Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): That Pufferfish Needs a Dentist! Scratch That, A Farmer!


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: Gracilaria (a type of macro algae) is a great thing to feed puffer fish to help wear down their teeth.

The rest of the story: Oh boy. Someone really screwed up their food groups.

First, most puffers exclusively eat meat, so the idea that algae will be readily accepted by them is a bad one.

Second, algae isn’t tough so it won’t do anything to wear down the puffer’s teeth.

Third, puffer’s teeth can mostly be kept in check by feeding them tough shelled inverts. However, if the puffer’s teeth get too long, the fish can be anesthetized and the teeth filed down. NOTE: Call a vet if you think your puffer needs its teeth filed down. Even though you’re billy bad-ass, and you’re read everything on the internet, let the vet do the anesthetizing.

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Comments for this article (14)

  • Forrest says:

    What, no Fluoride treatments? And what about orthodontia? My puffers got a wicked overbite!

  • Jason says:

    ROTFLMAO about the billy bad ass comment… 🙂

  • Ry_Guy says:

    Billy Bad-Ass. That sounds like something I would do. Point taken. If I have an issue I’ll call the vet.

  • Buddy says:

    That Billy always trying to do things the hard way.. Wait till his Puffer needs Braces !!

  • Beth says:

    LOL, ok boys lets start with an IV then intubate…now somebody get the nail file and a pair of pliers…we’ll git ‘er done right!

  • Jimbo says:

    Hi Mark, disagree a bit about algae not wearing down a puffers teeth-beak if its coralline algae that certainly can help as they get larger they teeth grow alot quicker so off to the local supermarket fish dept. for mussels and clams maybe sometimes you have to break them apart a bit to give them a start on it or of course any cruistaceans and cockles etc… Puffers are awesome but beware of these issues when buying one.. peace Jimbo..

  • Jimbo…I was speaking specifically about Graciliaria, a macro algae.

  • Bob says:

    There are no puffer dentist!

  • Nat Mouncey says:

    For what it’s worth, I do this with my tortoises. They have beaks that grow and grow. No anestitization needed. You actually put them in a headlock to keep them from pulling into their shell. They are tough….you’d be hardpressed to hurt one. Once the head is imobilized, you take a Dremel tool and buzz the beak down. My vet showed me how to do it. And when he passed away, I taught the new vet how to do it. It’s a royal pain in the butt, as it takes a good hour to get a tortoise in a headlock (yeah, for real) but luckily it only needs doing once every few years.

  • Lisa says:

    THANK YOU. 🙂
    Though I doubt any vets here would anesthetize a fish. I may have to do it myself whether I like it or not. :/ Hopefully Kirby never needs it…he gets a lot of snails and such.

  • Wayne says:

    Mark is right on track. I have everything from
    Saltwater to fresh water. I had to learn to trim my own
    Puffer fish teeth on the fresh water side and it was a quest
    Getting the right ingredients together for anesthesia to perform
    The procedure correctly and do it myself. I have been doing it for
    A few years. Beeing able to do this is a skill and I should have
    Been financials set to offer the correct foods but became good at
    The procedure. Many friends not so much though. Lesson learned,
    Listen to the ones with experience they are reporting the proper way
    To handle a situation for the well beeing of the animals which are pets
    Not things. They deserve the best treatment possible just like your dog
    Or cat or child. Good advice Mark, thanks.

  • Thanks for the kind words Wayne and sharing your real-life experience.

  • Curtis says:

    Hey Mark i need ur help i have a leather coral i just got and i acclimated it and put it in the tank and it took to the tank really well great polyp extension when the night came the lights went out and it started to droop what could be wrong

  • Erin says:

    Finding a vet: If you have a public aquarium in your area, find out if their veterinarian is associated with any of the local vet offices, as anesthetizing fish is definitely in their repertoire. Also, VCA animal clinics (a chain, with emergency clinics, too) have staff that should be able to treat fish (as well as reptiles, pocket pets, birds, and the regular four legged kind).
    Possible prevention: My local aquarium makes plaster of paris (I believe, do your research!) “cookies” with snails, clams, macro algae, and large chunks of fish mixed in. We plop a big blob on parchment paper and set them up in the freezer. These were used as treats for puffers, big angels, and tangs so they could pick at them throughout the day. It kept the fish occupied and helped keep their teeth in check by simulating picking at rocks/ breaking shells. From watching the fish, they would just spit out the plaster as they went but I’d keep a close eye on your fish at home if you try this because most pet fish are much smaller (we’re talking full grown queen angels and foot and half long burrfish here). I’d also make sure the cookies are far too large for your fish to pick up or swallow whole.

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