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. Their helicopter-like maneuverability, independent moving eyes and ability to inflate as a small water balloon are some of their most notable attributes. We answer the most common questions you have about these adorable, tiny creatures in this care guide.
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.
Pea puffers are mainly captive-bred. Wild caught peas may require additional deworming medication. Our three-part quarantine medication trio has been applied to thousands of pea pillers without any adverse effects.
Even though puffers are considered “scaleless” fish, these three medications are proven to be safe for them. You should use the recommended dosages, as pathogens could survive.
Do Pea Puffers Puff Up?
Yes. Although it is uncommon, you might catch pufferfish puffing up to practice or as a defense mechanism. Pufferfish puff up when they take in water to grow larger and deter predators. If left alone, the fish will return to its natural shape.
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. A ratio of one male to two to three females is a good way to reduce aggression. But most pea puffers are sold in juveniles which can be difficult to sex. If you find yourself in a situation where you purchased three young puffers and ended up with one female and two males, you may need to rehome at least one male to minimize the fighting.
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?
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.
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.
Other parameters of the tank have been kept at pH levels between 6.5-7.8. 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?
Hardcore carnivores prefer to eat frozen foods, such as brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms, and live foods like little pest snails and 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.
Most larger pufferfish must be fed hard, crunchy foods to grind down their ever-growing teeth, but thankfully pea puffers don’t have this problem. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have live snails. Just make sure to feed a wide variety of frozen foods so that they get all the essential nutrients they need to live a long and 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.
Pea Puffers Can Live with Other Fish
This is one the most frequent questions we receive about pea-puckers. And it’s not an easy answer. Some puffers can be a little timid, but most are pretty aggressive and territorial. It’s like having a dog who is prone to 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 you won’t be able to add any algae eaters or clean-up crew, so you’ll have to do more tank maintenance 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 oddball species is more of an intermediate level fish, so we generally don’t recommend them to first-time fish keepers. They have special dietary requirements and don’t get along with 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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