Threetooth Puffer

Triodon Macropterus
Threetooth Puffer - Marinewise © 2023 MarineWise

Quick Facts

Scientific name Triodon Macropterus
Other names Blackspot Keeled Pufferfish, Soft Bellied Puffer
Size Up to 54 cm (21.25 in)
Weight Under 2 kg (4.4 lb)


Habitat & AU Distribution Deeper oceanic waters amongst seamounts & knolls, pelagic zone to shallower reefs
Depth Range 30 - 300 m (984 ft)
Threetooth Puffer Distribution

Interesting Info

  • Threetooth Puffers are primarily found in the tropical and subtropical waters of Australia’s northeastern coast, including areas around the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
  • They have distinct physical characteristics that make them easily recognizable. They have a stocky body covered in small, sharp spines. Their coloration varies from light grey to brown, even yellowish and often with darker blotches or spots.
  • Threetooth Puffers possess powerful jaws and beak-like teeth that are adapted for crushing the hard shells of their prey. They primarily feed on sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates.
  • When threatened or alarmed, they have the ability to inflate their bodies by rapidly swallowing water or air, making them appear much larger and deterring potential predators.
  • They have excellent eyesight and are able to move their eyes independently, allowing them to scan their surroundings for both predators and prey. Despite their puffy appearance, they are relatively agile swimmers. They use their pectoral fins to manoeuvre through the water and can even make short bursts of speed when necessary.
  • The scientific name of the Threetooth Puffer, Triodon macropterus, is derived from the Greek words “tri-” (meaning three) and “odon” (meaning tooth), referring to the species’ distinctive three large teeth.
  • Threetooth Puffers breed through external fertilisation during the warmer months, with males undergoing physical changes and females releasing eggs into the water. The fertilised eggs hatch into larvae that drift with ocean currents before finding suitable habitats.
  • Their estimated lifespan is between 5 – 8 years.
Species Interaction

Recreational Fishing, Snorkeling & Diving

Threetooth Puffers are not typically targeted for recreational fishing and can be bycatch for anglers targeting other species. They are a fascinating sight for snorkelers and divers. They can be observed during underwater excursions, particularly around coral reefs and other suitable habitats. Their inflated bodies and ability to change colour make them an interesting subject for underwater photography.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Tetraodontiformes

Family: Triodontidae

Genus: Triodon

Species: Triodon Macropterus

Conservation Status

The conservation status in Australia, for the Threetooth Puffer is currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, it is important to monitor their populations and ensure the protection of their habitats, especially considering the potential impacts of climate change and habitat degradation.

How to catch
Threetooth Puffer

Catch Difficulty: Intermediate

Tackle: Patternoster Rig, Running Sinker Rig, Artificial Rig

Bait: Crab, Fresh cut flesh baits, Lures, Pilchards, Prawns, Squid

Technique: Keep bait close to the reef/structure

Popularity: Not targeted - Bycatch

Recreational Viewing
- Snorkeling & Scuba

Finding: Intermediate

Temperament: Peaceful

Location: Inner Reef, Outer Reef, Lagoon

Danger: None

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