Everything You Need to Know About Dwarf Pea Puffers
Contrary to what the name suggests, dwarf pea puffers are not a vegetable or fancy dish in an eccentric restaurant. In reality, dwarf pea puffers are one of the coolest and the most intriguing puffer fish you can have as a pet.
Carinotetraodon travancoricus, the scientific name of puffer fish, is native to southwestern India, where it is found in most rivers, including Chalakudy, Pamba, and Periyar.
Being the smallest species of puffer fish in the world, dwarf pea puffers prove to make excellent choices as pets because of their comic features and ability to inflate like a balloon.
Here is a complete guide that tells you all you need about dwarf pea puffers.
Dwarf pea puffers inhabit freshwater environments in more than 13 different rivers across the Western Ghats of India and Kerala. This unique fish also goes by other names such as pea puffer, Indian dwarf puffer, Malabar puffer, and pygmy puffer.
Its small size and unique appearance make it a really great pet option to add to aquariums.
Growing to a maximum length of only 1.4 inches, these pea puffers have a dense and round body with a tapered mouth and dorsal fins. The pea puffer’s broadest and roundest part is its middle, giving it a toffee wrapper-like appearance. One can say that the pea puffers have an almost cartoonish appearance.
In freshwater, these fishes are often found seeking shelter under floating weeds and vegetation, which protects them from becoming the lunch of some overhead bird. Pea puffers are shelter-loving animals who are not that fond of strong currents.
Pea puffers are a popular pet because of their size and appearance, but they are now, unfortunately, a threatened species. Pollution, environmental changes, and overhunting of the species also do not help in keeping this species line alive, which is now in danger of going extinct in many rivers of India.
The appearance of this fish plays a great role in the acquisition of its comic name. The dwarf pea puffer is a small oddball, hardly greater than 1.4 inches, so it is nearly the size of a small pebble. It is the smallest puffer fish in the world, which probably earned it the name of dwarf pea puffers.
The fish have overly large eyes that look ill-proportioned with their small body, giving them a cartoon-like appearance. They have an overly round ball-like body that tapers forward to form a rectangular-shaped mouth. The posterior end of the fish tapers considerably to form the dorsal fins. When the puffer fish moves, the small, almost non-existent fins are quite easy to overlook, painting a humorous scene.
The main weapon of other species of puffer fish is their slicing, beak-like mouths and their tendency to bite anything that comes their way with those fang-like teeth. They use their teeth as a sensory organ and essentially bite anything and everything.
Needless to say, puffer fish may look harmless enough, but their slicing mouth is probably way more dangerous than it looks! However, the dwarf pea puffer fish have not inherited any of these decapitating traits. This is also why they make a really good aquarium pet as other inhabitants of the tank, as well as the vegetation, are safe from an untimely death.
The dwarf pea puffer fish resembles a small green pebble-like creature because of its size and roundness. It has a greenish-yellow hue decorated by dark, equal-sized spots that cover the whole length of the fish except for the underbelly.
Males and females can be distinguished in this species. The males have a clear dark line running along the length of their bodies. They also have fine lines around the eyes along with a more yellow-colored underbelly. The females have none of these features, but they do have a slightly rounder appearance as compared to males.
Safely said, the puffer fish in the water looks like a slightly large, misshapen pea moving in the water. Adorable, right?
Looking at the small yet cute appearance of the dwarf pea puffers, you might conclude that these are docile, harmless, friendly species. However, you can’t be more wrong.
Contrary to their harmless appearance, dwarf pea puffers are quite aggressive and territorial. They do not take kindly to others invading their space and welcome strangers by infamously nipping off their fins.
In the wild, puffer fish mark territory as their own and go to great lengths to protect it. They exhibit similar behavior when kept in an aquarium.
Puffer fish are prey animals and prefer taking protection under floating seaweeds and dense vegetation. They prefer a great number of visual barriers, which would prove to be a hindrance for the predator while hunting the puffer fish.
Puffer fish generally prefer a busy and happening environment that allows them to hide from view and protect themselves from sea predators and other threats such as birds and animals.
The ideal tank size for the dwarf pea puffers is 10 gallons. These fish are small and highly motile. They are always in a frenzy of activity, given their agility and tendency to be prey to larger fishes. Given these circumstances, room for movement is always welcome.
A 10-gallon tank is ideal for housing one puffer fish; however, if you plan to house more than one of these cute creatures, add 5 gallons more to the tank with every pea puffer.
To provide the pea puffers with the optimum environment to thrive, it is always good to give them a greater space to live. So, a larger aquarium of around 20-30 gallons would be even better.
Puffer fish inhabit a shallow, slow-moving environment. To replicate the same in the tank, floating plants such as water lettuce are a great option. These plants provide the puffer fish with spaces to hide as well as shade and a natural replica of their original habitat.
The addition of vegetation in the tank is also essential to ensure that the puffer fish has an almost natural environment to live in. This will increase their comfort and aid in their security.
A temperature of 77-79°F should be maintained at all times. An optimum pH of 6.5-7 is also essential for the survival of the fishes. Anything different from this might prove to be fatal for these tiny oddballs.
Since vegetation is also important for the puffer to survive, the floor of the tank should have gravel or soft sand so that the plants have enough room to spread their roots. Along with increasing the comfort levels of the fish, adding plants will also help in the supply of oxygen for the fish to breathe.
Since these fish live in slow-moving waters, it is crucial that the water current in the tank is slow to medium and does not overpower their weak swimming bodies.
As with most fishes, clean water is a necessity for dwarf pea puffers. Poor water conditions act as a catalyst in deteriorating the health of dwarf pea puffers, so you should change the water at least once in seven days. A testing kit is of utmost use here to ensure that the water conditions are suitable enough and prevent avoidable accidents.
You should also introduce these little fish in the tank as soon as possible. The limited space in the transport bag is not very feasible or comfortable for these free-moving fish who want to swim all day long in big spaces.
Dwarf Pea Puffers and Other Mates
As stated above, these fish are territorial and can turn aggressive when unwelcome guests invade their territory. A better idea is to house them as a shoal of their own so that they feel more protected and other fish are also safe from getting their fins nipped off.
The dwarf pea puffers are always found in large shoals in natural habitats, unlike other puffer fishes. Their small size makes them quite vulnerable, which is why most of their life is spent trying not to become someone’s dinner or lunch.
Predators, both under and above the water, are more likely to prey on these fishes because of their small size and the fact that they cannot tolerate very high currents. So, living in a shoal of many other like-minded pea puffers is a survival tactic for them.
The shoal gives them protection and security against predators. With more pea puffers constantly on the lookout for any hint of threat, they can protect themselves well. Also, a shoal proves to be distracting enough for the predator who cannot set his mind upon which specific pea puffer to prey upon, giving the small pea puffers enough time to escape.
Scientific research proves that pea puffers’ sense of security and comfort levels are relatively high when they live in a shoal. The shoals have a greater energy level and metabolic rates, which, in turn, provide them with a greater lifespan.
In the wild, the dwarf pea puffer fish shares its habitat with other freshwater fishes such as filament barbs, long-finned barbs, paral fish, etc. If another species lives in the same tank as the puffer fish, there should be enough space between them. Along with that, the other species should be fast and short-finned.
Given the territorial and aggressive nature of the puffer fish, it is recommended not to add any other species to their tank.
Since the male puffer fish is more aggressive than the female, keeping the number of male puffer fishes to a minimum in the shoal is always a good idea. This will also promote breeding. An ideal arrangement would be one male puffer fish for every 2 female puffer fish.
When kept in large shoals, these puffer fish become less aggressive and less of a threat to other species in the tank.
You can house the puffer fish with other species, given that the latter is fast-swimming, short-finned, and peaceful, so it can easily get away from the pea puffers if the need persists. This may also reduce fights between the territorial puffer fish.
However, even doing so does pose a risk for the other fish. This is why you should closely monitor the behavior of the fish. You should also separate them in any event of harassment or fin nipping.
Fishes such as Kuhli loach, otocinclus, and neon tetras are some fishes that can be easily housed with dwarf puffer fish.
Food and diet
The harmless appearance of the puffer fish is quite a good contrast to its ferocious appetite. The puffer fish are hardcore carnivores and require adequate protein in their diet. They feast on algae, insects, water fleas, and other small invertebrates when in their natural habitat.
In the aquarium, puffer fish are a big fan of bloodworms, brine shrimps, and mosquito larvae. They accept these in both alive and frozen forms, which provides them with enough nutrition and protein.
Puffer fishes are found to be quite annoyed by flake food, dry food, or pellets. It is better not to increase their indignation levels by offering them these foods, as they do not show any interest in them.
The puffer fish devour live and frozen foods with gusto. However, many puffer fish have their own preferences, meaning that some eat only live foods and decline frozen foods. However, blood worms are usually accepted by most fish in both alive and dead forms. Hence, it is better to invest in both frozen as well as live foods and observe what your fish prefers.
Their small bodies are contradictory to their large appetite, and making sure that they get adequate nutrition may lead to overfeeding. This is why it’s better to feed them smaller portions twice a day instead of one big portion once a day.
They only eat a certain amount of food, and if more is added to the tank, it will most likely sit at the bottom of the aquarium untouched by the dwarf puffer fish. The settled food will attract bacteria and also ruin the water quality.
Dwarf puffer fish are quite messy, which is why it is important to remove settled food and waste from the aquarium routinely to minimize fungal and bacterial invasions. It is also good to introduce garlic-infused products since they promote feeding and improve the immune system.
Breeding pea puffers is not very difficult. You can easily breed the fish if you follow simple guidelines. A separate breeding tank is not usually required to breed pea puffers. They can be bred without much hassle in their own tank as well.
However, if you prefer breeding them in a separate tank, choose a tank that is half the size of the original tank so that the male and female get closer together.
These fish breed at a warm temperature in the wild. To replicate this, you can install a water heater that regulates the temperature at 79°F.
When the females are ready to breed, the males chase them. The female will then lead it to a densely vegetated area where she lays her eggs. The male member will then fertilize those eggs.
It takes around 48 hours for the eggs to hatch. After hatching, the fry takes about 2 to 3 days to completely devour the egg yolk. Once that happens, you can feed them normal foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Feeding these things has proved to encourage growth in newborns.
To ensure that the fry does not get sucked into the water filter and becomes part of the aquarium debris, it is important to cover the filter with a sponge or something similar.
Pea Puffer Tankmates
Pea puffers’ territorial and aggressive nature makes them prone to attacking other tank mates, even their own species. This is why it is recommended to keep them alone or in a shoal, much like the way they live in a natural habitat.
However, a few other fishes can adapt to living quite easily with pea puffers.
Placing similar-sized fish in the same tank will only promote more fights. Similarly, placing a larger fish may be a threat to the dwarf pea puffers. Smaller, faster-moving fishes are a safer bet and can be placed much more comfortably in the tank, given that there is enough space for the puffer fish to move and hide.
The most these adorable creatures can survive is 4-5 years. Lack of proper care and diet may cause early death.
To ensure that your dwarf pea puffers have a healthy life, it is important that they are given a clean environment, and their diet consists of all the essential nutrients and proteins they require.
Puffering Action of Puffer Fish
Puffer fish are known to puff up or inflate when subjected to a threat or predator. Sometimes, puffer fish puff up for no reason at all. They puff up by sucking up or inhaling copious amounts of water, which discourages predators.
The puffer fish then return to their normal size once the threat subsides. However, it would be cruel to threaten your pet puffer fish and make it puff up or swell just to see how it looks.
How big do dwarf pea puffers get?
The largest a dwarf pea puffer can grow is up to 1.5 inches. Their small size is what gives them their unique name.
Are pea puffers and dwarf puffers the same?
Pea puffers and dwarf puffers are two names for the same fish, i.e., Carinotetraodon travancoricus. Other popular names for the fish are Malabar puffer, pygmy puffer, and Indian dwarf puffers. These are found in the southwestern Ghats of India.
Which fish can live with dwarf pea puffers?
Not many fishes can live comfortably with dwarf pea puffers because of their aggressive and territorial nature. Ember Tetras are a good tank mate for dwarf pea puffers because of their peaceful nature. However, they do pose a risk of being eaten by dwarf pea puffers.
Can a pea puffer live in a 3-gallon tank?
Pea puffers can survive in a 3-gallon tank if other living conditions, such as vegetation and clean water, are provided. Ideally, a pea puffer should be kept in a 10-gallon or bigger tank.
How many pea puffers should be kept together in a 20-gallon tank?
Six to seven pygmy puffers can be housed in a 20-gallon tank. However, You should add no other species to the tank. Other than that, the tank should have ample vegetation.
You can buy dwarf pea puffers easily for $3- $15. However, it is encouraged not to hunt or purchase wild dwarf pea puffers as they are already on the road to extinction.
Pea puffers make really cute pets with their comic appearances, adorable sizes, and two big eyes.
Their ferocious nature makes it a bit difficult to place them in tanks with other species. A better option would be to place them in a shoal of their own, just the way they live in their natural habitat.
It is also important to add lots of plants and vegetation to provide enough cover for them to hide. These are unique species, and it is difficult to keep your eyes away from their agile bodies, so you’ll definitely have fun adding them to your aquarium!
Hi, my name is Adam and I’m an aquarium enthusiast! I didn’t discover the joys of being an ‘aquarium fanatic’ (as some of my friends call me!) until I was in my 20’s. When I first started out I found it difficult to find all the information I needed so I started this website to compile all the useful information I can think of. Enjoy!