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Is It Illegal To Own A Puffer Fish?

Are you considering buying or adopting a pufferfish? Then you’ll want to know if it’s illegal to own a puffer fish as a pet or not. Puffer fish are fascinating creatures many have come to love. In Japan, they are eaten as food (Fugu). 

But because of their poisonous toxins ( tetrodotoxin and saxitoxin) which makes them deadly if not well prepared, they are banned in Europe and you’ll need a license to sell or serve them in the US. 

In this article, we’ll answer in detail why puffer fish is illegal in some states and what species of animal you can opt for, especially if you’re a beginner. 

Is It Illegal to Own A Puffer Fish?

No, puffer fish is not completely illegal to own. But in the United States, selling or serving puffer fish requires a license. In the Europen union, the sale and consumption of puffer fish are strictly prohibited. 

According to the European legislation (Regulation (EC) No 854/2004), the importation of puffer fish into Europe is banned. This law was made following the research that proves that the Tetraodontidae toxin in puffer fish is turning up in native shellfish, causing havoc for Mediterranean fishers.

Credit: galitskaya / Canva.com

Pets That Are Illegal to Keep in the U.S.

The United States serves as a home for several diverse kinds of exotic animals kept at homes as pets. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), about 90.5 million families, which account for about 70% of US households own a pet. 

With this increasing number, not all exotic animal species are legal to own in the US. By this, it means that they are illegal to be sold and kept as pets. Below is a list of illegal pets in the US.

  • Camels, deer, antelopes, and llamas.
  • Pigs, goats, sheep, and most farm animals are examples of this.
  • Koalas, opossums, kangaroos, other marsupials.
  • Dolphins, whales, and seals.
  • Untameable canines (dogs) such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, hyenas, jackals, dingoes, and others. 
  • Pumas, tigers, leopards, lions, jaguars, mountain lions, panthers, cheetahs, cougars, lynxes, bobcats, and other wild cats
  • Weasels, ferrets, minks, wolverines, badgers, skunks, and mongooses.
  • Bats, squirrels, and raccoons.
  • Hippopotamuses, elephants, zebras, rhinoceroses, giraffes, and bears
  • Venomous spiders such as tarantulas, black widows, and others.
  • Gila monsters, iguanas, and a variety of other reptiles/lizards.
  • Gorillas, chimps, monkeys, and apes.
  • Snakes such as vipers, anacondas, cobras, pythons, and others.

How Much Is A Pet Puffer Fish?

With several species numbering over 120, the price of a pufferfish can range from $2 to $65 and even up to $100. Their unit cost also depends on several other factors such as morphs, location, and size of the animal. 

Most species, especially the most common will cost less than $35. Also, the bigger the species, the more it will cost; anything larger than four inches is generally considered big. 

Depending on how many puffers you want to keep in a tank and how you want to set up the tank, you can spend between $200 – $700 and an additional $25 on feeding, water treatment, and vet care.

Where Can You Buy Puffer Fish?

Keep in mind that to sell puffer fish in the US, a license is needed. Hence, pet stores become reliable when it comes to reputable places to buy puffer fish. 

Even with this, you need to be careful and avoid buying from a store that has lots of dead fish floating in the tanks or from staff who are not knowledgeable about keeping them. 

Some reputable pet stores you can buy puffer fish from are PetSmart, Blue Planet Aquarium, Petco, Walmart Supercenter, Fish Pond, Nature Aquarium, and many others.

Are Puffer Fish A Good Pet?

a dwarf puffer fish
Credit: Pascale Neuschafer / Canva.com

Yes, puffer fish make good pets but certainly not for beginners. Because of their unique behaviors, they can be fun to have around. However, you need to be experienced or at least knowledgeable about keeping them. 

This means that if you’re new to keeping puffer fish or fish in general, you have to learn about how to keep them. Puffer fish require lots of space as they are very active, a good diet, and are fairly expensive to maintain. 

One other thing to note about puffer fish is that they have poisonous toxins in their bodies that can kill humans if not prepared properly before eating. For this reason, they are illegal in some countries, and in the US, you need a license to serve them as food. 

FAQs

Can you get puffer fish in the US?

Commercial importation of puffer fish into the United States is strictly prohibited due to the possible health threat. Importation for personal use is also forbidden. However, the only acceptable medium of imported puffer fish is Wako International, a New York importer.

Is it illegal to own a puffer fish in California?

No, puffer fish is not banned as a pet in California. But you need a license to sell and serve them

Can you buy puffer fish?

Yes, you can buy and keep puffer fish. But it depends on the laws of your state. If it’s illegal to own puffer fish in your state/country/location, then you can’t buy them.

How much is a pufferfish?

A puffer fish can cost between $2 – $65 depending on the species, morphs, size, and location.

What fish can you not keep in California?

There are several species of fish that are illegal to keep in California. They are finfish with a strict quality limit, black rockfish, vermilion rockfish, canary rockfish, marlin, bocaccio rockfish also known as salmon grou er, sixgill and sevengill, sharks, mako, thresher sharks, and swordfish.

Conclusion

The puffer fish is a fascinating fish, but it’s also one that can be dangerous. They pose a health threat to both humans and other freshwater fish because of the high levels of tetrodotoxin found in their bodies. 

Tetrodotoxin is a neurotoxin that causes death by respiratory failure. Tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide. For this reason, puffer fish are only prepared by trained or licensed chefs. 

Luckily, it’s not completely illegal to own one as a pet. However, you’ll need a license to sell and serve them, especially in the United States.

In Japan and many Asian countries, puffer fish is a popular delicacy. It is also known as fugu.