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Dietary Needs

    While the exact diet of your pufferfish will vary according to its species, most of them eat similar

food.  Puffers in the wild eat a variety of different food items, and it's important to vary the diet of your fish as well.  Personally, I vary the diet of my puffers between live ghost shrimp, live snails, frozen bloodworms, and the occasional live blood worms.  From time to time I'll even treat them to some live clams or oysters from the supermarket, after I've made sure it's ok for them to eat. (some places use highly chlorinated water to clean their food)  I also give them frozen krill, and they seem to like red glassworms (mosquito larvae) as well.  You should check out the Species Specifics page of Puffernet to see whether your puffer is freshwater or not, since overfeeding of marine shellfish can be problematic.
   One of the first decisions you'll have to make is whether to feed your puffer live food or not.  Live food is more nutritious than prepared food, and puffs like it much better.  Live shrimp and snails are among the delicacies of a puffer, as you'll see when you drop them into the tank.  Small live fish are eaten by some species as well.  Certain live food is actually a must for pufferfish, since it not only nourishes them, but wears down their constantly growing teeth.  Without hard shells to crunch, their teeth slowly grow to a point where they can no longer fit food into their mouths.  If you have ever seen a puffer "yawn" you'll realize this may take some time, since it is capable of opening its mouth quite wide.  Regardless, it was made to crush shells with those teeth, and it needs to!

    So where's the decision to feed live food or not?  It lies in the fact that live food is capable of carrying disease and parasites.  Feeder guppies are often kept in horrendous conditions, and develop all kinds of ailments which can be passed onto your puff.  The same is true of crustaceans such as ghost shrimp and crayfish.  Even live snails can harbor parasites and bacteria.  It's a good idea to quarantine such animals before placing them into the tank you've worked so hard on.  Granted it is a lot more work than throwing some prepared pellets in, but your puffers will be much healthier for it.  Getting to the point where you can raise your puffer's food yourself is quite convenient.  After a while you won't have to worry about disease (unIess, of course, your feeder tank is funked).  I have a colony of ghost shrimp that live easily on fish food (flake).  I also have some snails in another tank (no puffs in that one) and they reproduce like mad!  I always have plenty of snails for my puffers to munch on.  They love them so much the snails rarely hit the bottom of the tank before they're devoured!
    Another way to feed your puffers is to give them frozen food.  Frozen food is usually free of parasites and bacteria (check the package for pasteurization).  Of course, it does have to be defrosted before being put into your tank.  Just be sure you use your aquarium's water for this.  I normally use a small cup I can dip into my tank, then let it defrost before giving it to my fish.
    If you decide to maintain your puffers on prepared food (and they actually eat it!?) such as shrimp pellets and the like, you'll still do them a great service by treating them to snails and shrimp from time to time.  Often puffers will not accept prepared foods, and will almost never eat flake.  I still maintain it's best to sustain them on live or frozen foods.  One errant theory is that your puff will eat these foods just because it is hungry.  While this may sometimes be true, it's a bit like starving us until we eat bugs (although it is quite a delicacy in some parts of the world).  We'd live, but ugh!  Please realize that most puffers are wild-caught, and don't recognize some prepared items as food.
 


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