Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Tetraodon mbu

Giant pufferfish

Giant pufferfish, Tetraodon mbuGiant pufferfish, Tetraodon mbu
Photos by Andy Rapson


Tetraodon: Greek, tetra = four + Greek, odous = teeth

General Notes:

Unless you can provide a tank with an 8 x 4foot floor area and at least 2.5foot deep then please don't consider buying this species because that really is the minimum sized aquarium an adult Mbu puffer will need.

In captivity a mbu pufferfish given good care could potentially grow to between 24 to 30 inches and it is a heavily built fish.

Because the diet of the Mbu pufferfish is heavy in protein the fish will produce a lot of ammonia which in turn means that the filtration will need to be able to match this and given the size of the aquarium it will probably need to be a custom built filter.

Mbu puffer fish are very individual in temperament, some will be ok with a few (fast) and robust tank mates while other individuals are very aggressive towards all other fish. Keeping this species alone is the safest option. Keeping a Mbu pufferfish is more like keeping a family pet with its own personality than keeping  anonymous fish in a decorative tank.

The aquarium itself should be kept fairly simple because fussy little details probably won't last with such a large fish. A sandy substrate, some large branches and a few rocks is really all that is required.


Molluscs are the primary food for Tetraodon mbu. The fish needs the molluscs complete with shell so that its constantly growing teeth can be kept in trim. If a diet of soft food only is provided the teeth will continue to grow and will eventually become problematic.

Suitable food items include: earth worms, snails, shellfish (with shells in place), prawns and crustaceans.


Most Tetraodon mbu become increasingly anti social as they grow. The have a particular dislike of conspecifics so keeping a group of these fish is out of the question if it wasn't already, on the grounds of the enormous aquarium that a group of these fish would need.


There are no external differences between the genders.


This has not been accomplished in the home aquaria.

Wild status

The IUCN Red List of endangered species lists Tetraodon mbu as 'least Concern' the species is very widespread and the second most poisonous vertebrate after the golden dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis)to eat unless properly prepared, never the less it is harvested as a food item.

Additional information

Why the name 'puffer' fish?

All puffer fish are able to swallow large quantities of water or air which swells their body to many times its normal size an makes the fish difficult for a predator to swallow. Once the threat has disappeared the pufferfish returns to its normal state.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 4 - 25
Temperature: 22 - 26°C (72 - 78°F)
Lighting: Not critical
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 67cm (27in)
Min tank size: 2,250 litres (500gall)
Difficulty level: Very difficult (size).
Aquarium type: species
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Giant pufferfish, Tetraodon mbu

Origin: Africa, Congo basin and Tanzania

Habitat: Lakes, large rivers and estuaries.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Tetraodontiformes
Family: Tetraodontidae
Genus: Tetraodon
Species: T. mbu, Boulenger, 1899

Other common names:
Mbu pufferfish

Synonyms: None