Care Guide for Pea Puffers – the Smallest Pufferfish in The World

Photo of author


Care Guide for Pea Puffers – The Smallest Pufferfish in the World

Pea puffers are one of the coolest oddball species you can keep in a smaller-sized aquarium. Their helicopter-like maneuverability, independent moving eyes and ability to inflate as a small water balloon are some of their most notable attributes. In this practical care guide, we answer your most frequently asked questions about these amazing, little creatures.

What Is a Pea Puffer?

Carinotetraodon travancoricus – also known as the pea puffer, Indian dwarf puffer, Malabar puffer, and pygmy puffer – is the smallest pufferfish in the world and comes from fully freshwater environments in the southwestern tip of India. They can grow to just one inch in length and are available for purchase at your local fish shop. These fish are not usually sold at pet stores chains. Make sure you choose a healthy pet puffer that has a round belly. It also helps to ask the fish store employees what they feed the puffers since they can be picky eaters.

Pea puffers are mainly captive-bred. Wild caught peas may require additional deworming medication. We’ve used our quarantine medication trio as a preventative treatment on thousands of pea puffers with no harmful effects.

These three medications have been proven safe for puffers, even though they are considered “scaleless” and are not recommended for them. Make sure to use the full recommended dosages on them, or else pathogens may survive the treatment.

Do Pea Puffers Puff Up?

Yes. Although it is uncommon, you might catch pufferfish puffing up to practice or as a defense mechanism. Pufferfish puff up by sucking in water to increase their size and discourage would-be predators. If left alone, the fish will return to its natural shape.

Please do not deliberately stress out your pet to “make” it inflate. Instead, you can find plenty of pictures and videos online to see what it looks like. It’s a good idea to transport your pea puffer in a small container or cup, rather than a net, so the fish doesn’t get sucked in to air.

How many pea puffers can you have in a 10-gallon tank?

Given how territorial pea puffers can be, many people have a lot of success keeping just one pea puffer in a five-gallon aquarium by itself. You can keep one puffer, but you should provide water for five puffers and water for three for each additional. This means that you can keep up to three puffers in your 10-gallon tank and six or seven in your 20-gallon. But, their success rates will vary depending on how well they are set up. A tank that is completely empty and without much cover will likely be a battle zone for pufferfish. If you have a lush, densely planted aquarium, you might be able to handle three puffers in a 10-gallon space.

Of course, the larger the aquarium, the better. A larger aquarium will provide more water volume, which means less waste. This is important because poor water quality can cause health problems for puffers. It also gives the puffers more space to avoid each other. Pea puffers can be aggressive if there is one male to every two to three girls. However, most of them are sold as young, difficult to sex. You may have to rehome at most one male if you are in a situation where three young puffers were purchased and one female was left.

Up to six or seven pea puffers can be kept in a 20-gallon aquarium (with no other tank mates) if you provide lots of cover in the form of aquarium plants or decorations.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Pea Puffer?

It can be a little tricky, but males tend to have deeper coloration with a stripe or dot on their belly. Their bodies are slimmer and more aggressive. Females have a yellow belly and are plumper.

Pea Puffers Will Need a Heater

They do well in stable, tropical temperatures from 74 to 82degF, so if your room temperature is below this range or tends to fluctuate a lot, you need an aquarium heater. For more information on what size heater is right for you, read our full article here.

People have maintained tanks at pH levels between 6.5 and 8.4. The ideal pH range is between 7.2 and 7.5, but it is better to aim for stability than a certain number. Because they’re not the fastest swimmers, you should also use a gentle filter with a slower flow rate.

What do Pea Puffers eat?

These hardcore carnivores are best fed on a diet of frozen foods (like frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp) and live foods (like little pest snails or blackworms). They typically will not take dry foods, but we’ve had good luck with Hikari Vibra Bites because they look and even move like bloodworms as they’re sinking.

Pea puffers, unlike larger pufferfish, don’t need to be fed hard, crunchy foods in order to reduce their growing teeth. If you are unable to get hold of live snails it is not an issue. You should ensure they are fed a wide range of frozen foods to ensure they receive all the nutrients they need to live a long, healthy life.

Frozen worms are a favorite food of pea puffers. But, you can offer them a wide variety of foods to ensure that they get a balanced diet.

Are Pea Puffers able to live with other fish?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions about pea puffers. It’s not an easy question to answer. Some puffers can be a little timid, but most are pretty aggressive and territorial. It’s like having a dog who is prone to fighting. In most cases, your other pet or dog will be attacked. If they do, that’s great. However, it might not be worth the trouble of getting your dog a roommate if friendship is not possible.

Therefore, if you want to keep pea puffers, buy them with the expectation of keeping them in a species-only aquarium with no other tank mates. This means that you won’t be able to add any algae eaters or clean-up crew, so you’ll have to do more tank maintenance yourself. Pea puffers can be a little messy, especially if they don’t catch every bit of food that falls in the water, so it would be beneficial to use live aquarium plants to help consume the toxic waste compounds. It is best to have a tank that has low levels of algae and is densely planted. This will provide a safe environment for your helicopter fish to navigate.

Are Pea Puffers Good Pets?

This unusual species is more of a intermediate-level fish and we don’t recommend them for first-time fish keepers. Pea puffers have a unique diet and are not compatible with other fish in the community. Pea puffers are curious, can recognize their owners and can learn to recognize them. A pea puffer is a great water pet that will live on your desk or kitchen countertop.

Pea puffers are very curious fish with excellent eyesight, so you’ll often see them carefully examining everything in their aquarium.

To receive more care guides, sign up to our newsletter and receive a weekly e-mail with all our latest blog posts, videos, or live streams!