Maintenance sheet for dragon puffer (Tetraodon palembangensis)

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The kite puffer, also known as the humpback puffer, is different from any other freshwater fish you’ve seen before. These fish are not common in the aquarium hobby and require a fairly specific setup. Their camouflaged appearance can make them blend in with natural aquascapes, but their personality definitely comes through when they are ready to hunt. If you’re looking for more of a challenge with a tank just for species, the Drachenpuffer might be for you.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about caring for dragon buffers and one of these fish in your own freshwater aquarium!


Tetraodon palembangensis is commonly known as dragon puffer, humpback puffer, or King Kong puffer. These fish have a noticeable hump just in front of their dorsal fin, which has led to their most common name. This bump, along with its serpentine coloring and bright orange eyes, also makes these fish resemble the silhouette and pattern of a dragon.

In the aquarium hobby, the dragon puffer is usually still referred to as Tetraodon palembangensis, but has since been scientifically classified as Pao palembangensis. The genus Pao was created in 2013 and is now home to many species originally placed in Tetraodon, including the dragon’s puffer.

Members of Pao are freshwater buffers (only P. leiurus is also found in brackish water) that occur throughout Southeast Asia.

Natural habitat

The kite buffer comes from the slow moving freshwater currents, rivers and ponds of Southeast Asia, most common in Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia. This fish usually rests on the ground or in the rocks, waiting to ambush any prey that comes with it.

Because of their rarity in the hobby and the difficulty of raising them in captivity, most, if not all, of the humpback pancakes are collected from the wild.

Are puffer fish good pets?

Puffer fish are some of the most interesting fish you can get for an aquarium, be it fresh water, salt water, or brackish water! Many puffer species are known for their bold personalities, standout colors, and exciting predatory instincts. However, most buffers cannot be kept in a communal setting and must be kept in a species-only tank or in a single facility.


The dragon puffer fish can usually be easily identified if you are familiar with puffer species. Otherwise it might be hard to guess.

The easiest search in identifying a humpback buffer is the hump! These fish have a slight arch / roundness at the top of their back just before their short dorsal fin begins.

Next, you can compare the body colors. Dragon puffer fish are seasoned camouflages, which means their colors and patterns blend in perfectly with their surroundings. To blend best, these fish are usually painted in a variety of mottled browns and grays, with some also featuring oranges and yellows. Their bellies also tend to have larger spots with white breaks. As mentioned earlier, these fish have deep reddish-orange eyes that really stand out against their more natural body colors.

There are no differences between male and female humpback buffers.

How big are dragon buffers?

To be such an efficient predator, these fish stay smaller compared to other species. When fully grown, dragon puffer can grow to about 7 to 8 inches in length.

Requirements for kite buffers

Dragon puffer fish are best for a tank. While they are not overly aggressive or active like other buffer species, they prefer quieter settings with lots of plants and hiding places.

While these fish are on the small side, a buffer still requires a minimum of 208.2 l (55 gallons) to hold. These fish do not require substrate, but it is best to have a setup that is as natural as possible to make your buffer comfortable and to show its camouflage skills as best as possible. Since these fish spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, it’s best to provide a few cracks and crevices of rocks, driftwood, and plants so your buffer can easily hide. Coloring the water with tannins can also help.

In general, these fish prefer a more neutral pH between 6.8 and 7.6 and need a stable water temperature between 23.9 and 27.8 ° C (75 to 82 ° F).

Can you have two dragon buffers in one tank?

Because dragon puffer fish are not as aggressive as other puffer fish and are of a manageable size, some hobbyists have successfully kept several together in the same aquarium. One kite buffer, however, takes 55 gallons (208.2 L), which means each additional one needs a relatively large aquarium with plenty of hiding spots.

Drachenpuffer tank mates

Although humpback puffers are not an active predator like some other buffer species, they still cannot be kept in a community freshwater aquarium. These fish are known to eat fish of any size that they can fit in their mouths. Even large and more active types can be considered a potential meal and should not be tried.

These fish are best on their own, although some hobbyists have been lucky enough to keep several together in larger aquariums with plenty of hiding places.

Behavior of dragon buffers

For the most part, your humpback puffer is resting on the ground, waiting for potential foods to join. These fish are usually not very active swimmers, but they can become territorial if kept in an incorrectly sized tank with one or more buffers.

Are dragon pancakes poisonous?

Since Tetraodon palembangensis is a type of puffer fish, these fish can bloat when threatened. If you find your kite puffer inflating, check the water parameters and other possible reasons your fish may be stressed, such as: B. bright light, reflections or strange objects in and around the tank.

Tetraodon palembangensis also contains the deadly neurotoxin tetrodoxin as a buffer. However, this poison is only effective when ingested in significant quantities. Even so, it is best to wear gloves while working in the aquarium and then wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Dragon Puffer Diet

Since these fish are inactive for most of the day, it is recommended that they be fed every other day. It is also very likely that your humpback pancake will not accept foods that are not live or fresh.

In fact, these fish are so inactive that some hobbyists won’t even see them moving unless they’re offered food.

What do dragon pancakes eat?

To keep your puffer fish as happy and healthy as possible, you need to provide a wide variety of live and frozen foods, including foods that are specifically designed to prune your fish’s beak. These fish accept worms (earthworms, blood worms, Tubifex worms), krill, and even smaller live fish. You must also be given a variety of hard-shelled foods such as snails and other molluscs.

Because of this, many hobbyists set up their own live feed farms, whether it be shrimp or feeder fish. Not only does this pay off economically in the end, but you can also monitor populations for disease and nutrient uptake.

Breeding dragon puffer

While rare, the breeding of humpback buffers has been documented in the aquarium hobby. With a tank of sizeable size and perfect water conditions, it is possible for your freshwater buffer to spawn on its own.

In the wild, these fish are cave spawners. The male prepares the den by digging a pit for the eggs to be laid and providing shelter until they hatch. For the best chance of your brood reaching full maturity, it is best to remove the parents or eggs at this point. However, roasts tend to be particularly difficult to breed because they are not actively foraging for food themselves. Instead, they wait for manageable pieces to float past them, much like their predatory behavior as adults.

During this time, the roasts should be fed a variety of small foods, such as brine prawns and blood worms.


The dragon puffer (Tetraodon palembangensis / Pao palembangensis) is rarely found in the freshwater aquarium hobby. However, if you have a large enough tank to associate with a fish, they are definitely a spectacle. Before getting your new buffer, make sure you have constant water parameters, plenty of plants and driftwood, and a variety of live food available.

If you have any questions about the kite puffer or any of the other members of Tetraodon, or if you have experience with a particularly interesting freshwater puffer fish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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