Can You Pop A Puffer Fish?

Many people, especially kids wonder ‘Can You Pop a Puffer Fish?’ when they first see one. After all; a pufferfish does look like a balloon and it can be quite tempting to try to ‘pop’ or burst it.

However, you should not do that because not only would be endangering the fish but also yourself and those around you as well.

In this guide, we will answer the question ‘Can you pop a puffer fish?’ in detail.

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Can You Pop a Puffer Fish?

one hand pop puffer fish
Credit: Negaprion / Canva.com

Yes. People have popped a puffer fish. It is doable. But the action is not only harmful to the fish but to humans as well. It is best not to pop a puffer fish no matter how tempting it may seem.

Puffer fish are poisonous. If their skin is punctured, the venom could be released on your skin harming you as well as those around you. 

If you use a sharp tool to pop the puffer fish, you might end up injuring it very badly. It is also important to understand that, although they may look like balloons, puffer fish are not filled with air.

They contain water, organs, and even blood. So you cannot expect a puffer fish to survive after you have deflated it.

How Do Puffer Fish Inflate?

Do you remember Mrs. Puff from SpongeBob SquarePants? She would usually puff up every time the naughty sponge stressed her out!

In reality, puffer fish do not just fill up with water and inflate when they are scared or startled; they do so even when they want to protect themselves from their predators or even to appear larger than they normally are.

Many puffer fish puff up
Credit: Lnzyx / Canva.com

The process of puffing up can actually be very stressful for the fish as they tend to stretch their skin and muscles several times than normal.

The mechanism they use for inflating is to unhinge their jaws and swallow a huge amount of water.

This water expands their delicate skin causing them to puff up. Sometimes, depending on how much water they have swallowed, they may even puff up to thrice their size. When this occurs, they are unable to swim and lose their mobility. 

Of course, when a puffer fish comes up to the surface of the water, it could swallow a lot of air and still inflate and puff up. In this case, if you were to pop it, it would deflate.

But when a puffer fills up with air, the situation ends up being fatal for it. It cannot expel the air from its stomach resulting in it floating upside down until it dies.

What Happens if You Poke Puffer Fish?

Poking a puffer fish may seem like fun but it can be very harmful to the fish as well as to the perpetrator.

The harm caused by poking a puffer fish

As mentioned earlier, puffer fish do not puff due to air, but water. 

If you poke a puffer fish with a sharp object, it will start leaking water, just like a pipe that springs a leak.

If you happen to inflict a wound on the puffer fish’s underside where its bladder is located, it may shoot out water just like a punctured water-filled balloon.

 a puffer fish was Puncturing
Credit: Kathi Hinz / Canva.com

Puncturing a puffer fish is like handing them a death sentence. Puffing up is their defense mechanism so they won’t be able to defend themselves against their predators once they are punctured.

They also lose their buoyancy in the process. Moreover, if the wound inflicted on their body is very deep, they may not be able to heal themselves or recover from the trauma.

Harmful to humans

There are almost 57 varieties of puffer fish in nature, most of them in Australia. A vast majority of them contain a toxin known as tetrodotoxin. 

Tetrodotoxin is the deadliest natural poison found in nature. It is almost 1200 times deadlier than cyanide. The toxin is present in the puffer fish’s intestines, liver, ovaries, and even in the skin.

The-man-squeezing-puffer-fish
Credit: Alexandra Segova / Canva.com

If the toxin were to enter your system through the fish’s saliva or blood, you could suffer symptoms like paralysis, respiratory failure, and eventually, death. There is no known antidote to puffer fish tetrodotoxin poison. 

Remember, you do not have to eat the puffer fish for it to be toxic. Even a tiny lick could be fatal. Some varieties of puffers even secrete the toxin through their skin making them extremely dangerous to touch

How Does a Pufferfish Return to Its Normal State?

Most puffed-up puffer fish simply float for a long time until they slowly lose the water they have swallowed. 

Mainly, they need to release water from their stomach and cast it out just the way it entered – through their mouth. However, this rate of releasing water is a lot slower than the rate at which they take the water in.

 Therefore, it may take them a long time (almost 5 to 6 hours) to return to their natural ‘un-puffed state’.

FAQs – Can You Pop a Puffer Fish?

Can you deflate a puffer fish?

In Japan, where they cook puffer or Fugu, a chef could deflate it by making a tiny incision under its pectoral fin.

As a pet owner, it is best not to deflate or pop a puffer fish as it could die or release a toxin that can be deadly to humans.

Do puffer fish hurt when they puff up?

No one can tell for sure whether puffer fish get hurt when they inflate. However, the process of inflating stretches their skin rather tightly over their bodies.

Most varieties of puffer fish swell up to nearly 3 times their normal size. This process is bound to be painful.

Can you grab a pufferfish?

You could grab a puffer fish while wearing a pair of protective gloves. However, you should be very careful when you do so.

Almost all varieties of puffers are extremely poisonous. Some even secrete their toxins through their skin and that can be very dangerous to humans.

Can a puffer fish bite your finger off?

Certain varieties of puffer fish are very aggressive and known to have bitten off the toes of swimmers in Australia.

A scuba diver even lost part of his finger when a puffer fish bit it through the gloves.

Key Takeaways – Can You Pop a Puffer Fish?

Yes, you can pop a puffer fish if it is inflated with water. However, it is best to leave nature alone. 

Remember: Puffer fish carry deadly toxins that can be fatal to humans. Moreover, poking a puffer fish could lead to a permanent injury from which the fish may never recover.

So, it is best not to poke or pop a puffer fish as far as possible.

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