There are 4 different species of Pufferfish found in Koh Tao; the giant Pufferfish, blotched porcupinefish, black-spotted pufferfish (seal faced pufferfish), and my personal favorite to see diving is the black spotted porcupinefish. Pufferfish are medium to large-sized fish and are found in shallower dive sites round the Island normally around 10-15 meters.
Although Pufferfish are highly poisonous when they are scared or feel threatened they can puff up to 2/3 times their normal size. They also do this to scare away or discourage other predators from harming them. However if this was to happen more than a few times in their life it can severely harm them.
Black Spotted Pufferfish
The black spotted pufferfish also known as a Seal faced pufferfish belongs to the Tetraodontidae family. The Blackspotted Puffer lacks pelvic fins, but is very maneuverable, using its pectoral, dorsal, and anal fins. Instead of “teeth”, it has a fused beak-like structure which it uses to crush prey.
Black spotted pufferfish can get to as big as 13 meters although I can’t say I have seen one that big here on Koh Tao. Black spotted pufferfish are often seen in Koh Tao at dive sites such as, Mango Bay and Hin Wong Bay.
Black Spotted Porcupine Fish
The Black-spotted Porcupinefish is a stocky fish with thick spines over the head and body. The spines are folded backwards when the body is not inflated. It is one of the larger pufferfish that I have seen diving here, and can be distinguished by its long relatively slender body and enormous rounded head.
The first time I saw a Black-spotted Porcupinefish was at White Rock, I remember it was one of my first fun dives and I had no idea what it was! But the first thing I noticed was just how elegant it was when it was swimming around.
I was so used to seeing other types of Pufferfish hiding under corals and rocks it was amazing to see one actually swimming about! It swam quiet slowly and we swam beside watching for a while, I remember feeling really excited, the kind of excited other people get about seeing a shark!
Blotched Porcupine Fish
Blotched Porcupinefish, you will always recognize a blotched porcupinefish just for their amazingly beautiful big eyes, and its large mouth that is almost always open. You often see them at Twins hiding in-between corals or under the rocks, tend to just see this big eyes looking at you! When threatened they can inflate like a “football with spikes” so the spines are facing outwards to deter prey.
We have a Giant Pufferfish that lives in Junkyard; you will find all 4 species of Pufferfish at Junkyard, which is a dive site with an artificial reef that was created by Eco Koh Tao. It is one of the only dive sites here I have seen a Giant Pufferfish. The Giant Pufferfish is the biggest species or Pufferfish, however live the other they don’t have any pelvic fins, instead they use their pectoral fins to swim around.
There are many dive sites on Koh Tao where you will find these different species of Pufferfish; sometimes they are easy to spot for example, I have never done a dive at Junkyard and not seen a one of these amazing creatures.
Other dive sites it can be a little harder to spot them especially the Blotched Pufferfish as they like to hide between corals. If you do see a Pufferfish take the time to watch them especially if they are swimming they honestly are beautiful to look at.
- Predators that manage to bite a puffer before it inflates won’t feel lucky for long. Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide, with known antidote.
- The meat of some pufferfish is considered a delicacy. Called fugu in Japan, it is extremely expensive and only prepared by trained, licensed chefs who know that one bad cut means almost certain death for a customer. In fact, many such deaths occur annually.
- Pufferfish diets include mostly invertebrates and algae. Big Pufferfish will even crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks. Poisonous puffers are believed to synthesize their deadly toxin from the bacteria in the animals they eat.
Author: Jasmine Defty (PADI DM #364107)