Pea Puffer Fish – Care, Habitat, Tank Mates & Full Details!

Scientifically known as Carinotetraodon travancoricus, the Pea Puffer is affectionately called the Dwarf Pufferfish, Pygmy Pufferfish, Dwarf Pea Puffer, or Malabar Pufferfish.

These small but lively creatures have won the hearts of aquarists globally, thanks to their longevity, striking looks, and engaging behavior.

Native to the warm waterways of Southwest India, the Pea Puffer thrives in rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Their habitats are characterized by lush vegetation and temperatures ranging from 77 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is worth noting that while they can survive in brackish waters, they are not adept swimmers and require calm conditions in a tank.

The Pea Puffer, arguably the most captivating addition to any aquarium, is a perennial crowd-pleaser. These petite pufferfish are well suited for compact aquariums, exhibiting distinctive traits that have won them countless admirers worldwide.

Our comprehensive guide will provide detailed instructions on how to take optimal care of your Pea Puffer, ensuring they remain healthy and vibrant in your aquarium.

Quick Stats About Pea Puffer

Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Territorial and aggressive
Color Form: Sex dependent but predominantly yellow
Lifespan: 4 years
Size: 1.4 inches
Diet: Carnivore
Family: Tetraodontiformes
Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Heavily planted
Compatibility: Tropical freshwater

Pea Puffer Appearance

Pea Puffers, scientifically known as Carinotetraodon travancoricus, are known to steal hearts with their unique physical traits.

Their miniaturized stature, coupled with their lively personality, has deemed them the darling of aquarists around the globe.

As part of the Pufferfish family, these diminutive aquatic creatures reach a maximum length of about 1.4 inches, making them the smallest representatives of the group.

The Pea Puffer’s physique is characterized by a round, robust body that tapers towards the tail, creating a distinctive silhouette.

Their disproportionately large eyes, positioned on either side of the head, lend them a charmingly candid look, further enhancing their popularity among aquatic pet enthusiasts.

These fascinating creatures flaunt a vibrant array of colors that aid in distinguishing the males from the females. Males typically exhibit a radiant yellow belly and a pronounced dark stripe.

The body exhibits a lustrous golden-green hue. Females, on the other hand, have a white-yellow belly and a slightly paler shade of yellow-green on their body, sans the dark stripe. Occasionally, both genders might display sporadic spots on their body, creating a captivating visual spectacle.

Natural Habitat of Pea Puffer

Pea Puffers are tropical fish, hailing from the warm freshwater bodies in Southwest India. These naturally curious explorers prefer to dwell in areas abundant with vegetation.

They can be found in diverse aquatic habitats like lakes, rivers, and estuaries, where the water temperature varies between 77 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although occasionally venturing into brackish waters, these fish aren’t particularly adept swimmers. Therefore, attempting to replicate such conditions in a home aquarium isn’t advisable.

Instead, a freshwater setup filled with plenty of aquatic plants mimicking their natural environment would significantly enhance their wellbeing.

Origin and Distribution

Hailing from the Southwestern part of India, the Pea Puffers have made their presence felt worldwide. Their origins trace back to the warm tropical waters of Kerala and Karnataka, where they thrived in the lush, vegetative environment.

Here, they enjoy the perfect blend of warm temperature, ample sunlight, and abundant aquatic flora.

Despite their geographical roots, Pea Puffers have now become a global phenomenon, thanks to their attractive features and intriguing behavior.

Aquarists worldwide cherish these tiny puffers, further widening their distribution.

It is, however, essential to ensure responsible trading of these vulnerable species, advocating for tank-bred over wild-caught puffers to minimize the ecological impact.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Pea Puffer

The Pea Puffer’s petite size is a part of its charm. They are among the smallest pufferfish species, growing only up to approximately 1.4 inches in length. Despite their small size, they exhibit a lively personality that sets them apart.

Their growth is relatively rapid during the initial stages, with proper care and nourishment. It’s worth noting that their small size doesn’t limit their territorial tendencies, and they need ample space to explore and express their natural behaviors.

Pea Puffers are known to live around four years in captivity under optimal care. This lifespan might appear relatively short compared to some other fish species.

However, during their lifetime, they display an array of behaviors and adapt to their environment, making them an entertaining and intriguing addition to home aquariums.

The Pea Puffer, with its vibrant appearance, interesting origin, and endearing size, makes for a rewarding pet for any aquarist.

Pea Puffer Behavior and Temperament

Pea Puffers may be small, but their personalities are anything but. These lively creatures are known for their curious and somewhat aggressive nature.

Even though they’re among the smallest in the puffer family, they exhibit strong territorial instincts, often fiercely defending their space.

They are also quite active and enjoy exploring their environment. Pea Puffers can be seen energetically moving about their tank, examining their surroundings with a keen eye.

Their intelligence shines through in their inquisitive nature, making them a delight to observe. Despite their robust character, they’re also somewhat shy and enjoy hiding spots for comfort.

Your Pea Puffer’s Ideal Tank Setup

Creating a suitable environment for your Pea Puffer is crucial for their wellbeing. The perfect tank setup takes into account several factors, including tank size, substrate, decorations, water parameters, filtration, lighting, suitable tank mates, and feeding regimen.

Tank Size

Despite their small stature, Pea Puffers require ample space to roam and explore. For a single Pea Puffer, a 5-gallon tank is the absolute minimum size.

However, considering their territorial behavior, a larger tank is recommended if you plan on keeping more than one.


When it comes to substrate, a soft sandy substrate works best for Pea Puffers. The soft texture is safe for their underbelly and mimics their natural habitat.

Plus, the neutral tones of the sand can help accentuate their vibrant coloration.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Pea Puffers love hiding spots. Adding aquatic plants, caves, or driftwood can provide these secluded areas for your puffer to retreat to.

This not only ensures your Pea Puffer feels secure but also enriches their environment, promoting their exploratory nature.

Water Parameters

Being tropical freshwater fish, Pea Puffers prefer warm waters between 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit. The water should have a pH level between 7.0 and 7.8.

Regular water changes are essential to maintain optimal water quality and minimize potential health issues.

Filtration and Aeration

Good filtration is vital for Pea Puffers as they are sensitive to water quality. Choose a high-quality filter that can efficiently remove waste products and keep the water clean.

Aeration, too, is important as it helps circulate oxygen in the tank and maintain healthy water conditions.


Pea Puffers don’t have specific lighting needs. However, natural, moderate light settings help simulate their natural environment, promoting overall wellbeing.

Ensure your setup doesn’t expose them to extreme light conditions, which might stress them.

Tank Mates

When it comes to cohabitation, Pea Puffers can be somewhat tricky due to their territorial nature. They can live peacefully with other small, non-aggressive species.

However, caution is advised, as compatibility depends on individual temperaments. It’s best to monitor the interaction and be ready to separate if needed.


Pea Puffers are carnivores with a preference for meaty foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and snails. Providing a varied diet not only fulfills their nutritional requirements but also keeps them engaged and satisfied.

Taking the time to understand your Pea Puffer’s needs and create an appropriate tank setup will ensure they live a happy, healthy life. With their vibrant personalities and curious nature, Pea Puffers make fascinating additions to any aquarium.

Tank Maintenance for your Pea Puffer

To ensure the health and happiness of your Pea Puffer, proper tank maintenance is key. Regular upkeep involves a handful of tasks – water changes, tank and decoration cleaning, filter maintenance, and observing your fish’s health.

Let’s delve into each aspect and explore how you can optimize tank conditions for your Pea Puffer.

Regular Water Changes

Consistent water changes are the first step to a healthy aquarium. The process removes harmful waste materials and replenishes essential nutrients.

For a Pea Puffer tank, it’s best to replace about 25% of the water weekly. Remember, always use dechlorinated water at a similar temperature to prevent shock.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Over time, algae, debris, and uneaten food can accumulate in your tank and on its decorations. It’s important to regularly clean these areas to prevent an unhealthy build-up.

Use an algae scraper for the tank walls and a soft brush for the decorations. Be gentle – harsh cleaning can disrupt the tank’s balance and stress your fish.

Filter Maintenance

Your filter plays a crucial role in keeping the tank’s water clean. Over time, the filter media can get clogged with debris, affecting its efficiency.

It’s recommended to clean the filter every month. Remember to rinse the media in tank water, not tap water. This preserves the beneficial bacteria that aid in breaking down waste.

Monitor Fish Health

Observing your Pea Puffer’s behavior is a critical part of tank maintenance. Changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance can indicate potential health issues. Regular monitoring will allow you to spot problems early and take necessary action promptly.

Tank maintenance might seem complex at first, but with regular care and attention, it becomes an easy routine.

Remember, maintaining a clean and healthy environment is crucial for your Pea Puffer’s wellbeing.

With the right care, your Pea Puffer will reward you with vibrant energy and endless enjoyment.

Acclimating Your Pea Puffer

Bringing a Pea Puffer into its new home is an exciting moment. However, the acclimation process requires patience and care.

A sudden change in water parameters could stress the fish, possibly leading to health issues.

The best method for acclimating a Pea Puffer to its new home is the “drip” technique.

Here’s how:

  1. Float the bag containing the Pea Puffer in your aquarium for 15-20 minutes to equalize temperatures.

  2. Open the bag and add a small amount of your tank’s water.

  3. Slowly drip tank water into the bag at a rate of about 2-4 drips per second for an hour or until the bag is full.

  4. Gently release your Pea Puffer into its new home, making sure not to add the bag’s water to your tank.

Through this slow and steady process, your Pea Puffer can adjust to its new surroundings without undue stress.

Pea Puffer Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Pea Puffer a balanced diet is essential for its health and vitality. Unlike some other fish species, Pea Puffers are carnivorous and require a diet rich in protein.

Here are key points to remember:

Variety is Vital

While Pea Puffers prefer live food, a varied diet ensures they receive a range of nutrients.

You can feed them a mix of:

  • Live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

  • Snails. Pea Puffers have beak-like teeth that grow continuously. Eating snails helps grind down these teeth.

Portion Control

Pea Puffers are small, so it’s important to offer food in manageable portions. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and poor water quality.

Feeding Frequency

Feed your Pea Puffers once or twice a day. They should consume all food within a few minutes. If food remains, consider reducing the portion size next time.

Watch and Learn

Observing your Pea Puffers during feeding time can give you insight into their health and preferences. It can help you tweak their diet for their wellbeing and satisfaction.

By providing your Pea Puffers with a varied and balanced diet, you can help ensure they thrive.

Paying attention to their dietary needs will contribute to their longevity and allow you to enjoy their fascinating behavior for years to come.

Pea Puffer Tank Mates: Friends and Foes

Even though Pea Puffers are small in size, they have a big personality! They’re known for being a bit feisty, so picking the right tank mates is crucial.

When considering tank mates for your Pea Puffer, look for species that can coexist peacefully and thrive under similar conditions.

Here are some ideal choices:

  1. Otocinclus Catfish: These peaceful, bottom-dwelling fish are a great choice. They’re good at avoiding the Pea Puffers and spend most of their time cleaning algae.

  2. Bristlenose Plecos: These armored catfish are tough enough to withstand any Pea Puffer nips. They also stick to the bottom of the tank, out of the Puffer’s way.

  3. Ghost Shrimp: They provide great entertainment for the Pea Puffers and can also serve as a snack.

  4. Endlers Livebearers: Fast and agile, these fish can evade any potential threats from Pea Puffers.

  5. Dwarf Rasboras: These small, peaceful fish are a good match for Pea Puffers.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Not every aquatic species will get along with a Pea Puffer.

Here are a few to avoid:

  1. Large, Aggressive Species: Fish like Cichlids or Oscar Fish could view Pea Puffers as a snack.

  2. Slow-Moving Species: Fish such as Gouramis or Angelfish could become targets for the Pea Puffer’s nipping behavior.

  3. Small Invertebrates: Snails and small crustaceans will likely become a Pea Puffer’s meal.

  4. Fin-Nipping Species: Fish like Tiger Barbs could harm your Pea Puffers.

  5. Other Puffers: Pea Puffers can be territorial and may fight with other Pufferfish.

Breeding Pea Puffers

Breeding Pea Puffers can be a challenging yet rewarding experience.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to assist you:

  1. Sexing: Female Pea Puffers have a rounder belly and a dark line running along their belly. Males are more streamlined with a brighter color pattern.

  2. Environment: Create a breeding tank with plenty of hiding spots and lush plants. Keep the water clean and warm.

  3. Conditioning: Feed your Pea Puffers a high-protein diet to encourage spawning behavior.

  4. Spawning: If successful, females will lay eggs on the underside of leaves or in crevices. Males will guard these locations.

  5. Fry Care: Once hatched, separate the fry from the adults. Feed the fry with infusoria or freshly hatched brine shrimp.

Remember, breeding Pea Puffers requires patience and attention.

Always keep an eye on their behavior and condition to ensure their health and success during the breeding process.

Decoding Stress in Pea Puffers

Pea Puffers are lively little creatures, but like all fish, they can experience stress. Understanding these signs can help you make them comfortable in their tank:

  1. Loss of Color: Stress often leads to noticeable changes in a Pea Puffer’s vibrant colors, making them look dull or faded.

  2. Loss of Appetite: Pea Puffers are usually eager eaters. If you notice your puffer avoiding food, it could be a sign of stress.

  3. Erratic Swimming: A stressed Pea Puffer might dart around the tank or swim in an unusual manner.

  4. Hiding More Than Usual: While it’s normal for these fish to hide, if your Pea Puffer spends most of its time out of sight, stress could be a factor.

Common Health Issues and Treatments

Despite their hardy nature, Pea Puffers can sometimes fall ill.

Common health issues include:

  1. Parasitic Infections: Pea Puffers are prone to parasites, visible as white spots or changes in behavior. Treat with an anti-parasitic medication suitable for Puffers.

  2. Fin Rot: This condition, identified by frayed or discolored fins, can be caused by poor water conditions. Improve water quality and consider using a targeted medication.

  3. Swim Bladder Disease: This can cause your Pea Puffer to have trouble swimming. High-quality, varied diet and clean water can help prevent this condition.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

To ensure a healthy habitat for your Pea Puffer, consider these tips:

  1. Maintain Water Quality: Regular water changes and tank cleaning can help keep conditions optimal.

  2. Provide a Balanced Diet: Offer a variety of foods to ensure your Pea Puffer gets the nutrients it needs.

  3. Monitor Behavior: Keep an eye on your Pea Puffer’s behavior to catch any potential issues early.

Is a Pea Puffer Right for Your Aquarium?

If you’re an aquarist who enjoys interactive and characterful fish, a Pea Puffer could be a great choice! Their intriguing behavior, fascinating appearance, and small size make them ideal for various tank setups.

However, be prepared for their specific care needs, including a diet of live foods and a keen eye on their health.

If you can provide this, then a Pea Puffer can be a delightful addition to your aquarium!

Conservation Status of Pea Puffers

There’s no precise conservation status for the Pea Puffer. They’re commonly seen in the pet trade, indicating a reasonably healthy wild population.

However, it’s crucial to purchase from reputable sellers who follow sustainable sourcing practices to avoid encouraging harmful capture methods.

Availability and Pricing of Pea Puffers

Pea Puffers are readily available in most local fish stores and online aquarium trade platforms. Due to their popularity, it’s usually easy to find these little puffers for sale.

The price can vary based on size, age, and location, but they are typically affordable, making them a favorite choice among both novice and experienced aquarists.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pea Puffers

1. How long do Pea Puffers live?

With good care and a healthy environment, Pea Puffers can live up to 4 to 5 years.

2. Are Pea Puffers aggressive?

While Pea Puffers are known for their curious and lively nature, they can exhibit territorial behavior, especially towards their own kind.

3. Can Pea Puffers live with other fish?

Pea Puffers can coexist with peaceful, non-aggressive fish species. However, the choice of tank mates should be made carefully to avoid stress or aggression.

In Conclusion

The Pea Puffer is a fascinating addition to any freshwater aquarium, admired for its striking appearance, intriguing behavior, and compact size.

Their care demands may require a bit of dedication, especially concerning their diet and the monitoring of their health. Still, the reward is a vibrant and active fish that is sure to capture your attention and keep your tank lively.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned aquarist, the Pea Puffer offers a unique experience that stands out from the usual aquarium dwellers.

With proper care and a conducive environment, you can enjoy the captivating company of this tiny puffer fish for many years.