Pea puffer fish

In its home India and Sri Lanka, the freshwater pea-ball-fish lives in moist areas with strong plant-fouling and prefers standing or easily flowing waters.

What are the characteristics of the pea puffer?

Its appearance is dominated by its relatively large eyes and its ability to puff itself up.

The appearance of pea puffer fish

© Philipp Radtke

The round shape with the semi-transparent fins and the high back is olive-yellow in colour, with the basic colour varying from light yellow to golden yellow. The brown to black spots with a partly metallic turquoise shimmer are irregularly distributed over the whole body.

The dorsal and anal fins are further back and are at the same level. The pea puffer fish has the ability to move the eyes separately. The mouth with the four constantly growing teeth is relatively small. With a size of 2 to 3.5 cm, the pea puffer fish has a life expectancy of 2 to 4 years.


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Gender differences

Females and males are difficult to distinguish visually and the minimal sex differences are only visible in adult fish. Males have a contrasting back colouring with a brownish tone and yellowish belly. The male pea puffer fish develops a dark line from the dorsal to the caudal fin and during sexual maturity. The adult male fish also has wrinkles behind the eyes.
The line is differently pronounced and often difficult to recognise.

The female pea puffer fish also have freckles on the back; the colour on the belly is slightly whitish.

The colouring depends on the state of health and mood. In order to impress, the male pea puffer fish uses a contrasting and intensive colouring as a support.

© Vanessa Ammerstorfer

Water values for pea puffer fish

  • 6 to 7 pH
  • 10 dKH
  • 10 to 30 dGH
  • 24 to 29 degrees Temperature

Feed and nutrition

Due to its body size the fish can only eat small snails. With its teeth it cracks the snail shell and slurps out the contents, the shell remains lying. The shells are important for the wear and tear of the teeth; without wear and tear it is not possible for the pea puffer fish to eat because the teeth would close the mouth.

The pea puffer prefers to eat pointed mud snails, while turret snails are rarely or not at all eaten, probably because their shells are too hard. The pea puffer fish also likes to eat white and red mosquito larvae, small crabs and water fleas,

Exceptionally, frozen food may be used. Dry food, on the other hand, should never be used as a source of food, as it does not wear down the teeth and the fish will not get used to it. A rich and varied diet is important.

The ideal aquarium for pea puffer fish

  • 60 to 80 litres: 2 males and 3 females
  • 100 to 120 litres: 3 males and 4 females
  • 180 to 240 litres: 3 males and 6 to 7 females
  • 350 to 450 litres: 4 males and up to 8 females

Because the male pea puffer fish are territorial, the main focus in a group must be on females. An aquarium of at least 60 centimetres in length is required for species-appropriate keeping. A water volume of 45 litres is theoretically possible, a minimum volume of 54 litres is recommended to suit the territorial behaviour of the males.

The bottom is filled up with fine sand or gravel; the pea puffer fish likes to dig itself in.

The pea puffer requires different roots and moss species as well as dense planting with ferns and fine green plants along the corners and edges as hiding and retreating places. Floating plants in the area of the upper edge of the pool are gladly accepted.
Despite the dense vegetation, there must be sufficient free space for swimming; the pea puffer is not a particularly good swimmer and likes to swim in the open water.

Special features of pufferfish

In case of danger, the body inflates and then floats to the surface of the water. Sometimes they have difficulties to deflate the air. After a certain time they calm down and reduce their height. This process is dangerous for small fish.

If the constantly hungry fish gets too little food, it nibbles the fins of other fish.

Housing conditions

  • At least 45 litres water content
  • Live food, mainly snails, in stock
  • Equipment with sand or gravel and enough green

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