Dwarf puffer fish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)

Dwarf puffer fish (Carinotetraodon travancoricus, also known as the malabar pufferfish, pea pufferfish or pygmy pufferfish) is the smallest fish of tetraodon family you may encounter on sale.

The fish comes from India and unlike the other species, it inhabits only in freshwater.

Dwarf pufferfish is very small and quite often it’s sold in its max size – about 2.5 cm long.

It’s one of few fishes which observe with interest what is happening behind the tank glass and starts to recognize its owner. Pea puffer is a very clever fish and its behavior often reminds other intelligent fishes – cichlids.

Once you enter the room, the fishes start swimming near the tank glass trying to attract your attention. Of course, they’d like to ask for some feed, but it’s always nice to see such a reaction from the fish.



Dwarf puffers may become a perfect addition to your collection of aquarium fishes. Is quite easy, you just have to keep in mind that:

  • it’s better to keep them away from other fishes
  • they are predators
  • they require clean tank water and they pollute it very fast with feed leftovers
  • although the fish is small, it’s aggressive
  • the fish diet requires snails in it

Inhabitance in the wild

Is from Kerala state, India. The fish inhabits in the river Pamba which comes down from the mountains and pours into Vembanad lake (which is the fish habitat). The Pamba river has a slow flow and it’s rich with water plants.

So, these mean that dwarf puffer fish is a completely freshwater one, unlike all its relatives which at least require some brackish water.


It’s one of the smallest (if not the smallest one) of tetraodon family – the fish size is bout 2.5 cm (1 in). The fish eyes move independently of each other, that allows to observe surroundings almost without moving.

Depending on the fish mood its color varies from green to brown with dark spots scattered all over the body. Pugmy puffer abdomen is white or yellowish.

Keeping in a tank

Doesn’t require a big tank, however different references provide us with different info, one say that 2 gallons for one fish is enough, the others – 10 gallons are enough for a small dwarf puffer school. So, the proper tank capacity has some average value of those mentioned above. Anyway, we speak about small tank capacities.

It’s important that tank is balanced and completely set, since the fish is rather sensitive to ammonia and nitrates content in the tank water. Addition of some salt into the water isn’t advisable, moreover it’s harmful, however this recommendation can be quite often seen over the Internet.

The thing is that the fish is a rather new one and there is very few reliable info about it, but we know for sure that adding some salt into the tank shortens dwarf puffer lifespan.

There are always lots of leftovers after the fish was fed. If you try to put some snails into the tank and see what happens – the dwarf puffer will attack and eat the snails and their rests will lay on the tank bottom and soon they will start to rot.

So, you should install a powerful filter and renew the water regularly. It’s very important to maintain the low level of nitrates and ammonia content in the water, especially in small tanks. But keep in mind that the fish doesn’t like strong water flow, so you’d better decrease it as much as possible.

Tank size5 gal (20L) for one fish
DietCarnivore/Predatory (Snails)
Temperature77-79 °F (25-26 °C)
Size1 inch (2.5 cm)

In the tank puffer isn’t very demanding to water parameters. The main thing is to avoid anything extreme, the fish will adapt to the rest. Even the information about dwarf spawning differs – in the references both hard and soft, acidic and alkali water is mentioned.

All these show that dwarf freshwater puffer fish has high adaptivity level. So, if you provide the fish with proper tank conditions – clean water and good feed, it’ll be a delight for your eyes for quite a long time.

Naturally, this Indian inhabitant requires warm water – within 22-26 С.


Pygmy puffer fish care crucially depends on the proper feed. It doesn’t matter what the sellers say, since in the real life the fish doesn’t eat flakes or granules.

In the wild they feed on snails, small spineless species and insects. If you don’t keep to this diet the fish will starve.

The best way to create a fortified diet for dwarf puffer is to feed it with small snails (Physa, ramshorn snails, MTS) and frozen feed.

If we speak about frozen one – favorite dwarf puffer fish food is blood worm, daphnia and brine shrimps. If your fish refuses to feed on frozen feed you can mix it with the live feed. Nothing improves the fish appetite as live and moving feed.

You can give snails to dwarf puffer regularly, since they are its basic food in the wild and the fish uses snail’s shell to mill its teeth.

So, the fish will quickly eat all the snails in its tank and you’d better have some plan B in this respect.

Theyr will ignore large snails, but they’ll eagerly feed on small ones whose shells they can crack.

Even Melania snails don’t feel themselves safe in their hard shells, since the fish will still try to crack smaller species.

Puffers hunt in a strange way – the fish stays above its target and studies it (a snail), then it attacks the snail when the moment is right.

This is quite a time-consuming process. The fish has some area around its target (about 5cm in diameter) and the decision as for attacking the target is made within this area.

Amazon Best Sellers for puffer fish
40+ Feeder / Cleaner Tadpole Snails (AKA Bladder or Pond Snails)These snails are excellent live feeders for PUFFERS, LOACHES, CRAYFISH and TURTLES!
Give your pets HEALTHY, NATURAL and
NUTRITIOUS diet to bring up their COLORS,
10+ Feeder / Cleaner Ramshorn SnailsRamshorn Snails are excellent LIVE FEEDERS for Puffers, Loaches, Crayfish!
Available in different quantities!
NATURAL DIET of these snails will bring up COLORS,
extend LONGEVITY and boost ENERGY in your pets!
Gravel Cleaners
Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance SystemWill not disturb fish or decor during routine aquarium maintenance
Adapts easily to most faucets
Complete ready-to-use system
KEDSUM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum SiphonWith well-formed shape,compact structure, it is easy to install and operate
Suitable for the fish tank range: 50-100Gal (water depth:11.81-23.62 inch).
Aquarium Water Treatments
Seachem StabilitySuperior tank starter
Can’t overdose
Fresh and saltwater use
Seachem ReplenishReplaces Minerals Stripped By Ro Units
Prevents Osmotic Shock
Creates optimal conditioning
Seachem PrimeDechlorinates
Detoxifies heavy metals
Promotes natural slime coat
Will not overactivate protein skimmers
Aquarium Filters
AquaClear Power FilterQuick and easy installation
Filtration volume is up to 7 times larger than comparable filters
Comes equipped with AquaClear Foam, Activated Carbon and
BioMax and Cycle Guard for continuous biological filtration
and superior water quality
2-year warranty
Ideal for aquariums up to 5-110 gallons
Marineland Penguin Power FilterCertified flow rate of 350GPH
Perfect for all aquariums up to 70-gallon
Uses two Rite-Size C” filter cartridges
Delivers easy, three stage mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration
Convenient Penguin Rite Size Cartridges come ready to use with each filter
Aquarium Test Kits
API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-TestIncludes Freshwater pH, High Range pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate.
Kit features computer-analyzed laminated color cards, instruction booklet,
4 test tubes, a holding tray and test tube rac
Made in USA
Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums:
pH, nitrite, nitrate, carbonate and general water hardness
Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear
Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Test StripsWith Tetra EasyStrips Now More Convenient to Test Your Water
More accurate hardness test
Reaction stops in 60 seconds to prevent false higher readings
Aquarium Décor
Zoo Med Tag Mopani WoodZoo Med Laboratories mopani Wood
A beautiful two color African hardwood for aquariums or terrariums
One of the hardest and densest woods available
Sinks immediately in aquariums and unlike driftwood, will not rot
Coco Philippines Java FernLIVE IMPORTED PHILIPPINES JAVA FERN — Microsorum pteropus “Philippine”,
or Philippines Java Fern is a beautiful species of underwater fern
Tantora Premium Grade Catappa Indian Almond Leaves50 Medium “Indian Almond Leaves” 5-7 Inches
All natural and organic; Rich in tannins
Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
Stimulates fish and shrimp color


In fact, all freshwater dwarf puffer fish have rather different behavior in different tanks. Again, one say that they successfully keep together with other fishes, the others complain about some nipped fins and the fishes being pressured.

It’s possibly about each fish temper and tank conditions.

In general, it’s recommended to keep dwarf puffer in a separate tank, since they are more active and this way no other fish gets hurt.

Sometimes, this fish can be kept together with prawns, but keep in mind that despite the fish’s small mouth in the wild it feeds on different spineless species, so at least small prawns will be treated as feed.

You may keep dwarf puffer in a small school of 5-6 species in a thickly planted tank with lots of covers. In such a tank the intraspecific aggression will lessen sufficiently, it’ll be easier for the fish to define its territory and to find a mate.

Sex differences

It’s hard to see between dwarf puffer male and female when they are juveniles, but adult male fish has a dark stripe along its abdomen, which a female fish doesn’t have. Also, females have more rounded body.


Unlike lots of related species the dwarf puffer successfully breeds in a tank. The majority of experts advise to put a fish couple or a harem (one male and several female fishes), since males are known for their cruelty – they hit their enemy to death.

Also, if there are several female fishes and one male – it decreases the chances that the male fish will haunt one of the female fishes too severely.

If you take a fish couple or three of them for breeding the tank may be small sized. Light filtration is required, but if the water is renewed regularly you may not use the filter.

The spawning tank should be thickly planted with lots of small leaved plants – cabomba, Limnophila aquatica or Javan moss. Dwarf pea puffer especially likes laying eggs on some moss.

After moving the fishes into the spawning tank you should feed them high with live feed and snails. The male fish color becomes more saturated and it means that he’s ready for spawning.

The courtship behaviour shows when the male fish starts chasing the female one and biting her if she’s still not ready.

The chase ends somewhere in the moss where the fish couple stays for a while to lay eggs and milt.

The eggs are almost transparent and small (about 1mm), not sticky and they just fall down. The spawning takes place several times till the female fish lays all the eggs.

There are very few eggs – about 10 or less. But, dwarf puffer can spawn every day, so if you want to have more eggs just keep several female fishes in the tank.

The breeding fishes may eat their eggs, so you should remove the eggs from the spawning tank by means of large pipette or hose. But you’ll barely see the eggs, so if you see the breeding like behavior of the fish and you see no eggs, use the hose and move it over the areas where the fishes seem to have spawned.

It’s possible that together with the rubbish you’ll gather some hardly seen fish eggs.

The juveniles hatch in a few days and for some period of time they feed at the account of their umbilical vesicle. Start feed for juveniles is very small – Vinegar eels, infusorian.

Some time later you may feed them with brine shrimp nauplii and in about a month with frozen feed and small snails.

If you rasig several fish generations at the same time you should sort the juveniles, since there may be cases of cannibalism. The juveniles grow fast and in two month the fish may be about 1 cm long.