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Pea Pufferfish

By | Last Updated: 3rd August 2020

Pea pufferfish or dwarf pufferfish, as commonly called, is a freshwater species indigenous to the southwestern parts of India. One of the unique characteristics of this fish is the ability to choose its sex upon maturity. The IUCN Red List enlisted it as “Vulnerable,” primarily because of their habitat loss in the wild. Yet, their popularity as an aquarium fish has increased over the years. Its miniature size makes it one among the world’s smallest pufferfish.

Pea Puffer

 Quick Information

Scientific NameCarinotetraodon travancoricus
Other NamesPygmy pufferfish, dwarf pufferfish, Malabar pufferfish, Indian dwarf pea puffer
OriginSouthern Karnataka, and Kerala along the Western Ghats region
TypeFreshwater fish
Conservation StatusVulnerable (by the IUCN)
Behavioral CharacteristicsSocial, intelligent and curious of their surroundings like most other puffers, but territorial, especially male-male aggression visible among them
School Size5 – 6 (in the ratio of 2 females: 1 male)
Physical TraitsPointed mouth, and roundish body, tapering into a thinner structure towards the posterior part of their anal and dorsal fins  
ScalesThey lack gill covers and scales
ColorsYellow body with patches of black or dark green  on the side and dorsal part
Size (How big do they get)Small; 1.4 inches (3.5 cm)
Growth RateFast, reaching 3/4th – 1 inch in a year
Lifespan3 – 4 years
Sexual DimorphismPresent; Males: Small, with wrinkles at the back of their eyes  and a more prominent yellow coloration;

Females: Bigger and rounder than the males, without wrinkles and a less pronounced yellow body
Probable Diseases Ich, and bacterial as well as fungal infections since they lack scales
Approximate Price (How much is it for)$ 4 – 15
Indian Dwarf Pea Puffer
Dwarf Pea Puffer

Tank Setup & Care Sheet Details

Care LevelIntermediate
Tank Size5  – 10 gallons (19 – 37.8 liters)

Water Parameters

pH Level6.5 – 8.5
Temperature77° to 82.4°F (25 to 28°C)
Hardness4 – 10 dGH
Aquarium  Water FlowSlow

Tank Ambience

Substrate TypeSand, fine gravel, sufficient plants since they dwell in areas of increased vegetation in the wild, logs, and driftwood  
Tank MatesCompatible with: Small and fast swimming fish such as the ember tetra, glowlight tetra, neon tetra, mosquito rasbora, zebra danio, harlequin rasbora, filament barb, leopard danio, kuhli loach, and Siamese algae eater

Incompatible with: Big, aggressive fish, as well as crustaceans like shrimps and snails, since the pea puffer considers them its food and is likely to kill them particularly the snails
Suitable Position in the TankBottom


DietLive or frozen food like brine shrimp, and blood worms, different snail species such as bladder snails, Malaysian trumpet snails, and ramshorn snails
Frequency 2-3 times a day
Dwarf Pufferfish
Pygmy Pufferfish

Important Things to Know For Fish Keepers

  • Though they are not good jumpers, pea puffers are nervous species and might get right out of the tank if scared or anxious about anything. If you find that your dwarf pufferfish has suddenly disappeared, check the area around the tank well. On that note, attaching a firm lid to the aquarium is a mandate.
  • They are known for their shy nature, and a sudden change in their living conditions could cause them to hide. For instance, an owner once mentioned his pufferfish hiding all the time after a plant it would sleep on was removed from the tank.
  • Avoid stuffing the aquarium with too many fish as that could create stress and result in your pea puffer dying one after the other.
  • If you notice your fish frantically surfing the glass, it may be out of boredom or want of food. Fish also exhibit this kind of behavior when afraid of their reflection. A solution to this is to guard the glasses well with tall rooted plants.
Pea Puffer Size
Pea Pufferfish


Q. Do pea puffers puff up?

Though rare, puffing up is a part of their defense mechanism that they acquire by ingesting water and increasing their size to warn predators in staying away from them.

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