Dwarf Pea Puffers – A Beginners Care Guide

There are over 25 species of freshwater puffers, with the Dwarf Pea Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) being the smallest. Hailing from India and maxing out at 1” in size the Dwarf Pea Puffer is a fan favorite in the fish keeping hobby. They are almost irresistible with their tiny round bodies and highly inquisitive nature. The fact that this fish can independently control each eye only adds to their wonder.

Don’t let these fish fool you. As cute as they are, they have a reputation for being aggressive. Males tend to be more aggressive than females, but sexing them can be quite challenging. Only when they are adults can you notice the subtle differences between them. Males tend to have brighter colors and iridescent lines that show up around the eyes. Females become much rounder in the body with less coloration overall. The key is getting the right ratio of males to females. We recommend a minimum of 5 gallons of aquarium. A 10 gallon aquarium would be adequate for a group of 3 to 4 with only one male present. Following that scale a 20 gallon can hold 7 to 8 fish. Due to their nippy nature we do not recommend mixing them with any other species. We have had success mixing them with Bumble Bee Gobies and Otocinclus, but mixing any species needs to be done with extreme caution.

Dwarf Pea Puffers’ water parameter needs are quite standard. The temperature should range from 74 to 80 degrees and pH level anywhere from 6.8 to 7.8. Ammonia and nitrite need to stay at 0 with minimal nitrates being ideal. We find sponge filters to be the safest and most effective form of filtration. These puffers do not do well in fast moving water, so a larger canister or hang on the back filters need to be used with caution, with the intakes on these filters covered by a sponge. These fish will welcome live plants and a lot of places to duck and hide. Our ideal tank would include gravel, larger river rocks, driftwood, and some easy live plants. Some of the live plants we would choose for their tank would be Anubius species, Cryptocoryne species, Anacharis, floating Frogbit, and Java Fern.

The most challenging part of keeping these fish may also be the most fun aspect and that is, feeding them. Pea Puffers generally do not accept dry foods. Pellets and flake foods will go by unnoticed. Most times these fish must be started on a live food such as brine shrimp, blackworms, or pest snails and then slowly transitioned over to frozen or freeze dried foods. Some examples of these would be frozen bloodworms or freeze dried spirulina brine shrimp. Because of their carnivorous diet, water quality needs to be checked frequently and weekly water changes would benefit the fishes’ overall health.

Our mission at Absolutely Fish is to inspire families and individuals to learn, admire, and connect with these animals and their environments. When dealing with such a cool fish as the Dwarf Pea Puffer, they make our job easy. There are few fish that surpass the Dwarf Pea Puffers’ popularity and it’s easy to see why. Stop by the store and ask for Isha, Alyssa, Todd, or Richard; they love talking about puffer care!