Keeping Dwarf Puffers happy?

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Puffer Fry
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Keeping Dwarf Puffers happy?

Post by eustoma »

So I recently got a DP from my local pet shop about two days ago. The first day I got it it immediately started nipping and eating things around the tank (I am assuming tiny baby snails) and started taking bites out of the larger ramshorn and pond snails in the tank so I had to remove them.

The first two nights it paced around the tank walls at night and I felt bad for it... it seems to only really calm down and look around and slowly swim around the tank when it is hungry.

Anyway, I got home today and I am starting to get a bit sad... I feel as if it is unhappy and needs some sort of stimulation to be the healthiest. I have a 5 gallon tank, and even though the puffer is small enough to be hard to find a lot of times, I still feel like the 5 gallon is kind of small for it. I do have a lot of plants but perhaps it isn't planted with enough stem plants to give it lots of cover. I am planning on propagating the Cabomba whenever I get the chance.

It swims along the walls of the tank more than i would like it to, and it slowly swims around the tank looking for things to eat all the time. I feel like it has such a miserable existence. :(

I did put a feeding tray in the tank, which is basically just the dish my tissue cultured plants came in. I filled it with water and shook a frozen bloodworm cube a few times so some worms fell in, then placed that at the bottom of my tank.

It took a while, but he finally learned how to get in and see the food and eat it.

I think maybe introducing something new to the tank whenever I get a chance might be a good way to keep it stimulated and happy, and was wondering if anyone here did the same? If it was like other fish I have had in the past when I was younger, like a molly or guppies, which are always swimming around in their own little world, I wouldn't feel as bad, but this guy is so expressive and attentive. He looks at me if I'm looking at the tank and sometimes while I was observing came right up to the glass where I was and would swim as close to the glass as possible while looking straight at me. Sometimes he notices me watching him and I feel like he feels self conscious lol.

This is the first time I've had a fish like this and I have to admit I didn't expect it to be this way. I figured it would do its own thing most of the time but I can't help but feel like it is super bored... it rarely goes into the plants and around the driftwood, etc. It is just always out in the open or near the tank walls. :(

It does seem to calm down more each day and become more relaxed, and I'm hoping it will eventually seem happier.

Also, how do you guys keep your tanks clean? My first attempts at feeding it were just dropping worms into the tank but I don't think it found most of them.. .the tank is looking a bit dirty today and I guess it doesn't help that I have algae growing on some plants and the driftwood.

If I could I would get him a friend but I know they are territorial and that probably will not work.

I'd just like to hear stories of anyone who has owned these guys for a while. Also, how much and how often do I feed them? It is still a juvenile so I feel a feeding every day is necessary, but I don't want to overfeed them either. Is just a diet of bloodworms ok? I think it has killed the two snails that were remaining in the tank because I don't see them anymore...

Are Nerites okay with the puffer? I have one in my tank but it is pretty large and only comes out at night to eat algae then hides in the substrate during the day so I can't tell if the puffer harasses it or not.

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Re: Keeping Dwarf Puffers happy?

Post by TwistOfF8 »

I know this reply is a bit late but I don't log in here very often. I hope it will help anyway, and perhaps help other new keepers of dwarf puffers, also known as pea puffers. I've been keeping 5 of them for a year in a Fluval nano tank (I think 17 gal).

I'm guessing your puffer is lonely. This is one of the few species that does better in groups. Since your tank is 5 gallons you could probably keep 3 of them. No less than 3, because you'd end up with one on one aggression and one will eventually be picked on and injured.

With multiple puffers make sure the tank is well planted with plenty of hiding spaces. They seem to like access to a bit of shade so it's good to have a floating plant, like the kind used as refuge for young fry. I rearrange the decor, adding and removing items
once a month because these are intelligent little guys, this reduces "glass surfing" (swimming up and down the glass out of boredom).

You will find that multiple puffers interact with each other in different ways. I find with my puffers that they will stake out territories and chase the others away from their chosen spot. Often they will attack each other but usually the "attackee" gets away before any damage is done. I notice with my guys that for part of the day they get along and will swim in a small group together. Then they go back to territorial behaviour. They change colour like little chameleons, and during their "get along" time they all turn bright yellow with deep black spots. Viewed from behind they have "eye spots" which make predators think they're bigger than they are. While chasing each other they turn a dull green with no spots.

Every so often one of the puffers will get injured by another, and you'll see white patches on their bodies around the tail and behind the dorsal fin. They will usually get fungus or a bacterial infection when injured, or if the water is not kept clean (I do 50% water changes every week). Years ago I kept a tank with dwarf puffers and they all died within a few months after getting injured or sick. A big tip is to ALWAYS have API Melafix and Pimafix on hand. These medications are completely safe for puffers and invertebrates, they are plant based. They work for both fungal and bacterial infections and can be added to the tank without the need for a hospital tank. I use them for all of my fish and they work within a few days. They have helped me to keep my current tank of puffers going for a year.

Re food, mine flatly refuse anything but frozen/thawed bloodworms. For 5 puffers I only need about a quarter of a frozen block of worms each day (I feed the rest out to my other tanks). It's fun watching them slurp the worms up like spaghetti. They even pick them off of the bottom of the tank. Once when my fish shop was out of bloodworms I tried tubifex, brine shrimp and tiny pieces of frozen regular shrimp - they wouldn't touch them. They even refused dried bloodworms. Don't feed them too many worms because they'll foul your water very fast.

Re tankmates - I've found nerites work because they are tidal snails - they can stick firmly to surfaces and they keep their "feet" and antennae tucked under their shells. Thorny nerites work best because they are small (the size of a pea) and their thorns deter little hunters, but you can also use zebra or other nerites. Note that nerites have a relatively short lifespan and don't last more than 2 years. Another species that works is the Japanese trapdoor snail. They burrow under the substrate and have tight fitting operculums (lids) on their shells. They are livebearers, and their tiny babies make good puffer food.

I tried a Siamese algae eater with the puffers but they were biting holes in its sides, so I don't recommend algae eating fish with these puffers.

I hope I've answered your questions, and that your little puffer is still doing OK. They're great little fish.

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Re: Keeping Dwarf Puffers happy?

Post by Pufferpunk »

3 DPs in a 5g is just nuts! It is suggested to keep a single puffer in 3-5g.
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Re: Keeping Dwarf Puffers happy?

Post by Mrbrandon03 »

I am keeping 4 DPs in a 35 gallon planted tank all natural. As the reply under you states, they will bicker back and forth and are extremely intelligent fish, so yours is probably very bored and needs you to add some decoration or maybe even DP buddy but i’d suggest no less than 5 gallons per DP.

As for tankmates, I can’t really suggest many as DPs will nip at most tank mates. Even if they aren’t being outright aggressive they still cause stress. That being said, my DPs have never nipped at the ghost shrimp in my tank and they cross paths PFTEN. Also, I have a dwarf crayfish whose tank is being upgraded and currently resides with my DPs without any issues whatsoever. Not even nipping! Additionally, I have 5 amber tetras that school in the tank without any issues as well. The DPs pay them no mind at all. I would like to add though that the wall surfing was occurring when I had only 1 puffer but I redid his tank, added more plants and the surfing stopped. I’ve since upgraded to the 35 gallon with 4 DPs and they never surf the windows. Keep PLENTY of things for them to explore because trust me they will check out every little thing eventually

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