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 General information
 Freshwater puffers
 Brackish water puffers
 Seawater puffers
Characteristics of Sphoeroides nephelus

Sphoeroides nephelus

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scientific name

Sphoeroides nephelus

German Name

Südlicher Sphoeroides

English Name

Southern puffer


Sphoeroides harperi

First characterisation

1882 von Goode & Bean


Fish size

~ 30 cm (25 cm)







Grundfärbung: Rücken und Seiten braun mit großen dunkelgrauen Flecken sowie einem hellen (manchmal bläulichem bzw. grünlichem) unregelmäßigem Netzmuster. Der Bauch ist hell und unregelmässig abgegrenzt mit einer Reihe von dunklen Punkten. Schwanzflosse zeigt am Anfang einen dunklen dicken Querstrich und im letzten Drittel einen dünnen. Adulte Männchen manchmal bedeckt mit leuchtenden roten oder orangen Punkten von ungefähr 1mm Durchmesser.

“Sphoeroides nephelus has a light reticular pattern on upper half of body and lack lappets. Snout is long and acute. Nostril is paired, and nares are located at ends of short tubes. Interorbital space is narrow and slightly concave. Gill slit is arch shaped and slightly shorter than pectoral fin base. Gill rakers are very short and number eight or nine. Mesurements are expressed as percent of SL: head length 34%-39%, snout length 18%-25%, eye diameter 5%-9%, pectoral fin length 13%-18%, uninflated body depth 22%-30%. Pectoral fin has 13 to 15 rays. Dorsal fin is narrow based and has 7 to 9 rays. Anal fin is similar in shape to dorsal fin and has 6 or 7 rays. Body varies from naked to nearly covered with spinules anterior to dorsal fin base. Color is dark olive gray dorsally, often with pale gray rings, and white ventrally. Axil of pectoral fin has a black blotch, and sides behind pectoral fin are often patterned with dark gray spots. Upper section of cheek ist often patterned with dark slashes (...) Maximum known size is 250 mm TL. (McEachran 2005, S. 921)

"Diagnostic characters:A blunt-headed fish with heavy jaws forming a beak of 2 teeth in both upper and lower jaws. Dorsal and anal fins set far back near caudal fin; dorsal fin usually with 8 soft rays (no spines), anal fin with 7 soft rays (no spines); pectoral fins usually with 14 rays; pelvic fins absent. Prickles (small spinules ) covering variable portions of trunk, occasionally absent. No lappets on head or body. Colour: upper side brown, with large dark grey to black spots and light (pale blue or green in fresh specimens) irregular-shaped reticulations.Lower side with an irregular row of dusky to black rounded spots; the axil spot the most intense in the series; sexually mature, ripe males sometimes covered with brilliant red or orange spots of about 1mm in diameter (white in preserved specimens). Size: Maximum 250 mm; common to 200 mm (...) occasionally mixed with S. maculatus as ‘Sea squab’." (Shipp 2002, S. 2000)







Brackish - Sea water


23 °C - 26 °C



Additional fishfood information

"(...) feeds primarily on shellfish, also on some finfish (...)" (Shipp 2002, S. 2000)


Diese Art kommt in der Natur im flachen Wasser vor:

“This species occurs in shallow water, including bays and estuaries (...)" (McEachran 2005, S. 921)

"Frequents shallow waters of bays and estuaries to depths of 20 m." (Shipp 2002, S. 2000)

Diese Art ist bewiesenermaßen giftig. Bei dem aus mehreren Tieren extrahierten Gift handelt es sich um Saxitoxin, was der Theorie widerspricht, dass dieses lediglich in Süßwasserkugelfischarten gefunden wird, während Meerwasserkugelfische das Gift Tetrodotoxin haben sollen. Diese Kugelfischart jedenfalls nimmt das Gift über eine Dinoflagellatenart auf:


„From January 2002 to May 2004, 28 puffer fish poisoning (PFP) cases in Florida, New Jersey, Virginia, and New York were linked to the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) in Florida. Saxitoxins (STXs) of unknown source were first identified in fillet remnants from a New Jersey PFP case in 2002. (...) We found STXs in 516 IRL southern (Sphoeroides nephelus), checkered (Sphoeroides testudineus), and bandtail (Sphoeroides spengleri) puffer fish. During 36 months of monitoring, we detected STXs in skin, muscle, and viscera, with concentrations up to 22,104 μg STX equivalents (eq)/100 g tissue (action level, 80 μg STX eq/100 g tissue) in ovaries. Puffer fish tissues, clonal cultures, and natural bloom samples of P. bahamense from the IRL tested toxic in the MBA, RBA, MNCA, Ridascreen ELISA, and MIST Alert assay and positive for STX, dc-STX, and B1 toxin by HPLC and LC-MS. Skin mucus of IRL southern puffer fish captive for 1-year was highly toxic compared to Florida Gulf coast puffer fish. Therefore, we confirm puffer fish to be a hazardous reservoir of STXs in Florida’s marine waters and implicate the dinoflagellate P. bahamense as the putative toxin source. (...) Associated with fatal paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in the Pacific but not known to be toxic in the western Atlantic, P. bahamense is an emerging public health threat. We propose characterizing this food poisoning syndrome as saxitoxin puffer fish poisoning (SPFP) to distinguish it from PFP, which is traditionally associated with tetrodotoxin, and from PSP caused by STXs in shellfish. (...) for example, one woman died 45 min after consuming toxic liver from a checkered puffer fish (Sphoeroides testudineus) (...)“ (Landsberg u.a. 2006, S. 1502)

Basin size

176 imp.gal.


"Usually a loner, except around bridges and piers where loose aggregations may occur, especially along eastern Florida" (Shipp 2002, S. 2000)


"(...) taken on hook-and-line; not a good foodfish, has been reported as mildly toxic (...)" (Shipp 2002, S. 2000)


Last updated:

03-11-2007 20:37


20-04-2007 11:03


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