Dwarf Pea Puffer Care Guide: Easy Tips for Healthy Fish

Dwarf pea puffers are undoubtedly some of the most adorable freshwater species you’ll ever encounter. These tiny, round creatures have been gaining popularity among aquarists for their inquisitive nature and manageable size. Hailing from India, they typically max out at just 1 inch, making them an ideal choice for those new to fish keeping or for those with limited space.

As you explore the world of dwarf pea puffers, you’ll find that their unique qualities make them a joy to care for. Proper maintenance of their habitat, diet, and tank mates ensures your little fish flourish in a vibrant and healthy aquatic environment. So, let’s delve into the essential aspects of dwarf pea puffer care and get ready to welcome these charming fish into your underwater world.

Species Profile

Scientific nameCarinotetraodon travancoricus
Common namesPea Puffer, Dwarf Pufferfish, Pea Puffer Fish, Pygmy Pufferfish, Dwarf Pea Puffer, Malabar Pufferfish
DistributionSouthwest India
Size1-1.5 inches
Lifespan4-7 years
DietCarnivorous, prefers live snails, and crustaceans
TemperamentTerritorial, Males can be aggressive
Minimum tank size5 gallons (single), larger for multiple puffers
Water hardness5-25° dGH
Care levelIntermediate
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water typeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Breeding difficultyModerate
CompatibilityBest kept with similarly sized peaceful species or species-only tank

Dwarf Pea Puffer Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

Dwarf Pea Puffers, also known as Pygmy Pufferfish or Pea Pufferfish, are native to the freshwater rivers of India and parts of Southeast Asia. They thrive in slow-moving waters with dense vegetation. In the wild, you’ll usually find them in shallow rivers, where they have plenty of hiding spots amongst plants and driftwood.

Size and Shape

Dwarf Pea Puffers are small and plump, as their name suggests. Their body shape is round, with a maximum size of around 1.4 inches (3.5 cm) for males and 1 inch (2.5 cm) for females. Despite their compact size, they can still express their natural charm with agility.

Color and Markings

These little puffers have a delightful coloration, with a base color that can range from yellowish-green to brown. They have a unique pattern of dark spots and irregular lines, giving them an attractive appearance. Males tend to have a more vibrant coloration and pronounced markings, while females have lighter coloration and fainter markings.


Dwarf Pea Puffers have a relatively short lifespan, usually around 4 years when well-cared for in captivity. This may not be as long as some other aquarium fish species, but it’s still ample time for you to enjoy their charming qualities and rest assured knowing you’re providing a good home for these adorable puffers.

Diet and Feeding

Dwarf pea puffers are primarily carnivorous, requiring a diet rich in protein to stay healthy. To provide a balanced diet, offer your puffer a variety of frozen or live food options, ensuring their nutritional needs are met.

One great choice is brine shrimp, small freshwater crustaceans that are easy to culture at home. You can purchase them frozen or live at most pet stores, and they offer a nutrient-rich meal that can help enhance your puffer’s coloration.

Another option is daphnia, another excellent live food source for your pea puffer. Benefits of including daphnia in their diet include improved digestion and overall health.

Lastly, don’t forget to include bloodworms in their diet, offering a hearty meal and contributing to their well-being.

Remember to keep their feeding schedule consistent, offering food once or twice a day in small amounts. This ensures a happy and well-fed puffer in your aquarium.

Behavior and Temperament

Dwarf pea puffers (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) are fascinating little creatures with unique personalities. They’re known for being curious and intelligent, often spending their time exploring their environment and observing their surroundings. However, it’s essential to monitor their behavior, as they can be territorial and aggressive towards other fish in the tank.

To minimize aggression, provide them with ample hiding places like plants, rocks, and caves in your aquarium. This way, they can establish their territory, reducing the chances of unnecessary conflicts. Feeding your pea puffers a diet consisting of frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia can help keep them healthy and maintain their natural behaviors.

One more thing to note: it’s rare, but you might witness your pea puffer puffing up. This defensive mechanism occurs when they suck in water to increase their size and discourage predators. Don’t worry; they’ll return to their normal shape in due time, so just let them be.

Care and Tank Requirements

Tank Size

Dwarf pea puffers are small, but they need enough space to set up territories. A tank with a minimum of 5 gallons per fish is recommended. Make sure there is enough room for each fish to have its own territory.

Water Parameters

Keep the water parameters within suitable ranges for your pea puffers to thrive. Maintain a temperature between 76-82°F, pH levels around 7.0-7.8, and a hardness between 5-25 dGH.

Tank Setup and Decorations

For a natural environment, use fine sand as the substrate, as pea puffers enjoy digging and searching for food. Provide plenty of hiding spots using plants, rocks, and driftwood. Choose slow-growing plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Moss, which require less maintenance and create a lush environment.

Filtration and Aeration

Use a powerful, adjustable hang-on-back or canister filter to maintain water quality. Opt for low water flow to mimic the slow currents in their natural habitat. Ensure there is sufficient water circulation and oxygen supply to support your pea puffers.

Suitable Tank Mates

When setting up a tank for your dwarf pea puffer, it’s important to choose the right tank mates. These cute little fish need companions that won’t disturb them or be aggressive.

Consider the following tank mates for your dwarf pea puffer:

  • Chili Rasboras
  • Neon Tetras
  • Pygmy Corydoras
  • Otocinclus catfish
  • Celestial Pearl Danios

Remember that these are a few suggested options, and you should do further research to ensure compatibility. Use caution when introducing new tank mates, as the personality of your individual pea puffer may vary. It’s also a good idea to provide plenty of hiding spots and plants in the tank, as it will help create a more comfortable environment for all the fish.

By carefully selecting suitable tank mates, you’ll be able to create a harmonious and healthy aquatic environment for your beloved dwarf pea puffer and its new friends.

Breeding Process

Breeding dwarf pea puffers can be a rewarding experience. To start, you’ll need a minimum of a 10-gallon tank with a 1:2 male to female ratio, meaning one male and two females.

Step 1: Provide a clean, species-only planted tank. Ensure that the water parameters are suitable for pea puffers, with a slightly warmer temperature to encourage breeding.

Step 2: Introduce your pea puffers into the tank, making sure they are healthy and stress-free.

Step 3: Feed them high-quality, protein-rich foods like live ghost shrimps and live blood worms. These will help in their overall health as well as promote reproductive behavior.

Step 4: Include hiding spots and plants like Java Moss, which act as ideal breeding grounds for the puffers. It also helps in reducing stress levels for the fish.

As the breeding process occurs, keep an eye on the tank’s conditions, maintaining optimal water parameters and cleanliness. When the fry hatch, you’ll need to separate them from the adults to prevent predation. Provide them with suitable food like baby brine shrimp or micro worms.

Remember, patience is crucial when breeding pea puffers. It may take time for them to breed successfully, so keep monitoring their progress and maintaining a comfortable environment. Good luck on your pea puffer breeding journey!

Common Diseases and Treatments

Dwarf pea puffers can be susceptible to various diseases, but with proper care, you can prevent or treat most of these ailments. Some common diseases that affect pea puffers include Ich, fin rot, and internal parasites.

Ich is a parasitic infection caused by the organism Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Symptoms include white spots on the puffer’s body and fins. To treat Ich, raise your tank’s temperature to 86°F (30°C) for at least ten days and use appropriate anti-parasitic medication.

Fin rot is a bacterial or fungal infection that leads to fraying or loss of fins. Fin rot can be caused by poor water quality or aggressive tank mates. You can prevent fin rot by keeping your tank clean and ensuring your puffer lives in a stress-free environment. If your puffer suffers from fin rot, treat the affected fish with antimicrobial medications specifically designed for fin rot.

Internal parasites can cause weight loss, bloating, and decreased appetite in your dwarf pea puffer. Treat internal parasites using anti-parasitic medication, following the dosage instructions from the manufacturer. Additionally, feed your puffer high-quality, parasite-free food to avoid future issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do pea puffers eat?

Pea puffers primarily enjoy eating small live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. It’s essential to provide them with a varied diet to ensure their health. Some pea puffers might also accept high-quality pellet food, but live or frozen options should still be their primary source of nutrition.

What tank size is suitable for dwarf pea puffers?

A tank of at least 5 gallons is ideal for a single pea puffer. Remember, pea puffers are territorial creatures, so if you plan on housing multiple puffers, a larger tank might be necessary. Provide ample hiding spots to minimize stress and territorial disputes.

Can pea puffers coexist with other fish like guppies?

Pea puffers are best suited for species-specific tanks, as they can be aggressive and nip at the fins of other fish. Guppies are generally not suitable tank mates for pea puffers due to their long, flowing fins, which can easily become a target for nipping.

What are ideal water parameters for pea puffer care?

The ideal water parameters for dwarf pea puffers are a temperature between 72-82°F (22-28°C), a pH level between 6-7.5, and a water hardness between 5-25 dGH. It’s crucial to maintain stable water conditions and perform regular water changes to ensure the health and well-being of your pea puffers.

How many pea puffers should be kept together?

You should keep pea puffers in groups of at least three to five, as they are social creatures. However, keep in mind their territorial nature and provide a spacious tank with plenty of hiding spots to minimize stress and aggression among the group.