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Porcupine Fish Vs Puffer Fish

Are porcupine fish and puffer fish the same? If not, what features make them different? If you are willing to dive deep into the differences between porcupine fish and puffer fish, this post is for you. 

Common people, even exotic animal enthusiasts, often confuse porcupine fish with puffer fish. And that’s understandable, because these two species are often collectively known as puffer fish. 

In this post, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about the similarities and differences between porcupine fish and puffer fish. 

Differences Between Porcupine Fish Vs Puffer Fish

The main difference between porcupine fish and puffer fish is that the former have visible spines but the latter don’t.

In the face of a threat, the puffer fish puffs up, and the spines, which are actually specialized scales, become visible.

Porcupine fish belong to the family Tetraodontidae while puffer fish belong to the family Diodontidae. 

Here is a table that shows the scientific classifications of these two species: 

Scientific Classificationporcupinefishpufferfish
Genus Species29 genera, 191 species7 genera, 18 species

What is Puffer Fish?

Puffer fish is a balloon-shaped fish belonging to the family Tetraodontidae. Puffer fish are found in both marine environments and freshwater.

Some species of the fish are critically endangered due to habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing. 

The fish inflates itself with water and air, like a balloon—to evade predators. Most puffer fish contain a toxic substance which is deadly for humans.A puffer fish can contain enough poison to kill up to 30 adult humans. 

In Japan, puffer fish are a delicious treat, and pretty expensive. However, because they contain a deadly toxin, they must be prepared by licensed, trained chefs. 

What is Porcupine Fish?

The porcupine fish, also known as globefish and balloonfish, belongs to the family Diodontidae, order Tetraodontiformes. It lives alone near caves, reefs and ledges, and hunts mollusks and crustaceans at night. 

The porcupine fish is shy in nature, and retreats when approached by divers. The fish has a white belly.

There are spines all over its body, which are actually modified scales. When the fish is threatened, it inflates its body with water, and the spikes stand out. 

This fish is considered poisonous because it secretes a highly toxic skin substance. The liver, ovaries and other internal organs of the fish contain tetrodotoxin— a neurotoxin 1200 times deadlier than cyanide.

Due to its lethal defense mechanism, the porcupine fish has very few predators

In general, the  porcupine fish is not eaten. However, some species are eaten in some places of the world. In Cebu, Philippines, the fish is an exotic delicacy locally known as tagotongan.

Can Porcupine Fish and Puffer Fish Live Together?

No! It’s not a good idea to house porcupine fish with puffer fish. Also, avoid keeping multiple porcupine fish in the same tank. This is because they often become hostile towards each other. 

However, porcupine fish are not hostile towards fish of other species. Some good tank mates for porcupine fish include wrasses angels, tangs, foxfish, engineer gobies, and squirrelfish

When choosing tank mates for your porcupine fish, make sure you avoid very tiny fish because they may fall prey to your porc. Avoid all mobile invertebrates. 

When it comes to choosing tank mates for puffer fish, your choice should be based on the type of puffer fish you have.

In general, some good options are kuhli loach, otocinclus catfish, fancy guppies, tetras, danios, rasboras, cherry shrimp, and clown pleco. 

Here is a table that shows the suitability of various tank mates for particular species of puffer fish: 

Tank MatesPea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
Kuhli LoachXX
Fancy GuppiesX
Otocinclus Catfish
Siamese Algae EatersX
Clown PlecoX
Cherry shrimpXXXXX

Which Is Better: Porcupine Fish or Puffer Fish?

Well, it basically depends on your preferences and needs. When it comes to choosing a porcupine fish or puffer fish, understanding their differences is the key. 

There are over a hundred species of puffers, characterized by a prickly texture which becomes visible when the fish is bloated. In contrast, there are about 20 species of porcupine fish, all characterized by bony spines. 

You can keep a porcupine fish as a pet,  but these fish get rather large, and therefore you will have to get a pretty large aquarium. 

However, the porcupine fish are pretty easy to care for. The water temperature should be between 23 and 28 degrees Celsius, and pH should be between 8.1 and 8.4.

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A porcupine fish will cost anywhere between $40 and $100

Puffer fish are more suitable for living in an aquarium, in part because these fish are very hardy. They are mild-mannered toward other species, and become aggressive and hostile only when threatened. 

However, puffer fish are voracious in nature, and that’s why it’s important to be careful when choosing tank mates for them. If the tank mates are too small, they will end up becoming your puffer’s dinner.

Puffer fish can eat a wide range of foods: mussels or clams, frozen or fresh shrimp, flakes or brine shrimp. 

For puffer fish, the tank water should be between 25 and 26 degrees Celsius. The pH should be 8.1-8.3. Also, you have to do a 25% water change every couple of weeks.

The price of a puffer fish can be anywhere between $20 and $60. 


Both porcupine fish and puffer fish have spines that protrude outwards when there’s a danger. The difference is, in porcupine fish, these spines are always visible, even when the fish is not inflated.

In puffer fish, these spines are visible only when the fish is in an inflated state. 

If you want to keep puffer fish or porcupine fish as pets, puffer fish may be a better option because they are hardy, mild-mannered, and voracious.

We hope now you have a better understanding of the differences between these two types of fish.

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