15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (2024)

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A puffer fish might be an intimidating kind of aquarium resident to find buddies for. We’re ready to help with the 15 best freshwater puffer fish tank mates!

The best freshwater puffer fish tank mates include fish that can stand up to the puffer’s personality, as well as flourish in the same levels of oxygen or heat. These need to be aquarium tank mates who are close in size to the puffer to steer clear of being eaten, or eating the puffer themselves.

Get ready to learn everything you need to know about the 15 best freshwater puffer fish tank mates. We’ll begin by showing you what’s necessary to know about the puffers, then how that information can help you find the best aquarium mate matches.

Contents

Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates – What You Need to Know

It’s time to think through what your puffer needs, as well as what their potential friends need! Knowing this will help you figure out the best freshwater puffer fish tank mates!

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (1)

Temperament

A freshwater puffer is, in general, the kind of fish that likes to start trouble. It will go out of it’s way to chase, bully, and even chew on other fish. What you need are fish that are either bold enough to show the puffer that they won’t be pushed around, or, if they’re shy, fast enough to escape stress, like danios. The best freshwater puffer fish tank mates would be those that are either bold to other fish or fast to escape from them.

Size

The freshwater puffer species range in size from as small as one inch (2.5cm) to as large as twenty-four inches (60.96cm)! The main reason to keep size in mind is accidental friendly-fire…or friendly snacking, more accurately. Fish that are large enough to eat one another generally will. Your potential tank mates need to be within three to four inches of your freshwater puffer’s size. The optimal freshwater puffer fish tank mates would be those that match the puffer’s adult size so that you won’t have to worry about them getting turned into a snack later on.

Competition

The freshwater puffer needs to face minimal competition when it comes to meal time. Most freshwater puffers tend to eat everything from flakes, algae, shrimp pellets, and even bottom feeder tablets. All freshwater puffer fish tank mates need to be fast enough so that they can get their own food.

The main thing to remember when it comes to cutting back on potential for competition between fish is that you need fish who either eat something completely different, or just eat at a different time and place than the puffers. Fish that eat something different or somewhere else would be good freshwater puffer fish tank mates because they would be less likely to fight for food.

Parameters & Tank Setup

Finally, we come to the habitat of the freshwater puffer. These vary slightly from fish to fish, but in general, you’ll need water that is fresh and between the temperatures of 74F (23C) and 78F (25.5C). With almost all puffers, plenty of obstacles are necessary to cut back on fighting. All fish need to have compatible water parameters for the best environment, including freshwater puffer fish tank mates.

Any tank dwellers need to have the same needs as the freshwater puffer, especially in terms of water heat. This will cut down on the likelihood of stress and fighting. The more compatible their water parameters are, the less likely they will be to fight with each other. All freshwater puffer fish tank mates should have as many of the same water parameters as possible since this will cut down on stress and even disease.

Best Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates

Time to get into the fun part: what would be the best freshwater puffer fish tank mates?

  1. Cherry Shrimp
  2. Clown Pleco
  3. Neon Tetra
  4. Pygmy Cory
  5. Kuhli Loach
  6. Otocinclus
  7. Ember Tetra
  8. Clown Killifish
  9. Guppy
  10. Glowlight Tetra
  11. Zebra Danio
  12. Siamese Algae Eater
  13. Panda Corydoras
  14. Bloodfin Tetra
  15. Calico Platy

Find out more about each of these excellent tank mates in the section below!

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1. Cherry Shrimp

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (2)
  • Scientific Name: Neocaridina davidi
  • Adult Size: 1 and one half inch (3.8cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Taiwan

Cherry shrimp are a nice break, visually, from watching fish float around! At the bottom of the tank and easily able to hide, they aren’t likely to get injured by the puffer fish.

They’ll also clean the bottom of the tank and are simple to care for. Cherry shrimp earn their title from the range of red color they can be. They make great freshwater puffer fish tank mates because they stick to the bottom of the tank and can hide themselves if needed.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Might be eaten by bigger puffer fish depending on size

2. Clown Pleco

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (3)
  • Scientific Name: Panaqolus maccus
  • Adult Size: 4 inches (10.2cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Colombia, Venezuela, Orinoco River

The clown pleco, or clown panaque as it is sometimes referred to, is interesting. They eat wood as well as all of the other foods a fish normally enjoys. They like to chew on driftwood in the tank. Their main diet should include sinking algae wafers. They also like eating spirulina pellets. You can give them vegetables like zucchini and peas. Fruits should be given in moderation. They’re omnivores so they can also eat meat like shrimp and bloodworms. Or any pellets with meat in it.

On top of that, it is quick, too quick to be bullied, and sometimes too large, as well. The clown pleco is also peaceful. It is usually a range of warm colors with wavy stripes. Because of their quick speed and large size, they make perfect freshwater puffer fish tank mates!

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food
  • Can’t be bullied

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

3. Neon Tetra

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (4)
  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
  • Adult Size: 1 and one half inch (3.8cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Peru, Colombia, Brazil

Everyone’s favorite spot of color in a tank is the neon tetra. It is important to note that this red, silver, and blue swimmer should only be kept with freshwater puffers that are as small as an inch long. These Tetras need to be at least an inch long to be considered good freshwater puffer fish tank mates. The bigger the tetras, the less of a chance the puffer will try to eat them.

That said, this fish is most delighted in a school of its own kind. They are schooling fish, so they are happiest in a big group. They become stressed when they aren’t able to school.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Low chance of bullying

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Could be eaten by larger freshwater puffer species

4. Pygmy Cory

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (5)
  • Scientific Name: Corydoras pygmaeus
  • Adult Size: 1.4 inches (3.5cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: South America

Pygmy cories are tiny examples of catfish, and they are certainly cute. They’re usually silvery white with one long black stripe across their bodies.

Pygmy cories work with freshwater puffers that are an inch, or only slightly larger, because they’re peaceful schoolers. As long as they can school with their own kind, these catfish make good freshwater puffer fish tank mates. These catfish like to school and are less stressed with others of their species.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • No competition

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

5. Kuhli Loach

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (6)
  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
  • Adult Size: 4 inch (10cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Island of Java in Indonesia

This loach is not a serpent or a member of the eel family, but a fish. The long body may be confusing, but you can’t deny that the yellow and dark splotches are pretty to look at! They are known for their eel shaped bodies.

Another beautiful thing about this fish is that, with a big enough tank, it is large enough to avoid bullying and peaceful enough not to bully itself. These fish are nocturnal so you probably won’t see them much during the day. They also do make groups when there’s more than just one. Having a school helps them to have more confidence and explore.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • No competition

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

6. Otocinclus

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (7)
  • Scientific Name: Otocinclus
  • Adult Size: 2 inch (5cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: South America

An otocinclus could be an oto catfish, or a dwarf sucker. Either way, they’re small and unassuming at the bottom of an aquarium, not worth a puffer’s notice.

This little guy will eat algae on the tank floor quite happily. All the while, you’re treated to orange and brown colors along with interesting brown eyes.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

7. Ember Tetra

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (8)
  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon amandae
  • Adult Size: 1 inch (3cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Araguaia River basin of Brazil

These tetras look a lot like what you might mistake for goldfish, if not for the tip of each fin, dipped in black. They school together merrily. Tetras do best in large schools. They are happiest with other tetras and are less stressed. They will be more adventurous and active.

This strength in numbers can ward off puffer bullies, and be fun to watch. The bigger the school, the less likely the puffer fish will try to bother them.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying them in schools
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Could be eaten since they’re small when mature

8. Clown Killifish

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (9)
  • Scientific Name: Epiplatys annulatus
  • Adult Size: 1.4 inches (3.56cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Southern Guinea, Liberia, Sierra, Leone

A Killifish is noted for being a predator, but peaceful nonetheless. It has enough of a backbone to defend itself from even slightly larger puffers. Other interesting facts about it are its playful personality. The males sometimes are territorial and feisty to each other. These make good freshwater puffer fish tank mates since puffer fish are also playful and sometimes feisty.

You’ll particularly like the bright blue eyes of the Killifish. It is an interesting electric color compared to the rest of the tan-and-brown body.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • No competition

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Both have a chance of getting feisty with the other

9. Guppy

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (10)
  • Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
  • Adult Size: 2.4 inches (6cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Northeast South America

Guppies are the fanciest of aquarium fish, so they’re found just about everywhere. Aquarium communities quickly caught on to how easy these fish were to keep, and how many amazing colors and designs these little guys have!

Guppies are small, but are comfortable with more of their own species. With enough of these, bullying from puffers is less likely. They’re happier in a group since they’re social fish.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

10. GlowLight Tetra

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (11)
  • Scientific Name: Hemigrammus erythrozonus
  • Adult Size: 1 and one half inch (3.81cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Guyana

Glowlight tetras are such a surprising fish to catch your eye on. They are thin and graceful, with almost transparent-looking bodies except for a striking, glowing stripe of orange across their bodies.

They’re peaceful, but should not be kept with larger puffers. They also need to be in a group larger than 6 since they’re schooling fish. They are happiest and less stressed when they can school together.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • Should not be kept with large puffers

11. Zebra Danio

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (12)
  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • Adult Size: 2 inch (5.1cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: India, South Asia

A staple in most aquariums as well as most pet stores is the zebra danio. These fish come in schools of stylish, striped groups. They are small, but strength in numbers means they’ll be compatible with smaller puffers.

These fish don’t eat too much, and while you do feed them you can get a closer look at their beautiful stripes and colors. They need to be in a school so that they will be happy and less stressed.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • No competition

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

12. Siamese Algae Eater

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (13)
  • Scientific Name: Crossocheilus oblongus
  • Adult Size: 6 inches (15.24cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Southeast Asia

These fish do exactly what their name suggests; they eat algae! This means that as they’re swimming along the bottom of the tank, they won’t bother or steal the food of the puffer. They even eat red algae along with beard algae.

They’re also highly peaceful, and large enough to avoid bullying from the smaller sizes of freshwater puffers. They’re a muted gold color with a dark stripe. They tend to get aggressive with their own kind as they mature.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

13. Panda Corydoras

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (14)
  • Scientific Name: Corydoras panda
  • Adult Size: 2 inches (5.1cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Medium Skill
  • Origin: Ucayali rivers of Peru

These uniquely-sourced fish are popular for their kind temper and interesting look. They won’t bother smaller freshwater puffers, and their bottom-dwelling tendencies might save them from bigger fish.

They are white with panda-like spots. Their bodies are round, but have whiskers! They do best when they can school with other Corydoras since they’re social and they will be happier.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

14. Bloodfin Tetra

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (15)
  • Scientific Name: Aphyocharax anitsi
  • Adult Size: 2 inches (5.1cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Argentina

These fish are absolutely gorgeous. They are a range of colors but usually called “bloodfin” for their red tails and fins.

They like to school with 4, at least, of their own, and as usual, it is strength in numbers and sometimes larger size that makes them work with puffers so well. They are happiest when they can school so that makes them less stressed.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

15. Calico Platy

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (16)
  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
  • Adult Size: 3 inches (7.62cm)
  • Make Good Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates
  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Origin: Central & South America

The calico platy is a funny-looking fish, with a very pointed face but a bulging belly. Still, it’s colors are lovely, sometimes speckled white and orange and black, and sometimes one solid color out of these. They come in many colors and are very unique.

The calico platy is another peace-loving fish, fast enough to escape bullying puffers. These fish don’t need to school together to be happy. They’re fine and happy on their own.

Pros of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • No bullying
  • Won’t over compete for food

Cons of keeping with Freshwater Puffer Fish:

  • None!

In Conclusion

To wrap everything we’ve learned up, the 15 best freshwater puffer fish tank mates can be hard to find considering the feisty tempers of these fish, but they are not impossible! Simply find fish like the calico platy who either keep to themselves, or are feisty right back, but survive in the same temperatures and habitats.

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (17)

Ian Sterling

Ian Sterling, founder of Fishlab.com, began his aquarium journey over 30 years ago, driven by a deep fascination for fish and their diverse personalities. His website, Fishlab.com, is dedicated to making fishkeeping accessible and enjoyable, offering beginner-friendly guidance, expert insights, and a community for aquarists to connect and share experiences.

15 Top Freshwater Puffer Fish Tank Mates For Aquarists (2024)

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