American Oceans

Are Puffer Fish Poisonous?

Pufferfish are a variety of fish that usually reside in tropical or subtropical ocean waters.

poisonous puffer fish

There are many kinds of pufferfish within the pufferfish species, which might leave you wondering, “Are pufferfish poisonous?”

Read on for the answer to this question and more!

What Is a Puffer Fish? 

Pufferfish are scaleless fish that have rough to spiky skin.

Smooth Puffer Fish

There are over 120 species worldwide, and most live in tropical or subtropical oceans, but there are freshwater species like the freshwater giant puffer. 

You can categorize these tropical fish by their slow swimming style, highly elastic stomachs, and ability to ingest large amounts of water to create their bloated appearance in the face of danger. 

Many puffer fish have stripes or wild coloring to signal their poisonous nature, while others have more muted and cryptic colors to blend in with their surroundings.

Some varieties are known as pygmy puffers because they are small, but they can be up to two feet long. 

Pufferfish are poisonous; one pufferfish contains enough deadly toxins to kill 30 humans.

Puffer Fish

Almost all varieties contain a toxin called tetrodotoxin, which makes them taste terrible and is often lethal to most predator fish who attempt to eat them. 

Are Puffer Fish Poisonous To Touch?

The toxins in puffer fish that are lethal for humans can sit on the skin and in its intestines, like the liver and reproductive organs. The toxin migrates from the inside to the skin when it is frozen and then thawed. 

What Part of a Puffer Fish Is Poisonous?

Pufferfish hold the toxin within their organs. It can migrate to their skin’s surface when caught, killed, frozen, and thawed for consumption. 

Tourists eating Puffer fish in Ginza district, Tokyo, Japan

In some cases, the toxin spreads through ill-prepared puffer fish made in a culinary setting with contaminated meat; this can take a person’s life. One incorrect cut can lead to the toxin spreading from the organs to the meat, which is deadly to the consumer. 

10 Puffer Fish Facts

Here are ten puffer fish facts to know!

  • In Japan, the meat of some varieties of puffer fish is considered a delicacy! Only specially trained and licensed chefs can prepare and serve the fish to customers. 
  • The toxin in puffer fish is up to 1,200 more deadly to humans than cyanide. 
  • When a puffer fish puffs up, they grow several times its size and become virtually inedible.
  • Due to the poisonous nature of the puffer fish, the United States enforces heavy restrictions on the importation of puffer fish. According to an FDA health advisory, personal importation is prohibited. 
  • Poisonous puffer fish toxins are central nervous system toxins and can not be destroyed by cooking or freezing.
  • The diet of puffer fish includes invertebrates and algae such as mussels, shellfish, and clams. They are considered carnivores. 
  • All puffer fish varieties have only four teeth! These teeth are fused in a beak-like way, which allows them to break into invertebrate shells.
  • Though puffer fish are known to be clumsy swimmers, they are also fast. They can reach top speeds of 30 miles per hour when swimming!
  • If you have small varieties of puffer fish in a home aquarium, you must keep them separate from other fish because they will eat smaller fish and bite the fins of larger fish. 
  • Due to their deadly toxins, these are the most poisonous fish in the sea!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about puffer fish? Let’s look at the answers to some frequently asked questions. 

What happens if you get poked by a pufferfish? 

If a puffer fish pokes you with their spiky flesh, especially while they are puffed out, you will likely suffer severe damage to your hands that could lead to death. Their spikes also contain their deadly poison, so if you are pricked with one, it could spell trouble.

Can you survive puffer fish poison? 

The short answer is no. Humans can not survive being poisoned by pufferfish. There is also no known antidote. 

The rare instances where people are allowed to prepare and eat puffer fish still carry hefty possibilities of death with them. The death rate from food poisoning due to ill-prepared puffer fish is 2.8%, which is high. 


  • I heard there was a pufferfish that would behave like a Piranha biting people and letting them bleed in lakes. Is there a species of Pufferfish known to behave that way(see video of Jeremy Wade’s adventure with catching this mean biting pufferfish).