Dwarf Puffers are hardy, peaceful (once settled in), and long lived. Their intelligence, small size (up to 3.5 cm) and not needing salt, makes them a popular fish for small tanks (20 litres min). A great fish for beginners and expert fish keepers.
Out of all of the fish from India, one that attracts the most interest from hobbyists is the Dwarf Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus). They also go by a few other names including the Dwarf Pufferfish, Pea Puffer Fish, Pygmy Pufferfish, Dwarf Pea Puffer and the Malabar Pufferfish. It gets these names because of its size – it is one of the smallest members of its family, growing to a maximum size of 3.5 cm.
Dwarf puffers make their home in the Pamba River, which flows from the mountains of the Western Ghats into the Vembanad Lake. This means that these fish, unlike many of their more well-known puffer cousins, are purely freshwater fish and do not appreciate the addition of salt to their water.
Click for all Puffer fish at Rebel Pets.
Males and females differ in appearance which makes them relatively easy to sex. Males have a bright yellow belly compared to the lighter yellow-white bellies of females. The males also possess a dark stripe on their belly which the females do not have. Also, males are typically a darker golden-green coloration where females are a lighter yellow-green.
Both males and females have dark patches on the upper side of the body, however males have a thick dark stripe which runs from the pectoral fins to the caudal fin and females have random tiny black spots across their body.
Males also have wrinkles around their eyes.
Puffers are known for their intelligence, their curiosity, and their awareness of what is going on outside of their tank. Dwarfs are no exception. They carefully and deliberately search every surface in their tank and pay close attention to activity elsewhere in the room, as well. They beg for food whenever their owner is close by, moving up and down the glass and spending more time at the area where they are usually fed. If you are not careful, it’s pretty easy to overfeed your puffers.
They occupy all regions of the tank and can be found in and amongst plant life as well as out in the open scavenging for food.
These fish prefer well-planted tanks with some areas where each male can set up his territory. They do well in smaller tanks, and a pair or trio can be kept in a desktop tank. A good filter helps maintain water quality, but make sure the flow isn’t too strong. Puffers in general are not strong swimmers and seem to prefer areas with lesser water flow. I use sponge filters in my tanks where I can adjust the flow from practically nothing to a raging torrent. For the puffers, I keep the flow at a fairly slow rate.
The minimum size of aquarium recommended for a Dwarf Puffer is a 20 litre tank.
Male Dwarf Puffer Fish can be very territorial and aggressive towards each other which is why it is really important that when keeping these fish, you keep a single male and several females.
So whilst it is possible to keep them in a community tank, we recommend keeping them in a species only aquarium due to their territorial and aggressive behavior towards other fish (which usually results in fin nipping).
If you do choose to keep them in community tanks then be sure to keep them with small fast swimming species like Ember Tetras, Neon Tetras, Glowlight Tetra, Filament Barb, Mosquito Rasbora, Zebra Danio, Leopard Danio, Harlequin Rasbora, Dwarf Otocinclus or Siamese Algae Eaters.
Do not put these veracious little predators in with your prized shrimp collection as these fish are active hunters and will eat them!
Click for all Puffer fish at Rebel Pets.
Dwarfs in captivity do eat small snails and they should have a varied diet. Feed daily with an assortment of live and frozen foods like newly hatched brine shrimp, grindal worms, and occasionally larger worms like blackworms and whiteworms. They also enjoy Daphnia and Moina. The occasional algae wafer could also be added but they may not be eaten.
Try to feed your Dwarf Puffer twice a day, preferably in the morning and evening. They are very intelligent fish and will soon recognize you entering the room which can signal to them that they are about to be fed. They may appear to be hungry but stick to an amount of food they can consume within three minutes of being placed into the tank to avoid over-feeding them.
Clean water is important. Keep the dissolved organics and nitrates low by doing large regular water changes, especially if you are keeping them in smaller tanks. If you provide them with clean water and the right foods, dwarf puffers will reward you with many years of unique behavior.
Dwarf Puffers are known for nipping and being aggressive towards one another, so it’s only a matter of time until injuries occur. Accidentally placing more than one male in your aquarium can lead to them fighting and small chunks of flesh being taken out of them which provides the ideal location for bacterial or fungal infections. See the section Sexing above to sex them.
See Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment at Rebel Pets for help with diagnosing and treating diseases.
|Adult Size:||3.5 cm|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Beginner|
|Minimum Tank Size:||20 litres, +20 litres/add. fish|
|Temperament:||Peaceful, but territorial to each other.|
|Tank Level:||All Levels|
|Diet:||Carnivore with algae|
|Lifespan:||up to 4 Years|
|Temperature:||20 to 26°C can tolerate up to 30°C|
|pH:||6.8 – 8.5|
|Hardness:||up to 15 dGH (soft)|