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


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. They are well-known for their ability inflate like small water balloons and helicopter-like maneuverability. This practical care guide answers the most frequently asked questions regarding these tiny, adorable creatures.


What is a Pea Puffer and How Does It Work?

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. Growing only to one inch long, they’re sold for anywhere from $3 to $15 at your local fish store (usually not available at pet store chains). Pick a healthy puffer with a well-rounded stomach when choosing your pet. Because puffers can be picky eaters, it is a good idea to ask fish store workers what they feed them.

Today, most pea puffers have been captive bred. But, wild caught animals may need to be dewormed. We’ve used our quarantine medication trio as a preventative treatment on thousands of pea puffers with no harmful effects.

Although puffers are considered “scaleless”, these medications have been shown to be safe for them. To avoid infection, make sure you use the entire recommended dosage.

Do Pea Puffers Puff Up?

Yes. Although it is uncommon, you might catch pufferfish puffing up to practice or as a defense mechanism. To increase their size, pufferfish suck in water. This will discourage predators. It will soon return to its normal size if it is left alone.

Do not stress your pet to make it inflate. Instead, you can find plenty of pictures and videos online to see what it looks like. Also, if you need to move or transport your pea puffer, it’s best to use a cup or small container (instead of a net) so that the fish remains submerged in water at all times and won’t accidentally suck in air.

How Many Pea Puffers are You able to 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. The general rule is to give five gallons to the first puffer and three to each subsequent puffer. The result is that it’s possible to keep three or more puffers in one 10-gallon aquarium and six to seven in a 20 gallon tank. However your success rate depends on how well the environment is set up. You will likely see a pufferfish battle area if the tank is bare and lacking cover. 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. To reduce fighting, if you have three young puffers that you bought and you end up with two females and two males, it may be necessary to rehome one of them.

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 distinguish between a male or female Pea Puffer?

Although it can be difficult to see, males are more likely to have deeper colors with a stripe or dot at their stomachs. Their bodies tend to be slimmer, which makes them more aggressive. Females, on the other hand, have a yellow belly and tend to be plumper in shape.

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. Find out the right size heater for you in our article.

The pH range of tanks has been maintained at 6.5-8.4. The ideal pH range is between 7.2 and 7.5, but it’s better to aim for stability than a certain number. You should use a gentle filter that has a slower flow rate, as they are not the fastest swimmers.

What Do Pea Puffers Eat?

Hardcore carnivores prefer to eat frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms, and live foods like little pest snails and 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.

Most larger pufferfish must be fed hard, crunchy foods to grind down their ever-growing teeth, but thankfully pea puffers don’t have this problem. If you are unable to get hold of live snails it is not an issue. Just make sure to feed a wide variety of frozen foods so that they get all the essential nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life.

Frozen bloodworms, a favorite food among pea puffers are great but you should offer them a variety to ensure they get a healthy diet.

Can Pea Puffers 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. This is like owning a dog that is prone towards fighting. Most likely, your other dog or pet will be attacked. If they don’t, it’s okay. 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 add any algae eaters to your tank or keep them clean. You’ll have to do all the maintenance. 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. The ideal tank should be well-balanced with densely planted plants. It will provide a beautiful underwater jungle for your tiny helicopter fish to navigate.

Are Pea Puffers Good Pets?

This strange species is more of an intermediate fish so we don’t recommend it to fish keepers who are just starting out. They have special dietary requirements and don’t get along with other community fish. Pea puffers can be very curious and have their own unique behaviors and looks. They are even able to recognize their owners. Pea puffers are a wonderful water pet that can be kept on your desk or counter.

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

For more care guides like this, sign up for our newsletter to receive a weekly email with all or our latest blog posts, videos, and live streams!