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Dwarf puffer

Carinotetraodon travancoricus



    The smallest of the puffers these require special care and conditions. If you are willing to meet their needs they can be one of the most entertaining and rewarding fish you keep.

Quick stats:

    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: Up to 1" (2.5cm) Total Length
    Tank: 2 to 3 gallons per fish
    Strata: All
    PH: 7.0 to 8.0
    Hardness: Soft to medium. dH range: to 15
    Temperature: 71°F to 82°F (22-28°C)


    Family: Tetraodontidae
    Order: Tetraodontiformes
    Class: Actinopterygii
    Genera: Carinotetraodon
    Species: travancoricus

Dwarf puffer


Dwarf puffer

Common name:

    Dwarf puffer , Pea Puffers, Pygmy Puffers, Blue Eyed Puffers

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Asia, India (Kerala)

Min.Tank Requirement:
    Even though they are small in size, dwarves need roughly 2 to 3 gallons per fish to have adequate space. They will become aggressive to one another if cramped too tightly together.
Tank Set up:
    Dwarf Puffers need places to establish territories. It is a good idea to add multiple caves throughout the tank for them to hide in if and when they feel threatened. Plants are needed to break their lines of sight which in turn will cut down their aggression towards one another. The one thing that is very important with a Dwarf Puffer tank is that no matter what kind of plants you use, you want to use a LOT of them! Another important purpose for the plants is to give the puffers an interesting habitat. If the puffers are bored, they will do a lot of swimming up and down the glass.
    I feed mine live black worms, live brine shrimp, live snails (the size of their eyes), and live ghost shrimp. They also enjoy frozen blood worms. The live food I drop into their tanks and watch the puffers hunt down their food, as they would in the wild. The frozen blood worm (thawed) I feed through a dropper. The dominant male will eat first, then the others follow suit, sometimes taking the worms right out of each others mouth! The least dominant wait their turn."

    Adult Males have a brown vertical line running along the underside of their bellies. During courtship and aggression behavior, this line will become thick and dark. Some males have “Wrinkles” behind their eyes.
    Females do not have the brown vertical line, nor do they have the wrinkles. Their body shape is rounder then a males’, especially during spawning season.

Tank Mates:

    Dwarves should be kept in a species only tank. They are a very aggressive little fish and will nip the fins off just about any other fish. They are capable of killing tank mates much larger than themselves with their relentless picking and nipping. There is one species of fish that many people have found compatible with dwarves.
    Otocinclus - Known as "ottos". Almost everyone who has tried them has successfully kept them in a dwarf tank with little to no problems. They remain small and do not attract much attention to themselves.

    Carinotetraodon travancorius are the smallest of the Fresh Water Puffer fish sold in Fish Stores today. They require 100% dechlorinated fresh water. Note: They can tolerate a wide variety of water parameters, but do best as stated above..

    Dwarf Puffers are very interesting, intelligent and active fish. They are very observant fish, noticing everything outside of their tank. In time, they will come to know their owners . As soon as we walk into the room they swim right up to the glass, staring at us with those big eyes! They’ll stay in one spot for hours, observing everything you’re doing. One way to stop their staring is to feed them. They are ‘big’ time beggars for food!!

    All my puffers are males and have no problem with territory. There is of course a dominant male in the group, but that was to be expected and he only claims dominance at feeding. Once in a while I'll see some chasing. The fish are not stressed with this chasing, it seems to be a natural behavior.

    Special note on water changes: You also have to be careful when siphoning water from the tank, because their curiosity will sometimes lead them a little too close to the siphon tube! Accidental sucking up of the dwarves are common.

Dwarf puffer

    Slow moving freshwater rivers in its' home range.


    Has been bred in aquaria, but few details are available. Here is a link to one account, it even has photos
    Ren's Dwarf Puffer page.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Ovidiu Bledea
Dwarf puffers are both cute and smart for fish. They watch you more than you watch them. They need a well decorated/planted tank with as many places to hide and break the line of sight as possible. They need 2-5 gallons for each fish to subdue aggression. They can also be really fast when they want to. They love exploring and playing around in currents. Occasionally you have to rearrange the decorations/plants or they will get bored and swim up and down on the glass. They are smart enough to recognize the face of the person feeding them, all the containers they get food from (only takes a few times) I used a small Tupperware container to feed them bloodworms and they recognize it from far away and jump in it as soon as it’s in the water! Almost looks like they form a cue. At feeding time if there is enough food they’ll rest on each other like they don’t care. 4 puffers on top of each other in a tiny Tupperware container is not a problem as long as there is food in there. lol

I keep mine in a 10 gallon tank (with a good filter) with 5 bumblebee gobies, 1 adult platy, 3 tiny platies and an oto catfish. The tank might look overstocked but they are all happy and I test the water regularly with perfect parameters. They are all juveniles. I will be getting a bigger tank soon (30gallon) so don't push it with overstocking; it's never a good idea. Right now I do two 30% water changes per week to keep up, so went overboard on the number of fish I put in there.

Tank history and Important puffer tips:

I used to have 3 1" Figure 8 puffers in this 10G tank. Never do that unless you have money for or own a bigger tank for later down the road. I started my fish-keeping hobby with these 3 figure 8 puffers. Never ever start learning how to care for fish with puffers as they need pristine water conditions. All 3 died in 1 month because of my inexperience. Start with something really hardy and peaceful, not expensive puffers like my LFS suggested foe me. Do your own research preferably not in store on a smartphone. Also remember you need a properly cycled tank for them to live more than 1 month or so. One of the 3 Figure 8 puffers was also very aggressive towards the other two. Two of them were peaceful and got along great. I decided to buy some feeder fish on top of the snails that I was feeding them. The feeder fish turned out to be platies and the puffers were not even close to interested in them. The fish lived, all 10 of them. After the Figure 8’s died, the platies were moved into a small tank except for 4 of them. (Most are even now still way under an inch).

How I got my tank going and how I got everyone to live happily together/what worked for me:

Right before my first 2 Figure 8 puffers died and the 3rd was still taunting them I bought 5 bumblebee gobies and put them in. The bumblebee gobies can be fresh or brackish water fish. I waited for the LFS to have them for about 2 weeks and most of them still had very bright colours, so I got some of those. The gobies are so territorial and so mean that even the figure 8’s would stand clear. This also goes for the dwarf puffers. They also chase away the aggressive 1.5” platy I have in there. It’s essential to let the bumblebees establish territory before putting in the dwarf puffers. The 4 dwarf puffers I put in went and visited a couple of the gobies after being put in and were chased away really fast and since then they’ve been leaving the gobies alone. I have read in many places that the black and yellow stripes signify that the bumblebee gobies are nasty fish. The figure 8’s always stayed away after giving them the “evil eye” roundabout check. Occasionally I will see a platy with a nipped fin and a guilty looking puffer, but it doesn’t happen too often. A week or so ago I also got a oto catfish (0.75”) for brown algae, which grew like crazy. He loves the tank and is less afraid of his tankmates now. He is the fastest fish I have ever seen. All these fish are getting moved into a 30G soon, with a 70GPH filter. They should be happier with the extra room to swim around.

IMPORTANT: I have also tried, after moving out all the platies, to add another puffer to the bunch. This is only from my experience, but it seemed that the other 4 would not accept him. He seldom ate, never hung out with the other fish and he was hiding ALL the time. He sadly eventually starved. He was an adult male (had wrinkles behind his eyes and a line on his belly). I tried feeding him everything and I have only seen him eat once in 3 or so weeks. He even looked depressed; it was very odd. So to be safe I would recommend getting all of them at once. I know many people only keep one, but I see social behaviour every single day. They bug each other a lot but they also love hanging out and playing around the tank or watching EVERYTHING that happens outside the tank. I see two beady eyes pointed at me right now and I’m about 2-3 meters away on my bed.. lol :) If you get one or more you won’t be sorry.


From: Randy K.
In my experience, it seems the warnings about mixing the dwarf puffer with other species are overstated. I have an almost crowded community tank that includes a (male) paradise gourami, a mixed species school of tetras, a (female) flagfish, Burmese botia, kuhli loaches, one pleco and several ottos. I was so charmed by the dwarf puffer that I went ahead and added one to this busy mix, thinking I would just return it to the store if it became a problem. I believe I got a female. I've had the puffer for a couple of months now and it's no problem at all. She's a very active and amusing little fish. She swims among all the others peacefully and hasn't nipped anyone besides the snails which she devours quite handily. The botia always controlled the snail population but the puffer flat-out destroys them. I now take snails from my other tank and throw them in for treats. Besides that she really enjoys blood worms. I've watched her and other fish grab opposite sides of the same worm and bonk heads in the middle. She's a riot to watch and no one has been harmed but the worms and snails. I realize this sounds irresponsible to speak against 'official' advice. Maybe this would only work with females? Maybe I just got really lucky? Either way, the claim that an individual dwarf puffer can't be part of a community tank seems overstated. My fish are unmarked, healthy and happy. And my plants are free of snails!
From: Jared
I have been keeping 3 DP's and an Oto cat in a rather heavily planted 10 gallon for 1 year now. I must say that though they are very small fish, they get very aggressive and I would not put with anything other than a single Oto cat in a tank this size. They will establish a pecking order when it comes to feeding time; not too long after they get settled into their own tank a dominant fish will emerge (I named my dominant fish "Dom"). They eat live black worm and snails. The chances are very good that they will not accept flake foods, so before you buy them make sure you are prepared. Either way, make for a very interesting tank.
From: Robin
These wonderful little fish need to be kept in a species only tank as they are know fin nippers and can be quite aggressive despite their size! You can get away with some shrimps and otos seem to work well with them. They should only be kept in a tank where they have 3-5 gallons each! Also, the tank needs to be heavily planted so that they have lots of hiding places and broken lines of sight to avoid any fighting. They love live food and freeze dried and obviously snails but flakes and dry foods are not suitable as they can be bad for the fish. They are really fun little fish and will entertain for hours when cared for properly. Enjoy!!!
From: Thomas
Let me just tell you what a great little fish this is. Funny looking, always active, interesting swimming pattern, inquisitive and full of energy. Another great thing about this fish is how it can move its eyes about so it properly looks back at you compared to other straight-eyed fish. Gives this fish real character. One of the best fish to keep in a small aquarium. They live in fresh water and prefer a high ph so water straight out of the tap is usually fine(aquasafe or reverse osmosis is of course still necessary). I have kept 7 of these fish together in a 5 gallon tank for over 4 months now. The only tricky bit about keeping this fish is their feeding. You need to be prepared to spend about 20 minutes a day feeding them. They need feeding twice a day, more than other fish do or they get aggressive. If fed regularly they are very peaceful, if not they get more vicious than piranhas. Another reason they are tricky to feed is because they do not accept flake food and ideally should be fed hard shelled food to help grind their teeth down. Breeding snails is a good idea with these fish. Ideally ramshorn snails are the best snail to feed but they are tricky to breed. Tadpole snails are easiest to breed but get too hard shells for the puffers to crush if they are grown beyond a certain size. My puffer's regular diet is live bloodworms and live daphnia although in nature they like to eat crustaceans most. A good idea is to get some freeze dried bloodworms in case you are in a hurry some days. Most people think this fish does not puff up but mine definitely do every time I feed them. This is the only time they do puff but it is great to watch. I have seen a few people mistake their puffers puffing as a sign of them having eaten enough and then being upset they do not puff... whereas the puffing up is a sign of excitement and the fish will probably still want more food.
From: James
The first month I purchased this puffer I did not know what to feed it. I tried flakes but he did not seems like it I am not sure what he ate during the 1st month. After that I tried frozen bloodworm he seems like it and became a lot more energetic. I keep him with a Betta and a swordtail in a 10 gal tank. Everybody seems getting along fine. But after the puffer staring to eat bloodworm I discover my Betta’s tail became shorter every day I did not suspect the puffer did the bad deed since his month is so small and my Beta is at least 5 time bigger the puffer. I did not believe it until one day I saw the Puffer nips the Betta's fin from below swift and clear. Now my Betta (known to be aggressive & intolerant) is transformed from a long hair hippie to a marine hair cut…super short! The betta is kind of aware if he stays on the top of the water his fin will be nipped so often he stays down the bottom of the tank. Still he got caught off guard from time to time and I think once his fin is all gone the fin nipping will stop. Puffer is a fish that does not like tank mates yet getting bored easily so he has to get something to do to pass time. He must think fin nipping is fun thing to do! He is a curios little guy often look out the tank see what is happening out there. Very hardy and cute! But just do not like companies and particularly those who swim slowly and have long finds. I don’t know once’ all the fin is gone what else he will do for his pass time.
From: Trevor
I have had my puffers for a while now. I have them with a rainbow shark, dwarf gourami, and a pleco. I feed them frozen bloodworms and a sinking algae wafer for the pleco. The all get along very well. I haven't had any problems so far. The puffers are the joy of the tank and seem very intelligent for a fish.
From: Kathy Saunders
We have a ten gallon tank that we put three of these little ones in it. In my eyes it is the best tank to watch in my home. They are always doing something interesting. I find that they love the snails as food more than blood worms. We found out from this site that they enjoyed eating them and had a problem with snails, not any more. We had to start breeding snails to keep up with the appetite. I love watching them eat. They will come to the top of our tank when we feed them blood worms and eat right from the plastic spoon we use. As far as how big the snails should be that you feed them, I find it does not matter to them food is food. They have cleaned off new snails as well as older and bigger snails we have put in. They are great!!!!
From: Mkristo
If you want a fish with Brains and Cuteness, the Dwarf Puffer is for you. I have had them for several years and just love them. It is best to keep them in a species only tank, as they are fin nippers. If you have a snail problem, you won't after putting some of these guys in, as they LOVE snails. They will not eat flakes or Freeze dried food, as live and/or frozen bloodworms and blackworms are what they desire along with the occasional brine shrimp. Don't be fooled by the slowness in which they swim around, as they can be superman fast if needed.
From: Hikki
I have kept dwarfs as well. I currently I have 6 in a 10 gallon. They are not aggressive to each other, but seem to have established a pecking order. I feed them bloodworms once a day, and they keep on looking out at me when I walk past. They are definitely intelligent and can recognize the container when I bring them food, sometimes jumping at the dropper i use to feed them.





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