Articles Caresheets

Caresheet: Dwarf Puffer | Carinotetraodon travancoricus

December 29, 2012
carinotetraodon travancoricus

Dwarf puffers may not be the best fish for a community aquarium, but their interesting behaviour and adorable looks make setting up a special tank more than worth it!

Tank size 10 gal (40L) for one puffer
Temperament Territorial/aggressive
Diet Carnivore
Temperature 77-79 °F (25-26 °C)
pH 7-7.8
Length 1 inch (2.5 cm)


Carinotetraodon travancoricus, Dwarf Puffer, Dwarf Indian Puffer, Malabar Pufferfish

Dwarf puffer natural habitat

Dwarf Puffers are naturally found in slow moving waters in south-west India, like the Pamba river. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, the deforestation, urbanisation and overfishing for the pet trade in this area have resulted in the Dwarf Puffer being listed as Vulnerable.


These little guys are the smallest known puffer species – most of them grow to an adult size of about an inch (2.5 cm). Their eyes can move independently, which allows them to closely look at something without having to move.

Depending on their mood, their colors vary from green to brown with dark spots. The belly should be white or yellowish and smooth after feeding; if your Dwarf Puffer’s belly looks lumpy even after a meal, it may have internal parasites.
The males can be distinguished from the females by the dark line that runs along their belly and the “wrinkles” behind the eyes.

Dwarf Puffer requirements

Dwarf Puffers don’t need big tanks, but try to keep them in at least 10 gallons (40l) for the first fish and 5 extra gallons for every additional one. The tank should be completely cycled before the puffer is introduced; any traces of ammonia or nitrite can be deadly. Adding salt is not necessary and might actually harm this freshwater puffer, even though it’s still recommended sometimes.

When setting up a tank for a dwarf puffer, it’s very important to create lots of hiding places to make sure the fish feels safe; this helps prevent stress. Also be sure to add some interesting stuff for your puffer to explore, as they are quite intelligent and get bored very easily. They show this by glass surfing: swimming up and down the glass of the tank, so if your puffer shows this behavior it’s a sign that it’s time to add more plants, rocks and decorations!

Live plants like Java Moss and Java Fern are essential and my personal favorites because they are so easy to grow. If you have multiple dwarf puffers, this will help them establish their own territories more easily. The photo below is a good example of what a dwarf puffer tank could look like.

Dwarf Puffer tank mates

Many people add Dwarf Puffers to their aquarium because of their effectiveness when it comes to eating snails, without thinking about what they’re going to do with the puffer when all the snails are gone and it starts nipping at other fish. Be careful when choosing tank mates. They may be small, but that doesn’t mean these puffers are suitable for any community tank. They’re best kept alone or with small, quick tankmates like Kuhli Loaches and Otocinclus to prevent fin-nipping and chasing.

If you’d rather set up a Dwarf Puffer community, be sure to go for at least 5-10 gallons per puffer and a heavily planted tank. Non-aggressive shrimp like cherry shrimp have also succesfully been kept with Dwarf Puffers, but this is always a bit of a gamble and they may end up as a tasty snack.

Dwarf puffer diet

Unlike their larger cousins, dwarf puffers don’t need hard snail shells to keep their teeth short. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy eating snails: in the wild, these are their main food source. You can breed common pond snails yourself or ask around in pet stores, they deal with snail problems often and are usually very willing to give you some.

Most Dwarf Puffers will also happily accept frozen foods like bloodworms, mosquito larvae, tubifex. The gif below shows our dwarf puffer happily slurping up a bloodworm! Live foods like blackworms are also appreciated. These are great main food sources, but don’t forget to soak any frozen foods in water before feeding and make sure you don’t overfeed your puffer. Pellets and flake foods are rarely accepted and shouldn’t be fed too often because of the lack of nutritional value.

dwarf puffer


Their intelligence, curiosity and high activity level make these fish incredibly interesting to watch. They often learn to recognize their owners and will closely monitor your every move when you’re near the aquarium.


Breeding Dwarf Puffers is considered to be fairly difficult, but very important! According to the IUCN, their population in the wild has declined by30-40% over the past five years, and yet they’re still being caught from the wild. If more people tried to breed them responsibly, then maybe this wouldn’t be necessary any more and the population would get a chance to restore itself.

If you want to breed Dwarf Puffers, be sure to get more females than males to prevent the females from being overchased. Spawning behaviour can be triggered by doing water changes with slightly cooler water. The eggs will be deposited in spawning mops or Java Moss and can be kept in floating containers or a small tank until they hatch – be sure to choose a container/tank that allows fresh water to flow past the eggs, or they can become infected with fungus.

When the fry hatch, they can be moved to a barebottom grow-out tank, which should be kept very clean. The fry can be fed with tiny foods like microworms. Grindalworms and baby brine shrimp can be given when they’re slightly bigger and will do fine until they can accept regular sized foods.

In my opinion, Dwarf Puffers are one of the most interesting fish species around. The way their eyes follow you around the room makes it clear that they’re much more intelligent than the average aquarium fish, and their feeding behaviour is just adorable! If you have an extra 10 gallon lying around and are looking for an interesting fish, I’d definitely recommend looking into getting a Dwarf Puffer.

If you need help setting up a Dwarf Puffer tank or if you’re having some trouble, the folks over at The Puffer Forum might be able to help you out.

If you still have questions about keeping dwarf puffers or if you want to share your experience with them, be sure to leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!

Join the mailing list!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Kimberly Winslow September 18, 2016 at 4:08 am

    It seems (to me) so many people are Confused, because no one is realizing there are different types of dwarf puffers that are very different!

    • Reply Mari September 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      What do you mean by this? Carinotetraodon travancoricus and Carinotetraodon imitator (which is not very different) are the only types of dwarf puffers.

  • Reply Andres July 14, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Great article I learned a lot from reading the article and most of the comments, I have a 10 gallon tank which had 3 cory catfish in it, but they all died after a month or two. I’ve kept the tank empty hoping to sell it, but I feel like starting over with it and I was wondering if a cory catfish would be ok with a dwarf puffer or two?(depending on how many the tank can handle). Would the dwarf puffers absolutely need live plants or could they use fake plastic plants?

    • Reply Mari July 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

      Hi! Corydoras and dwarf puffers can theoretically be combined but unfortunately not in this tank. A 10 gallon is too small to keep Corydoras in; Cories are also group fish and should always be kept in groups of at least 6 so you can’t keep just one. The tank would be suitable for a single dwarf puffer, though (as mentioned in the article 10 gal is the minimum for one dwarf puffer).

      I would really recommend live plants for them as they do need to be provided with plenty of distraction. If you’ve got a black thumb that’s no problem! These 8 easy aquarium plants can be grown by pretty much anyone. Good luck.

      • Reply Andres July 15, 2016 at 5:16 pm

        Thank you for getting back to me! thanks for the advice, but I had one more question to ask you. Besides having one dwarf puffer in the 10 gallon tank would i be able to put another type of fish in there? If I am able to, which type of fish?

        • Reply Rella August 28, 2016 at 7:43 pm

          I’ve had puffer fish, they do NOT play well with others. But as far as 10 gallons go, you could have some Guppies (very colorful) or make it a fancy beta tank. Any small tropical fish would be okay.

  • Reply Kristine April 15, 2016 at 10:33 am

    I loge my puffers so much and you can definitely see them watch me move about. My questions. When I bought my puffers I was told different than some of the things you speak of. I was told that they should be fed every 3 days so I’ve been doing this. Am I starving my babies?! Also was told that puffers don’t like much light, mine seem to do fine and keep happy with my LED on. I also have them in too small of a tank from the sounds of it but I’m not able to put them in the correct tank right now but they seem to be OK right now. Thank for all the great info in the article and in the comments!

    • Reply Mari April 15, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      Hi! Glad you like the article.

      Unfortunately that’s definitely not enough food, it would be a good idea to bump that up to once a day. I think larger puffers require less feedings so the person who told you this might have been confused. The light thing is also pretty much nonsense, as long as your tank is densely planted it’s not a problem.
      If your tank is too small, I really recommend upgrading or rehoming one or more puffers to prevent territorial issues.

      Good luck! They are wonderful little fish. 🙂

  • Reply blucanary April 10, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Hi again,
    I’ve got an 80 gallon community tank with 2 angels (used to be 4, but then one died, and then the other two paired up and were bullying the third, so i moved it to a pond I’ve got outside), and about 20 rasboras, cherry barbs, and cardinal tetras in aggregate.
    tank decor is a few tall rocks on one side, and dogwood with java moss on the other, with crypts and amazon swords scattered around.
    would a dp do well in here, or would I run into trouble

    • Reply Mari April 10, 2016 at 10:44 am

      You would 100% run into trouble. Especially with the angels and their long fins. Sorry!

  • Reply akaru February 29, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    great article. my wife and i got dwarf puffers once upon a time ago and knew nothing about them. pet store had them labeled communal… um about that… so most of my fish died and i had to get african knives to remove the little sobs. lol two things happened with that experiance. 1 – i fell in love with knives and 2 – my wife fell in love with puffers (she thinks they’re so cute).

    anyhoot, i’m upgrading to a 75gal tank for most my fish. this leaves me with a 55gal tank for my wife to get dwarf puffers. the tank will be sand substrate and i have plenty of plastic plants, caves and “sunken” ships, etc for them to hide in. i’m trying to figure out how many of the little buggers i should get and what i can keep with them. most sites just use the word “caution”, but don’t say much else. it seems that my neons were okay with them and i’ve seen them in tanks with barbs and hatchet fish at the pet store.

    any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Reply Mari March 1, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Hi! Glad you liked the article, great to hear you and your wife are interested in keeping dwarf puffers. They’re super fun fish to keep.

      For dwarf puffers, 10 gallons for the first fish and 5 gallons per extra puffer is usually recommended. Now that would leave you with a huge swarm of puffers which may not be ideal, so you could try going for four or five specimens. As for tankmates, try going for anything that doesn’t have long fins or will try to bother the puffers. We only keep our dwarf with cherry shrimp (relatively succesfully) but I suspect loaches (especially Kuhli’s) and quick schooling fish will work as well. Anything peaceful, quick and not long-finned should be alright I think.

      One last question – is there a reason you’re using plastic plants as opposed to real ones? Real plants are definitely ideal with puffers and don’t have to be difficult or expensive, so don’t hesitate to give them a try if you haven’t before.

      Good luck!

  • Reply blucanary February 2, 2016 at 5:24 am

    I have some (3) bumblebee gobies in a 25L freshwater tank, (yes, I know they should be brackish water, but they seem to be doing fine, and according to the guy I bought them off, they were collected from a river), and was wondering if I could add a dwarf puffer to the same, or if that’d end up badly?

    • Reply Mari February 2, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Hi! As mentioned in the article, dwarf puffers require at least 10 gallons (40L), so that’s not possible unfortunately. This is actually also the absolute minimum tank size for bumblebee gobies (15-20 gallons or 57-75L is actually a better choice), so you unfortunately you’re going to have to upgrade those (and expand your group a bit). They do come from rivers, but these rivers are also definitely brackish so bumblebee gobies need a salt grade between 1.002 and 1.008, I don’t know why the seller would tell you these don’t. It’s not true.
      What I would do is cycle a ~57L tank for them, move them there and then start to slowly bring the salt grade up to around 1.005.

      Sorry I don’t have better news! I hope you’ll follow this advice and give the gobies what they need. This article contains some fish that do work in a 25L tank. Good luck!

  • Reply blucanary January 3, 2016 at 8:56 am

    every time I’ve tried to keep puffers, they’ve died after a few weeks. all have been dwarf puffers, in cycled aquariums, being fed live snails and shrimp.
    also every time, they’ve been killed by the same thing, a weird white fuzz that slowly consumes them. during this, the puffer does not change its behaviour until i find it dead one morning

    • Reply Mari January 3, 2016 at 6:11 pm

      Sounds like some sort of fungus. Did you try any fungal medication when your puffers started showing symptoms? And what did the tank look like?

  • Reply Joshaeus December 17, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    ‘ello all! Reportedly dwarf puffers will spawn very easily if a layer of moss or filamentous algae is added…so easily, in fact, that they will spawn constantly and potentially stress themselves out from spawning so often :(. Might not be a good idea to have moss in the main tank.

    • Reply Mari December 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Oh dear, poor things haha! I hope your puffers are alright, but great tip 🙂

  • Reply Kasandra November 22, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Where do they swim at in the tank

    • Reply Mari November 24, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Puffers aren’t fish that swim in one particular water layer! You’ll find them all over the aquarium.

  • Reply Dennis October 13, 2015 at 4:16 am

    Do you have to trim there teeth after a while if you don’t have any coral in the tank like with most puffers? do they require to have coral in the tank? are they freshwater fish from beginning to end..from the sites iv found none will give a straight answer..and do there have to be live plants in the tank or is it only recommended

    • Reply Mari October 13, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Hi! No, you don’t have to trim the teeth of a dwarf puffer, they don’t use them like other puffers do and there is no risk of overgrowing. Coral is not required for any puffer nor does it help keep their teeth short – only hard foods like mussels do that!
      As mentioned in the article, dwarf puffers are 100% freshwater fish. They definitely require a densely planted tank, so live plants are a must.
      Hope that answers your questions 🙂

  • Reply Peter July 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I was looking at these little puffers at my local store. They are new arrivals so they are still under quarantine. Any idea if they are compatable with Chinese Fire Belly Newts? The newts secret toxins so if the puffer tries to nip or eat the newts they won’t fair too well.

    • Reply Mari July 24, 2015 at 10:48 am

      No, that won’t work at all. The newts require a lower temperature and a single-species setup. They will be nipped at.
      Sorry I don’t have better news for you!

      • Reply Joshaeus December 17, 2015 at 11:14 pm

        The newts may also eat the puffer…if they can inflate like other puffers the results could be lethal to both animals.

  • Reply James July 13, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Hey . I got my wonderful dwarf puffers yesterday… They seem to be eating their bloodworms happily. I have one male and one female but the male seems to be bending his back fin / tail all of the time . They “play” together all the time but I’m just wondering what the tail is about in the male . Also please can you naive me advice on how to breed them because online it doesn’t have much to really explain it to me 🙂 thanks 🙂

    • Reply Mari July 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      Hi! Great to hear you’re starting out as a dwarf puffer keeper 🙂
      I obviously can’t be 100% sure what you mean with the fin bending without seeing a video, but it’s definitely normal to some degree. You may want to look up a few videos to see if the behavior you see there is similar! For example, I see quite a lot of tail fin bending in the breeding video in this caresheet. Imported puffers do often have worms, though, so if you see other strange things such as the belly becoming flat again very quickly after eating/lumpy belly it may have something to do with that.
      As for breeding, I think it’s usually done in larger setups with a slightly larger number of puffers (at least 3). I think there may be some good info over at the puffer forum!

      I hope that helps a bit! Good luck with your new puffers.

  • Reply Cecilia Lindqvist March 24, 2015 at 11:28 am


    I want to have snail Tylomenia in the same tank as my Dwarf Puffers. When I had Black Helmet and Red Onion they were fine. But Tylomenia is more “out of the shell” and more vulnerable.

    Have you tried?

    Best regards Cecilia from Sweden 🙂

    • Reply Mari March 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      I haven’t tried, sorry! Dwarf puffers are the least agressive puffer species, but to be honest I still wouldn’t try. Even dwarf puffers like to nibble on their tankmates from time to time and Tylomelania snails are not cheap as far as I know.

      If you do decide to try, let me know how it works out! Good luck with your dwarf puffers 🙂

  • Reply Lintie Duffield January 31, 2015 at 2:06 pm

    Hi, I live in Edinburgh, I have five dwarf puffers in a heavily planted 45l tank, I first saw them when I paid a visit to Maidenhead Aquatics, I had gone to have a look for some shrimp to put into this tank after I had moved my neons and catfish to my 180l juwel, the minute I saw them, that was it, they where going to be mine, I dont know what it is about these wee fish, they look at you with their big eyes and its love at first sight.
    Now having rambled on about my puffers, and the main reason why I am contacting you is, where can I get snails for them, I asked pets at home, but theymkeep all the snails that arrive on plants for their Assasin snails, I have still to try Dobbies Garden Centre, but its probably the same story there, I am more than willing to pay for them I just need a few to start breeding them, if you or anyone who might read this knows or someone willing to sell me a few snails I would be more than grateful.
    Thanks for taking time to read this ramble.

    • Reply Mari January 31, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      Hi! Glad to hear you’re enjoying keeping dwarf puffers, they are wonderful creatures 🙂 I would recommend upgrading them to at least a 100L soon, though, as they really need 20+L per fish. They can get a bit territorial and things may go wrong even if everything seems to go well right now.

      To answer your question – getting enough snails is something more puffer keepers struggle with. Your puffers don’t need snails all the time or as their only food source, but they’re great for variety and the most natural thing you can feed them! If I was looking for snails I’d ask around on aquarium forums or check websites like eBay (or your local version of this where everyone can sell things). Pond snails reproduce very quickly even when they’re still tiny, so once you have a good starting population you can just breed them yourself to have a constant supply. You’ll still need to feed your puffers other foods, but this way you can feed them snails regularly as well 🙂
      Hope that helps, good luck!

      • Reply Lintie Duffield January 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm

        Hi Mari, thank you for replying to my query, I will do my best to try and upgrade my tank, but at the moment I think my husband is under the impression that the aquariums are taking over, never mind I have my little finger, that generally works. I know that snails are not there staple diet but I have tried both frozen and live brine shrimp, they just watch fall to the aquarium floor, they do eat the bloodworm but they dont exactly go nuts for
        It, I didn’t have many worries till these wee guys arrived, now they are all I do worry about, but they’re worth it, just finished doing my water change on
        Their tank, something I do every three days, with both tanks. Once again thank you for your email.

        • Reply Mari January 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm

          What you describe about the food sounds very familiar. Our puffer only really wants to eat blood worms and snails as well, so it’s definitely a good idea to keep a small snail population!

  • Reply Raymond January 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Hi all getting on really well with my puffers current have 4 in a 120l planted tank 30gal but would like more do you think I would get away with adding some more like another 4? Or would I be pushing it thanks again regards Ray

    • Reply Mari January 24, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      I wouldn’t add another 4, that seems like a bit too many puffers for a 30 gal. 4 is actually the recommended number according to most sources; you may get away with a fifth puffer but any more of them may cause territorial issues.
      Great to hear things are going well!

      • Reply Raymond January 24, 2015 at 3:39 pm

        I understand makes sense not that I’m unhappy just like them a lot thanks again Ray

  • Reply Anonymouse December 25, 2014 at 12:52 am

    I’m considering getting a dwarf puffer. I was wondering if the like long tanks or tall tanks

    • Reply Mari December 25, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      Either is fine as long as there are lots of plants, driftwood, hardscape etc.!

  • Reply Raymond December 24, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Well so far so good theses DP are doing well kinda found there feet I have four at present in a planted 120l aprox 30gal tank and it still feels empty lol how ever very happy. Only thing I can honestly say is I have read a lot about the lighting and they don’t appear to be affected by it what I mean is I have not at present be able to get hold of any duck weed to shade light but having said that I have planted, plants and a nice peice of redmoor it might be that when they where in the fish shop they where in tanks that did not provide this a more light that they just get on with it. So don’t feel it’s a problem but like I mention before don’t appear that keen on the snails like don’t go for them when put in the tank however the blood worm wow lol I know it might be when they feel like it or of an even I’m not too sure is this a problem if they are not taking the snail it might be the ones I have are able to hide under the substrate and not move that much? Or that I might need to try other kinds thanks ray

    • Reply Mari December 24, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Great to hear they’re doing well! Both the light and snail thing are not really a big issue, if it looks like they’re doing well I wouldn’t worry about it. They may be uninterested in the snail because they’re just lazy, there is no reason for them to hunt because they already receive enough food in the form of bloodworms. If you really want them to start hunting the snails you could try not feeding for a day or two, but it’s not really necessary. Good luck!

  • Reply Raymond December 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Hi I now have my puffer fish and added them to day unsure about when feeding is best like you mention keeping a good supply of food to stop fin nipping is good so I have plenty of snail is it worth adding them all? And letting them eat when they feel ? Thanks ray

    • Reply Kevin December 20, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Im not sure what type of snails you got for them to eat, but I would recommend to do some research on the perticular type of snail you have before you decide to let a large amount into the tank. Its very easy for a small population of snails to become out of control when they start breeding. If you do let them all into the tank, it will also give the puffers something to do. Mine spend the majority of their time slowly searching for tasty snail snacks.

      • Reply Raymond December 21, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        Thanks for your fast comment yes I’m feeding bloodworms just enought they can eat a day and adding a few snails here and there I do find they more active at night with the snails they are I think rams horn

        • Reply Mari December 21, 2014 at 3:23 pm

          Great to hear they’re doing well! What you’re doing right now feeding-wise sounds perfect, ramshorn snails are fine as well so I think everything should work out. 🙂

      • Reply Raymond December 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm

        Thank you

    • Reply Mari December 21, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Hi, hope your puffers are doing well! As Kevin said, it depends a bit on the type of snail. Pond snails, etc. are great and you can add them whenever you like, the puffers will really appreciate them. I personally wouldn’t add them all at once, but you could! I’ve had bad experiences with Malaysian trumpet snails and dwarf puffers. The snails seem to somehow escape our puffer by only being active at night and the population has gotten slightly out of control. Good luck!

    • Reply Raymond December 21, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Hi just an update my DP are doing well no signs of stress kinda having a good look around in there new setup eating well loving the live bloodworms feeding a few each day as well as keep a low stock on snails in the tank so they are able to hunt but not over eat as worried it can be over done not seen them take any snails but do appear to be going

  • Reply Kevin December 6, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I came upon this page while looking for information on breeding the little dwarf puffers (It appears a pair has formed since two of them are always swimming together). The snail population in the main tank has taken off recently and the little puffers are no longer able to keep the population down on their own. I was surprised to read here that you cannot or should not keep dwarf puffers with other fish, however, I have 4 dwarf puffers (2 male and 2 female) in a large planted community tank with 6 guppies, 5 molly , 2 swordtails, 5 platys, 3 dwarf gourami (one female), 2 honey gourami, 4 dojo loach, 1 hillstream loach, 4 different plecos, 7 red eye tetras, 2 German blue rams, 4 bettas (1 male 3 females) and something like 40-50 assorted fry. I have never seen any of the dwarf puffers attack or even show aggression towards any other species of fish (including small fry that may swim by). Every time I see them they seem rather committed to hunting and eating snails, and occasionally there will be a little fuss between two puffers, but never with another type of fish. Perhaps its the abundance of tiny snails that keeps them busy, but regardless, it is possible to successfully keep dwarf puffers in a community tank without incident.

    • Reply Mari December 6, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      Interesting to hear you’re able to keep your puffers in a community with no nipping/aggressiveness. They are the most peaceful puffer species, but they’re still known for their tendency to harrass other fish. I see some other problems with your stock, though, like the bettas which should really not be kept in a community, especially not with fish like rams, puffers or platies. Just because it’s succesful now doesn’t mean it’s not very stressful for the fish nor that there won’t be any problems in the future. I also don’t know how big the tank is, obviously, but that is a VERY big stock. I’d really recommend you review it for a bit! I understand that this is probably not the reply you were looking for, but I do really want to mention it.

      • Reply Kevin December 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

        Yes, I know its a rather large stock, but they all seem healthy, (nice fat bellies, good appetite, good color, no damaged fins). The tank is a well planted 90 Gal, with lots of little caves, tunnels, and other hiding places. Filtration is a fluval 404 canister, along with two powerheads/undergravel filters. I have read on other websites as well that the dwarf puffers can be aggressive to other fish, but I just have not seen it in my tank. They seem to go about their business hunting pest snails (there are hundreds in the tank), and pretty much ignore the other fish. Occasionally I will see one puffer chase another puffer for a moment, but they never hurt one another. As for the Bettas, they each have their favorite sleeping/hiding spots, and just like the puffers, they pretty much ignore all the other fish (including the fancy tail guppies) except for other Bettas and any fry that get to close. The male especially likes to chase the females around if they swim near him, but they are so much faster than he is that he never even comes close to catching one. The Bettas do like to eat fry though, which is probably a good thing since there is a new batch of livebearers every few weeks. I’ve had those four bettas in this community tank for about a year now. I believe the only reason I am able to make it work is because of the size of the tank, with lots of different live plants, caves/other hiding places, and I keep them all well fed. I feed a good variety of food twice a day so each type of fish has their preferred meals (micro cichlid pellets, flakes/crisps, freeze dried bloodworms, granuals, shrimp pellets, algae wafers and once a week or so I will toss in a cube of frozen brine shrimp or sometimes a blanched vegetable). I tend to slightly over-feed and I believe that is one of the major factors in being able to keep aggressions down. Since they all get a chance to eat their fill, there is no need to fight over food/territory. In fact, the only real aggression I see in my tank is not between Bettas or Dwarf Puffers but between the two male Platys, (they often fight over the big mamma Platy).
        Now Im not saying that Bettas or Dwarf Puffers, will always work out in a community tank, but with enough space, and food source, it is POSSIBLE to make it work for all the fish.

        • Reply Mari December 21, 2014 at 1:54 pm

          Very interesting read. I’m still definitely not a fan of keeping these fish together as it’s been proven many times they are just not compatible. You are taking a risk by keeping them together and even if things seem okay now, it may go wrong any time in the future. Fishkeeping is not an exact science, though, and a lot of it is based on opinion. I guess our opinions on which risks we’re prepared to take just differ! Best of luck with this community, I hope things will continue to go well but I’d recommend working on your stock, for example by not replacing certain species if/when they pass away. Good luck! 🙂

    • Reply Raymond December 7, 2014 at 12:04 am

      Thats very interesting!. I’m shocked at the fact you have been able to add the fish with the stock you have in the sense I would not be sold the fish if I had fish that where not compatible in the first place not to say that is your fault as many places sell them to a customer without asking questions only for them to fine out days weeks months later or did you just take the risk? would you be kind enough to give us some more info on your set up for example your tank size in US G or litres. How long you had theses fish with your other tank mates for Etc this comment is not to
      Judge you in any way but to find out how you have been successful. Thanks in advance Ray

  • Reply Raymond December 4, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Hi what a great blog. Now I’m very interested in keeping theses exciting little creatures and have spent lots of time and some money in order to provide them with the best and safest home I can but before I’m willing to go ahead and order them from my local fish shop how many can I house in a 120l tank or what is advised? My water is around 10-20ppm off my tap is that safe for them? PH 7.4ppm. Ammonia and nitrite 0ppm. What I have done at present time is added a good Quality substrate. And some good plants. Do I need to do some hardscaping to block their sight? Any help would be great thanks in advance Ray

    • Reply Mari December 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Hi! So great to hear my blog made you interested in keeping dwarf puffers. A 120L tank is a good place to start! Your water sounds fine, the plants should help take care with the nitrates. A nice hardscape or driftwood would help break sight lines to prevent boredom and make it easier for the puffers to divide their territories, so if you can fit it into your scape it might be a good idea! I think you can house 3-4 dwarf puffers in a 120L.
      Good luck! I’d love to hear how this turns out.

      • Reply Raymond December 4, 2014 at 8:32 pm

        Thank you for your fast reply yes I brought some nice redmoor wood today but going to have to hold it down. As it floats thanks again will keep you posted.

  • Reply stephen November 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    good morning. im a very experienced fish owner. 13 tanks. from discus to planted community tanks, crystal red shrimp tank to seahorse. getting ready to set up a dwarf puffer tank. heavily planted isn’t a problem for me but I did read somewhere about a sand bed instead of gravel….? or even some kind of aragonite? is this true? never used sand in freshwater before.

    • Reply Mari November 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      Great to hear you’re setting up a puffer tank! They’re fascinating little creatures and so much fun to keep.
      I’ve never heard of that! Fish like loaches, corydoras etc. obviously need a sand substrate because they are bottom feeders, but puffers are not. They may have been referring to sand being better for plants, because it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with the fish itself! That being said, sand is also definitely not a necessity for a planted tank, as you probably know. If you want to go for gravel that’s no problem for a puffer.

  • Reply Mari November 10, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I’m bringing home my first dwarf puffer sometime this week so I have been re-reading everything I have found on them so far, including this page. Had to comment when I saw you were also a Mari, not too many of us out there.

    • Reply Mari November 18, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Hi, sorry about my late response! I hope everything went succesfully with your puffer, they’re fantastic fish to keep!
      My name is actually Marijke, not Mari, but the spelling has proven to be super confusing for most English speaking visitors so I go by Mari here. Still nice to see another Mari out here though! 😀

  • Reply tyler October 7, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Im getting back into tanks after a LONG hiatus and me and my girl just picked up a 30 gallon at a petco sale.

    Im interested in a little puffer but keep reading how aggressive they are. I have always kept snails and shrimp as cleaners in my tanks and look to use them again.

    Im looking to REALLY aquascape this one with lots of low light, easy plants so I am sure it wont be board, but Im worried some of the other fish we choose might fall victim to nipping.

    Will these puffers pretty much attack anything or just what fits in its mouth like an oscar?
    If I get larger snails will the puffer still nip and kill them (same with shrimp or crawfish?)

    we would both LOVE one of these guys. Are the females less aggressive by chance?


    • Reply Mari October 7, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Great to hear you’re interested in keeping dwarf puffers, they’re lovely little fish. Unfortunately their aggressiveness may be a problem for you, as puffers definitely don’t just attack what fits into their mouth. They will nip at almost all tankmates, even ones that are much larger. 🙁
      Larger snails are definitely not an option, and I personally wouldn’t try crayfish. We do succesfully keep a colony of cherry shrimp with our own puffer, so that may be worth a try! I know other fishkeepers have also had success with kuhli loaches and otocinclus catfish, although I can’t tell you for sure.

      Hope that helps!

  • Reply Cindy September 2, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Hi I see this is an old post, but I have been thinking of starting up an aquarium again when I saw these adorable fish a couple of weeks ago! I have been doing a bit of reading up on them to make sure they fit into my lifestyle.

    I have only owned goldfish (lionhead Orandas) as they are more like dogs to me than fish (: I get quite attached. I have owned tropical fish but prefer fish with personality.

    What I am worried about is I see they prefer a planted tank. I would love to own one but have been afraid of the difficulty of it. Am I correct that it would need special lights for the plants and that it would be difficult to keep up with water quality because of the plants? I love the way a planted tank looks!!

    Also I have read that the male Dwarf Puffer will have a dark stripe down his belly and dark behind the eyes. I see your Puffers in the video are male and female that are spawning! My Orandas spawned all of the time! It got really annoying as the male will follow the female around all of the time nudging her to release eggs. My tank was always needing cleaning! I tried to keep the water at a constant temp but I never could stop them.would be great if I breed them but I dont so I ended up giving the male to my daughter. So unless you want to breed I just wanted to add the info about how to tell males form female, that is if the website i got the info from is correct. But it appears to be so from you video. Also is it ok to feed them mainly the frozen thawed food?

    • Reply Mari September 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      Hi! Thanks for your comment.

      I also prefer fish with personality, so I know what you mean! Dwarf puffers are a great choice when it comes to this. Keeping puffers is very different from keeping goldfish obviously, but I’ve done both and I can’t pick a favorite!

      Dwarf puffers do need a planted tank because they get bored very quickly. A planted tank is not difficult at all with the right plants, so that’s probably not something to worry about! I personally am very lazy when it comes to my aquarium plants; I don’t use Co2, fertilizer or extra lighting, but with the right plants that’s really not a problem at all! Water quality is usually not a problem with plants as long as you remove dead leaves timely. Live plants actually absorb nitrates and help keep your tank stable, so I’d say it would actually be easier to keep up with water quality. There’s an article on Aquariadise on easy aquarium plants if you’re not sure which species would work. You can find it here!

      I can totally relate to your issues with your goldies spawning all the time. It gets very annoying! My goldies are male and they still chase each other to exhaustion. However, luckily there are usually no such issues with puffers! I’ve never heard anyone complaining about their puffers spawning all the time; the eggs are so small and few that they don’t foul the water. In fact, most people consider themselves lucky when their puffers spawn. I don’t think it’s necessary to try to get all males or all females, although you can indeed recognize the males from the dark stripe behind the eyes. You can also keep a puffer alone if you really want to prevent them spawning.

      Feeding your puffer mainly frozen foods is fine as long as you mix things up a bit. Try getting multiple types of frozen foods and also feeding snails and possibly other live foods if you can find them.

      I hope this answers your questions! If not, feel free to ask me anything else you may want to know, dwarf puffers are one of my favorite fish species and I love giving advice about them! Good luck 🙂

  • Reply Jessica July 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I have 8 of these little adorable puffers in a 29 tall, they absolutely are my favorite fish at this point! They seem to feel the same about me as well. 🙂
    The store where I bought them keeps them in brackish water and I am so worried about that, that i am tempted to go get any new ones that they get in! I have argued with them about this, but they just dont listen. Sigh…
    I have 14 other tanks, mostly less than 25 gals, heavily planted, and tons of snails for them to gobble up every day. My grandkids can hold a snail just under the surface, and the puffers come right up and snag them! I do feed them bloodworms sometimes as well. As far as tankmates, i have a couple bristlenoses, a rather large algae eater, a couple corys, and 3 kuhli loaches, oh and a small bumblebee cat also.
    I am hoping they will spawn for me one day, although im afraid the roommates will eat their eggs…especially the catfish…anyway, just wanted to share.

    • Reply Mari July 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you for sharing! Always great to hear about other people’s experiences with these amazing little puffers, especially from someone who keeps a bigger group in a bigger tank. They are definitely not brackish fish, although there are multiple brackish puffer species. Maybe you could show the manager at the pet store a caresheet or two?

      If you’re interested in breeding your puffers, which would be a great thing considering the fact that they are currently threatened in the wild, you could consider setting up a separate tank with about 3-4 of them. I’ve heard breeding them can be a bit of a challenge but I think it would definitely make a great project for a good cause!

      Good luck with your puffers in the future, although I don’t think you’ll need it – sounds like everything is going just fine!

  • Reply PuffDiddly May 20, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Nice article!
    We have made an Indian stream biotope out of a rimless 6 gallon Fluval Edge, and decided to add a single female dwarf puffer to the family of 4 Hara Jerdonii.
    Never once have we had encounters of aggression with the little puffer.
    (It helps that Hara are nocturnal, and we have Teak leaf litter and soft sand they bury themselves in most of the day)
    Hara and dwarf puffers also max out at about an inch and share very similar diets, water params, current flow and temp. So if you have a nano tank, are looking for a suitable tankmate for your dwarf puffer, and if you can find them in your LFS, I highly recommend a couple of Hara Jerdoni. Look em up!

    • Reply Mari May 21, 2014 at 7:28 pm

      Wow, thanks for the tip! I can’t believe I don’t hear of Hara jerdoni more often, they seem like fantastic nano fish and a good combo with puffers habitat-wise. Literally don’t know anything else about them though! It’s a pity I’ve never seen them here because I’d love to keep them.
      Great to hear dwarf puffers are working for you, they’re amazing little fish.

  • Reply Carly April 22, 2014 at 2:40 am

    What a wonderful and informative post! I’ve not had a freshwater tank for quite a few years so I’m researching and refreshing my memory on the care, and for several months I’ve been considering a dwarf puffer species but the occasional aggression has been putting me off (naturally no one likes a tank bully!)
    I was wondering whether you have any experience or info that concerns the aggression in females compared to males. I’ve read a lot of info from people stating that males are more aggressive due to territory and babysitting but nobody has said much about the females, so I wondered if a female dwarf would be a more suitable addition. There were a couple of posts on yahoo and other “ask & answer” sites but they’re not reliable.

    Any info is really appreciated 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Reply Mari April 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      So glad you liked the caresheet! Although I have no specific experience with female puffers (no idea what gender ours is!), I, too have read in multiple places that the females are less aggressive. You could check out The Puffer Forum and ask the people over there, they may have more experience with this because some members have kept both male and female dwarf puffers.
      That being said, it doesn’t matter whether the puffer is male or female if there’s vulnerable fish/fish with longer fins etc. involved. If that’s the case, then I would really not recommend going for it. In most cases it’s better to build the community around the puffer instead of the other way round, as they have such specific requirements.

      Hope that helps!

  • Reply Aundrea April 1, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    How will the puffers get along with rainbow fish? I am getting ready to set up my 56 gallon tank and really want to get a puffer but I would also like to get rainbow fish.

    • Reply Mari April 2, 2014 at 10:33 am

      I’m assuming that by rainbowfish you mean Melanotaenia boesemani (Boeseman’s rainbowfish), the most popular kind? I personally wouldn’t go for it as the rainbowfish like some open swimming space and their temperature requirements don’t really seem to match. They are also from vastly different natural habitats and I’m not sure a school of colorful, fast fish will be appreciated by the dwarf puffer. However, I can’t know for sure it will really stress them out, as I have no experience with Boeseman’s.
      If you didn’t specifically mean the Boeseman’s rainbowfish, I can’t really answer your question without knowing the species, as there are multiple rainbowfish species. For example, Iriatherina werneri (Werner’s rainbowfish) is also pretty popular, but I really wouldn’t recommend it due to the long fins.

  • Reply cerra March 24, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I just got a dwarf puffer fish for the first time. I have always thought they were cute but never bothered to get one, but this time I just could not help myself. they were for sale at my local Walmart store… and I must say, I was outraged at the condition they were in. about 30 of them were all crammed into this tiny 3 gal. tank slowely killing eachother for food and space. they had nothing to hide in, not even rocks on the bottom of the tank but a crappy picture of rocks instead. I was disgusted.. it was like being at a pound but for fish. So I had to rescue at least one. Now, after researching it of course, I have it in my spare 5gal. tank with lots of rocks and plants and snails galore for her to live happily on. I just wanted to thank this site for the information it provided me with seeing as I had absolutely NO idea ho to care for this little guy. I must say I am truly satisfied and interested in my new little member of the family. It just utterly disgust me how humans treat animals, and fish as if they were just another thing to mistreat and kill… I couldn’t save them all unfortunately, but at least I got to save this little guy. Walmart should not be allowed to sell fish, seeing as theyre not equipped nor experienced in keeping exotic fish such as these puffers, let alone a mindless goldfish. If you cant take care of a goldfish, then you cant really care for anything in my opinion. but anyways, just thought Id share that little bit with you guys, and say how much I appreciated this site. It really provided me with useful information that I needed to care for my new little friend. So thank you 🙂

    • Reply Mari March 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm


      Thank you so much for your long comment, what a lovely story. So glad this caresheet was helpful to you!

      I completely agree that Walmart should not be allowed to sell fish. Not just tropical fish, but goldfish too! Goldfish are actually quite intelligent and difficult to care for, definitely not beginner fish nor suitable for bowls. Walmart is just an endless source of sick fish and bad info (they’re one of the stores that spread the myths about bettas and goldfish being suitable for bowls, etc.). This is also why I would recommend to contact a manager instead of rescuing a fish next time. By buying a fish, you’re basically telling Walmart it’s okay to keep doing this because you’re sustaining the market. Your little puffer will be replaced by another puffer in the same situation, so you’ll make a much bigger difference if you do something to show them that this is not okay! That being said, I definitely understand why you had to bring at least one puffer home. It’s really hard for me to stop myself from ‘saving’ fish from irresponsible stores as well 🙁

      Good luck with your little puffer! Feel free to ask if you ever need any help.

  • Reply Barbara December 18, 2013 at 4:38 am

    The site is not available for dwarf puffers? I do not have any but have lots of bad snails! I can not set up another tank but I love the sounds of them. Right now I am struggling to keep up with my 17 tanks.

    • Reply Mari December 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Oh dear, I had no idea was not available any more, sorry! I’ll change the link. You could check out thepufferforum, although their forum is a general one, not dwarf puffer-specific.
      I wouldn’t recommend getting a dwarf puffer just to deal with a snail problem. Their tanks need to be adapted to their needs and unless your aquarium is already perfect for them you’ll be guaranteed to get problems. You could convert one of your existing setups to something dwarf puffer-proof if you’re really interested in keeping them though! They are wonderful little fish and definitely worth the work.

    Leave a Reply

    Please prove you're not a robot! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.