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How to Breed Pea Puffers

If you have pea puffers (also known as dwarf pufferfish) and you’re thinking of breeding them, then ‘good news’: pea puffers are easy to breed – with the proper care and under the right circumstances, that is. As an aquarist, you may be wondering how to encourage pea puffer breeding in captivity?

To breed pea puffers, keep a group of 3 (1 male and 2 females) in a clean, species-only planted tank with the correct water parameters. A 10-gallon aquarium (minimum) is required. The temperature should be slightly warmer to encourage breeding and feed them only high-quality, protein-rich foods.

Now that you know what’s needed to breed pea puffers in captivity, let’s explore this topic together and in more detail. We’ll learn how old they should be before they start breeding, how to tell the difference between males and females, what water conditions are required, and how to properly care for offspring.

So, if you’re ready to learn more about sexing, breeding, and raising pea puffers, then let’s begin!

At What Age do Pea Puffers Begin to Breed?

Pea puffers must be sexually developed and mature enough to breed. In most cases, this occurs around 7 or 8 months of age. You must also be sure you have both male and female specimens in your tank. Sexing them is difficult to do when fish are less than 6 months old.

Sexing Male and Female Pea Puffers

Genderizing male and female pea puffers is near-impossible to do as juveniles. Fish must be at least an inch in length and approximately 7- to 8-months old before they start exhibiting the distinct physical traits needed to properly sex this species.

Males, for example, are more vibrantly colored in shades of deep yellow and green with a black or dark brown stripe along the belly and iridescent blue swirls around the eyes. Females tend to be rounder, not as intensely colored, and more greenish in hue.

Conditioning Pea Puffers to Spawn

Conditioning pea puffers to spawn successfully in captivity includes keeping them in groups of at least 3 – 1 male and 2 females. A species-only planted tank that’s at least 10-gallons in size with slightly warmer water and neutral pH level is recommended.

Feed pea puffers a diet rich in protein to help encourage breeding. Since this species is carnivorous in nature, fish need high-quality, meat-based live and/or frozen edibles. Pellet or flake foods will likely be discarded and don’t provide enough of the essential nutrients needed for spawning.

How to Recognize when Pea Puffers are Ready to Spawn?

Pea puffer males tend to become more aggressive and territorial when it’s time to spawn. They’ll typically chase after and attack each other to establish dominance and the right to mate with the females. They’ll also chase the females and try to lure them into a safe, covered spot to breed.

Pea puffer females typically become rounder in the mid-section when they’re ready to spawn. They’ll also spend more time hidden among the plants, trying to find a safe place to lay their eggs. Afterwards, the females will ward off any intruders while the males stand guard over the eggs until they hatch.

Do Pea Puffers Lay Eggs?

Pea puffers only lay a handful of eggs – 10 or less – per breeding season. It usually takes 24- to 48-hours for eggs to hatch. Females prefer to lay their eggs on or near plants such as java moss after the males have directed them to a ‘safe’, covered area in the tank.

puffer fish

What Size Tank is Best for Dwarf Pufferfish?

Pea puffers require a species-only tank that’s at least 10-gallons (minimum) in size. These fish are very active and need plenty of space to swim about freely. They also need areas of coverage to hide or breed in, if necessary. To keep their aggressive and territorial tendencies at bay, a 20-gallon tank is better.

Dwarf Pufferfish Natural Habitat and Tank Requirements

The pea or dwarf pufferfish are endemic to the freshwater environments of southern India. Typically found in streams, lakes, and estuaries of the Malabar region, this species is known to inhabit at least 13 different river systems in India.

Pea puffers are an active fish and need at least a 10-gallon tank (though a 20-gallon version is better) to be able to swim about freely. Due to their aggressive and territorial nature, they do best in species-only tanks in small groups of 3 with just a single male and a pair of females.

As a type of tropical to subtropical freshwater fish, pea puffers like warm water so a heater is necessary. A low-flow sponge or hang-on-back filter is also recommended. These fish are small with tiny side fins and can’t swim well against a heavy current.

A LED light is also required for a pea puffer aquarium since it can be adjusted. Standard lamps with fluorescent bulbs are too bright and can alter the temperature in the tank, not to mention shock or startle dwarf pufferfish. This species likes shade so keep the tank out of direct sunlight.

Pea puffers like to hide and breed in covered areas so adding artificial or live plants to their tank is encouraged. Live plants like java moss, java fern, and anubias are good choices and will help to both oxygenate and detoxify the water. As well, choose substrate like gravel or sand to help plants grow.

Optimal Water Conditions for Pea Puffers

The optimal water conditions for pea puffers – especially those of breeding age- include:

  • warmer water at the higher end of the heat spectrum, which is between 78- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit for this species
  • a neutral pH level around 6.5 to 7.0 – this species is highly sensitive to fluctuations in pH so try to keep it as stable as possible
  • a clean tank free of leftover food, excrement, and debris – a ‘dirty’ tank will allow toxic compounds such as ammonia, nitrate, and nitrate to take hold and cause illness
  • weekly partial water changes of 15-25%, depending on the size of the tank and the stocking density
  • bi-weekly to monthly maintenance such as cleaning the glass with an algae scrubber and vacuuming the substrate with an aquarium siphon

Physiological Considerations for Pea Puffers

Pea puffers have an inquisitive and engaging nature and like to freely explore their aquatic surroundings. They have a life expectancy of 4 to 5 years in captivity and can become stressed in an aquarium that’s overstocked with inappropriate tankmates. For this reason, a species-only tank is recommended.

Pea puffer males are especially temperamental and can become hostile with one another. They’ll chase after and attack each other to assert dominance and earn the right to breed with the females. Hence, small groups of 3 to 5 (depending on the size of the tank) is best with only one male at any given time.

pufferfish

What Food is Best for Breeding Pea Puffers?

Pea puffers need protein-rich, high-quality food to breed in captivity. Meat-based live edibles such as snails and insects as well as frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms are best. To encourage spawning behavior, feed pea puffers two a day with just enough food to eaten in a 2- to 3-minute time-period.

How to Care for Pea Puffer Offspring

Caring for pea puffer offspring isn’t difficult since females only lay a few eggs at a time. Feed the fry infusoria until they’re big enough to eat frozen brine shrimp or hunt for snails on their own. Keep the tank clean and the parameters stable – youngsters are fragile and more sensitive to fluctuations.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, breeding pea puffers in captivity requires at least a 10-gallon aquarium. A clean, species-only planted tank with the proper water parameters is a must. Slightly warmer water with a neutral pH will signal to fish that it’s time to breed. Keeping them well-fed on a protein-rich diet is also necessary.

I trust this article has been of help to you. Thanks for reading and good luck with your aquarist hobby!

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