty levelHard

Stars and Stripes Puffer Description

The stars and stripes puffer (or white spotted puffer) lends its common name from its pattern, which is a mixture of white dots (body) and stripes (belly) on a brown-gray body. The species features yellow fins and a very powerful beak with teeth emerging from both the top and bottom. Perfect for cracking shells.

Pufferfish are easily recognized by their hovering manner of swimming. In a normal relaxed state, these fish are relatively slender (unless they’ve recently eaten). When threatened, though, they honor their common name by sucking in water and puffing themselves up.

Don’t be fooled by the size of young stars and stripes puffers at the aquarium store. These are juveniles; adults can grow up to 18” in length. 

Stars and stripes puffer (Arothron hispidus) aquarium

Stars and Stripes Puffer Aquarium

Because the stars and stripes puffer reaches such a large adult size, you’ll have to have the aquarium to accommodate it. We really wouldn’t recommend anything under 200 gallons, with 250 gallons or up being a much better option. Use strong filtration and protein skimming as these are messy eaters that produce a lot of waste. Additionally, don’t forget to perform regular water changes to keep the water quality in check. 

Like many other puffer fish species, the stars and stripes puffer is not reef safe nor is it really community-proof. This is more of a fish for aquarists who are interested in setting up a single-species tank. Use plenty of live rock to make for an interesting environment to explore.

In the wild, the stars and stripes puffer can be found in habitats of varying salinities, including brackish estuaries. It can therefore also be kept in high-end brackish aquariums.

Stars and stripes puffer (Arothron hispidus) in the aquarium with mouth open.

Stars and Stripes Puffer Compatibility

Although they are not particularly aggressive and can actually be timid, stars and stripes puffers will still eat anything they can get to. That includes corals and small tankmates. Larger tankmates should be no problem as long as they’re not too aggressive.

Feeding Stars and Stripes Puffer

When figuring out the diet for your stars and stripes puffer there is one very important aspect to keep in mind: tooth growth. In the wild, pufferfish feed on challenging foods that rapidly wear down their teeth. Clams, snails and other invertebrates are cracked open with no issues. Even rock is scraped for algae deposits.

As a result of their diet, puffer teeth have evolved to never stop growing. In the aquarium their teeth will quickly overgrow if only soft foods are offered, leading you to have to clip them manually or the fish might end up unable to eat.

To make sure your stars and stripes puffer’s teeth stay trimmed, offer fresh or frozen clams, cockles, crab legs and unpeeled shrimp daily. You can also offer commercial foods on a regular basis if your fish will accept it. 


The stars and stripes puffer is an amazingly intelligent fish that you can really build a bond with. It’s also a challenging fish to keep and not one we’d recommend for absolute beginners. 

If you’re not sure how to go about setting up your aquarium for a stars and stripes puffer or some of the many other amazing saltwater species available in the trade nowadays, we can help. We design, build and maintain your tank for you so all you have to do is enjoy it! You can contact us here with your ideas.