Care Guide for Pea Puffers – The Smallest Pufferfish in the World
Pea puffers are one of the coolest oddball species you can keep in a smaller-sized aquarium. They’re known for their helicopter-like maneuverability, independently moving eyes, and of course, ability to inflate like a tiny water balloon. This practical care guide answers the most frequently asked questions regarding these tiny, adorable creatures.
What Is a Pea Puffer?
Carinotetraodon travancoricus – also known as the pea puffer, Indian dwarf puffer, Malabar puffer, and pygmy puffer – is the smallest pufferfish in the world and comes from fully freshwater environments in the southwestern tip of India. They are only one inch long and can be purchased at your local fish market for $3 to $15. Pick a healthy puffer with a well-rounded stomach when choosing your pet. You can also ask staff at the fish store what they feed puffers, since they can be picky eaters.
Pea puffers are mainly captive-bred. Wild caught peas may require additional deworming medication. We’ve used our quarantine medication trio as a preventative treatment on thousands of pea puffers with no harmful effects.
These three medications have been proven safe for puffers, even though they are considered “scaleless” and are not recommended for them. Use the recommended dosages. Otherwise, pathogens might survive.
Do Pea Puffers Puff Up?
Yes. Yes. Although this is very rare, it is possible to catch your pufferfish puffing up for defensive purposes or simply to practice. To increase their size, pufferfish suck in water. This will discourage predators. If let alone, it will shrink back down to its normal shape in due time.
Please do not deliberately stress out your pet to “make” it inflate. Instead, you can find plenty of pictures and videos online to see what it looks like. You can also transport your pea puffer by using a cup or small container instead of a net. This will ensure that the fish is always submerged in water and doesn’t accidentally get airborne.
How many pea puffers can you have in a 10-gallon tank?
Given how territorial pea puffers can be, many people have a lot of success keeping just one pea puffer in a five-gallon aquarium by itself. If you want to keep more than one, the general rule of thumb is to provide five gallons of water for the first puffer and three gallons of water for each additional puffer. It is possible to keep three puffers per 10-gallon tank. You can also keep six to seven puffers each in a 20-gallon tank. However, your success rate will depend on how you set up the environment. If the tank is mostly bare without a lot of cover, expect to see a pufferfish battle zone. If you have a lush, densely planted aquarium, you might be able to handle three puffers in a 10-gallon space.
Of course, the larger the aquarium, the better. A larger aquarium will provide more water volume, which means less waste. This is important because poor water quality can cause health problems for puffers. It also gives the puffers more space to avoid each other. Plus, having a ratio of one male for every two to three females tends to decrease aggression, but most pea puffers are sold as juveniles, which are hard to sex. You may have to rehome at most one male if you are in a situation where three young puffers were purchased and one female was left.
Up to six or seven pea puffers can be kept in a 20-gallon aquarium (with no other tank mates) if you provide lots of cover in the form of aquarium plants or decorations.
How Do You Tell the Difference Between a Male and Female Pea Puffer?
Although it can be difficult to see, males are more likely to have darker coloration with a stripe of dot on the belly. Their bodies are slimmer and more aggressive. Females on the other side have a yellow stomach and tend to be slimmer.
Pea Puffers Will Need a Heater
They do well in stable, tropical temperatures from 74 to 82degF, so if your room temperature is below this range or tends to fluctuate a lot, you need an aquarium heater. Find out the right size heater for you in our article.
People have maintained tanks at pH levels between 6.5 and 8.4. A pH range between 7.2 to 7.5 is ideal, but it’s more important to keep the pH levels stable rather than aim for a specific number. They aren’t the fastest swimmers so a gentle filter should be used with a slower flow rate.
What are Pea Puffers’ Favorite Foods?
These hardcore carnivores are best fed on a diet of frozen foods (like frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp) and live foods (like little pest snails or blackworms). We’ve found that they don’t like dry food, but they do enjoy Hikari Vibra Bits. They look and move just like bloodworms when they sink.
Pea puffers, unlike larger pufferfish, don’t need to be fed hard, crunchy foods in order to reduce their growing teeth. If you are unable to get hold of live snails it is not an issue. You should ensure they are fed a wide range of frozen foods to ensure they receive all the nutrients they need to live a long, healthy life.
Frozen bloodworms are a favorite food for pea puffers, but offer them a diverse assortment of foods to ensure they have a well-rounded diet.
Are Pea Puffers able to live with other fish?
This is one of the most common questions we get about pea puffers, and it’s not an easy one to answer. While some puffers are timid, others can be quite aggressive and territorial. This is like having a dog that is prone towards fighting. Most dogs and pets you bring home are likely to be attacked. It’s fine if they do, but it may not be worth the effort to find your dog a roommate, as friendship is unlikely.
Therefore, if you want to keep pea puffers, buy them with the expectation of keeping them in a species-only aquarium with no other tank mates. This means that they won’t be available to help with clean-up or to eat algae, so you’ll need to take care of the tank yourself. Pea puffers can be a little messy, especially if they don’t catch every bit of food that falls in the water, so it would be beneficial to use live aquarium plants to help consume the toxic waste compounds. Ideally, a well-balanced, densely planted tank has very little algae growth, and it provides a beautiful underwater jungle for your little helicopter fish to navigate.
Are Pea Puffers Good Pets?
This oddball species is more of an intermediate level fish, so we generally don’t recommend them to first-time fish keepers. They are very picky about food and can’t be savored by other community fish. Pea puffers can be very curious and have their own unique behaviors and looks. They are even able to recognize you as your owner. If you’re looking for an amazing water pet that can live on your desk or kitchen counter, try a pea puffer and you won’t regret it!
Pea puffers are very curious fish with excellent eyesight, so you’ll often see them carefully examining everything in their aquarium.
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