11 Best Puffer Tank Mates (Rated for Each Puffer Species)

There are many breeds of puffer fish out there and they all look like they could cute pets! However, these fish are quite aggressive and territorial, so they usually do better without any kind of tank mates. But, that does not mean that it’s impossible for some species to coexist with other fish.

If the tank mate works with two or more of the 5 puffer breeds, there will be a table at the top with an X under the names of the puffer they could live with. Below is an example:

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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1. Kuhli Loach

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Kuhli Loach | Source: Deposit Photos

These small, thin fish work best for the territorial Pea Puffer. Since these fish swim low to the floor and stay out of the way of the puffer, they would make good tank mates. These fish also mostly hunt at night so they won’t accidentally steal the puffer’s food during the day. Even though they work best in a tank with a Pea Puffer, the South American Puffer is the most gentle of the freshwater puffer breeds, so Kuhli Loach could work in a tank with the South American Puffer as well.

2. Fancy Guppies

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Swimming blue guppy | Source: Deposit Photos

MBU Puffers are rather aggressive and, while it is suggested that they should be kept alone if you can, Fancy Guppies could work as tank mates. When it comes to puffers, generally a good rule to follow is to not have any tank mates with long, flowy fins because the puffers will nip at them and hurt the other fish. However, MBUs are aggressive when it comes to food, so even though the Fancy Guppies have such a fanned-out tail, they will mostly leave them alone.

Even though it should work, watch your tank and keep note of the well-being of all the fish. If you see that the Fancy Guppies are hurt at all or your MBU seems to dislike the environment, it might be safer for them all to remove the guppies for a while.

3. Otocinclus Catfish

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Otocinclus in planted aquarium | Source: Deposit Photos

The Otocinclus is another bottom-dwelling creature that makes fine roommates with Pea Puffers, MBU Puffers, and South American Puffers. Since they stay so low and feed off of the algae in the tank, they are not as much of a threat to the territorial puffers. They stay away from the food and the higher parts of the tank, so they are excellent tank mates for puffers. These suckerfish are also quick and can dodge all the bites that may come their way. They’re calm and are content to just clean the tank and mind their own business.

4. Siamese Algae Eaters

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Siamese algae eater in planted aquarium | Source: Deposit Photos

Another friend you’ll want to consider when thinking about keeping your MBU company should be Siamese Algae Eaters. These are quick, community-loving fish that do well with others in the tank. They are pretty docile so they won’t hurt the ego of the puffer by overstepping any boundaries.

These little guys also help keep your tank healthy. The writers at Aquarium Source stated, “Adding Siamese algae eaters to an aquarium helps to control types of algae growth and maintain good aquarium health that is essential for the well-being of each occupant living inside of the tank.” These fish practically pay for themselves when it comes to helping out around the tank.

5. Tetras

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Congo Tetra | Source: Deposit Photos

Tetras are probably one of your safest bets when you’re thinking of puffer tank mates. Any kind of tetra will work for these breeds. They are small, fast, and stay out of the way of the puffer. The only puffer fish that might try to really harm them would be the Golden Puffer. The Golden Puffer is one of the faster freshwater breeds and can outswim the tetras well. These puffers love a chase and will hunt them down to get a bite of the poor, little tetra.

The tetra can outswim the other puffer breeds, though. You won’t have to worry too much when it comes to the other kinds of puffers. The tetras are often paired in the same tank as puffers.

6. Rasboras

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Strawberry Rasbora | Source: Deposit Photos

Rasboras are a good match for the MBUs and Red-tailed Dwarf Puffers. These easy-going fish are perfect companions to the hot-headed MBU and playful Red-tailed Dwarf. Make sure there is plenty of foliage and obstacles to protect your Rasboras and break up the dead space that the puffers have claimed as their territory. As long as there are spaces to hide, these fish will do fine together.

Also, be wary of the size difference between the MBU and the Rasboras. MBU Puffers can sometimes munch on smaller fish in the tank that are in their line of sight. However, the Rasboras are decently fast, so putting areas for them to quickly hide behind is necessary.

7. Danios

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Glofish’s Take on the Zebra Danio | Source: Deposit Photos

Danios are another great tank mate for different puffer breeds. These fish are quite social and love being a part of larger groups of Danios. While they are wonderful companions for most freshwater breeds, they struggle with the MBU’s size. Since the MBU is so big, it can be dangerous for the bubbly Danios group. This puffer is large and needs a lot of room, so it does not do well with a lot of other fish taking up space in the tank.

8. Clown Pleco

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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This is another bottom-feeder friend for your MBU. The issue here that prevents it from being a good match for other puffers is the fins. It’s long fins are too tempting for the others to get along with; the other puffers will injure this fish if they are in the same tank.

Clown Pleco are simple, little fish that are not super interested in the fish around them. They are content to drift around snack on the algae in the tank. While they are typically mild-mannered, they can move fast when they need to. These can easily escape the MBU if it were to ever test out the waters and try to take a bite of a Clown Pleco.

9. Cherry shrimp

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Red Cherry Shrimp | Source: Deposit Photos

Maybe don’t get too attached to keeping these shrimp in your tank. While you certainly can keep Cherry Shrimp in the same tank as any puffer, they are more of a source of food than a tank mate.

The thing about keeping Cherry Shrimp in your tank along with your puffer is that it helps distract the puffer from the other tank mates. It’s a little morbid, but they work well as a tasty diversion from the others. This practice works best with the smaller puffers, but has also worked for some with larger breeds. This is also done with fast-breeding snails.

What you can do before getting your puffer is to breed the Cherry Shrimp in your tank and introduce the predator after the population of shrimps grows a little. This way, the puffer fish can get used to eating the shrimp and will not notice the others in the tank as much. This also works better in larger tanks where there can be more of a breeding ground.

10. Corydora

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Corydora Catfish | Source: Deposit Photos

Corydoras are similar to the Clown Pleco fish, but have much shorter fins. They stay towards the bottom of the tank and are pretty content to stay there. Algae eaters like this fish are best for the 3 breeds of puffers listed above. They really contrast each other in temperament and tank territory, but opposites attract in this case.

In a 20 gallon tank, you can comfortably hold anywhere from 1 to 5 Corydoras at once. Depending on the size of tank for your pufferfish, that can change. You should usually err on the side of caution and have fewer Corydoras in the tank for the sake of your puffers and to see how they adapt to having a roommate in their space.

11. Other Puffers

Pea PufferMBU PufferRed-tailed Dwarf PufferGolden PufferSouth American Puffer
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Pea Puffer | Source: Deposit Photos

Not all puffers get along and you certainly cannot cram too many different kinds in one tank, but the Red-tailed Dwarf Puffer, Pea Puffer, Golden Puffer, and South American Puffer could all possibly work together. The best pairing would be a South American Puffer with a Pea Puffer.

The South American Puffers have a calmer temper (compared to the other puffer breeds) and the Pea Puffer will typically leave bigger fish alone. If you attempt to pair some puffers together in a tank, make sure to watch them closely for the first while to make sure that they are being nice to each other. If they appear to be hurting each other or do not seem to be thriving in the environment, make sure that you separate them at once.

Before pairing your puffer with any other kind of puffer (or tank mate in general) it is a good idea to ask your breeder or whomever you are purchasing your puffer from how they do with other fish in the tank. It is imperative to do what is best for your pet as their owner and if that means getting them their own tank and equipment, then that is what will need to happen.

Once you get to know your puffer, use your best judgment as to what they can handle in their tank. If you notice that they are a little aggressive or dramatic, then it might be good to leave them alone.