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. In this practical care guide, we answer your most frequently asked questions about these amazing, little creatures.
What is a Pea Puffer?
Carinotetraodon Travancoricus, also known as Indian dwarf puffer and Malabar puffer and pygmy puffer, is the smallest pufferfish on the planet. It comes from the southwest tip of India in completely freshwater environments. Growing only to one inch long, they’re sold for anywhere from $3 to $15 at your local fish store (usually not available at pet store chains). 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.
Most pea puffers are captive-bred. However, wild-caught animals 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.
Even though puffers are considered “scaleless” fish, these three medications are proven to be safe 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. You can view many pictures and videos online of the actual shape of your pet. It’s a good idea to transport your pea puffer in a small container or cup, rather than a net, so the fish doesn’t get sucked in to air.
How Many Pea Puffers can you keep 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. The general rule is to give five gallons to the first puffer, and three gallons to each subsequent puffer. This means that you can keep up to three puffers in your 10-gallon tank and six or seven in your 20-gallon. But, their success rates will vary depending on how well they are set up. 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. To reduce fighting, if you have three young puffers that you bought and you end up with two females and two males, it may be necessary to rehome one of them.
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 distinguish between a male or female Pea Puffer?
It can be a little tricky, but males tend to have deeper coloration with a stripe or dot on their belly. Their bodies are more slender and they display more aggressive behavior. Females, on the other hand, have a yellow belly and tend to be plumper in shape.
Do Pea Puffers 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. For more information on what size heater is right for you, read our full article here.
People have maintained tanks at pH levels between 6.5 and 8.4. The ideal pH range is between 7.2 and 7.5, but it is better to aim for stability than a certain number. Because they’re not the fastest swimmers, you should also use a gentle filter 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). They typically will not take dry foods, but we’ve had good luck with Hikari Vibra Bites because they look and even move like bloodworms as they’re sinking.
Pea puffers, unlike larger pufferfish, don’t need to be fed hard, crunchy foods in order to reduce their growing teeth. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have live snails. 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 favourite food of pea puffers. However, they can be fed a variety of other foods to ensure a varied diet.
Can Pea Puffers 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. In most cases, your other pet or dog will 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. A well-balanced and densely planted tank will have very little algae growth. This creates a beautiful underwater jungle that your little helicopter fish can navigate.
Are Pea Puffers Good Pets?
This strange species is more of an intermediate fish so we don’t recommend it to fish keepers who are just starting out. They are very picky about food and can’t be savored by other community fish. That being said, pea puffers are very inquisitive, have unique looks and behaviors, and can even learn to recognize you as their owner. Pea puffers are a wonderful water pet that can be kept on your desk or counter.
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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