Dogface puffers are some of the most popular fish for fish tanks, with their lovable faces, pointed doglike snouts, and their cute and human-like eyes. On a scale of 1-10, pufferfish rate at about a 0 on the rarity scale as nearly all species and color forms are available in abundance in the aquarium, all except for one.
A nice xanthic golden dogface pufferfish was once the most highly sought after of all Arothron species but in the late nineties an even more desirable color form, the black dogface pufferfish started to appear from the Solomon Islands. We can still recall working the LFS beat back in 1999 when the black dogface pufferfish unseated the pure golden puffers from the throne as the rarest pufferfish you can get.
Whereas the golden pufferfish is all yellow due to a xanthic condition making its skin all yellow, the black dogface pufferfish are exactly the opposite with an abundance of black pigment giving them a melanistic condition. But the thing about black dogface pufferfish is that they aren’t “kind of” black, they are jet black, black as the night, black-hole black with no kind of reflection to tarnish their black-ety blackness.
When we headed to the Solomon Islands a couple weeks ago, and even while we were there, we had completely forgotten about this aquarium favorite being an endemic of the Solomons. That is until we were packing up from the last coral scouting-collecting outing and the chief of the village Hubert was preparing to pack up some black dogface puffers for us to take back to the capital, Honiara.
You may have seen a black dogface puffer before but believe us when we say that it is another site altogether to see a huge grouping of about 50 dogface pufferfish being temporarily held in a dugout canoe. And remember what we said about the depth of their blackness? Even full on sunlight couldn’t reveal any imperfection in their fully melanised skin which is why this fish is still a striking aquarium specimen, whether you’re seeing one for the first time, or seeing 50 in a dugout canoe for the first time.