Updated: Oct 24, 2021
This care sheet is written with the aim of providing optimal care for this species of fish.
Pufferfish Enthusiasts Worldwide endeavors to inspire and promote the highest standards of care - not basic or minimum care - using the best evidence available at the time.
The travancoricus is a species of freshwater pufferfish, from the Carinotetraodon genus, which is endemic to Kerala (was Travancore), Southwestern India.
They are famous for their maximum known size of approximately 25mm (0.98 inches), making it the smallest known species of pufferfish in the world.
Their small size has earned this species several common names which include Pea Puffer, Pygmy Puffer and Dwarf Puffer. For this care sheet, we are going to refer to them using their most frequently used common name, the Pea Puffer. Despite this species being the most common pufferfish in captivity, the internet is still plagued with erroneous information. Unfortunately, the more common a species is, the more folklore seems to surround them.
Most care guides still completely fail to recognise that this species is in fact a shoaling fish and many recommend unsuitable foods and tanks which are too small.
Pufferfish Enthusiasts Worldwide intends to set the record on this species straight.
In the wild
Pea Puffers are known to inhabit at least 13 different rivers across Kerala and southern Karnataka, in the Western Ghats of Peninsular India.
Unlike most other species of freshwater pufferfish, with a couple of exceptions, Pea Puffers are naturally found in large shoals of their own kind, for social and security reasons. We discuss this in greater detail further on in this guide.
The beds of the rivers and streams which these fish derive are covered with leaf litter from the overhanging vegetation and this provides the perfect habitat for the copepods, water fleas, insects and their larvae which these pufferfish prey upon, as they patrol the bottom of their habitats in swarms of their own kind. The presence of sand and detritus within the stomachs of wild-caught Pea Puffers, in a study conducted by the University of Kerala (Laboratory of Conservation Biology, Department of Zoology) indicates that this species is a frequent bottom feeder.
Pea Puffers are classified as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss, pollution and over-fishing to supply the aquarium trade. They remain relatively common in some areas of India, but they are becoming increasingly rarer in other areas where it is believed that the population has decreased by as much as 50% in recent years.
In the aquarium
Pea Puffers are by far the most commonly kept species of pufferfish, owing to their average full-grown size of just 2.5cm (0.98 inches). Pea Puffers are very popular and demand for them has only continued to grow. Imports of wild-caught pea puffers are very common, but they are frequently bred in both home aquariums and commercial breeding facilities, which is reassuring considering that their wild numbers are in decline.
Pea Puffers best thrive in heavily planted tanks that offer the fish plenty of areas to hide, with lots of visual barriers to break up large and open spaces. Pea Puffers are prey animals and they do not enjoy feeling too exposed. A dense and busy scape helps this species feel safe and secure, knowing that they can take cover quickly if they need to which will encourage them to be more active throughout the aquarium. More on this below.
A huge variety of different aquascaping styles can be used in a tank for Pea Puffers, with almost endless possibilities. Driftwood, red-moor, mopani wood, rounded boulders, Dragon Stone and Lava Rock are just a few examples of hardscape materials that can be used in your Pea Puffer aquarium. Java Ferns offer lots of bushy coverage and can be attached to your hardscape, along with other epiphytes, at various heights within the aquarium to break up open spaces. Back ground plants such as Amazon Swords and stem plants, such as Limnophila sessiliflora, can be used to fill the rear of the aquarium and provide the fish with areas of dense overhead coverage, as well as concealing equipment such as heaters and filters from view.
Pea puffers cherish various different types of mosses, such as Java Moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri), Weeping Moss (Vesicularia ferriei), Christmas Moss (Vesicularia montagnei), and will hide and sleep in the soft vegetation. An abundance of moss is actually the secret to breeding the Pea Puffer as they use it as a spawning medium.