The the guineafowl puffer or golden puffer, Arothron meleagris are a fairly common sight on the reefs in East Africa. They obtain their name from the coloration which resembles that of a Guineafowl. As with many other puffers, they have a symbiotic relationship with types of bacteria such as Pseudoalteromonas tetraodonis. This bacteria produces tetradotoxin which is a powerful neurotoxin. These tetradoxin’s are found in their skin and internal organs.
Guineafowl Pufferfish have no scales or lateral line and have a set of protruding nostrils on the snout. The background color is a dark brown black with numerous white dots. The dots form rings around the eyes. They have no pelvic fins and the fins are semi translucent but are dark with white dots. They have the ability to move their eyes independently and have good vision. A yellow version of the Guineafowl Pufferfish is occasionally seen although they are rare. They also have the ability to lighten their colouration as can be seen in the image two below.
Full grown they can be up to 48 cm in length although usually they are slightly smaller.As with all pufferfish or blow fish as they are sometimes known, they have the ability to take water into their stomach to swell themselves up, making it harder for a predator to fit them in its mouth.
IN THE WILD
Guineafowl Pufferfish are usually seen swimming just above the reef and close to cover. Despite their poisonous defense they usually take no chances. On the odd rare occasion one does however come across them swimming midwater. If a diver nears them they will usually duck into a hole and are hard to approach too closely. They will usually swim off at a slight angle allowing one of their eyes to point backwards to watch you. They have the ability to change colour quite quickly and when resting during the day on the reef they put on a seies of large light brown patches to camouflage themselves. When disturbed they quickly change back to their usual colouration. The camouflage is quite effective as can be seen below.
They are territorial and are usually solitary. With their beak they can give a powerful bite and great care should be taken handing these fish.
Guineafowl pufferfish are found across the Indo Pacific area, excluding the Red Sea and live close to the reef and in lagoons to a depth of 25 meters. Because of their coral diet they are usually found on reef tops.
Guineafowl Pufferfish use their impressive looking teeth to feed mainly on branching corals as well as other marine organisms such as crustaceans. They have four teeth which are fused into a sharp edged beak and the teeth continue growing throughout their life. They have a powerful bite.
Pufferfish are considered a delicacy in Japan and are bred commercially, so we know something of their behavior. The male constructs a flattened circle in the sand and when a female nears, the male will swim around throwing up sand. If the female enters the circle eggs are released by the female and fertilized by the male, these then drop into the sand and later hatch. The larvae are planktonic.
Guineafowl Pufferfish are kept by some aquarists, but because of their constantly growing teeth, they require regular feeds on hard stony corals to prevent the teeth from growing too far and becoming unusable. They are not aggressive fish, but may attempt to eat smaller sickly fishes and may nip long finned fishes. Because of their potential size they require a large tank. They will also eat most invertebrates ranging from coral to crustaceans and are not suitable for reef tanks.
GUINEAFOWL PUFFERFISH CLASSIFICATION
- The Reef Guide fishes, corals, nudibranchs & other invertebrates: East and South Coasts of Southern Africa by Dennis King & Valda Fraser
- Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia