Pea Puffer Tank Mates | 9 Buddies To Choose From

Jun 27, 2022

Pea Puffer Tank Mates

Image Credit: 5snake5 (CC License)

Pea puffers are adorable little fish hailing all the way from the western coast of southern India. They’re sometimes also known as dwarf Indian puffer and Malabar puffer. 

The saying “looks can be deceiving” couldn’t be truer in a pea puffer’s case. These fish are so tiny and look so innocent. But guess what? They’re quite bloodthirsty. 

Yep. Don’t go by the looks. These fish are feisty, curious, and territorial – they don’t mind finding out what a tank mate tastes like if the tank mate in question is a slow-moving or docile fish. 

Therefore, it’s not as easy as many believe to choose the right tankmates for these little fish, tough as old boots.

I don’t mean to exaggerate, but things can get violent pretty fast if the company is wrong. Therefore, you should put a lot of thought into choosing suitable tankmates for your little pea puffer.

But don’t worry – we have done the hard work for you. We spent hours researching different fish’s needs and temperaments and consulted pea puffer owners to come up with a reliable list of pea puffer tankmates. 

So, the best pea puffer tank mates are:

  • Neon Tetras 
  • Chili Rasboras 
  • Platies
  • Otocinclus
  • Guppies
  • Cherry Shrimps
  • Corydoras
  • Kuhli Loaches
  • Ghost Shrimps

Honorable Mentions 

  • Amano Shrimps
  • Endler’s Livebearers
  • Glowlight Tetras 
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows

So, that’s our roundup of the best tank mates for pea puffers. But before we discuss the fish mentioned above, it’s essential to understand a pea puffer’s temperament and needs. 

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Pea Puffer Behavior And Temperament 

Pea puffers look so naive and adorable, don’t they? But their behavior is anything but naive and adorable. 

Many potential owners believe these fish are harmless due to their petite size and cute looks. But, little do they know they’re in for a nasty surprise. 

These fish are aggressive. They don’t mind picking fights with anyone, whether it’s someone from their own species or others. Thus, it’s crucial to allocate plenty of space first and set up enough hiding places where they can retreat when going gets tough. 

If you jam-pack them in a tiny habitat, their nasty side will begin to show. However, when enough swimming space and hideouts are available, they’re often found shoaling. 

Also, bear in mind that these fish are inherently curious and active. So you’ll often find them checking out different parts of the tank. 

They’ll check substrate, plants, decors, other fish, and even you! 

With pea puffers, it’s never a dull moment. 

How To Find Right Tankmates For A Pea Puffer?

First things first, pea puffers are perfectly capable of living alone. As a matter of fact, that’s how they’d rather live. They don’t get bored or lonely. However, a tank with just a single fish looks rather drab, doesn’t it?

If you’re keeping more than 1 pea puffer, you should at least raise a group of 3 – aim for 1 male and 2 females. If there’s more than 1 male in a small territory, they’ll fight like cats and dogs. 

If you plan to keep them in a species-only tank, you need to allocate at least 5 gallons per fish. Also, create several hideouts by strategically placing plants and decors. They’ll need it big time. 

Fulfilling these steps is vital to ensure the fish do not get into each other’s skin. You’d be surprised to know the extent of damage they can cause despite their teeny-weeny size.

Here’s a quick list of characters you should look for when selecting tankmates for pea puffers: 

  • Fish should be small and swim fast 
  • Small schooling fish 
  • Fish that swim in the mid and top region

And do not pair pea pufferfish with the following:

  • Fish with long, flowy fins since pufferfish are fin nippers 
  • Slow-moving fish 
  • Fish with long, flowy fins
  • Freshwater snails

Tank Setup And Water Conditions For A Pea Puffer

A single pea puffer can live happily in a 5-gallon tank. For every additional pea puffer, you should allocate 3-5 gallons extra. This may seem like a lot for fish their size, but remember, these are territorial fish. 

Also, place the decors and plants strategically to break up the line of sight and minimize conflicts. 

As for water movement, these fish prefer slow-flowing waters since their body shape makes them somewhat clumsy swimmers. 

The water parameters should look something like this:

  • Temperature: 74-82 degrees F (23-28 degrees C)
  • Hardness: 4-10 dGH
  • pH: 6.5-8.4
  • Ammonia: 0 PPM
  • Nitrite: 0 PPM 

Diet For Pea Puffer 

Once again, don’t judge the book by its cover. Given their cute looks, one would assume they’re herbivores or at least omnivores. But guess what? These fish are strict carnivores. In the wild, these fish mostly snack on small insects and larvae. 

I hate to break it to you, but you can’t get away with feeding just pellets and flakes with these fish. They must be offered frozen and live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and tubifex. 

Now that we’ve covered the basics of all that you need to know about raising a pea puffer, let’s discuss their potential tank mates in detail below:

Neon Tetra 

neon tetra
Credit: Melqkov (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi 
  • Origin: South America 
  • Temperature: 72–76 degrees F (22–24 degrees C)
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, schooling fish 

Neon tetras look like tiny pieces of iridescent jewels flowing in the water. Yes, they’re pretty like that, and you already know it. 

These fish grow around 1.5 inches long as adults and can live up to 10 years. 

Neon tetras are one of the oldest aquarium fish in the hobby. Although not as popular as cardinal tetras or other more dramatic tetra species, their beautiful coloration and playful behavior complement any given tank. 

Even though neon tetras and pea puffers come from different parts of the world, their water parameter needs are almost identical. 

Since neon tetras have been bred in tanks for decades, they are super hardy and more accepting of a wide range of water conditions than their cardinal cousins. 

What I love the best about adding neon tetras in a pea puffer tank is that the tetra’s iridescent blue and red stripes contrast perfectly with the more subdued tones of pea puffers. 

Since neon tetras are somewhat skittish, lively tank mates like pea puffers and serene lighting will help them feel secure and confident swimming in open waters. 

Lastly, as neon tetras are schooling fish, you should at least aim to raise 6 of them together. 

Chili Rasboras 

chili rasboras
Credit: JoKrimmel (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Boraras brigittae
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Temperature: 68-82 degrees F (20-28 degrees C)
  • Size: ½ to ¾ inch 
  • Temperament: Peaceful, schooling fish 

Chili rasboras bring a pop of color wherever they go. Also known as mosquito rasboras, these fish barely grow over an inch long. But their sparkling demeanor makes them eye-candy in any environment. 

These are some of the tiniest nano fish you can find in the hobby. But what they lack in size, they make up for it in colors. Their intense red color makes them look like tiny rubies darting in and among dense foliage. 

Also, these fish come cheap and live for around 4 to 8 years. Bang for the buck, I’d say. 

These fish have a wide temperature range. And although they prefer slightly more acidic water than pea puffers, you can find common ground. 

Small they may be, but these fish are super fast and active. So, the chances of your pea puffer bullying chili rasboras are slim to none. 

Lastly, chili rasboras are very peaceful and can even get skittish sometimes. They spend most of their time sticking to the upper half of the tank. However, once they get comfortable, they’ll also venture down. 

Platies 

platy
Credit: Tafkira2 (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
  • Origin: Central America 
  • Temperature: 70–82 degrees F (158–179 degrees C)
  • Size: 2.8 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, schooling fish 

No fish beats platies when it comes to being the number one community tank dweller. These fish can happily coexist with just about any fish that won’t eat them. 

Platis grow around 2.5 inches long and come in various colors and patterns. There are many different kinds to choose from. 

Unlike their larger and fancier cousins, swordtails, platies don’t have elaborate fin extensions that will entice puffers. 

If there are multiple male platies in the tank, they may fight over territory and resources. Besides that, they’re highly social fish. 

And although platies don’t shoal, they do feel comfortable when kept in the company of their own kind. 

The water temperature and pH needed match well between a pea puffer and platy. However, platies need slightly harder water. So, their needs will overlap if you maintain the hardness near the upper end of the pea puffer’s range. 

As livebearers, platies will regularly breed in the tank. However, the eggs and the fry are usually eaten by other fish, including the parents themselves. 

Otocinclus 

otocinclus
Credit: Fremen (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Otocinclus 
  • Origin: South America 
  • Temperature: 72–82 degrees F (22–27 degrees C)
  • Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, skittish

The unassuming and easy-going otocinclus quietly spends hours grazing on algae, thus boosting water quality. 

Like platies, they come in different patterns and reach just about 2 inches long. 

Their armored backside offers some protection from the curious and aggressive pea puffers. 

Although otocinclus like their water on the cooler side, they do well within a pea puffer’s range. 

And since otocinclus are herbivores, they will not compete with carnivore puffers for food. 

Before you decide on otos, bear in mind that the tank should at least have a capacity of 20 gallons since they need a lot of surface area with algae. 

Despite not being too social, these fish prefer living in groups. Therefore, you should maintain a group of at least 5. 

If you have algae problems in your tank, otos are the most efficient algae eaters, in my opinion. As a matter of fact, they can starve to death in a tank with less algae. But for enough algae to grow, there should be more surface area.

So, I’d only suggest keeping otocinclus if you have a bigger tank and enough algae to satiate their needs. 

Guppies 

guppy
Credit: 5snake5 (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Poecilia reticulata
  • Origin: South America 
  • Temperature: 74–82 degrees F (22–28 degrees C)
  • Size: 0.6 to 2.4 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful, schooling fish 

Guppies are the dark horse of the aquarium hobby. They are easy to keep, come in an array of colors, get along with everyone, and you will certainly find one you like. 

Guppies are super petite, growing only around 0.6 to 2.4 inches long. They are peaceful and social fish that spend most of their time chasing one another. 

However, I’d advise keeping guppies in a group of all males or all females to prevent the tank from getting overrun by fry. By the way, a male guppy’s elaborate fins can entice a curious pea puffer. The puffer may try to nip the fins. 

Also, the aquarium must have a hood as guppies have a knack for jumping around. 

These fish love the same warm and slightly alkaline waters as pea puffers but need albeit harder water. You can keep the hardiness towards the upper end of the puffer’s range. 

Guppies are fast swimmers and spend most of their time swimming near the top of the tank. While they do venture towards the bottom every once in a while, they prefer to be at the top. 

Cherry Shrimps 

cherry shrimp
Credit: Sean Murray (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Neocaridina davidi
  • Origin: Taiwan
  • Temperature: 72–76 degrees F (22–24 degrees C)
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Cherry shrimps are just as beautiful as their name. They stay small, reaching only about 1.5 inches long as adults, and come in colors ranging from bright red to transparent with red spots. 

The only shortcoming I can think of about raising cherry shrimps is that you need to raise at least a group of 10 together to minimize dominance squabbles. 

But the advantage is that they make voracious algae eaters. They’re even known to eat the dreaded hair algae. 

Cherry shrimps and pea puffers more or less enjoy the same water parameters. So there’s no issue raising them together. 

These shrimps are docile and quite reserved. Thus, you should provide an environment with plenty of hiding spaces so they feel secure and can hide away when stressed. 

All in all, cherry shrimps are not fussy about water values, super easy to breed, and are quite decorative! They’d make excellent additions to your pea puffer tank. 

However, if you feel the pea puffer is stressed out in the company of the shrimps, you will have to relocate them. 

Corydoras 

Corydoras
Credit: Kai Schreiber (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Corydoras
  • Origin: South America
  • Temperature: 74–80 degrees F (23–26 degrees C)
  • Size: 1 to 2.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you are looking for peaceful and hardy bottom-dwellers to go inside your pea puffer tank, look no further. These fish do extraordinarily well in social situations. 

But mostly, you will see them scooting around the base constantly, chasing one another and scavenging tidbits from the bottom. 

There are several different kinds of corydoras available in the hobby. You can choose one that best compliments your aesthetics and budget. These catfish range from 1-inch-long bubbly pygmy corys to slightly chunky 3 ½-inch-long green corys.

Corydoras prefer soft, slightly acidic, and warm waters. Thus, their needs perfectly overlap with a pea puffer’s needs. 

These fish accept a wide variety of frozen, prepared, and fresh food. They do eat algae, but it won’t suffice. You will have to fortify the diet. 

If you think they have trouble competing at the surface, make sure that you give them sinking pellets or wafers. 

Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli loach
Credit: Lidkk (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Temperature: 75–86 degrees F (23–30 degrees C)
  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Kuhli loaches are perfect for those interested in loaches but don’t have an aquarium big enough to house a large specimen. These worm-like fish max out at around 4 inches and love to burrow through the sandy substrate to look for worms and fallen flakes. 

Temperament-wise, they are mellow. They’re peaceful and don’t meddle in anyone’s business. But they have sharp spikes on their body to defend themselves if a pea puffer gets too close for comfort. 

Puffers and loaches have more or less the exact water requirements. So, you don’t have to worry about that department. Even better, both kinds love to snack on tubifex worms, small invertebrates, and bloodworms. 

Since loaches and pea puffers occupy entirely different regions of the tank, they will seldom run into each other. 

However, if you think your male puffer is on the aggressive side, I’d tell you to err on the side of caution. Since loaches are scaleless, they quickly sustain injuries and infections. 

Ghost Shrimps 

ghost shrimp
Credit: Wesley Malherek (CC License)

  • Scientific Name: Neotrypaea californiensis 
  • Origin: North America
  • Temperature: 72–82 degrees F (22–27 degrees C)
  • Size:1.5 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Ghost shrimps are one of the most spectacular additions you can make to a pea puffer tank. As the moniker gives away, these fish are transparent. So you can see right through them. 

They grow about an inch and a half long as adults. And like all shrimp species, ghost shrimps eat aquatic plants, algae, larvae, and processed pellets. They are true omnivores that eat both plant matter and insects. 

Ghost shrimps are incredibly hardy and can thrive in the same water parameters as pea pufferfish. 

Also, ghost shrimps are extremely well-mannered and peaceful creatures. They don’t disturb other fish and love keeping to themselves at the bottom, looking for the next thing to snack on. 

Since these shrimps are petite even as adults, you can add 3 to 4 ghost shrimps per gallon. 

Final Words: Pea Puffer Tank Mates

Pea puffers are tiny, but they have a big personality. These carnivore fish do not mind picking fights with tankmates and even injure them if the going gets tough. Therefore, you should channel caution when selecting tankmates for these feisty fish. 

The best pea puffer tank mates include neon tetras, chili rasboras, guppies, platies, otocinclus, cherry shrimps, corydoras, kuhli loaches, and ghost shrimp.

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.