Care Guide For Your Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer


Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer, a unique oddball with tons of fascinating characteristics, is really a great addition to your aquarium.

(Image of Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer)

Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer (scientific name: Carinotetraodon travancoricus) is also known as pea puffer, Indian dwarf puffer, Malabar puffer, or pygmy puffer thanks to its size (only about an inch long). You can easily distinguish them by their unique appearance, yellow rounded body that quickly tapers towards the rear, dark green to black iridescent patches on the flanks and dorsal surface, huge eyes compared to the body size, and the caudal fin often folded making them look like the fish without a tail.

Good to know: Their caudal fin sometimes folds inward which may indicate a defensive gesture. This is mainly because your Puffers have not been familiar with the new environment yet. There is no need to worry about in this case, the tail will uncurl when they become accustomed to their new ‘home’.

Although they are captive bred nowadays, Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers originated from southwestern of India. There lies rivers and streams with slow-moving flows, warm temperature, and leaf litter from the overhanging vegetation. Such conditions create an ideal habitat for copepods, small snails, crustaceans, insects and larvae to flourish which then become the main diet of Pea Puffers. In the wild, Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer used to live in huge shoals. However, due to habitat loss and overfishing for the aquarium trade, such species have decreased gradually. Hence, if you wish to keep Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer in your home aquarium, we encourage you to purchase the captive-bred. It not only protects the quantity of Pea Puffer in the wild but also mitigates the risk of spreading diseases when introduced to the aquarium community.

Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer is more of an intermediate level fish, so we generally don’t recommend them to beginners. They tend to be aggressive and require a strict living condition. Imitating their natural habitat is a need but not enough. Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers are intolerant of poor water conditions, which makes aquarium maintenance no less important than set up. Generally, they will prefer the parameters below.

Temperature: 72° - 82° F (22° - 28° C)

Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm

Nitrate: Nitrate (NO3): below 15ppm (as close to zero as possible)

GH: 5-25 dGH 

KH: 5 - 15 dKH 

pH: 6.0 - 7.0 

Water change: 50% every seven days

For tank size, a medium fish tank is sufficient since they are small/ nano fish. As Pea Puffers prefer well-decorated tanks, you should also take the room for decoration into account. We recommend a tank of 10 gallons for a single specimen and 30 gallons or more for a small group. Or, if you want a precise calculation, you can count on the ratio of ‘5 gallons per Pea Puffer’, which is suggested by many experienced aquarists, to decide a proper size tank.

Fact: Their size helps them get the “Guinness” record of the smallest known species of pufferfish in the world.

Pea Puffer enjoys slow-moving flows. Therefore, the flow in your aquarium should be slow to medium, not overpowering. They are also not strong swimmers hence, powerful currents are not suitable for them. 

When it comes to decoration, it is very important for your aquarium to have dense aquatic plants, especially when you keep Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers in groups. They are aggressive, so creating more distinct spaces by putting lots of live aquatic plants is highly recommended. In addition to reducing their aggression, it helps the species feel safe and more secure. Among others, Java Ferns are a great option as they provide bushy coverage. Amazon Swords and some stem plants are also used mostly as background plants which help conceal aquarium equipment (like heaters and filters) from view. Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers love mosses so you can try to put some in your aquarium such as Java Moss, Weeping Moss. Floating plants, such as Amazon Frogbit and Water Lettuce, are potential candidates as they resemble Pea Puffers’ natural habitat and provide additional hiding areas. In order for these plants to root easily, we suggest that you use coarse sand or small particle gravel as substrate. They will give more room for the root to extend.

Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers are active and inquisitive. They are often curious about the surroundings. So adding driftwood, caves and rockwork to give them ample spaces to explore is recommended. Besides, this also makes your aquascape lively. Pea Puffers do not have any special requirements when speaking of light. Hence, normal levels of lighting are fine with them.

Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer can be kept single or in groups. Whichever option you favor, you should remember certain notes below:

  1. Your Pea Puffer is not a peaceful species whether towards other fish or its own kind. Male tend to be more aggressive compared to females. Therefore, if you would like to keep them in a group, we suggest a ratio of one male for every two to three females. It works well in decreasing male’s aggression.
  2. To differentiate the male and female, you may look at their appearances when they grow up (as these fish choose their sex when they mature). Male coloration is brighter and deeper than that of female. In addition, males have dark stripes down the center of their pale belly and iridescent "eye wrinkle" patterns which are not seen in females. However, on the other hand, females are more rounded, and tend to be a bit larger than males.
  3. The problem when sexing them is that these signs won’t show up until Pea Puffers mature. In fact, they are generally sold as juveniles which make it even harder to identify the sex. If you want to keep a group of them, you have no choice but purchase a number of Pea Puffers and wait for their maturity, then sort them out to have the correct ratio of one male for every two to three females.
  4. With many notices above, one may think it is better to keep Pea Puffer single. However, each way has its own benefit. Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer is shoaling fish. As such and per several scientific researches, it indicates that your Pea Puffers will be more confident, active, have a better feeding response, and live longer (up to 6 or 12 years old) if they are kept in groups. Moreover, as for Pea Puffer which is kept single for a long period, it may not get along well if you return it to their community owing to its aggressive tendency.

Despite aggressive disposition, Pea Puffer can make friends with other fish as long as they are faster-moving, peaceful, short-finned species which are able to thrive in the same water parameters and not compete with the Pea Puffers for food. This makes tetras, rasboras, barbs, danios, and rainbowfish become great options to take into consideration. 

There are some you should avoid to keep with Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer, including guppies, angelfish, gourami, betta and barbs. Furthermore, your Pea Puffers should not be housed with any bottom-dwelling fish, such as Corydoras, who may encroach on the Puffers hiding spaces within the scape.

It is not strange if Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers are also fussy about their food. As hard to please as they are, Pea Puffers are strictly carnivorous and prefer crustaceans (thus, you should not keep them with dwarf shrimp) and snails. They will happily clear any small snails (including the “nuisance” bladder snails that inhabit most planted tanks) in your aquarium. Please note that they often ignore dry foods; however, frozen bloodworms and other meaty frozen foods are acceptable to them. You should try to vary their diet by feeding them different food in order to keep them taking in essential nutrients. We recommended also Omega One Freeze Dry Bloodworms or Omega One Freeze Dry Brine Shrimp

Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers are very slow eaters so don’t feed them too much at a time. Instead, you can offer them once or twice a day with an amount that can be consumed in three minutes.

The community fish keepers love this fish for many reasons. Dwarf Pea Puffer has tons of fascinating characteristics such as intelligence, helicopter-like maneuverability, independently moving eyes, and ability to inflate like a tiny water balloon (when being pursued by another fish). Their intelligence is shown in their begging behavior for food. Some reporters say this occasionally happens once Pea Puffer is acquainted with the owner. It is also wonderful to find out your Pea Puffers can change their colors, mainly because of their mood. Their coloration may slightly vary from green to brown with dark spots. Besides, you may see their yellowish or white underbelly may look smooth after they finish their meal compared to that of normal state. If it is lumpy, this may imply a sign of parasites. 

Your Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers are prone to bacterial or fungal infections and ICH. This is mainly due to their aggressive personality and sudden drop of temperature respectively. Since Pea Puffers often pursue other species, it is the matter of time for them to get injured. Their open wounds are the ideal places for bacteria or fungi to live in. Thus, you should avoid it by preparing a well living environment for them at the beginning. If this situation indeed happens, immediately separate the injured one from the existing community and put it in a different tank. Then, cure them with antibacterial and antifungal treatment.

As for ICH, apart from medical treatment, you must check your aquarium conditions concurrently. If the temperature drops, adjust it to the recommended level. Moreover, cleaning gravel and removing the leftover food should be performed weekly since your fish don’t have a “proper eating etiquette” (they are actually messy eaters).

We think it is fun to keep Indian Dwarf Pea Puffers. They challenge you, but surprise you as well. 

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