Do dwarf Puffers have toxin?

Dwarf, Red Eye, South American & more. Freshwater puffer talk in here.
Post Reply
Puffer Fry
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:40 am
Location (country): Washington

Do dwarf Puffers have toxin?

Post by Katiewoollven » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:45 am

Hi there,
Main question: Can anyone provide me any documentation of what type(s) of toxins are possibly carried by dwarf Puffers, and any negative interactions with HUMANS and dwarf Puffers from toxins?

I bought 3 Puffers labeled "Pea Puffers" from a local fish shop 6 weeks ago. They were wild caught. One was small and died two weeks ago while I was out of town on a weekend (I suspected it had internal parasites, belly looked different from the others). I fed on Friday morning and when I returned Sunday afternoon it was dead and decomposing. They are in a 10 gallon with just the 3 of them, no other fish deaths to worry about. I cleaned the tank and gravel immediately, and the other two have been doing fine since, although one doesn't eat as much (bloodworms) as his buddy. Today was the first time I've cleaned since then, and I also put in new drift wood, moved my plants around, etc. I had my hands in the tank~10 min. I did not wear gloves and I have a couple small cuts in my hands. My head, neck, and hands started tingling shortly afterwards (within 20 min?). I am fine now, but feeling shaken.

Everything I've read says these are safe to keep as long as you don't eat them. But a small part of me wonders if a) Puffers can release toxins from their skin if they're stressed, similar to some corals I've heard of, or b) if there could be some debris or water carrying toxins from the first mortality, that got stirred up when I was moving gravel around today.

The fact that I have NOT found any documentation of people getting poisoned by dwarf Puffers without eating them is comforting!
I'll probably take the Puffers back to the store, because my paranoid mind is currently losing sleep over this. I've enjoyed having them, but have read quite a bit of mixed info in general about these guys... and haven't found with certainty what kind of toxin this species would contain, provided they had the right diet for that. Saxitoxin, since they're entirely freshwater? Do any FW Puffers have ttx? Does it just depend on the bacteria/algae conditions? Have aquarists of other puffer species reported tingling of arms during tank maintenance, or anything like that?

Thank you for your time!

User avatar
Queen Admin
Posts: 30720
Joined: Tue May 31, 2005 11:06 am
Gender: Female
My Puffers: Filbert, the 12" T lineatus
Punkster, the 4" red T miurus
Mongo, the 4" A modestus
2 T biocellatus
C valentini
C coranata
C papuan
Also kept:
T niphobles
Location (country): USA, Greenville, SC
Location: Chicago

Re: Do dwarf Puffers have toxin?

Post by Pufferpunk » Mon Sep 11, 2017 10:05 am

Unless you are eating them, you have no worries at all. Puffers do NOT release toxins into the water, it is in their internal organs (yes, even DPs). I think more than likely you are allergic to the worms, which I have seen often.

As far as your maintenance--we suggest 50% weekly water changes.
You are getting sleepy... you only hear the sound of my voice... you must do water changes... water changes... water changes... water changes...

"The solution to pollution is dilution!"

Puffer Fry
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Sep 10, 2017 5:40 am
Location (country): Washington

Re: Do dwarf Puffers have toxin?

Post by Katiewoollven » Thu Sep 14, 2017 1:44 am

Thanks. I had read two things: that freshwater Puffers had more toxins stored in their skin/flesh, and also the toxins are tissue-bound. I wonder if the toxins can be released as tissues degrade after the fish dies, especially in 70+ water temps.

I don't think it was bloodworms. Everything I've read about bloodworm allergies is people experiencing that as a typical allergic reaction- itching, burning, sneezing, wheezing.

This felt like someone poured a bottle of peppermint oil on me, which sounded more like how people experience ttx intoxication (cold, numbness, tingling). I'm not sure what else from the tank would cause that, any ideas? I was able to find documentation that dwarf Puffers can have ttx (below); I had thought they probably had saxitoxin.

Everything I've read on aquarium hobby pages echoes what you said- nothing to worry about! It's not possible! I really hope that is true, but think it may be worth exploring further since these are pretty popular fish. I haven't heard of a single aquarist dying or even getting sick from keeping Puffers. Then again, I haven't been around that long, so wanted to ask the group!

As for the water changes, I literally fed the fish one worm at a time, so very little excess watse in the tank.

Thanks for entertaining my question :)

Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, Vol. 20, No. 4, 2012, Pages 764-771 doi:10.6227/jfda.2012200404
Analysis of Poisoning Cases, Monitoring and Risk Warning for Marine Toxins (TTX, PSP and CTXs) in Taiwan

Post Reply