Pea Puffer Tank Setup, Care & Species Profile (Dwarf PufferFish)

It is believed that the pea puffer is a smart and small freshwater fish guaranteed to make a great addition to any Pea Puffer Tank Setup.

Due to their tiny size and their tendency to consume live snails Pea puffers have become well-known among fishkeepers as well as aquarists in recent times. However, their popularity has resulted in their designation as a vulnerable, threatened species, since the majority of specimens are captured on the open sea.

Origins of Pea Puffer In The Wild

The pea puffers are freshwater fish that originate from central India. They are native to India. The pea puffer is one of the smallest and most distinctive pufferfish species in the world.

These shoals together in large groups. They move across the riverbanks, eating copepods, smaller snails, crustaceans as well as insects, and larvae.

Unfortunately, these fish have been granted the classification of “vulnerable when caught in the wild.

The number of them has dwindled over the last few years due to the loss of habitat and overfishing.

If possible, you should purchase puffers from a tank breeding company.

If you decide to purchase the wild-caught puffer, you should be sure that you thoroughly deworm them.

Pea Puffer Facts & Overview

Care Level:Intermediate
Temperament:Territorial and aggressive
Colour Form:Sex-dependent, but mostly yellow
Lifespan:4 years
Size:1.4 inches
Minimum Tank Size:5 gallons
Tank Set-Up:A lot of plants
Compatibility:Tropical freshwater

It is also known as the Pea Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) can also be referred to by a number of other names, including that of Dwarf Pufferfish, Pea Puffer Fish, Pygmy Pufferfish, Dwarf Pea Puffer, and the Malabar Pufferfish.

It is named this way because of its size. It is among the smaller members of its family and grows to a maximum that is 1.4 inches.

Their tiny size and their lifespan which can reach 4 years amongst other factors have led to the rise of the species in the last few decades.

This has led to wild-caught specimens being taken, which has led to this species becoming declared vulnerable at risk of extinction. This is the reason it’s crucial to source your catch from a reliable establishment that breeds fish in the wild in a captive setting.

The fish can be bought for a reasonable cost of about $4 for each fish.

We suggest buying at a local fish shop since this will give you the chance to choose healthy fish.

They are fascinating small creatures. Pea Puffer Fish are able to alter their body color. Also, they are able to operate or move their eyes in an independent way of each other.

Typical Behaviour

Male Pea Puffer Fish can be extremely territorial and aggressive with one another, which is why it is essential that when you keep the fish you only keep one male and a few females.

This can reduce aggressive behavior as well as encourage breeding.

Contrary to numerous varieties of Tetraodontiformes that can be described as solitary fish, Pufferfish are in fact social fish that can be often found in large groups.

They cover all the areas of the tank and are located in and around plants and outside in their natural habitats in open scavenging for food. They have a tendency to become inquisitive and pay at their surroundings inside the tank and the things they do out of it.


The species is difficult to describe, but I’ll try my best.

Dwarf Pea Puffers were named because of their tiny size. They can reach an average height of 1.4 inches which makes them one of the smaller Pufferfish species found on earth.

Pea puffers sport a pointed snout that is tipped with a tiny beak made of hard keratin, which they use to chew snails.

Both are round in the body and slim towards the back of the dorsal as well as the anal fins. If you look at them, you’ll notice their big eyes for their body size.

Similar to other freshwater puffers they mostly swim using a pair of pectoral fins, making it appear that they hover on the surface, like a bumblebee hovering over the garden.

Males and females are different in appearance, which makes them easy to sexually assault. Males have a bright yellow belly, compared to females who have lighter yellow-white bellies.

Males also have a dark stripe of skin on their stomach, which females don’t have. Males tend to have more of a darker golden-green coloration whereas females tend to be generally a lighter yellow-green.

Males and females both are covered in dark patches in the lower portion of the body. However, males have a distinct dark stripe that extends across their pectoral fins to the caudal fin and females also have tiny black spots all over their bodies.

Males also have wrinkles on their eyes.

Habitat and Tank Requirements

The Dwarf Puffer comes from rivers or lakes as well as estuaries located in Southwest India. The water’s conditions differ for the bodies of water, with an average pH of 6.5-8.5 with an overall temperature of 77°F. Certain parts have been found to be 92°F.

They can be located in slightly brackish waters in estuaries However, they aren’t brackish water fish and should not be kept in these conditions in your home aquarium because this could decrease their lifespan.

The home range of their property receives about 12 hours of sunlight throughout the summer season and decreases to 10.5 hours during the winter months.

They are attracted to slow-flowing zones of rivers and still lake waters in banks in which there is plenty of vegetation to protect against the flow of water and predation.

These are densely established areas where these clever small hunters take care of their eating and breeding.

Pea Puffer Tank Setup

Aqueon LED MiniBow Kit

91SL+Xl1h0L. AC SL1500

Best For Pea Puffer

  • Equipped with Smart Clean Technology. It performs water changes in less than 2 minute
  • It improves water quality for a healthy and happy fish
  • Includes hood and elevated base, aquarium vessel, power filter, small filter cartridge, water conditioner, fish food, and setup guide
  • Great home for your small fish
  • Perfect for the first time and experienced fishkeepers of all ages.

In your aquarium, try to keep the fish in freshwater, with temperatures between 77 and 79 degF. and the pH of your water must be kept within 6.5 and 7.0. Always try to use best aquarium backgrounds and other basics.

If you’re using the filter that has adjustable outlets for the water supply, put it toward the rear of the tank in order to keep the flow of water to an absolute minimum.

The substrate should consist of coarse sand or small particle gravel which allows room for roots of plants to grow.

In the case of plants the more plants you can include the better since it gives an overall more natural experience for your fish. This can encourage breeding as well as supply ample oxygen dissolved to allow your fish to breathe.

Plants such as Anubias Nana, Stargrass, Temple Compacta, Cabomba as well as Java Moss are all great alternatives, and there are plenty of other options to pick from.

It is possible to buy you some aquascape tweezers and scissors for keeping your plants in good condition and for planting new ones even if you have fish already inside the aquarium to avoid being attacked with their razor-sharp beaks.

Pea Puffer Tank Size

The minimum size of tank suggested for a dwarf puffer is a 5-gallon tank (19 liters) tank (bigger is always better! ).

If you’d like to have multiple puffers, it is best to supply 5 gallons per fish. Thus, a couple will need to be stored in 10 gallons (39 liters) Three should be in 15 gallons (57 liters) and then on.

A breeding set-up should be 20 gallons which will provide ample enough space to allow 1 male to be housed together with 3 females.

For every 5 gallons of water your aquarium has, you need to just have only one Pea Puffer.

Water Parameters

Tank-bred puffers are able to adjust to a greater variety of environmental conditions.

  • Temperature: 23°-28°C (74°-82°F)
  • Ammonia/Nitrite: 0
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm
  • pH: 7.0-7.5
  • GH: 3-20 dGH
  • KH: 3-10 dKH


Filtration is the most important aspect of the aquarium you have.

Filters move water around the tank to stop it from getting stagnant. However, they perform more than that.

The beneficial bacteria live in aquarium filters that aid in detoxifying waste byproducts in the water.

The Nitrogen Cycle in an Aquarium

Fish are constantly dumping waste in the water they swim in. These wastes are deposited on the substrate and begin to turn into a fungus.

When the wastes are broken down they begin to release the deadly ammonia (NH3) into the water. This is extremely dangerous since it takes only 1 part of a million ammonia for it to cause stress, and possibly kill many kinds of species.

Fortunately, the bacteria that live in the fish filter consume ammonia, and transform it to nitrite (NO2 -1)and later into nitrate (NH3).

Nitrate is less harmful and may be allowed to accumulate within the column of water between water changes every week.

Without a filter, waste is likely to build up in the tank until it becomes polluted. Filtration is crucial for successful fish keeping and a good plan is to add filters to your tank.


The species doesn’t have any specific needs in relation to the substrate.

Pea puffers perform best in a well-groomed tank, and you may need to consider using some type of plant substrate that will aid in the growth of many roots-based plants.

Study the soil prior to adding the substrates into your aquarium. A lot of them can alter the water’s chemistry and can cause a drop in pH and perhaps leaching ammonia. Certain types of filters also need to be replaced every few years.


The puffers of pea require a temperature of 23°-28°C (74°-82°F) significantly higher than normal room temperatures.

A heater is absolutely essential for this species.

Plants and Decor

The live plants constitute the main aspect of a pea puffer aquarium. They prefer a densely planted tank. They’ll be happier and more secure in a small, secluded jungle.

This is particularly the case If you are planning to keep several puffers. The densely planted tanks give everyone a place to escape and avoid aggressive neighbors.

It’s best to have plenty of plants in the substrate, which will rise over the edge of your tank. Pea puffers are happy to hover on the stems seeking food.

It’s recommended to plant floating plants that shade the tank and lessen reflections and harsh glare from bright lights.


It is essential to strike some sort of balance in lighting in a pea puffer tank. Puffers are better off with diffuse lighting. The bright light suddenly snapping on can startle them and create stress.

However, you need solid, reliable lighting to allow for the growth of living plants in your tank.

I believe the best method to accomplish both is to include floating plants that cut off the light and create an even more dappled effect.

Additionally, if you own the type of light that is programmed to be turned slowly instead of all at one time the dawn cycle or “ramp-up” period could save your fish from some tension.

If you do not have any programmable light, you can consider switching on an intense light in the room for a couple of minutes prior to switching on the tank light.

Tank Mates

Wild, this species may be seen throughout river systems with other freshwater fish species like Filament Barbs, long-finned Barbs, Paral Fish, Malabar Leaf Fish, and Orange Chromite.

It is, however, possible to house them in a group tank, we would recommend keeping them in a species-only aquarium due to their territorial and aggressive behavior towards other fish (which typically result in fin nipping).

If you choose to keep these in tanks for community use, make sure you keep them in a tank with smaller fast-swimming species such as Mosquito Rasbora, Harlequin Rasbora, Glowlight Tetra, Neon Tetras, Filament Barb, Galaxy Rasbora, Zebra Danio, Leopard Danio, Rummy Nose Tetra, Siamese Algae Eaters, Ember Tetras, Dwarf Otocinclus, Candy Cane Tetra, etc.

We don’t advise you to keep them in a tank in a different species, however, should you decide to do so, be sure you keep separate tanks set up in the event that they need separation from another to allow for antibiotic wound treatment because of nips.

The idea of putting these voracious small predators within one’s prized shrimp collections is also not recommended, since these animals can be active hunters and will eat any shrimp species of small size like cherry shrimp that they see.

Small snails such as Bladder Snails and Malaysian Trumpet Snails as an example are vulnerable to predation.

Beware of keeping this miniature Puffer Fish with any predatory species such as the large Catfish or any slow-moving and long-finned species of fish, such as Guppies that are likely to be bitten by the fins nipped.

Can You Keep Pea Puffers Together?

It is strongly recommended to keep males housed apart from one another since they may develop territorial and aggressive attitudes towards one another especially when they are breeding.

A single male is best housed with multiple females. This will not only give them an environment that is more comfortable but also boost the chances of successful mating.


In their natural habitats, Pea Puffer Fish feed on tiny quantities in microscopic algae, insects, larvae, copepods, and water fleas.

In an aquarium, you can ensure that you feed your fish a diet that includes live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, small shrimps, cyclops, and snails. Sometimes, algae wafers could also be added, however, they are not likely to be consumed.

Try feeding your Dwarf Puffer Fish every day twice most likely at the beginning of your day and in the evening. They’re extremely smart fish and can quickly recognize your presence in the room, which will signal to them they’re ready for feeding.

They might appear hungry, but they must adhere to the amount of food that they can consume within 3 minutes after being put into the tank, to keep from over-feeding them.

Overfeeding could cause an increase in the levels of nitrate of your aquarium, which could create unwanted algae in your tank. Plants can absorb nitrates since they are one of many essential nutrients.

An effective method of keeping the tank in good condition is to purchase or build a smaller coconut feeding bowl. It can be put on the base of the aquarium, and you can make use of long tweezers to put food items inside to prevent getting your fingers and hands nipped.

Fish keepers have pointed out that this species does not take dry food items such as pellets or chips. It is important to supply live or frozen foods exclusively.

Pea Puffer Care

Pea puffers are also referred to as the Dwarf Pufferfish, Pea Puffer Fish, Pygmy Pufferfish, Dwarf Pea Puffer, and the Malabar Pufferfish.

Dwarf Puffers are well-known for nipping and becoming aggressive with one another, which means it’s just a matter of time before they get injured.

This is the reason you need to keep males and females apart.

The mistake of placing more than one male fish in your aquarium may result in fights with each other and small chunks of flesh being taken from them. This makes the perfect habitat for fungal or bacterial illnesses.

In the first place, try to prevent this from happening by doing your own research about the best way to sex the fish (read the section about appearance). Fish that are injured should be put in a separate tank to receive the proper antifungal and antibacterial treatment.

As with all tropical fish, when the temperature levels drop in the aquarium, it can trigger the fish’s immune system to decrease, making the fish prone to diseases like the Ich disease (more often known as white spot disease).

The signs of infection can be quite difficult to recognize initially.

White spot treatments can be found in the majority, if not all local fish shops, and are also available on the internet. The most effective treatments for Ich are ones that have a copper sulfate or formalin base.

Since Dwarf Puffer Fish are such messy eaters, it is important to conduct gravel cleans every week to remove any leftover food waste or parasitic spores with the gravel vacuum.

Garlic-infused products could also be added to an aquarium to not only boost the health of their immune system but also promote eating.

This is crucial for pufferfish that has just been purchased. Wild-caught specimens are often unable to eat once they are placed in tanks, due to their long and tiring journey.

However, as previously stated it is best to avoid buying wild-caught fish to ensure the health of this species.


They are usually offered as juveniles. However, you will not be able to precisely sexually sex them until they’re nearly mature.

The breeding of Dwarf Puffer Fish is relatively simple as long as you keep the temperature around 79 degrees. A 5-gallon breeding tank is suitable for a male that is housed with a female However, having the need for a separate breeding tank is not required because they’ll breed in the main aquarium.

Tanks with a lot of vegetation are essential as males frequently chase females through the aquarium until the female can breed. In this stage, the female will lead the male between these plants in order to spawn. Java moss clumps are a great place to spawn.

It is also possible to use pieces of bogwood to create a more natural, and also create the perfect habitat for the beneficial bacteria to the Nitrifying bacteria to thrive on.

After spawning eggs, fry emerges from their eggs within 48 hours. After the fry has completely consumed the egg yolk (2-3 days after hatching) it is time to feed them the fry, a mixture consisting of live infusoria and newly hatched brine shrimp to promote rapid growth.

A filter made of sponges should be put within the tank in order the tank has little to no water flow as otherwise the fry could get taken into the filter.

Is the Pea Puffer Right For Your Aquarium?

They are great fish for beginners as well as experienced fish keepers.

There’s no doubt about it. There’s something special about these fish that are tiny. Despite their tiny dimensions, they have huge personalities as well as a variety of attitudes.

Pea puffers do not require tanks of any size, which means it’s not necessary to dig through the contents of your 401(k) to get going with these.

I strongly recommend establishing an exclusive tank to house these fish. It is possible to pair the two to otocinclus catfish, but be ready to relocate the otos in the event that the puffers begin to become too nippy.

Pufferfish are an intelligent, omnivorous species that can be observed engaged in hunting and foraging throughout the entire area in your tank.

Because of their territorial and aggressive behaviors, Males shouldn’t be housed together, instead, men who have a single partner should be placed with several females.

We don’t recommend keeping other fish together as they are well-known fin nippers.

They can be easily bred, provided you meet the proper parameters for water and fill up your tank with plenty of plants such as Java Fern.

Do you have Pea Puffer Fish on your wishlist of fish? Tell us about your Pea Puffer Tank Setup in the comment section below…


Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.

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