My 20 gallon puffer tank - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 04:57 AM Thread Starter
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Question My 20 gallon puffer tank

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I've kept a figure-eight puffer in a 20 gallon tall for about 6 years, but since I recently started my first planted tank (a 29 gallon), I've decided to plant this one, too. The puffer tank currently has a double-bulb fluorescent strip (40 watts) over it, but I think it will need at least another single strip light. I'd like to stick to low-light Asian plants, probably java fern, java moss (to cover some of the driftwood in the tank), maybe some Cryptocoryne beckettii and Cryptocoryne wendtii eventually.

Will an additional single strip light be enough to grow these plants, or would I be better off getting another double-bulb strip since is a tall tank?
The substrate is only a 2" layer of small-sized aquarium gravel. I'd like to add some sand to bring it up to 3" or 4". (It's okay if it gets mixed up, the 29 is part Onyx sand and part Tahitian Moon sand, I like the way it looks).

Has anyone else kept a Figure-Eight in a planted tank? I can't seem to find a lot of information anywhere advising against it other than I've heard that puffers will tear up plants, but I read somewhere else that's because they are going after snails. I don't mind some holes in the leaves, just want to make my puffer more at home. And I certainly don't have a shortage of MTS in the other tank, they are a constant supply to keep my puffer fat and happy!

Am I headed in the right direction?
Any input would be appreciated.
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 05:05 PM
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Hi there Nribley...

I'm in the same boat. I've got a figure 8 living in a 30 gallon long, which I'm currently trying to plant.

The water is light brackish, around 1.004 sg. For fish I have only the puff and 1 knight goby. For plants, I have several large clumps of java moss, and 1 java fern plant.

It's true what they say about puffers and plants. The java fern has little puffer sized bite marks all over it -- round little holes about the size of a pea. Puffers don't eat plants, but they do nip them while hunting for snails. Gobies are said to be omnivores, but so far she hasn't done any damage to the plants (that I can see). I feed her sea algae flakes on a regular basis, so maybe that helps. The java moss seems to be doing quite well.

Is your tank brackish? I've planted freshwater tanks before, but attempting to plant a brackish tank is something I've never done. I'm interested in hearing comments from others who've attempted this... What kind of substrate do you use? How do you fertilize? Do you use co2? Do you treat the tank as you would a freshwater plant tank, but using salt tolerant plants?

There just doesn't seem to be a lot out there about brackish tanks in general. Too bad it isn't more popular, there are some very interesting brack fish!
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-01-2004, 11:01 PM Thread Starter
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When I first started the tank 6 years ago it was brackish, but I later read that the Figure Eight (Tetraodon biocellatus) is really a freshwater fish but can tolerate brackish conditions. My puff seems to be fine in either fresh or brackish water. I feed her a combination of frozen foods, freeze-dried foods soaked in a vitamin supplement, and of course lots of snails. She also will eat Formula 1 & 2 flakes, but I don't give flakes to her often. She is not a picky eater at all!
Once I decide exactly how I want to do this tank and get it planted, I'll probably add DIY co2, that's what I use on my other tank.

A good puffer site:

Lots of links here:

MongaBay has biotope set-ups:

I also searched for web sites and newsgroup posts on Figure Eights and Asian biotopes. lets you do an advanced search for plants on their web site, worth checking out.
I hope that helps!
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-02-2004, 07:32 PM
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Figure 8s can live in either brackish or fresh, but I've been told that they tend to do better in light brackish (at around 1.005 sg) -- they'll grow a bit larger, live longer, and are less susceptible to disease. At least according to people I've talked to who've kept them for years... I trust their experience.

There is a lot of debate about whether figure 8s are true freshwater fish or not -- a lot of what is written about them is based on the location where they were collected (they are typically wild caught), which can either be a fresh or brackish site. Plus, some say that while they are rumored to live in freshwater in the wild, they do better with brackish water in captivity.

Anyhow, after hearing both sides of the debate, I've decided to keep my puff in brackish. He has been in brackish for 2 years now, has never been sick, and is very healthy and happy. He's very active and smart! Like yours, he'll eat virtually anything. I also soak food in vitamin water... he loves snails, every type of shrimp known to mankind, earth worms, plankton, scallops, fish flakes, crab meat, and lobster. He likes live, fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, pelleted, flaked... you name it...

I think one of the most important things in keeping a puffer healthy is keeping the water as perfect as possible. Figure 8s are hardy for puffers, but they simply won't handle ANY ammonia, nitrite, or even much nitrate. I do partial water changes once a week to keep the water pure. But the two main reasons why I want to plant the tank is because a) I want to keep nitrate levels as close to zero as possible, and b) plastic looks kind of tacky.

Like I said, my puff DOES nip the java fern, but I found that the java moss works well... it isn't leafy, so he doesn't shred it. It also seems to do well with the salt.

Thanks for the links!
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-03-2004, 07:08 AM
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Just to be sure, the 20 gal has the 40 watt double bulb fixture right?

Will an additional single strip light be enough to grow these plants, or would I be better off getting another double-bulb strip since is a tall tank?
You probably already have enough light for java moss, fern, and the crypts. One more strip wouldn't hurt any, obviously, but another double-bulb strip seems like a waste of money to me if you're only going to keep those low light plants. Unless you're planning on adding other, more light hungry plants if the puffer doesn't do too much damage.
I've got some crypt wendtii and willisii in just over 2 wpg in my 20 tall, been growing like crazy. Haven't tried java moss or java fern yet though, still trying to free up some space.

Sorry can't offer any advice on the figure 8.
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-09-2004, 09:24 PM Thread Starter
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Yep, sorry, the 20 gallon has 40 watts over it...

I've made a few changes this past week or so:
I went ahead and ordered another double-bulb strip light, might be overkill, but after I gain some experience with more tolerant plants, I may try some pickier species. Just seems like the strip light doesn't shine down enough light to the rest of the tank, just directly below it and I would think that limits my planting space.....

The tank had not quite two inches of regular brown/tan gravel in it, last weekend I added a 50 pound bag of play sand, turned out to be the exact same color as the gravel, looks really good! So there's about 3 1/2 inches in there now. I found a surprising number of MTS in the existing gravel of the tank, I assumed the puffer had eaten them all, but I scooped up 20+ more from the 29 gallon and threw them in there to re-stock the population a bit. Buried most of them right away as the puffer will nab any I just place on the substrate.

Also just received a small shipment of Java Moss & 8 free Java Fern babies, got those planted last night, covered some of the driftwood & a good-sized rock with the moss using fishing line. It's amazing how much better it looks with some real green in there! I used to have a couple of plastic plants in there a while back, but couldn't stand them after I started the planted 29....

Thanks for your input and I'd still love to hear from other puffer keepers!
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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-09-2004, 09:44 PM
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I was reading and plantedgeek has dwarf hairgrass as a brackish plant, well lower levels of brackish water below 1.005 SG. Look on and it will tell you! Also MTS arnt the best for puffers, may crack there teeth, unless your MTS are like mine, soft shells because of soft water. If so, then carry on
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-10-2004, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tip! I didn't know that about MTS and puffer's teeth.... Mine has never had any problems that I know of with them, she usually just slurps the big snails right out of the shell without cracking it!
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-26-2005, 11:37 PM
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I also have a F8 puffer in brackish waters (a varied SG between 1.004~1.008). So far, he's very healthy and active...and eats like a pig!

I tried planting some anubias bateri var. nana and they all slowly disintegrated (leaves turned yellow, then turned to mush). I just planted some Java Fern and Moss in there yesterday so I'll see if they survive.
If so, I'm getting more to put in there.

Any other plants that will work?

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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2005, 11:18 PM
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i have my brackish tank at 1.004 salinity and i have some anachris in it and the first couple of pieces i added almost a week ago have been doing ok so fall and i haven't seen my f8 picking at them and my pair of knight gobies hasn't been doing anything either.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-27-2005, 11:40 PM
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If you have a standard strip light then the reflectors (white plastic?) aren't very efficient so the 40w isn't a whole lot. If you can swap out the cheap reflector with a polished aluminum one from AH suppply then it'll probably be okay even without the third tube.


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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 09-28-2005, 02:48 AM Thread Starter
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Unlurk & Update:
I finally just tore this tank down a few weeks ago. My F8 puffer died at (atleast) 6 years old (as long as I had her, anyway) a couple of months back but I kept up the tank with just the plants I had in there. Java Fern & Java Moss did great in this set up, even when I varied a little salt content here and there.
I also tore down my 29 gallon planted and put both tanks' plants into a 55 gallon I've had empty for too long (about 3 years, was waiting buy my first house and make it permanent.) The tank and fish from the 29 are doing great. I may eventually set up the 29 with another puffer, I really miss having one, they are such cool fish.
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