Are Puffer Fish Smart?

Puffers are smarter than most fish. For this reason, it’s important to provide them with challenging activities and adequate social interactions. 

Can Puffer Fish Recognize Their Owners?

The puffer is one of the most intelligent fish species. It is able to identify and communicate with its human caretakers. Puffers can be timid at first. However, once they trust you, they will swim up to you and even ‘ask’ for food. 

Thus, many people believe the puffer fish can identify its owner. The Pea Puffer, in particular, is a very perceptive species. They get a kick out of keeping tabs on you, their tank-mates, and the world around them.

How Else Do Puffer Fish Display Their Intelligence?

The puffer fish has been compared to a puppy. This is due to its friendliness, intelligence, and eagerness towards its owner. 

But you should not yet race down to the pet shop. Remember, these curious fish can be hard to keep as pets. This is because they get bored easily and need a great deal of stimulation and attention. 

A few species are especially aggressive and sensitive. These tend to thrive in single-species aquariums. On the other hand, there are species with amazingly social personalities. These species love observing the life around them. 

There’s no denying that puffer fish appear to be more perceptive than your standard fish. When you observe them, you’ll notice that they pay close attention to their surroundings.

They make detailed notes about the plants and animals they encounter. This allows them to realize that there is a dry world beyond their oasis.

Puffers, however, are not the most intelligent fish. That title belongs to the guppy or the Manta Ray. 

Can You Train Puffer Fish To Be Hand-Fed?

Puffers have a bad reputation for being poisonous. However, being venomous is not the same as being poisonous. The first type can attack you and inject their venom directly into your body. The latter, however, is only harmful if you eat it.

The puffer fish is not venomous, since it does not bite or sting. However, it does have poisonous spines containing tetrodotoxin. It is this tetrodotoxin, which makes the puffer fish dangerous. 

Compared to cyanide, tetrodotoxin can be 1,200 times more lethal to humans. Hence, you may want to reconsider your decision to handle a puffer. 

A few mild-mannered pets, however, are accepted by the puffer. They are inquisitive and intrepid, which is also why they try to look for their owners. 

How Do Puffer Fish Defend Themselves?

Puffer fish make up for their lack of speed with formidable defenses.

To propel themselves through the water, puffer fish use their four different types of fins. These are the pectoral, dorsal, caudal, and anal fins. Because of this, they have more maneuvering room. 

Their first line of defense is their keen eyesight and strong surges of energy. Their second line of defense is filling up their stomachs with a lot of water.

Puffers have highly elastic stomachs that expand and turn spherical when filled with water. 

If a predator manages to grab a puffer fish before it has fully inflated, the predator will likely suffocate. If they ingest the fish, they will most likely die due to the poisonous spines. 

Due to their superior size, some sharks can digest a puffer fish and survive. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most predators (or people).

How Do Puffer Fish Generally Behave With Their Owners?

Because of their unique personalities, puffer fish are difficult to stereotype. While some puffers are playful and social, others are violent and territorial.

Although puffer fish have a reputation for being sociable, they can sometimes be aggressive towards their tank-mates.

People sometimes make comparisons between their personality and that of a dog. This is because, for the most part, puffers are seen as affectionate and friendly.

Precautions To Take With Puffer Fish 

Safety measures should be taken seriously by everyone. You should not tamper with or become careless around these fish.

Whether you intend to eat them or keep them as a pet in an aquarium, you should prepare accordingly. A lack of caution can produce dire results. 

As mentioned earlier, puffer fish can be immensely dangerous. There is enough poison in a single puffer fish to kill 30 healthy individuals.

Just 2 milligrams of the poison is enough to kill an adult human. There is currently no treatment available for this toxin.

Thus, make sure to take the following precautions around puffer fish:

  • Do NOT eat puffer fish. You should also refrain from touching them unless you are wearing heavy gloves.

A warning was issued by the FDA in 2014, instructing fish markets to buy/sell puffers only from/to very reliable sources.

  • The puffer fish poison affects the brain and spinal cord. The symptoms start showing up within 15-20 minutes (though it may take around two hours until full manifestation). 

The ingestion of imported puffer fish has been linked to illnesses. Eating puffers is thus not recommended. However, it can be done safely if the cook is experienced in dealing with the fish. 

  • Tingling mouth and lips are often the first symptoms of the poison. This is followed by tingling extremities, muscle weakness, poor balance, vomiting, trouble speaking, and diarrhea. 

Paralysis is another possibility. Paralysis of the respiratory muscles often results in death.

  • Until a puffer fish inflates itself, you will not be able to notice its spikes. They only inflate themselves if they sense danger from predators or people. Wearing protective gloves is therefore immensely important before touching a puffer fish.
  • The vast majority of poison is contained in the puffer’s internal organs. These include the liver, ovaries, eyes, and skin. Thus, you should not touch them unless you are wearing protective gloves.
  • Remember that, when not in water, the puffer fish take in huge amounts of air. They do this to be able to inflate themselves. The safest course of action is to avoid touching them altogether, regardless of the situation.

How Intelligent Are Puffers Compared To Other Fishes?

When compared to other invertebrates, fish typically have a smaller brain for their body size.

However, there are some fish that defy this pattern. According to evidence, these anomalies have cerebellum capable of growing and learning. This makes these fishes similar to other animals. 

The puffer fish is one such species. It displays this intelligence in a number of ways:

  • Male puffers can be savvy constructors. They often build sand mounds with a diameter of up to two meters. This is done particularly when the male is trying to woo a female.
  • Also, puffer fish exhibit strong hunting abilities. These are indicative of their problem-solving skills. The Golden Puffer is one such species. It swims in open waters, looking for crustaceans in the sandy bottoms. 
  • The Dwarf Puffer and other stealth predators can identify hiding spots in their environments. They then use these spots to launch stealth attacks from. Others, like the congo puffer, use ambush tactics. They hide in the sand, waiting for a passing prey.

Puffer Fish Compatibility/Behavior

Some freshwater puffers are especially hostile and predatory. They are even known to bite the fins of unsuspecting fish.

Species like the Golden Puffers, Redeye, and Dwarf can stay together. They can also be kept with fast-moving species like danios. 

However, some species, including the Mekong, Nile, and Mbu Puffers, require isolation.

Freshwater puffers are best kept as a zoo or aquarium species. Before adding puffer fish to your aquarium, it’s best to get advice from an expert.

Puffer fish may bite their tank-mates for a variety of reasons. Some do so because they are hungry. Pufflers in the wild scavenge plants and rocks for their favored prey. In this quest, they sample anything that appears edible. 

Puffer owners can appreciate the fish’s curiosity. They swim into caves and around plants in search of food. This trait serves them well in the wild.

However, in captivity, it can produce undesirable behaviors like plant destruction, plastic-tubing destruction, and fin-nipping. 

Some puffers are very territorial (the Carinotetraodon, for example). They attack their tank-mates, not because they are hungry, but angry.

On the surface, it might seem easy to work around this problem: just provide more breathing space. However, in reality, aquaria with little puffer fish are rarely large enough for this technique to work.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, puffers are amongst the smartest fish species. Their intelligence is evidenced by their problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and strong memories. 

The puffer fish is popular because it enjoys interacting with humans. 

The puffer fish is certainly immensely intelligent. They rank quite highly on the intelligent-measurement criteria typically used for humans. 

Other articles you may also like: