Dwarf Puffer – Species Profile And Care Guide

Alison Page

Alison Page


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The freshwater dwarf puffer might not be the ideal fish for a community tank setup, but its cute looks and fascinating behavior make setting up a special tank just for the fish well worth it. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about caring for dwarf puffer fish. 

Dwarf Puffer Infographic

Origins and Habitat

The dwarf puffer fish’s scientific name is Carinotentraodon travancoricus, but it also has many common names, including: 

  • Indian dwarf puffer
  • Pygmy puffer
  • Malabar puffer
  • Pea puffer
  • Blue-eyed puffer
  • Indian Malabar puffer
  • Bumblebee puffer
  • Malabar pufferfish

Dwarf puffers come from the Malabar region of southwest India, where they inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams. Thanks to deforestation, overfishing for the pet trade, and urbanization, dwarf puffers are now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Dwarf Puffer Rundown

What do dwarf puffers look like?

Carinotentraodon travancoricus

These tiny fish are the smallest of the puffer species, reaching an adult size of only about an inch long. 

The puffer’s eyes move independently, which allows it to look closely at something without having to move. 

The fish’s colors change depending on its mood, varying from green to brown with dark spots. Its underbelly is yellowish or white and should appear smooth after the fish has eaten; if the puffer’s yellow or white belly appears lumpy, that’s often a sign of internal parasites. 

You can tell male puffer fish from females by the dark line that runs along the male’s belly and the “wrinkles” behind his eyes. 

How long do dwarf puffers live? 

The average lifespan of dwarf puffers is up to four years, though they can live longer than that if they’re provided with a high-quality diet and optimal tank conditions. 


Dwarf puffers are intelligent and active little creatures. They are curious and very aware of what’s going on outside of the tank. Although shy at first, dwarf puffers do come to recognize and interact with their owners. 

These fish have their own unique swimming pattern, which makes them fun to watch. They swim in all areas of the tank but tend to stick to the middle area of the water column. 

When you first get your dwarf puffer home, you might notice it swimming with its tail curled inward. That’s usually a defensive gesture, but once the puffer has settled in, it will uncurl its tail again. 

Is the dwarf puffer fish poisonous? 

Many urban myths surround the toxicity of puffers, and we’re debunking some of them for you here.


Indeed, some species of puffers are toxic if consumed. For example, the Japanese dish fugu can only legally be prepared by a licensed, specially trained chef. The fish used to prepare the dish are found in salty or brackish water and are not the same species as our tiny freshwater friend the dwarf puffer. 

In small amounts, the toxin in fugu can produce a pleasurable degree of numbness or tingling in the mouth or lips, and it even produces a slight high. However, if certain organs of the fish are eaten, the toxin is so powerful that it can cause death. 

Diet-Related Toxicity

You should know the toxin found in certain species of puffer fish is entirely diet-related. Toxicity levels vary throughout the year, depending on the availability of the food from which the toxin came. 

Particular types of algae and bacteria are required in combination, both of which are found in certain mollusks’ shells. The puffer must eat large quantities of both these elements. If one or either of those items is not present, the toxin is not produced. 

In marine puffers and some other brackish species, the toxin is called tetrodotoxin. The poison is mainly concentrated in the fish’s organs rather than in the flesh. Freshwater species produce a different toxin called saxitoxin, which accumulates in the fish’s flesh and causes death if ingested. 

Dwarf puffers and aquarium safety

In light of the information above, you can see it’s highly unlikely your tiny dwarf puffer will produce any toxins at all…and we would hope you weren’t planning on eating your pet fish, anyway!

Dwarf puffers don’t exude toxins into the aquarium water, either, so they present no danger to you or any of the fish’s tank mates. 

Puffer Tank Mates and Temperament

Unfortunately, despite their super cute looks, dwarf puffers are not suitable for life in a community tank. They generally do better in a single species tank or kept alone. 

Each puffer fish has an individual temperament and personality, which is one of the most endearing things about them. However, that can mean even a placid puffer can have an aggressive streak that appears without warning. Puffers are highly territorial and belligerent and will kill fish much larger than themselves. 

That said, some hobbyists have kept dwarf puffers safely with Otocinclus, Kuli loaches, and golden puffers. 

Keeping dwarf puffers together

If you have a large enough tank, you can keep dwarf puffers in small groups. However, there will always be one dominant fish in the group โ€” usually a male. As the fish mature, they tend to become more aggressive. So, it’s best to keep one male with three or four females for a harmonious tank. 

You can help keep things peaceful in the tank by using lots of dense planting, hiding places, and caves as well as keeping the fish well-fed. 

Can you keep dwarf puffers with shrimp? 

Unfortunately, pea puffers are known to eat shrimp โ€” or at least try to, anyway!

Remember the puffer is aggressive and carnivorous, living on a diet of snails, worms, and small crustaceans. So, a tiny shrimp might be viewed as a potential meal. 

However, if you choose a large variety of shrimp, there’s a chance the two creatures can live together relatively peacefully. Make sure you provide plenty of spaces for the shrimp to hide and don’t introduce any that are smaller than the puffer. 

Dwarf Puffer Care Guide

Now that you know more about the dwarf puffer, you’ll need to know exactly how to care for them.

Puffer Tank Size

Since dwarf puffers are so small, they don’t need a very large tank. A 10-gallon tank is ideal for a single dwarf puffer, however, if you want to keep more than one fish, a 20 to 30-gallon aquarium works better. If you’re keeping just one puffer, a nano tank can work, as long as the filtration is adequate. 


Puffers don’t have scales or gill covers, which can make them highly vulnerable to diseases, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. For that reason, and because puffers are messy eaters, we don’t recommend you keep puffers in a brand new, newly-cycled tank. 

To keep the water conditions safe for your dwarf puffer, you’ll need to carry out regular water changes โ€” specifically 30 to 50 percent every week. You’ll also need to use a powerful canister filter that circulates water through the aquarium six to 10 times per hour. 

That said, these fish live in slow-moving waters, so you’ll need to ensure the flow through the tank is moderate and buffer the filter outflow if necessary. 

Water Parameters

Dwarf puffers are freshwater fish that don’t require the addition of salt to the tank. That said, in some areas, puffers do live in brackish waters and can tolerate those conditions in the aquarium. 

The water temperature should be between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH range of 7.5 to 8.3 and a hardness of 8 to 15 dGH. 

Tank Decor and Lighting

Puffers are very bright and inquisitive fish that need a well-decorated aquarium to keep them happy. Plus, if the tank is well-decorated, it’s less likely the fish will display aggressive behavior. Include plenty of plants in the aquascape, as well as driftwood, caves, and rockwork that can disrupt the fish’s line of sight and provide plenty of hiding places. 

Puffers can become stressed if they see their reflections in the glass, so you should prevent that by making sure you have a well-planted tank and strategically using the aquatic greenery to cover the fish’s reflection. Tall plants in the tank’s corners also provide an interesting swimming area for the puffers, and floating aquarium plants are also a great source of entertainment for them. 

The substrate should be light and sandy, as puffers like to root around in search of scraps of uneaten food. 

As far as lighting is concerned, puffers are fine with normal levels of lighting. 


Dwarf puffers are carnivores. Wild puffers love to feed on snails, and you can replicate that in your tank by feeding highly nutritious Ramshorn snails. Breeding Ramshorn snails is pretty easy, so you can create your own supply. 

Unlike other puffer fish varieties, dwarf puffers don’t have teeth that are powerful enough to crush the snail’s shell. Instead, the fish suck the snail from its shell, and for that reason, you shouldn’t offer your dwarf puffers Malaysian trumpet snails. They have incredibly hard shells that could break the puffer’s teeth. Unlike other puffer species, dwarf puffers don’t need to grind their teeth down. 

You can also feed your puffers live or frozen foods, including mosquito larvae, blackworms, bloodworms, tubifex worms, daphnia, and pre-soaked brine shrimp. Generally, dwarf puffers won’t eat pellets or flakes. 

How much and how often should you feed your dwarf puffers? 

Dwarf puffers are very slow eaters, so don’t put too much food in the tank at one time. You need to feed your fish once or twice a day, offering only what they will eat in about five minutes. 

Puffers are greedy fish and will generally eat whatever they’re offered. Take care not to overfeed your fish, as that can cause kidney and liver problems in the long term. Your puffer should have a rounded belly, but it shouldn’t be bulging. 

Breeding Dwarf Puffer Fish

Since the wild dwarf puffer population has declined by 30 to 40 percent over the last five years, attempting to breed them is very important. If these desirable fish were produced in greater numbers commercially, the need to harvest them from the wild would be reduced, and their decline could be reversed. 

If you want to try to breed dwarf puffers, you’ll need to have more females than males to prevent the females from being hassled too much. 


You can often trigger the breeding process by using slightly cooler water than usual for water changes, then increasing the tank temperature by between five and 10 degrees. Offer the fish plenty of high-quality live food to bring them into prime spawning conditions. 

These fish are plant-spawners, so you need to include some Java moss in your setup. The fish scatter their eggs in the open water, where they then fall into the vegetation where the male fertilizes them. Unlike most other puffers, the dwarf puffer doesn’t guard the eggs, so be sure to provide lots of plant cover to protect them.

Ensure that your spawning tank filter generates a decent flow past the eggs to prevent fungus from forming. 

Eggs and Fry

The fry will start to hatch after about five days. You’ll need to place them in a separate tank so the adults don’t eat them. You can put the fry into a 10-gallon aquarium to grow; just leave the bottom of the tank bare, and be sure to keep it scrupulously clean. 

Initially, the fry will feed on infusoria. Once the baby puffers are a week or so old, you can feed them microworms and baby brine shrimp. 


Unlike larger puffers, the dwarf puffer’s teeth generally don’t require clipping, as long as you provide them with plenty of snails to eat. Biting on the snail shells will help grind the puffer’s teeth down without the need for your intervention. 

Dwarf puffers don’t have scales or gill covers, which unfortunately makes them more prone to common fish diseases like ich or white spot disease

Sometimes, wild-caught dwarf puffers carry internal parasites, so you need to ask the supplier if the fish has been de-wormed. If it hasn’t we recommend you do that sooner rather than later. 

Note: you should never use medications that contain copper to treat dwarf puffers. 

Final Thoughts

Dwarf puffers are usually readily available in most fish stores for a modest price, and the adorable little fish makes a fascinating addition to your aquarium hobby.

Since these fish are very aggressive and intolerant of other fish, it’s best to keep them either alone in a small tank or with others of their own species in a larger setup. 

Keeping one puffer can make a nice alternative pet to a betta or even a goldfish, however, since this puffer doesn’t have scales or gill covers, bear in mind that you can’t introduce one to a tank that’s newly cycled. 

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123 thoughts on “Dwarf Puffer – Species Profile And Care Guide”

  1. hi there great article i am doing a lot of research on these fish as going to setting up a new tank for them
    i have found some conflicting info tho maybe you can help clear it up.
    the tank dimensions are 80 cm long 40 cm wide 50 cm high .150 litres i have been told that 15 to 20 puffers for this size tank would that be correct.
    substrate was told that fine sand is best as they can drive under the sand if they get spooked again is this correct ?
    filteration i have a fluval u3 and a u4 spare but will get a canister one as find them much better but worried it will be too fast moving but guess can turn it down.
    would you recommend a air curtain at the back or a few smaller block types ?
    many thanks lots of questions but want this to be right my 3 rd tank !!

    • Hi Tim,
      Thanks for reading! One puffer needs 38 L with every additional puffer needing at least 19 L more to itself. This would mean that you could hypothetically have about 5-6 dwarf puffers in 150 litres. However, there really is no benefit to having so many in one tank as they don’t school and they can get territorial. At most, I would have 2-3 dwarf puffers in 150 litres.
      As for substrate, gravel or sand work perfectly fine. A lot of hobbyists like to go with sand/plant mix so that they can better keep live plants with their puffers, but it doesn’t matter to the fish!
      There are ways to slow filters down, it might just take a little DIY craftsmanship.
      As for air stones or air curtains, I don’t think it truly matters. Some dwarf puffers like to play in the bubbles while it also oxygenates the water; I don’t think the fish have a preference! So ultimately, that would be up to how you want your tank to look.
      Happy to answer any other questions you might have! Good luck.

    • Hi Navaeh,
      For dwarf puffers, substrate doesn’t actually matter too much. Many puffer keepers like to go with sand/plant mix so that they can keep live plants for their puffers to hide in and explore. It is usually better to go with a darker shade of sand so that their colors pop and the lighting throughout the tank is more dimmed. You can even do a mix of sand and gravel too.
      Happy puffer keeping!

  2. Would a fluval chi (10″x10″x12″) be suitable for one male pea puffer and one dwarf lobster, provided it be well planted and have many rocky caves on the bottom for the lobster?

    • Hello! The Fluval Chi would work for the dwarf crayfish but not a pea puffer, unfortunately. As mentioned in the article the minimum water volume for these fish is a bit higher than 5 gallons.

  3. hi I have a 6.3 gallon tank and I would like to get a dwarf puffer. I have many plants, hides etc. although I do know this is a small set up there would be no other fish just one dwarf puffer… is this okay

    • It really depends on the length of the tank; if it’s under 15.5″ I really personally wouldn’t do it, although I know many sources consider it okay. They’re just such zoomy fish that really make use of every inch of space they’re given!

  4. What kind of light timer schedule do I keep. Currently have it set for 12 hours on 12 hours off, what do you recommend?

    • Hi! I do a shorter lighting schedule because with such a long one I usually end up having algae problems, but it’s all up to you honestly. My lights are generally on for about 8 hours ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I want to get one of these cuties for my 10 gallon tank, but it already has 5 guppies and 2 platys, also 2 nerite snails. Should i wait until the tank is empty, or can i plan on getting one?

    • Hi,

      I would definitely recommend waiting since the stock you’ve currently got in the tank is unfortunately not ideal. Both guppies and platies would do better in a larger tank, I’d personally do a 20 gallon for that combination and expand the groups a bit. Maybe you could upgrade your current stock and reserve the 10 gallon for a puffer? ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi! Iยดm looking for some plants to put in my tank. Iยดm going to put some dwar pufferfish so I thought this would be the best place to ask about that.
    I also would like to know what kind of light should I put in the tank


    • Hello!

      As you can read in the caresheet puffers will like any plants that are tall and offer lots to explore. Some easy plants that I like are: Crytocoryne (read more here), Anubias (read more here) and Java fern (read more here).

      As for light, I usually use cheap led lighting kits, you can buy them on Amazon. They work fine for the plants above!

      I hope that helps, best of luck ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thanks! But I meant: do the pufferfish need any kind of light intensity/colour?
        Anyway, thank you for the info.
        The last one, I swear haha: I read the pufferfish had to breed on moss pads, does the java moss work or is there another kind of moss that is better?

        • Fish generally don’t care much about the light above their tank, with the exception of there being some (blackwater) species that don’t like things too bright. As long as there is some type of light to replicate a day and night cycle they’re usually happy! This goes for dwarf puffs as well, so you can just choose something that works for the plants an that will also be fine for the fish ๐Ÿ™‚

          For spawning, every fine leaved plant works. It doesn’t even have to be moss! Java moss would be fine, yes.

          One thing I want to mention since it seems like you’re dedicated to giving the puffs a good life: I’ve kept one and I don’t agree with the tank sizes many sources list. For example, Seriously Fish, which I normally love, says 13 liters is enough for a single puffer. It’s not! I really recommend going for around 40 liters for the first puffer and then 20 extra liters for every additional one.

          I hope that all helps, sounds like a fun project you’re setting up. I’m sure it’ll turn out well ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Thank you so much!!
            Yes, Iยดm trying to get my future puffers the best life as possible.
            Iยดm following your advice so I KNOW everything will go well! ๐Ÿ™‚
            So Iยดm going to put a medium lightning and some amazon frogbit to make some contrast and also to shade some plants that need this.
            About the carpet Iยดm not very sure what to plant… Do you think java moss would be a good idea? Iยดd put it on the sides an then a clear path on the middle. I discarded dwarf hairgrass due to his lightning needs (too intense), and some others. So as you see Iยดm not that sure about the lightning hahaha.
            I donยดt think Iยดm going to buy some tank mates, Iยดve read a lot about that. Due to that fact, Iยดm now worried about the tank maintenance, because they are very sensitive to nitrites and ammonia (some tank mates could help about that), how could I fix that? Do you think that some plants that use those as nutrients would be enough?
            Then, Iยดm not very sure about how hard the water hast to be. Puffers need 5ยบ to 25ยบ but which is the best water hardness for them?
            Talking about the substrate, Iยดm going to put first some for plants and then sand, is this a good idea? I donยดt know because if then I have to use some kind of fertilizer in the substrate, that ix could make it difficult.
            Iยดm sorry to take most of your time replying to my several questions hahaha. Iยดm grateful to you

          • Amazon frogbit sounds great, your puffer will love the long roots. It will make it more difficult for you to grow any carpets, though, as it does shade things a lot. Java moss is not my first choice for a carpet personally, I would actually personally go for dwarf hairgrass as it’s a good option for medium light. I’ve grown it with one of those basic LEDs I mentioned earlier, which is only around 1000 lumen. Most other carpeting plants need very intense lighting. Some other lower light options that come to mind for me are Staurogyne repens or other aquarium mosses that work better as carpets. Flame moss, christmas moss and phoenix moss could be good, I especially love the phoenix moss myself.

            As for puffer sensitivity, just make sure your aquarium is cycled very well before you introduce the fish. I assume you know what cycling is, right? Just use a liquid test kit to test everything extensively. Plants will help, yes, they keep things a little more stable. But your cycle and regular water changes are most important.

            Hardness is not too much of an issue, it’s better to keep it stable than to make it ideal. If you start to mess with your hardness you might cause all kinds of spikes in water values and that’s much worse for your puffers. Have you tested your hardness yet? Where’s it at?

            As for substrate, the option you mention (capping dirt with sand) is not my favorite as it can be veryyy messy. Replant one plant and there’s dirt floating all over! My personal preference is using an inert substrate (without nutrients, I like pool filter sand) and then using root tabs and possibly dosing liquid nutrients for the plants. But really, many low tech plants grow just fine without dosing anything at all!

            I hope that clears things up a bit. Don’t worry about asking lots of questions, it’s great when someone actually does their research before setting up their aquarium! I’d love to see an update on this once it’s set up, if you use Facebook you can post a photo on the Aquariadise page if you’d like ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Hahaha, yeah Iยดm trying to organize everything before I start doing it.
            Thank you sooooooooo much for all the info, youยดve helped me a lot ๐Ÿ˜‰
            The only thing I do have doubts about is the substrate, do you thing plants as vallisneria, brazilian pennywort etc. That have to attach its roots to the substrate, can do it in pool sand?
            Thatยดs all folks ๐Ÿ˜‰
            Thank you so much again

          • Glad I’ve been able to help! Yes, rooting plants can grow in pool sand. The grains are pretty coarse so they won’t get compacted or choke the roots. My Vals are going crazy in the pool sand ๐Ÿ™‚

            Good luck!

  7. Hi! I love your blog, its very helpful! I’ve got a 29g tank with 9 kuhli loaches and 4 corys (I’m getting two more soon, but they seem fine) and I was wondering how many puffers you would recommend in their tank? I know you want odd numbers if you do groups, so I was considering either 3 pea puffers or giving the corys to a friend and then getting multiple puffers. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Hi! Glad the site is helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think you’re pretty much spot on with your thinking. Going by my own guideline of 10 gal for the first puffer and 5 extra gal for every next one your max would be 5, though if you keep the Cories I would stick with 3 like you said. They LOVE tons of vegetation so just plant that tank until you can barely see them and they’ll be at their happiest, haha ๐Ÿ™‚ and keep an eye on your water values, they’re messy eaters so nitrate spikes are always a risk.

      Good luck!

    • Hello,

      I would absolutely not recommend a puffer, sorry. Unfortunately your tank is infinitely too small for two clown loaches and I recommend rehoming those ASAP. They will suffer and eventually die prematurely in there. Once you have rehomed them you can then consider a single dwarf puffer as stock.

      If you’re not sure why I recommend rehoming the loaches, be sure to have a look at their caresheet here. They get HUGE and need to live in groups.

      Good luck! I hope you take my advice.

  8. I’ve really wanted a pufferfish added to my tank ever since I saw a green spotted pufferfish which I really wanted but it neede a bit of salt so I couldnt, anyway I am currently looking at the dwarf puff but the thing is right now I only have a 5 gallon tank so I don’t know and also I was wandering if they could be keep with guppies and a pleco (which is sadly HIDING All THE TIME, it kinda gets me mad, he’s a bristle nose)

    • Hi,

      As you can read in my other reply your current stock is not suitable for a 5 gallon at all so you’ll have to fix that before you can consider other fish. Even then a dwarf puffer isn’t an option (nor is a green spotted puffer – they need way larger tanks), they are more suitable for 10 gallons and up. They also can’t be kept with guppies, pleco’s are an option but bristlenoses need at least around 30 gallons due to their high waste output. Your bristlenose pleco is likely hiding because it’s stressed and bad water values are making it sick. The article on stocking a 5 gallon fish tank lists the only options for a 5 gallon tank. Hope that helps!

  9. I’m currently researching to buy a dp. I have a well cycled 10 gallon tank that has been up and running for months. I saw you say earlier to take out any activated carbon from a filter. Why is that? Also I plan to have just fake plants in my tank because I can’t seem to keep any plant alive (not even a java fern). I plan to just get one dp to have. I currently have a mystery snail in my tank and a Chinese algae eater. Could these two become a problem to the dp?

    • Hello! Good to hear you’re doing your research beforehand. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Activated carbon is not for full-time use in an aquarium because it immediately removes any chemicals from the water. This might be detrimental to your water quality (as good things also get removed). It’s a good idea to always keep some carbon on hand though, as you can use it to remove medication if necessary.

      Fake plants and a single dwarf puffer sound fine as long as the tank is heavily decorated, but the tankmates might become a problem. Mystery snails produce a LOT of waste, which might not end up well as dwarf puffers are very sensitive to bad water quality. I actually only recommend them for tanks of 15+ gallons. If by Chinese algae eater you mean Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, that will definitely be problematic as well. These fish are real troublemakers (and they don’t even eat algae past a certain age). They also get very large and aggressive. I unfortunately have to recommend rehoming that one as a 10 gal is much too small for it!

      I hope that answers all your questions. Good luck!

    • Hello! That would theoretically be possible I guess, but I wouldn’t go for it. Otocinclus are very fragile and dwarf puffers are very messy; with this stocking level plus the messy eating your water values might become dangerous. Also, otocinclus catfish prefer larger groups, which works better in a larger setup! I’d try just sticking with the dwarf puffer and maybe some shrimp.

  10. I’ve been obsessed with dwarf puffers for the past couple of months because I just think that the way they have their own little personalities is so cute. I currently own a 50 gallon tank that is also my dads (I’m only 15), we had 2 mollies and 2 black skirted tetras and I suggested getting one, but since my dad really wanted to have more fish and a large community tank I gave up the idea knowing that they were territorial and wouldn’t do well with a lot of other fish. Now I’m planning on buying my own 10 gallon tank and the accessories (plants,rocks,hiding places,etc.) and my own dwarf puffer. I’m just so scared that I’ll mess it up! Of course my dad will help me a bit but since it is my fish it’s my responsibility. My plan is to buy a 10 gallon tank and add just some white sand from petsmart as a substrate (would the sand be ok?) then buy fake plants, (I would love to use real ones but my dad said he’s never had luck with them and I really think I want to focus on the fish before I try to do real plants) and put plenty of rocks or decorations to make enough hiding places for the fish. But is like any normal water filter ok, Or does it have to be special? Then would I just drop a snail in there once a day? Because I’ve been reading and snails can take over your tank sometimes and I don’t even know what I would do if that were to happen so I would really not want that to happen. Where would I get them?I’ve seen snails at like petsmart in little tanks would I just ask for a small one from there, or would they have little cans of them or something? then once the tank is all set up, how long should I let it sit with the filter running and everything before adding the puffer? I’m really really sorry for so asking so many questions I just really want this fish and want everything to be perfect and I want it to be happy and if it does because of something I did, I would be very sad and disappointed. THANK YOU SO MUCH. also the article was really really helpful. (Also I promise I’m not inexperienced in keeping fish, I’ve had aquariums all my life, I have just always owned the really basic things you can buy from pet stores, never anything exciting like this)

    • Hi! Great to hear you are doing some research beforehand. Have you had a look at the articles in the setting up an aquarium category yet? The one about cycling is a must read especially, it explains exactly how long the tank should sit with the filter running before it’s safe.

      The 10 gallon with the sand sounds good. I do think you can use (some) live plants just fine, easy plants like Java fern almost always work well even if you don’t have a green thumb. I’ve got an article about easy plants here if you’re curious.

      As for filters, if you buy a 10 gallon tank kit it might come with one, which should be fine. The ones they sell at the aquarium store should also work fine, just be sure to remove any activated carbon if it’s in there. The water quality tag contains some articles about filters, types, filter material, etc.

      As for snails, dwarf puffers are actually one of the only puffer species that don’t necessarily need them to shorten their teeth. You could do (thawed) frozen foods such as mosquito larvae, bloodworms, etc. as staple foods and culture your own live foods on the side. A snail colony is very easy to set up (described here), a fish bowl should work fine for them and you’ll always have your own supply so you don’t have to rely on the pet store.

      Does that answer all your questions? Be sure to just read, read, read and feel free to ask if you need any more info. Good luck!

  11. Hello! I’m looking to get a dwarf puffer sometime in the next few months. Im currently in the process of cycling a 10 gallon with a lot of hides for him. However, it is fully stocked with silk plants and I was wondering if it is ok to have silk plants instead of real ones. Thank you!

    • Hi! It’s definitely okay to have silk plants, though real plants do have a few extra benefits. Not sure if you’ve tried them but definitely don’t be scared they’ll be too difficult! A beginner plant like Java fern is a great easy option. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good luck with your puffer! Your setup sounds great.

  12. Do they need some salt in their aquariums? On some other websites it says to add 1 tablespoon of salt per 5 gallons. Is this true?

    • They absolutely do not need salt and it’s as harmful to them as it is to other strictly freshwater fish (can be found in the article under “requirements”). There are some brackish puffers but this is not one of them!

      • I’ve been researching dwarf puffers since October of 16, and also researching reputable sources for purchasing these little fellas. The best source I have come across is “gunpowderaquatics” he has great weekly deals and if you read the reviews everyone has only great things to say about his care and shipping of all plants and fish on his site. I wrote to Richard when trying to figure out the details of setting up our tank and he replied with tons of helpful to the point information. He is based in Florida, but I think his shipping fees are comparable to any other online dealers. Thanks so much Mari for your site and obvious thoughtful details you share on so many aspects of care! Many blessings to you and all of yours! Sincerely, Mary
        You also might enjoy linking up or just being in touch with Richard!

  13. Hi Mari!!

    Thank you so much for this article! It’s so neat and straight to the point, not to mention super informational. I would like my dwarf puffer to start eating my MTS but he never wants to hunt for them and it doesn’t help that they’re always in the substrate until I turn off the lights. Will my puffer hunt in the dark? Or should I switch to a different kind of snail? I’m currently feeding him frozen bloodworms, which he’s happy about, and I’ve read that you said to try not feeding them for a day or two to see if they’ll hunt but I’m so scared he won’t be able to find the snails under the substrate and get hungry ๐Ÿ™ What would you suggest?

    Thank you!

    • Glad the article was helpful! I, too, have found that our dwarf puffer just isn’t that interested in MTS. Might have to do with laziness and them burrowing under the substrate. I’d switch to a different kind of snail! And don’t worry about your puffer starving, most fish can go for over two weeks without food. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Good luck!

  14. 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!

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

  15. 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?

    • 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.

      • 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?

        • 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.

      • I recently bought 2 pea puffers from my local pet store. I put them in a 10gal aquarium of their own. About 2 data later i noticed a tiny white worm squirming in the water. Then 2 then many! I immediately removed the puffers and placed them in fresh treated water and completely emptied their tank and sanitized it. I used new sand and a new filter setup. Got new plants as well. From my research, i believe they were nematodes or roundworms. I’ve read conflicting info as to whether they are harmful to the fish or not. I noticed a very small lump in one of their stomachs. Should i worm them or not? And if so, what’s the process? Thanks!!!

        • Hi Ashley!
          That’s definitely a worrying sign. There are such things as ‘detritus worms’ that are actually pretty beneficial to the aquarium system and match what you’ve described, though they tend to stay in the substrate and you say that your worms were floating in the water column. These detritus worms are usually introduced on objects from other established tanks, like plants and driftwood, though I don’t see why one couldn’t slip past in the water column as well.
          Worms are difficult to identify even if they are able to be seen by the naked eye, and most internal worm parasites aren’t even suspected until something doesn’t seem right with the fish. I think it could be a good idea to put them in a hospital tank and monitor their behavior/overall health. The lump in the stomach is especially concerning, though it could also be caused by numerous other things.
          So, let the tank run fallow while you monitor them in a more controlled, stable environment. If their conditions start to deteriorate, I would start medication. Be careful not to sanitize too much as this could do more harm than good if you strip too much beneficial bacteria.
          Good luck and keep us updated!

  16. 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!

    • 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. 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

  18. 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.

    • 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!

      • i’m keeping 3 of the little guys in a 70 gallon with corydoras, red phantom tetras, cardinal tetras and dwarf gouramis with no problems

        the important things are plants, the more the merrier. fine leaved ones like watersprite are good, and ludwiga is also a nice choice. they also appreciate the roots of floating plants, as lots of little crustaceans hang out in those.
        if you can, keep them with a large, (30 +) colony of cherry shrimp, as the babies make good food.

  19. 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?

    • 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!

  20. 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

    • 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?

  21. ‘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.

  22. 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

    • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. 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.

    • 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!

  24. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi! Great to hear you’re starting out as a dwarf puffer keeper ๐Ÿ™‚
      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.

  25. Hi,

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. 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.

    • Hi! Glad to hear you’re enjoying keeping dwarf puffers, they are wonderful creatures ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚
      Hope that helps, good luck!

      • 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.

        • 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!

  27. 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

    • 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!

  28. 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

    • 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!

  29. 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

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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

  30. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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

  31. 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

    • 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.

      • 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.

  32. 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.

    • 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.

  33. 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.

    • 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! ๐Ÿ˜€

  34. Hi
    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?


    • Hi!
      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. ๐Ÿ™
      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!

  35. 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?

    • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. 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. ๐Ÿ™‚
    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.

    • 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!

  37. 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!

    • 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.

  38. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you!

    • 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!

  39. 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.

    • 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.

  40. 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi!

      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 ๐Ÿ™

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

  41. 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.

    • Oh dear, I had no idea Dwarfpuffers.com 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.


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