Pea Puffer


Common Name: Pea Puffer
Scientific Name: Carinotetraodon travancoricus
Adult Size: 1-1.5 inches
Life Expectancy: 4-5 years
Tank Size: 5 gallons for a single puffer, 20 gallons for a group

The Pea Puffer, also known as the Dwarf Puffer or Indian Dwarf Puffer, is a tiny freshwater pufferfish native to the rivers and estuaries of Southwest India. They are known for their inquisitive nature and unique ability to inflate when threatened.

A 5-gallon tank can house a single Pea Puffer, but a 20-gallon or larger tank is recommended for a small group, providing ample space for each puffer to establish its own territory. Dense vegetation and hiding spots are important to prevent aggression and provide a natural environment.

Pea Puffers have a specialized diet primarily consisting of live foods such as snails, which helps to keep their ever-growing teeth trimmed. They can also be fed frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Due to their territorial nature, care should be taken if housing them with other fish; they do best with species that are fast and occupy different areas of the tank, or in a species-only setup.

Origins and Natural Habitat

The Pea Puffer, scientifically known as Carinotetraodon travancoricus, is a diminutive freshwater fish originating from South Asia. Your exploration into their origins would trace back to the Western Ghats of India, an area noted for its biodiversity. These puffers inhabit slow-moving water bodies that are heavily planted, providing them with ample hiding spots from potential threats.

In this region, you will find them in rivers, streams, and even paddy fields that have a lush growth of aquatic vegetation. Their versatility extends to surviving in both freshwater and brackish conditions, showcasing their adaptability.

Key Habitats Characteristics
Rivers and Streams Slow-moving, densely planted
Paddy Fields Brackish to freshwater transition, ample vegetation

Due to their distinct preference for vegetated and calm waters, Pea Puffers thrive in environments where they can hunt for food like insects and larvae while also easily evading predators. Their presence in such specific ecosystems underscores the importance of habitat conservation for their continued survival, as they are classified as vulnerable due to habitat degradation and the pressures of the aquarium trade.

Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal aquarium setup for Pea Puffers is crucial for their health and well-being. It involves choosing the right tank size and enriching the aquatic environment for your Pea Puffers to thrive.

Tank Size and Environment

Tank Size:

  • Minimum Size: 5 gallons for one Pea Puffer
  • Recommended Size: 20 gallons for multiple Pea Puffers

Environment Considerations:

  • Aquatic Plants: Abundant plants like Java Fern, Anubias, or Hornwort to provide hiding spots.
  • Decorations: Include rocks, caves, or driftwood to mimic a natural and stimulating habitat.
  • Tank Shape: Longer tanks are preferable as they provide more swimming space.

Water Conditions and Parameters

Water Parameters:

  • Temperature: Keep the water between 74-82°F (23-28°C).
  • pH Levels: Maintain a pH level of 7.0-7.8.
  • Water Hardness: Aim for a general hardness (GH) of 8-15 dGH.


  • Regularly test water parameters with a reliable aquarium test kit to ensure stability.
  • Employ a filtration system that maintains clean water and minimizes ammonia and nitrite levels.

Behavior and Social Dynamics

Pea Puffers, scientifically known as Carinotetraodon travancoricus, exhibit complex social behaviors. Despite their diminutive size, typically only reaching about 1.2 inches in length, Pea Puffers are often territorial. When you are considering tank mates for your Pea Puffer, it’s important to recognize that they may attack other fish or shrimp that encroach on their perceived territory.

In terms of interactions, Pea Puffers may puff up when they feel threatened or are showing aggression, which is an innate defense mechanism. This behavior serves to make them look bigger and more intimidating to possible threats or competitors, particularly during times of male rivalry or when trying to court a female.

Here’s a quick look at their social dynamics:

  • Territoriality: Aggressive towards others in their space.
  • Defense Mechanism: Puffing up to deter threats.
  • Inter-Species Interaction: Careful selection of tank mates required, preferably those that are not overly active or territorial themselves, such as Neon Tetras and Kuhli Loaches.
  • Breeding Behavior: Spawn in dense vegetation, typically requiring a secure environment.

As an aquarist, you must provide suitable habitat conditions, such as plenty of vegetation and hiding spaces, to mimic their natural environment and to help manage their aggressive tendencies. Observing their interactions with tank mates can provide insights into your Pea Puffer’s health and stress levels, which is crucial for maintaining a harmonious aquarium.

Compatibility and Community

When considering tank mates for your Pea Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus), it’s crucial to understand their needs and temperament. Pea Puffers are often territorial and can be aggressive towards conspecifics, especially in smaller aquariums. To ensure a peaceful community, you should provide a plant-rich environment which offers ample hiding spots to reduce stress and territorial behavior.

Tank Mates for Pea Puffers:

  • Neon Tetras: Small, peaceful, and fast-swimmers that require similar water conditions and are known for their shoaling behavior.
  • Zebra Danios: Active swimmers that occupy different tank levels and can coexist with Pea Puffers without competing for territory.
Species Compatibility Tank Size Minimum Temperature Range Diet
Neon Tetras High 10 gallons 68-82°F (20-28°C) Omnivorous
Zebra Danios Moderate 10 gallons 64-74°F (18-23°C) Omnivorous

Remember, Pea Puffers have small and delicate mouths, so tank mates should not be too large. Additionally, they are fin nippers by nature, meaning slow-moving fish or those with long fins may not be suitable companions. Always observe the community’s dynamics closely after introduction to ensure compatibility and reduce the likelihood of stress and aggression among inhabitants.

Health and Maintenance

Maintaining the health of your Pea Puffer requires a diligent approach to tank cleanliness and disease prevention. Regular maintenance routines and proactive health management strategies are crucial to ensure the longevity and vitality of these unique fish.

Cleaning and Maintenance Routines

To sustain a healthy environment for your Pea Puffer, weekly water changes of 25-30% are recommended. Ensure the replacement water’s temperature and pH match the tank’s conditions closely to avoid stressing the fish. Utilize a gravel vacuum to remove food debris and waste from the substrate to prevent ammonia and nitrite buildup. Regularly inspect and clean your filter, but avoid replacing all filter media simultaneously to preserve beneficial bacteria essential for a balanced ecosystem.

Disease Prevention and Management

When preventing diseases, quarantine new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to the main tank. This helps to prevent potential spread of infections. Be observant for signs of common freshwater ailments such as ich, fin rot, and fungal infections. If you notice symptoms like white spots, frayed fins, or unusual behavior, isolate the affected fish and treat it with the appropriate medications. Always disinfect any nets or tools after dealing with sick fish to prevent cross-contamination.

Diet and Feeding

Pea Puffers are carnivorous by nature, which means that your primary focus should be on providing a diet rich in meaty foods. They thrive on live and frozen foods such as bloodwormsbrine shrimp, and krill. It’s essential to provide a variety of foods to ensure a balanced diet and to keep them stimulated.

You may find that pea puffers are picky eaters, often rejecting processed commercial foods. They have a keen eye for what resembles their natural prey. Hence, offering foods that mimic the look and movement of live prey can encourage them to eat more readily.

In their juvenile stage, pea puffers will eat smaller prey like baby brine shrimp. As they grow, you’ll need to switch to larger food items to meet their increased dietary requirements. It’s crucial to adjust the size of their food as they mature.

Remember, overfeeding can quickly lead to poor water quality, so it’s vital to feed your pea puffers in moderation. A general guideline is to offer them food they can consume in a couple of minutes, 1-2 times per day. Keep an eye on your fish’s behavior and appetite to tailor the feeding schedule accordingly.

Maintaining a clean tank is essential for their health, so promptly remove uneaten food to prevent it from decomposing in the tank. Regular tank maintenance, combined with a well-managed feeding regime, will support your pea puffers’ wellbeing and maximize their lifespan.

Breeding and Reproduction

Breeding pea puffers requires a keen understanding of their gender differences and creating an environment that mimics their natural breeding conditions. Your success in breeding these fascinating fish hinges on recognizing mating behaviors and ensuring your aquarium meets their specific needs.

Gender Identification and Breeding Behavior

Gender Identification: Male pea puffers are generally more colorful with a distinct, dark line running down the middle of their belly. Females tend to be plainer with a rounder belly. During breeding, males display vibrant colors to attract females and may engage in a dance-like display.

  • Male characteristics:
    • Brighter colors
    • Dark longitudinal line
    • More aggressive behavior
  • Female characteristics:
    • Softer coloration
    • Rounder belly
    • Less prominent line, if present

Breeding Behavior: When ready to breed, males become more territorial and may chase females as part of their courtship ritual. Look for this behavior as a sign that your puffers are ready to reproduce.

Creating Optimal Breeding Conditions

To encourage breeding, it’s essential to simulate the ideal conditions in your aquarium:

  1. Tank Setup: A species-only, planted tank with plenty of hiding spots is best. Aim for a minimum of 10 gallons to give your fish enough space.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintain clean water with the following parameters for optimal breeding conditions:
    • Temperature: Slightly warmer than usual (around 78-80°F)
    • pH Level: 7.0-7.6
    • Hardness: 5-15 dGH
  3. Diet: Feed your pea puffers a high-quality, protein-rich diet. Live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp can be particularly effective in stimulating breeding.

Note: Maintain the tank meticulously, as poor water quality can prevent breeding and harm the fish. Always monitor the male’s behavior to ensure it does not become overly aggressive toward the females.

Growth, Development, and Lifespan

As a Pea Puffer owner, you can expect your fish to reach an adult size of approximately 1 to 1.5 inches. Your puffer’s growth rate is influenced by a variety of factors, including diet and tank conditions. A balanced diet rich in proteins is essential for their optimal development.

On average, Pea Puffers have a lifespan of 4 to 5 years. However, this can vary based on the level of care you provide. It’s your responsibility to ensure high water quality and proper nutrition, which are crucial for longevity.

Important Lifespan Factors:

  • Diet: Carnivorous by nature, they require a diet of live or frozen prey such as bloodworms and brine shrimp.
  • Water Quality: Regular maintenance of the aquarium is vital; clean, stable water conditions help prevent stress and disease.

Furthermore, adequate aquarium lighting, mimicking their natural daylight cycle of 10 to 12 hours, supports their natural behavior and well-being. Understanding and maintaining your Pea Puffer’s habitat is key for a healthy, full life.


Where Do Pea Puffers From?


What Is the Natural Habitat of a Pea Puffer?

In the wild, Pea Puffers reside in freshwater environments with slow-moving waters. They are accustomed to densely vegetated habitats, which serve as an ideal hideout from predators and offer a rich array of food sources.

Their preference for lush surroundings means that when you’re setting up your aquarium, it’s vital to incorporate a good number of plants and hiding spots. This will provide your Pea Puffer with the comfort and security they need, closely mimicking their natural habitat.


Relative to their size, these tiny creatures have quite an appetite. Pea Puffers are carnivorous fish, primarily feeding on small invertebrates in their natural habitat. Snails, in particular, are a favorite, with Pea Puffers being excellent natural controllers of snail populations in aquariums.

However, a varied diet is key to keeping them healthy and vibrant. A mix of frozen foods such as Daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp, along with live foods, should make up their diet.


Despite their small size, Pea Puffers are quite territorial and can exhibit aggressive behavior. This is particularly true when several males are sharing the same space. On the flip side, Pea Puffers are also known to be quite interactive and curious, often observed to be closely observing their surroundings or their own reflections.

It’s critical to strike a balance by providing ample space for each fish to establish its own territory while also maintaining a vibrant, engaging environment that satisfies their curiosity.

Tank Setup

The tank setup is a crucial aspect of Pea Puffer care that can significantly impact their health and happiness. As a rule of thumb, a 5-gallon tank is suitable for a single Pea Puffer, but a larger tank would be needed if you plan to keep multiple puffers.

The water temperature should ideally be kept between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5. The tank should also include a variety of vegetation and hiding spots to mimic their natural habitat.


When it comes to companions for your Pea Puffer, caution is necessary. Given their territorial nature, they are not always the best tank mates. However, with ample space and careful selection of non-aggressive, similarly-sized species, it is possible to have a harmonious community tank.

It’s recommended to avoid keeping more than one male Pea Puffer in the same tank to prevent territorial disputes. Species such as Otocinclus Catfish and Ghost Shrimp can generally coexist well with Pea Puffers.


While Pea Puffers can be bred in captivity, it’s not a simple task. A specific breeding tank setup and a carefully monitored environment are necessary for successful breeding. Males and females should be separated until the female appears ready to spawn.

Once the eggs are laid, it’s advisable to remove the adults to prevent them from eating the eggs. The baby puffers, known as fry, will require a diet of microscopic foods until they are large enough to eat larger prey.


Pea Puffers are relatively hearty fish but, like any pet, they are susceptible to various health issues. Common problems include parasites, bloat, and fin rot. Regular water changes, a clean tank, and a healthy diet can do wonders for preventing many of these issues.

Observing your Pea Puffer closely is key to early detection of any health issues. Any changes in behavior, eating habits, or appearance should be taken seriously and addressed promptly.


What Do Pea Puffer Eat?


Are Pea Puffers Aggressive?

Tank Size

How Big of a Tank Does a Pea Puffer Need?


What Are the Best Tank Mates For Pea Puffers?


How Big Do Pea Puffers Get?