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Dwarf Malabar Puffers – Tiny Fish, Big Personality

Hello everyone! I often write about odd freshwater fish. This blog I wanted to write about another personal favorite, the Dwarf Malabar Puffer, also called the Pea or Pygmy Puffer.

Dwarf Malabar Puffers, Carinotetraodon travancoricus, are cute little bundles of energy that come from the inland waters of Southern India, where they can be found in slow moving rivers amongst dense vegetation. These pea-sized puffers are a dwarf species that only grow to about 1.25 inches in length. They are colorful little fish with a body that is a deep golden hue. They are splotched with dark blue, black, or green spots. Males will often develop a dark stripe along their belly, especially when they want to show off or court a female. 

While many species of puffers demand that they be kept alone, the Dwarf Malabar Puffer is somewhat of an exception.  Even though these little guys can be somewhat nippy, an aquarium filled with plants and wood will provide ample cover to allow the hobbyist to keep more than one of these fascinating little fish. In a 20 gallon aquarium, it is absolutely possible to keep 4 or 5 individuals together. When keeping them in a species tank, it is always recommended that you keep one male per 2 or 3 females.  This will help to keep territorial aggression to a relative minimum.

Feeding your dwarf puffers can be a bit of a challenge. Many will not accept dry foods such as pellets flakes. Dwarf Puffers will, however, readily devour thawed frozen foods like brine shrimp, plankton, blood worms, and mysis shrimp. Live blackworms also provide a wonderful treat for these fish. As with most puffers, these have teeth Pea Puffernever really stop growing. You should provide the occasional small freshwater snail so that the puffers can keep their teeth worn by biting into the shell of the snail. Once you get on a regular feeding schedule, these cute little puffers will race to the front of the aquarium to beg for food.

With their curious nature and engaging personalities the Dwarf Malabar Puffer has become one of the most popular freshwater fish in the hobby today. People who keep this species are fanatical in their love for them, and when you see them in person, you can certainly understand what all the excitement is about! Their diminutive size and puppy dog-like behaviors certainly make the Dwarf Malabar Puffer a wonderful fish to keep and observe.

One comment

  1. avatar

    hi. i have kept these guys for quite a while and my experience differs markedly from the article above. all peapuffs i’ve ever seen are green. varying shades of light green as a base with spot markings of dark and darker green outlined in still darker green, dark enough that it appears black. where the blue factors in escapes me. not saying i wouldn’t like some blue- i’ve just never seen it. “colorful” in my opinion is a bit of a reach. for housing, when you see them @ your LFS and the tank is teaming w/ them youre almost certainly looking at very young fish because at a young age they are very communal and actually feed better in groups but this happy character trait doesnt last nearly long enough as we would like before they transform into fiesty 5 galloners. this means that each fish requires it’s own 5 gallons and if it doesn’t get it it will commandeer as much of that from another PP and the sub loses out- ie: starves. so in that respect the author of the article’s ratio was correct as well as the gender related advice. the dietary specs were also accurate(forget ANY pellets or flakes), however…with regard to snails: they make up the dominant percentage of this fishes diet in the wild and should have a similar presence in the aquarium. i’ve found through experience that pond are best followed by ramshorn. this is undoubtedly due to most other snails (cone,assassin,…) being nocturnal and hiding under the sand during the day. puffers- being strictly diurnal are asleep when the lights go out and don’t get a chance to eat them. and speaking of eating- PPs are unique in that they DON’T have ever growing teeth and even if they did don’t use them on snails. all of my guys hover around in a bumbly type fashion until they see a small snail of appropriate size, then their eyes bug out (super cute), they pull up to the bumper baby and wait for the right moment they can get the best hold on the snail and WHAMMO! they bite and suck the invert out of it’s shell like an oyster on the halfshell. slightly larger snails may take a few hits to finish and large snails are investigated, then ignored. succeeding w/ these fish requires a species tank or properly chosen tankmates. contrasting w/ their grumpiness towards their own kind they are easily intimidated by other species and often refuse to eat, starving themselves to death. anything large or aggressive or fast moving and let’s face it, when youre serving bloodworms or better yet live blackworms, they all are, will prevent PPs from getting enough food so keep with other PPs or small slow moving/timid fish. i keep mine w/ badis badis and as both are often slow eaters- have had no problems. neon tetras? forget it. way too hyper. and one last thing: they need a fine substrate and no sharp/abrasive surfaces or ANY fish that nip because they have no scales- instead they have smooth and rather delicate skin that tears easily and heals slowly but not well so fungal infections should watched for. adult amano, cherry shrimp, smaller corys, kuhlis, ottocats and dwarf plecos all makes suitable tankmates in a well planted tank with lots of branches and rocks or caves. too much wide open space will inspire nervous subs and aggro doms.

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