Dwarf Puffers (Cariontetraodon travancoricus) are cute, small (1.5" max), and personable. They sound like the ideal desktop critter don't they? Well, they are and they aren't.
Facts all potential owners should know about dwarf puffers
- They are messy fish. Regardless of their size, they produce a lot of waste. This can make life difficult if you are keeping them in a small tank, because in order to keep the water in good condition (which is crucial with all puffers species) , you will need to have strong filtration, and perform frequent water changes.
- They are aggressive fish They're small, but don't be deceived. Dwarf puffers in most cases are vicious critters which don't play nicely with other fish, be it with their own species, or other fish. Some people report success of keeping them in community tank settings, but, more often than not, you will be unable to keep dwarf puffers with other species. The only suitable tankmates recognised for DPs are Armoured plecs, and Ottos. Of course, this rules out a "desktop critter" setup because plecos are one of the messiest fish around, and ottos should be kept in 3's at the least. Ottos are a shoaling fish and do well in the company of others.
- They will not eat dried food. If you're planning on getting a DP, you need to ask yourself, where will you get the food for it? Live blackworms, whiteworms and bloodworms are all taken by dwarf puffers, but even then, not always readily and it can be difficult to get them to eat these foods in captivity. They will also eat frozen bloodworm. Other suitable foods include small snails, small chunks of prawn etc. Do not forget of course to remove these foods from the tank soon after feeding times, as they can also make tankwater unfit for fish to live in because of the pollution they can create.
- They do best in planted tanks/tanks with lots to interact with. Dwarf puffers are intelligent fish despite their size, and enjoy interacting wth their environment. Keeping them in a tank which has little to offer in the way of hiding places and hang outs leaves them prone to stress. If keeping more than one DP, I can say with some certainty you will need to offer plenty of plants or cover. DPs often squabble amongst themselves and can often inflict harsh damage with their sharp beaks, however if you offer somewhere for the attacked DP to cool off, you can avoid most painful incidents.
So I want to keep a Dwarf puffer, or maybe a few Dwarf Puffers, what sort of setup am I looking at?
Bearing in mind all of the above, we're looking at a tank which can house the fish with room to move, room to keep out of the way of other DPs (It's when DPs cross paths of course that aggression can occur), plenty of cover and of course, a tank with a water volume large enough to dilute their waste.
Minimum tank size - For this I would offer 3g. This is a little lower than I would be willing to house my puffers in, as I'm occasionally slack with water changes. However, if you're very particular about water changes, and can find an effective filter for a 3 gallon tank that will cope with the waste, you're looking at 3g for a single dwarf puffer. More realistically, I would offer 5g per puffer. Overfiltering a 5g tank is easier to do than overfiltering a 3g tank, and, you have the extra 2gallons per puffer to dilute waste, meaning that you have a little room for error, and to make an error is only human. If you are keeping 2 puffers together, then I recommend 5g per puffer to keep arguments and squabbles to a minimum.
Quoted are recommended DP setups -
3g - Single Dwarf Puffer (if overfiltered and maintained religiously)
5g - Single Dwarf Puffer (if overfiltered and maintained religiously. Of course, you have a margin for error in this setup)
10g - A Pair of dwarf puffers, 3 ottos.
Water requirements - All puffer species are intolerant of Ammonia and Nitrite, so a fully cycled tank is essential in order to avoid illness and stress. Regarding PH, these fish are adaptable to most PH values, but extremes are best avoided. They are a truly freshwater fish. Unlike some other puffer species, Dwarf Puffers do not benefit from having salt in their water. They are a tropical fish and do well in temperatures between 72 and 84 degrees, but they appreciate the higher end of the scale.
Sexing Dwarf Puffers - Frequently, males will be smaller than females, and have a brown stripe on their white abdomen. Males also are known to have "wrinkles" behind their eyes, tiny creases that females do not exhibit.
So DPs are great desktop critters, but despite their size they need a little work, and need careful consideration when housing. They're fantastic fish, intelligent and personable, but in order to make the most of these fish, it's worth considering their requirements. Enjoy your DP's!
Cool! Overkill with fitration is a must with any pufferWell, I just took the plunge and got a DP. She (i think, still a little small to tell) is in a marineland 5.5 gal hex tank, with a penguin 200 and an Ehiem 2224 on it. Did I mention that I am fond of overkill? Well, the penguin will only be there until the ehiem seeds. I will post more pictures as I get the chance to get any. Should be fun.