Information, Freshwater fish, Species

Pea Puffer: Complete Species Overview

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by Jason Matthews



Pea Puffer is one of the smallest species of the pufferfish family. This fish is slightly harder to care for due to its aggressive nature. It originates from the beautiful rivers and lakes of the Western Ghats in India. However, since its introduction in the aquarium world, this fish is considered ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation. 


Scientific Name: Carinotetraodon travancoricus
Common Names: Dwarf Puffer, Bumblebee Puffer
Life Expectancy: 4 years
Adult Size: 1 to 1.5 inches


Origin Western Ghats, India
Care LevelMedium
Temperament Aggressive
Diet Carnivorous
Tank LevelTop or mid-dweller
Water pH7.2 to 7.5 pH 
Water Temperature74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit 
Water Hardness8 to 15 dGH
LightingDiffused lighting
Tank MatesNeon Tetras, Cherry Shrimp, Kuhli Loach, Ember Tetras

Fun Fact Corner

  • Pea Puffer is the smallest freshwater pufferfish. 
  • They can inflate like a balloon when they feel threatened. 
  • Pea puffers don’t possess scales on their body.
  • Pea puffers may change their color slightly depending on the background.


Unlike many other freshwater fish species in South America, Pea Puffer originated from the lush-green regions of the Western Ghats in India. This region consists of numerous freshwater rivers and lakes that provide an abode to Pea Puffer.

Pea Puffer thrives in freshwater conditions as opposed to other members in the pufferfish family that prefer brackish water or saltwater. 

Sadly, the IUCN has placed Pea Puffer in the “vulnerable” category. This fish species has massively declined due to human activities like deforestation, aquarium trade, and overfishing. Therefore, it is best to reconsider purchasing this fish for your aquarium. 


You might look at tiny and adorable Pea Puffers and think they are the friendliest fish species alive. However, that is not true. 

Unlike most freshwater fish species, Pea Puffer tends to be quite aggressive and territorial in nature. It needs sufficient space. So, if you keep too many Pea Puffer fish together or with other fish in a limited space, they will show aggression towards each other. 

Hence, always try to provide proper space for your Pea Puffer. Typically, the first Pea Puffer should have 5 gallons of space. The subsequent ones should have 3 gallons each for themselves. You should also keep a lot of substrates, plants, and decorations. Once you provide enough space, you’ll find Pea Puffers shoaling.

Apart from its aggressive nature, Pea Puffer makes for interesting fish species due to its inquisitive nature. This fish will inspect all the tank elements and move around curiously. 


Most puffer fish can live up to ten years in captivity. But Pea Puffer can live up to four to five years only. 

Again, several Pea Puffers may not reach five years of age unless you offer them proper care and space. 

Size and Appearance

pea puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) swimming in planted aquarium
Image credit: nagatsuki.hikaru, Depositphotos

Pea Puffers are tiny fish that can only grow up to 1 to 1.5 inches. They possess a unique and cartoonish appearance. 

Body Shape

As the name suggests, Pea Puffers look like little swimming peas due to their rounded bodies and clear caudal fins. 

If you observe a Pea Puffer, the mouth area is slightly pointed. However, as you move toward its middle body, it becomes puffed up and rounded. From the dorsal fin to the tail, the remaining body becomes half the width of the middle rounded area and tapers towards the end. 

The dorsal fins are almost near the body’s two-thirds, whereas the pectoral fins are near the middle. 

The caudal fin possesses a distinctive appearance. It’s almost clear and tiny. Therefore, the caudal fin might not be noticeable when Pea Puffers swim. This makes it look like they don’t possess a caudal fin, making them appear like a pea swimming in the tank!

Like other puffer fish species, this one also has large-rounded eyes and a rectangular mouth.

Body Color

Pea Puffers have a yellowish-green body color. On top of it, there are even spots present that are consistently spaced. This gives a uniform look to their overall appearance. 

Note that there are no spots present on the underbelly. 

Differences Between Male and Female Pea Puffer

You may notice the below-mentioned differences between a male Pea Puffer and a female Pea Puffer. 

CategoryMale Pea PufferFemale Pea Puffer
Body SizeSmallerLarger
SpottingsBlack line present on the belly, blue markings near the eyesAbsence of black line or any markings
Body ColorBright yellowSlightly dull in comparison
TemperamentMore aggressive and territorialLess aggressive and territorial


You don’t need a lot of special conditions to breed Pea Puffers. 

  • First, just set up a breeding tank and add male and female Pea Puffers in it.
  • Mimic the same water conditions as in the original tank. 
  • However, for faster breeding, keep the temperatures a bit warmer (79°F to 80°F). 
  • The female Pea Puffer will lay the eggs on vegetation, rocks, and similar areas.
  • Once eggs are laid, separate the adults immediately and transfer them back to the original tank. 
  • The eggs typically hatch in 24 to 48 hours

The fry will also start swimming within a week. Ensure that you feed them proper fry food, and then move on to brine shrimp.

Nutrition and Diet

Unlike other tiny freshwater fish that are omnivorous, Pea Puffers are strictly carnivorous

You need to provide either frozen or live food to your Pea Puffers. They may feed on Daphnia and Moina as well. However, Pea Puffers cannot survive on just pellets and flakes. 

The table below discusses the best food options.

Frozen FoodBloodworms, brine shrimp (juvenile or adult)
Live FoodBlackworms, little snails, white worms

Note: It is best to provide food to Pea Puffers twice a day

Tank Requirements

Pea Puffers are top-dwellers or mid-dwellers. They require proper tank conditions, and cannot tolerate changes well. 

Tank Size

You need to have a tank of at least 10 gallons if you want your Pea Puffer to live peacefully. However, it is best to opt for a 20-gallon or 30-gallon tank as this fish needs its own space. 

Moreover, as it is aggressive in nature, add five more gallons for every Pea Puffer. 

Water Requirements 

As mentioned earlier, Pea Puffers cannot tolerate fluctuations in their environment. Hence, it is necessary to provide them with constant water requirements. 

  • Water Temperature – Pea Puffers strive well in warm and tropical temperatures between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water pH – This fish can tolerate pH between 6.5 and 8.4, but the best option is to provide them with 7.2 to 7.5 pH
  • Water Hardness – The water hardness should be between 8 and 15 dGH. Again, keep this constant. 
  • Water Flow – Pea Puffers cannot swim fast. So, provide them with slow and gentle currents to not overwhelm them. 

Decoration and Plants 

Pea Puffers belong to a highly-vegetation region. Therefore, you need to mimic a similar environment. 

Try keeping decorative items like driftwood and rocks in the tank. Also, pay special attention to plants, as Pea Puffers need to hide in them for their safety. The best plant options include Java Moss, Hornwort, Anacharis, and Java Fern.

Regarding the tank substrate, you can keep small gravel or coarse sand as they’re plant-friendly. 


Pea Puffers don’t need bright lights, as that can cause stress. However, if you want to grow plants you need some lighting

The best option is to go for diffused lighting. You can do this by keeping floating plants in the aquarium. 

Best Tank Mates

It is hard to find good tank mates for Pea Puffers due to their aggressive nature. As they are into fin-nipping, slow-moving fish is a big no-no. Due to their size, Pea Puffers can also become prey to large fish. So, you need to choose carefully. 

Some of the best tank mates for Pea Puffers include:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Ember Tetras
  • Otocinclus 
  • Chili Rasbora 
  • Panda Corys 

You can keep one Pea Puffer per tank to avoid conflicts. However, if you want to keep more, follow the ‘5-gallon more per each Pea Puffer’ rule, and provide lots of plants for shelter. 

Common Diseases in Pea Puffer

Pea Puffers face common diseases that are seen in most fish species.

Some of them include: 

  • Fin rot
  • Bacterial infection
  • Ich 
  • Velvet disease
  • Parasitic infection
  • Fungal infection

You can prevent these diseases by ensuring constant water conditions, proper nutrition, and a clean tank.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

Jason aquariume

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