Should I upgrade my figure 8 puffer tank?

Spidey

Hello! I've noticed that my figure 8 puffer, Percy, has gotten into the habit of pacing up and down in the corner of the tank. I tried to cover up the sides of the tank in an attempt to keep him from stressing about his surroundings, but it hasn't worked. Do you think that he is bored with the tank size? He is in a 15 gallon tank right now with a few bumblebee gobies, and he is only about 2 inches long. He eats well (1 clam on a half shell every day) but tends to stop eating mid-clam to go pace in his corner and then goes back to finish it as a midnight snack. I just want to make my little buddy happy! I also want to make my life easier; I feel that a larger tank would dilute his high nitrate output and make it to where I wouldn't have to disrupt his life with a water change quite as often (I feel like I am answering my own question, ha).

If I upgrade, what size tank should I get? I was thinking either a 40 gallon or a 65 gallon tank, but I am leaning towards the 65 gallon because I recently adopted a little brother for him (he was too cute; I couldn't resist). The two get along fine (I know, surprising) in the 15 gallon (Percy actually seems happier, as he paces less when he has a friend to interact with), but I feel like they would probably like to have more room to explore. Also, more tank space could equal more bumblebee gobies!

Let me know what you think, and thank you for the input in advance!

Here is a picture of them! (The big one is Percy and the small one is Bean)
Screenshot_20210617-085217_Gallery.jpg
 

JasperWard

I think you really covered it all, bigger is better with any fish i say go for it if you have the facilities to do so
 
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Frank the Fish guy

I have a Figure 8 Puffer (Puffy) in a 20 gallon tank. He used to do what you describe going up and down in the corners.

I learned from other Puffer owners that Puffy was scared and trying to run from danger but there was no where to hide! The solution was to add lots of stuff into the tank for him to hide behind, block his view to the outside etc. After putting lots of stuff in the tank center Puffy is much less scared.

I noticed in your picture that your tank looks pretty wide open. Try adding some big stuff to make plenty of places to hide behind things. Then your Puffer won't need to try to run away from feeling so exposed.


Oh and I don't think you need a bigger tank. These are very small fish. A bigger tank for just a small fish is a lot of extra water and you will need to fill it with even more stuff for the fish to hide behind. Keep it small but give him more ways to hide.
 
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TheAnglerAquarist

Bigger is always better! Adorable puffers, by the way!
 
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Spidey

I have a Figure 8 Puffer (Puffy) in a 20 gallon tank. He used to do what you describe going up and down in the corners.

I learned from other Puffer owners that Puffy was scared and trying to run from danger. The solution was to add lots of stuff into the tank for him to hide behind, block his view to the outside etc. After putting lots of stuff in the tank center Puffy is much less scared.

I noticed in your picture that your tank looks pretty wide open. Try adding some big stuff to make plenty of places to hide behind things. Then your Puffer won't need to try to run away from feeling so exposed.
That's a good point. I tried to put lots of stuff in there, but it seemed that most of it ended up on the bottom half of the aquarium (good for bumblebee gobies, not so good for puffers). I'm posting a better picture of the tank itself; any suggestions? I put floating plants I'm my freshwater tanks to make the top half look safer to the fish, but, of course, I have few options in this department for a brackish tank.
20210617_230935.jpg
Bigger is always better! Adorable puffers, by the way!
Thank you!
 
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Frank the Fish guy

I use tall plastic plants that mimick sea-weed and sea grass. It reaches up high and gives cover.

Your tank is set up in a semi circle to display the fish. This puts the fish in a place where he feels exposed.

Switch it around so the decorations give the fish walls to hide behind and caves to hide from the open front. He will learn to feel secure and happily and come out to meet you at feeding time!
 
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Spidey

Okay! I'll add some taller plants and I think that I'll look for a little cave that he would fit in. The only one in there could only really fit the gobies. I think that I was worrying too much about what I liked when I was designing the tank and not enough about what my fish would want; aquascape time! Maybe I can add a cool skull that he would fit in! That way, my tank theme can be satisfied and my fish can also be happy.

As far as nitrate problems go, I could probably move my water change schedule up from once a week to twice a week to keep up with them; they are quite messy fish!

Thanks for the advice! I'll post a pic of the tank once it gets its makeover. I'm hoping to do it tomorrow.
 
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Frank the Fish guy

I don't think nitrates are the problem with these fish. These fish are very sensitive to chemical toxins in the water though. So beware any kind of additive or medication. Things like 'Algaefix' are quite deadly to these fish. Same goes for ammonia. Especially because in a high pH tank, ammonia is much more deadly.

But nitrates are not toxic at normal levels. I change Puffy's water monthly and he is fine.

Double the filtration is key though. I use 2x filtration to keep the biofilter strong and able to absorb the extra bio load from his food. Keep the filter size big and you won't need to worry so much about his water and tire yourself changing his water all the time.
 
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Spidey

Okay! I know that the nitrates aren't causing his behavioral issues, but it bothers me that they get up to around 15-20 ppm in a week in that tank. I easily keep my freshwater tanks at 10 ppm and below, and I struggle to reach this standard with my puffer tank because, of course, they are puffer fish (and the tank is technically overstocked with 2 puffers and 3 gobies). I might try a larger filter; all I have on it right now is a small HOB; I might try a HOB rated for a larger tank or buy a canister filter (probably canister filter because my tank's light hood only has a small cutout on the top for the filter). I'm not sure what good it'll do, though, as my 55 gallon saltwater aquarium is running on a canister filter rated for up to 100 gallons, yet it still racks up nitrates much quicker than I would like for it to. Everything's worth a shot, though! (Even though it's getting expensive; I love my tanks enough to dish out some dough for the fish)

P.S. : I gave up on aquarium chemicals (other than dechlorinator) a long time ago; they don't work nearly as well as simple, chemical-free fixes do (i.e. heat to 86 degrees F for ich and algae eaters for algae blooms)
 
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wishuponafish

I am ashamed to say that I have neglected my puffers for a few months last year by keeping them in a tank with high nitrates. It was heavily planted and I did weekly 75% water changes but nitrates were still somehow constantly above 40%, and since the salt costs were adding up and they seemed perfectly healthy otherwise I kept it that way.
Since then they've been moved to a new tank that constantly stays at 0 nitrates, but my 2 figure 8s and a GSP don't seem to have grown much at all since I got them a year ago and I'm afraid the nitrates might have permanently stunted them. I think a bigger tank will definitely be helpful for your puffers in every way.

As for filtration, in general your filter's primary job is to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 - no matter how big of a filter of how much flow you have, you're still (theoretically) going to get the same nitrates unless you have some kind of special bio-process going on which may or may not happen. So in my opinion the filter size isn't the problem as long as ammonia and nitrite are 0.
In my puffer tank I'm running a sponge filter with hardly any flow, and even though it's heavily stocked I have 0 ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate because of a weird algae that I have growing.
 
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Spidey

I am ashamed to say that I have neglected my puffers for a few months last year by keeping them in a tank with high nitrates. It was heavily planted and I did weekly 75% water changes but nitrates were still somehow constantly above 40%, and since the salt costs were adding up and they seemed perfectly healthy otherwise I kept it that way.
Since then they've been moved to a new tank that constantly stays at 0 nitrates, but my 2 figure 8s and a GSP don't seem to have grown much at all since I got them a year ago and I'm afraid the nitrates might have permanently stunted them. I think a bigger tank will definitely be helpful for your puffers in every way.

As for filtration, in general your filter's primary job is to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 - no matter how big of a filter of how much flow you have, you're still (theoretically) going to get the same nitrates unless you have some kind of special bio-process going on which may or may not happen. So in my opinion the filter size isn't the problem as long as ammonia and nitrite are 0.
In my puffer tank I'm running a sponge filter with hardly any flow, and even though it's heavily stocked I have 0 ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate because of a weird algae that I have growing.
I like your point. People have tried to tell me in the past that extra filtration can solve nitrate problems, but I don't believe that this is true. I agree with you that the filter's job is to remove waste from the water column and to host bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrites, not nitrates. I think that the only way to solve my issues would be to increase the water volume and add plants that grow rapidly (and therefore use more nitrates). I have a mangrove growing out of the top of the tank now, but it hasn't made much of a difference. Maybe I need more than 1?

I think that I might take a combination of everyone's advice and upgrade the tank and give it a heavy filtration system (just as a precaution), but make sure that the tank's space is adequately filled so that the fish feel more comfortable.

I just tested the water, and it is at 5 ppm nitrates after a 75% + water change that I did about 3 or 4 days ago. I suppose that it isn't that bad, but the fish still deserve more room to swim and get away from each other in my opinion.
 
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wishuponafish

I have a mangrove growing out of the top of the tank now, but it hasn't made much of a difference. Maybe I need more than 1?
1 likely won't be enough. And remember that you'll also need a strong light to give it the energy to process those nitrates... which usually ends up feeding algae as well. I've embraced that and let algae grow freely, but it might not look too pleasant to some people.
 
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BigManAquatics

Trick question!! I'm always about upgrades!!
 
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Frank the Fish guy

I like your point. People have tried to tell me in the past that extra filtration can solve nitrate problems, but I don't believe that this is true. I agree with you that the filter's job is to remove waste from the water column and to host bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrites, not nitrates.

Right. The reason I use double filtration for my sensitive Puffer is NOT because of nitrates. Instead, the extra filter capacity means that the tank can absorb a higher momentary bio-load (food waste) without having the ammonia spike up. It's the ammonia that the fish is sensitive too rather than the nitrates. A larger sized biofilter maintains low ammonia better, and these fish are very sensitive to toxins like ammonia.

I used to use nitrate absorber in the Puffer tank too, and was able maintain a 0 nitrate over a year. The fish do no better or worse without these nitrate absorbers vs doing monthly water changes to keep nitrates from growing.
 
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Spidey

This is the best that I could do for now. I added more cover, and I hope that I can upgrade the tank's size eventually. (Parents said heck no to a bigger tank, given that I have 3 other tanks running
20210618_164826.jpg).
 
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Jo7984

This is the best that I could do for now. I added more cover, and I hope that I can upgrade the tank's size eventually. (Parents said heck no to a bigger tank, given that I have 3 other tanks running
20210618_164826.jpg).

Wow, what a difference! I love it!

Hopefully they will be happier in there too :)
 
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Frank the Fish guy

This is great for Percy! The more stuff there is in a Puffer tank the more secure they feel. Looks great, and I like how he can block his view to the outside. He will still get scared from things approaching him from the front. But at least now he is not surrounded by monsters!

Check the tank location too. Do people walk in front of him all day? If so, you can move the tank where there is less traffic. If only his feeder person (you) approaches the tank he will be very secure and happy.

What I also do is I let algae grow on the side and back walls too and only clean the front. After a while the algae will block his view and he will be even more secure. After all algae is a plant and will help your aquarium with nitrates too just like real plants.
 
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ChrissFishes01

Looks much better!

I'll echo what others have said here - puffers aren't as sensitive as they're made out to be, and are really very similar to other fish in terms of their needs.

My F8 is by far the shyest puffer I've owned (and I've owned quite a few) - he doesn't like me to be close to the tank much, although he's gotten better about it over time. He lets the guppies, mollies, and platies all push him around, and has never shown any aggression. He'll be getting his own tank with just some BBGs soon, for this reason.

Make sure he's not just scared of you/something else in the tank - they love to have things to look at. Plants, rocks, pieces of wood, sponge filters, bubbles, other fish, etc... anything that they can investigate seems to keep them entertained.

People claim glass-pacing is the fish wanting out of the tank, but I think it's just boredom. Puffers are one of the few fish that can see long distances outside of their tank, so I'd imagine that they're also one of the few fish who actually want to interact with things outside of their tank.

I'd also try getting some ghost shrimp to add in. They'll survive in brackish, and will serve as snacks and entertainment for the puffer. Mine will let them live until I skip a feeding - they usually slowly disappear over the course of a few months, and then I stock up again. He goes after snails much more, but I've had some nerite snails in the tank for about 8 months now. Their foot is small enough that I don't think he can do any damage. He still tries though - and I think that's what keeps him active.

As far as water quality goes, I use one sponge filter in my 36 gallon tank - it's got a F8, 5-6 guppies, 3-4 Balloon Mollies (and some fry), a few platies, a Limia Nigrofasciata, and around 8 Bumblebee Gobies. The tank runs between 20-40 PPM of nitrates, and I've never seen ammonia or nitrite budge. There's no need for extra filtration for any fish - extra flow can be useful, but I very, very seriously doubt many people have ever run into a biological filtration ceiling with their filters.
 
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Spidey

Wow, what a difference! I love it!

Hopefully they will be happier in there too :)
Thank you!
Okay, so after $80 in fish tank decorations, Percy is still pacing. I covered the corner that he usually picked to pace in (the back left) with plants, but he just chose to go to the other back corner to do the same thing. I gave him a few hours to calm down after adding the decorations (as I knew that this would stress him out initially), but he's still pacing. It's been about 5 hours now. Maybe he needs a tank upgrade after all? I just don't want to drop even more money on a new tank just to find out that he is simply an anxious fish that can't be calmed down or pleased. I should find him a fish therapist.

Any other thoughts would be appreciated; thanks for your replies so far!
Looks much better!

I'll echo what others have said here - puffers aren't as sensitive as they're made out to be, and are really very similar to other fish in terms of their needs.

My F8 is by far the shyest puffer I've owned (and I've owned quite a few) - he doesn't like me to be close to the tank much, although he's gotten better about it over time. He lets the guppies, mollies, and platies all push him around, and has never shown any aggression. He'll be getting his own tank with just some BBGs soon, for this reason.

Make sure he's not just scared of you/something else in the tank - they love to have things to look at. Plants, rocks, pieces of wood, sponge filters, bubbles, other fish, etc... anything that they can investigate seems to keep them entertained.

People claim glass-pacing is the fish wanting out of the tank, but I think it's just boredom. Puffers are one of the few fish that can see long distances outside of their tank, so I'd imagine that they're also one of the few fish who actually want to interact with things outside of their tank.

I'd also try getting some ghost shrimp to add in. They'll survive in brackish, and will serve as snacks and entertainment for the puffer. Mine will let them live until I skip a feeding - they usually slowly disappear over the course of a few months, and then I stock up again. He goes after snails much more, but I've had some nerite snails in the tank for about 8 months now. Their foot is small enough that I don't think he can do any damage. He still tries though - and I think that's what keeps him active.

As far as water quality goes, I use one sponge filter in my 36 gallon tank - it's got a F8, 5-6 guppies, 3-4 Balloon Mollies (and some fry), a few platies, a Limia Nigrofasciata, and around 8 Bumblebee Gobies. The tank runs between 20-40 PPM of nitrates, and I've never seen ammonia or nitrite budge. There's no need for extra filtration for any fish - extra flow can be useful, but I very, very seriously doubt many people have ever run into a biological filtration ceiling with their filters.
I like the ghost shrimp idea! I should go get some for his entertainment. He never does anything with the BBGs though, and he takes no interest in Bean (the other puffer). This makes me wonder if he would be interested in the shrimp at all. Also, the tank sits between 2 walls; one is the wall to the room, and the other is the wall to my bearded dragon's wooden enclosure (so there isn't any way to see inside). Given that the only thing to see is out the front of the tank, I doubt that he actually wants to mess with what's outside (unless he comes to visit with me, although he usually only does this when he wants something). I tried covering up the sides of the tank with paper, and he still paced.

I think that he was probably wild caught (as most F8s are), and he was not a baby when I got him (so he probably remembers the wild). I wonder if that is why he is so much more stressed out than my baby Bean, who seems to love people?
 
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ChrissFishes01

A 2" F8 should be fine in a 15. Bigger is better (a 20 long/29 would be perfect), but I don't think this is a tank size issue as much as it is him adjusting to the tank.

Puffers take a while to acclimate to a new environment. I'd think less about hours and more about weeks. If it's been months on end of him pacing, it may be time to upgrade. But, IMO, a F8 could live a full life in a 15 if water quality was maintained.
 
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Spidey

A 2" F8 should be fine in a 15. Bigger is better (a 20 long/29 would be perfect), but I don't think this is a tank size issue as much as it is him adjusting to the tank.

Puffers take a while to acclimate to a new environment. I'd think less about hours and more about weeks. If it's been months on end of him pacing, it may be time to upgrade. But, IMO, a F8 could live a full life in a 15 if water quality was maintained.
I've had him in there for about 6 or 7 months now; I didn't worry at first because I knew that he was just getting used to his new home, but he's done it every day, almost relentlessly, since I got him. The hours thing that I was talking about was for the new decor that I placed in; you are right that he may just be getting used to them, but it doesn't look like he is even trying to explore. I've been sitting here for the last half hour and he has been pacing in the same corner the whole time. I added the decor in an attempt to give him more places to hide so that he would stop pacing (see the before and after tank pics in my previous posts)
 
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ChrissFishes01

I've had him in there for about 6 or 7 months now; I didn't worry at first because I knew that he was just getting used to his new home, but he's done it every day, almost relentlessly, since I got him. The hours thing that I was talking about was for the new decor that I placed in; you are right that he may just be getting used to them, but it doesn't look like he is even trying to explore. I've been sitting here for the last half hour and he has been pacing in the same corner the whole time. I added the decor in an attempt to give him more places to hide so that he would stop pacing (see the before and after tank pics in my previous posts)
I still wouldn't say that glass pacing means he needs a bigger tank. Bigger would be better, don't get me wrong, but I don't equate glass pacing with "I want out of this tank" as much as "There's something in here that's missing that I'm looking for" or "There's something in here I don't like".

I would still leave him for a week or two to settle in. The ghost shrimp would be a prey item, so I think he'd definitely take interest.

Also worth noting that clams on the half shell may not be enough to keep his beak trimmed. Smaller puffers don't really get the benefit of the shell on a clam - they just pick off the meat. Pond/bladder snails, ramshorn snails, ghost shrimp, and incapacitated (several ways to do it, none of which are pleasant) fiddler crabs would all be better options as far as keeping beaks trimmed. My F8 has a bit of a long beak right now. I got a little lazy and fed mostly clams and bloodworms.
 
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jmaldo

Nice Puffers! I've been researching them since I've been thinking about setting up a Planted 10 or 15g as a home for one or more.
So "Puffer" in your title caught my eye.
Spidey I like the additional scaping you've done, looks "Good" I would give the Puffer some time to get used to the changes you've made...

Frank the Fish guy "Thanks" for the info you have shared


watching.jpg
 
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Frank the Fish guy

Please check your salinity. You didn't tell us what salinity you were keeping him at.

Also, puffers can see their reflection in the glass. I use a background with a pattern that breaks up the reflection and this helps.

He likes live food to chase. He is a predator. I feed live snails and scuds and shrimp from my other tanks. You can ask your pet store for some snails to get started.

He will love some live shrimp to hunt. That should get him away from the corners!
 
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Fishfriendof315

Please check your salinity. You didn't tell us what salinity you were keeping him at.

Also, puffers can see their reflection in the glass. I use a background with a pattern that breaks up the reflection and this helps.

He likes live food to chase. He is a predator. I feed live snails and scuds and shrimp from my other tanks. You can ask your pet store for some snails to get started.

He will love some live shrimp to hunt. That should get him away from the corners!
Setup a little 5 gallon to breed ramshorns to feed them. It takes almost nothing to do.
 
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TheAnglerAquarist

Setup a little 5 gallon to breed ramshorns to feed them. It takes almost nothing to do.
I have an ecosphere and my bladder snail lays a clutch of eggs every day
 
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Spidey

I found a fish store that let me rummage through their aquariums and pull out their pest snails to take home for him. The ramshorns are too big for him (even the little ones), but he likes the bladder snails just fine. I'm trying to breed those in a separate tank now. Also, I upgraded him to a 30 gallon tank and he barely ever glass paces any more. Sadly, the bigger puffer killed the smaller one, so he has the tank all to himself other than the 6 bumblebee gobies I have in there. To anyone else that reads this, DO NOT put f8 puffers together! It's a disaster waiting to happen unless you get lucky enough to have a huge aquarium or 2 that will tolerate eachother.
 
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