The longspined porcupinefish occurs all over the world in tropical and subtropical seas. Because of this, it is known by many different names – including the balloon porcupinefish and the blotched porcupinefish. It can survive at depths of up to 200
metres, but is more usually found on reef or muddy areas shallower than 35 metres. The longspined porcupinefish can grow up to 50 centimetres in length, and is identified by a brown bar above and below each eye and one just behind its head. It is a nocturnal feeder, preying on molluscs and crustaceans. The longspined pufferfish can blow itself up to ward off predators by gulping water at a rapid rate. This is both tiring and stressful for the fish, however, and should never be encouraged by divers.
The black-blotched porcupinefish is found in the Indo-Pacific and the southeast Atlantic Ocean. It favours depths of between 15 and 30 metres, but has been recorded at depths of up to 90 metres. It prefers reef edges and slopes, and spends the daylight hours
hiding in deeper water or sheltering in caves or under ledges. It is a nocturnal hunter, feeding on crustaceans and molluscs. The black-blotched porcupinefish grows up to 65 centimetres in length, and has a beige body marked with distinct black blotches. It is easily distinguished from other porcupine fish species by the fact that its blotches are outlined with a thin border of bright yellow or white. This fish is associated with ciguatera poisoning and is therefore not usually fished for consumption.
Sometimes called the freckled, giant or black-spotted porcupinefish, the spot-fin porcupinefish has a wide distribution throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas. Nevertheless, it is not considered common. In South Africa, it is found from
the Mozambique border to Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park at depths of up to 50 metres. Juveniles often seek shelter in mangrove estuaries, while adults spend most of their time in reef holes or caves. This is the largest porcupine fish species in South Africa, reaching a maximum length of 91 centimetres. The spot-fin porcupinefish is covered in long, sharp spines and small black spots (not blotches). It has an eclectic diet, often eating tricky prey including sea urchins and hermit crabs.