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Pea Puffer Care, Food, Tank Setup, Breeding & More

Pea puffer is one of the smallest pufferfish in the world. The fish is highly sought after by aquarists due to its unique behavior and appearance. Also known as the dwarf pufferfish, you can keep the exotic-looking fish in a small aquarium.

In this guide, you will learn about pea pufferfish breeding and care tips. You will also learn about the their compatibility, size, aquarium conditions, and other useful information regarding the fantastic fish.

Species Overview

Level of CareIntermediate
Life Expectancy4 years
Size1.4 inches
Aquarium (Tank) Size5 gallons
Water Conditions77 °F – 79 °F (25 °C-26 °C); pH level 6.5 to 8.4
Aquarium (Tank) EnvironmentFreshwater
Aquarium (Tank) MatesBest alone

Pea pufferfish (carinotetraodon travancoricus) belongs to the Tetraodontidae family which is an ancient species. The fish species had emerged about 40 million years ago from coral-dwelling fish.

The dwarf pufferfish’s remarkable ability is to fill up the body with air or water when under extreme stress.

They are also known as dwarf pufferfish, Malabar pufferfish, and pygmy pufferfish. They have unique helicopter-like maneuverability. The pufferfish also has independently moving eyes that look outlandish.

The fish has a small lifespan of 4 years. But aquarists the world over like to have the oddball in their aquariums. The fish is genuinely magnificent that can change color depending on the mood and time of the day. They generally get paler when afraid and darker when feeling aggressive.

Natural Habitat

Pea pufferfish is native to India. The fish habitat in freshwaters in rivers and lakes in southwestern India. Mostly found in the states of Kerala and Karnataka to the south. Unlike other pufferfish, dwarf fish is found only in freshwaters.

The males live in waters that are slightly more alkaline. The average temperature in the water is about 770F (250C). But sometimes, the temperature reaches 820F (300C). Their home in the wild receives about 10 to 11 hours of daylight throughout the year.

In the wild, the fish tends to occupy slow-moving parts of the rivers. They are mostly found in still lakes near the banks in the shelter of plant life. The plant life not only provides them cover from light but also protects them against predators. The intelligent little fish spend most of the time feeding on plants and insects in the water.



The fish’s body is rotund and thin towards the back where anal and dorsal fins are present.


The eyes of the fish are relatively large as compared to the body. The fish have a green color body with uneven shape black spots.


Pea puffer is one of the smallest pufferfish in the world. The fish grows to just 1.4 inches. It would help if you did not assume that the little fish will be harmless to other fish. It is highly territorial and injures fish that are four times its size.

Most pet stores sell juvenile dwarf pufferfish. You cannot determine the gender of the fish. In case you have purchased more than one pufferfish and two or more turn out to be males, you may need to keep the males in a separate aquarium.

Gender Differences

You can’t quickly tell males and females apart. But males tend to have a dot or stripe on the belly. Moreover, they have a deeper color as compared to females. They also display more aggression towards other fish.

Females, in contrast, have pale yellow bellies. They don’t have a stripe on the abdomen similar to males. The body color is typically pale yellow-green. Females also don’t have wrinkles around the eyes that are present in male dwarf pufferfish.

Dwarf pufferfish looking at you

Behavior & Temperament

Pea dwarf puffers are highly aggressive and territorial. The fish attacks not only other fish but each other as well. It would help if you kept a pair in a single 8-gallon aquarium. It will help in reducing the aggression between the fish.

Dwarf pygmy fish is unlike other pufferfish in that they are not solitary fish. We can find them in shoals in the wild. You can keep one male and several females in the Aquarium. The male dwarf fish won’t usually attack and injure females.

Pea pygmy fish, similar to other pufferfish, are curious and intelligent. They will pay close attention to the inside and outside of the tank.

When we introduce Pea fish in the tank, they will be shy at the start. But over time, the fish will become inquisitive and start exploring the tank. It would help if you gave them some time to them so that they become bold and comfortable.

Consider keeping the light low as bright light will cause stress. It would help if you also gave Pea enough time to move around the tank.


Pea pygmy pufferfish can live for up to 4 years. But it will depend on how you take care of the fish. The fish may live up to two or more months more than average in optimal conditions.

Avoid putting salts in the Aquarium to make the water brackish, as this will shorten the fish’s life span. You should also monitor the water conditions and keep the water temperature at pH levels within acceptable limits.

Dirty pool water will significantly reduce the life span of the fish. You should clean the water regularly since pufferfish can’t tolerate polluted water. Consider installing a robust water filter to ensure that the water is kept clean at all times.

Why Do Pea Puffers Inflate?

Dwarf pufferfish can puff up the body in self-defense. Sometimes the fish inflates the body just for practice. It can, such as air or water increase the size of the fish. It makes the fish looks big and imposing on the predators.

The fish shrinks banks typically to size when left alone. But sometimes it will die, significantly if the fish inflates by gulping air outside of the take. It would help if you did not deliberately cause stress to your fish to watch it grow. Instead, you can watch YouTube videos of the fish inflating its body.

When moving the fish, you should be careful to avoid stressing out the fish. The fish will puff up if you try to catch the fish using a net. Instead, it would help if you transferred the fish to a small container along with water. It will ensure that the fish remains submerged in water at all times at does not inflate outside, which will be fatal for the fish.

Tank Mates

Pea puffers may be small, but they have an aggressive temperament. You cannot predict whether they will live peacefully with another fish. Males tend to be territorial and nip the fins of other fish.

Females are generally easygoing. Peas explore the aquarium in groups.

You can keep them with other peaceful fish. But avoid keeping them with long-finned slow-moving fish like Gouramis, angelfish, and Bettas since their trailing fins are tempting for even the females.

Otocinclus is more active and will keep away from the small pufferfish. Some aquarists also recommend dwarf suckermouth catfish that are fast swimmers and can evade these aggressive species.

Dwarf puffer fish can live along with other small fish like Danios and Tetras. But they will show aggression during feeding time. The best option is to keep one male with a group of females.

Pea pygmy fish can also live with crustaceans such as prawns, shrimp, and snails. They will occasionally make a meal of them when hungry. Can be kept with shrimps like the Amano as they are big enough and won’t get eaten by them.

Tank Conditions

Dwarf puffer fish do well in tropical conditions. It would help if you kept the temperature between 77 °F – 79 °F (25 °C-26 °C). If you keep on the air conditioner where the Aquarium is installed, you may need to use an aquarium heater.

A gentle flow is best for them. It is essential since these are slow swimmers. Additionally, they thrive in slightly alkaline water. You should ensure that the pH level is between 6.5 and 8.4. The ideal levels are between 6.5 and 7.0. But you don’t have to keep the water at a specific pH level since the fish is highly adaptable.

Dwarf pufferfish are not that picky when it comes to water type. You can keep them in slightly hard water with a ppm of about 125. However,

the fish is susceptible to ammonia in the Aquarium. Good filtration is essential to prevent the accumulation of ammonia which can be deadly for the fish. Plants in the Aquarium will also help in keeping ammonia at a low level.

Pea puffer fish don’t require as much water changes as other fish species. You have to change only 10 percent of the water every week. Consider replacing more water if there are lots of fish inside the tank.

Tank Setup

Similar to all other puffers, most aquarists have success breeding only one dwarf pufferfish. You can keep the fish in a 5-gallon tank. If you want to have more than one, the general rule is to provide three additional gallons for each extra fish.

So, if you want to keep two of these in an aquarium, you should keep them in an 8-gallon tank. In case you want to keep eight in the aquarium, you should keep them in a 26-gallon tank.

Of course, the larger the tank size, the better it will be for them. More space means more territories which will result in less aggression. Moreover, larger tanks mean more significant dilution of waste. It will result in cleaner water which is important since dirty water can harm the fish’s health.

Avoid overcrowding the aquarium with too many plants and decoration items. There should be one hiding place for each pea puffer and lots of aquatic plants for them.

Food & Diet

Pufferfish are omnivores that can eat a variety of food items. The fish eat live animals and plants. They prefer live food and normally reject freeze-dried food, pellets, and flake. The favorite food includes live worms and brine shrimp. It would help if you also gave the fish occasional treats to ensure a well-rounded diet.

Unlike bigger pufferfish, Pea pufferfish don’t have to grind their teeth on snail shells. But it would help if you still fed them snails. The fish will suck the snails from the shell instead of crushing the shells.

If you want to give them frozen food, you can provide them with meat like black worms and bloodworms. Additionally, you can mix the frozen fish with live feeds. It would help if you fed the pygmy pufferfish three times a day. Avoid overfeeding the fish as it will result in constipation and bloated abdomens.

Safety Advice: You should not feed them using bare hands. Always wear high-quality gloves if feeding the fish by hand. Clean the glove after you have provided the fish.

Pygmy pufferfish in aquarium

Dwarf Pufferfish Breeding Guidelines

Breeding Pea puffer fish is not that difficult, unlike other pufferfish species. You have to feed them a quality diet and keep the right temperature to encourage them to mate.

Males will chase the female around the tank to mate. So, the Aquarium must be enormous. Moreover, Install lots of plants with Indian waterweed, Cabomba, and Java moss. Java moss good option since the fish will scatter the egg. The plant will hold the eggs for the male to fertilize.

Eggs will hatch about five days after fertilization. You should remove the parents to ensure that they don’t eat their young. Pea Puffers’ fry will start to swim within 7 to 14 days after coming out of the egg. You should feed them small food items such as micro worms.

Young fry will multiply if the conditions are right. The fish will grow to about 0.4 inches in just two months. They will become adult size in about seven to eight months.

Common Diseases

Dwarf puffers are hardy fish. They don’t quickly get sick.

But the fish is sensitive to water conditions. Dirty water will result in parasitic and bacterial infections common in freshwater fish. Fish rot and Ich are the most common diseases that afflict them.

To avoid diseases and keep the fish healthy, you must keep the water inside the Aquarium clean at all times. Install a quality filter to remove nitrates and other harmful chemicals from the water. With proper care, your fish won’t get ill due to viral, bacterial, or parasitic infection.

Where to Buy?

You won’t easily find freshwater Pea puffer fish for sale. Most pet stores don’t keep the fish as it’s highly territorial and aggressive.

If you find a pet store with dwarf puffer fish for sale, you should pick a healthy fish with a rounded belly. Ask the store staff or seller what they feed to the fish since they are picky about food.

Their breeding is done mostly in the aquarium or on small farms. But if you get a wild pufferfish, you may have to use deworming medication.

Quarantine the wild ones and look for any signs of diseases. Make sure that you use the recommended dosage for the treatment of diseased fish. It would help if you introduced only healthy fish to the Aquarium.

Wrapping Up

Pea pufferfish is aggressive and territorial which makes it challenging to keep up with other fish. The fish is not for beginner aquarists. The fish have special dietary requirements. Moreover, they fight even with other fish of their kind.

But most professional aquarists love to keep these due to their eccentric behavior and inquisitive nature.

They can even learn to recognize the owner. The fish is excellent to keep in a small aquarium by the kitchen or office desk.