Pea Puffer: Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Carinotetraodon travancoricus (Pea Puffer fish)

Daniel Szente/Flickr

A recent, novel addition to the freshwater aquarium hobby, Pea Puffers, known by many other names, are very small members of the pufferfish family. However, don't let their small size and cute appearance trick you! Some of these tiny fish can be very aggressive, even against their own kind. Be sure to give them a proper diet and lots of room to ensure a healthy and thriving population.

Species Overview

Common Names: Pea Puffer, Dwarf Puffer, Bumblebee Puffer, Malabar Puffer, Pygmy Puffer

Scientific Name: Carinotetraodon travancoricus

Adult Size: 1 to 1.5 inches

Life Expectancy: 4 years

Family  Tetradontidae 
Origin  India 
Social  Aggressive 
Tank Level  Top, mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size  20 gallons
Diet  Carnivore 
Breeding  Egg layer
Care  Intermediate 
pH  7.0 to 8.0 
Hardness  5 to 15 dkH
Temperature  72 to 82F (22 to 28C)

Origin and Distribution

Native to the Western Ghats of India, these cute little fish have been in decline since their introduction to the aquarium hobby. The Pea Puffer is found in many of the lakes and rivers of this region of India. They are listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation, right above endangered. Please consider this carefully before deciding to bring these fish home.

Colors and Markings

The Pea Puffer has a small, rounded body with a golden back that blends into a white or tan belly. Their back is covered in dark brown to black spots. Like many other puffers, their body is fairly round with eyes that slightly protrude from their pointed head. Their tail tapers to a point with a minimized dorsal fin and absent pelvic fins.


Due to their aggressive nature, there are few, if any, species that can be kept in the same system. Most systems containing Pea Puffers will ONLY have Pea Puffers and no other fish. If you are adding these fish to a pre-established tank, be sure they are the last to be added. It is best to always add the most aggressive species to a mixed-species tank last to give others room to call their own and places to hide.

Due to their carnivorous nature, it is not recommended to keep any invertebrates in their tank. They will become lunch for a ravenous Pea Puffer. This includes shrimp and snails.

Pea Puffer Habitat and Care

Pea Puffers like a well-maintained tank with lots of plants to hide in. Given their small nature, they are used to being snacks for larger fish, so lots of cover, with either plants or other décor items, is critical to their overall stress level. However, keep in mind that lots of aquarium plants may affect your pH and oxygen levels, so make sure your tank can handle the bioload.

Pea Puffers tend to be more sensitive to poor water conditions than other freshwater species. It is critical for you to check your water chemistry and keep up with your regular maintenance.

Pea Puffer Diet and Feeding

Pea Puffers are carnivorous and require lots of animal-based proteins in their diet. This will likely mean a wide variety of frozen foods in addition to a carnivore pellet. Keep in mind that most of the vitamin content is lacking in frozen diets, so a pelleted diet must be incorporated to keep your Pea Puffer healthy. If your Pea Puffer is reluctant to eat a pelleted diet, be sure to feed a varied diet in order to round out their nutritional intake.

Gender Differences

As with many species, if all your fish are roughly the same age and being fed the same diet, the female Pea Puffers will tend to be larger than males. Males also tend to have a black line on their belly.

Male Pea Puffers can be very territorial, so it is recommended to keep only one male per tank or have an extra large tank with lots of space so there are no territory overlaps.

Breeding the Pea Puffer

Many hobbyists have had extreme difficulty with breeding the Pea Puffer. Some have found certain aquarium plants and mosses to be more conducive to successful breeding, but this is not guaranteed.

With a healthy population of one male and his female harem, usually, all the fish will spawn at once, provided the correct environmental parameters have been met. Exact specifications for this species is unknown; most spawning occurs through much trial and error. It is highly recommended to move the eggs to a breeding tank to prevent predation post-hatch.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you are interested in pufferfish, here is some more helpful related information: