10 Pea Puffer Tank Mates – List of Compatible Species

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Pea puffers are angry and tiny carnivorous tank fish that will bring any aquatic setup to life. They’re more fitting for nano tanks due to their small size (up to 1.4 inches) but can also adapt to larger environments.

The main challenge, though, comes with looking for viable tankmates for them.

Despite being small and apparently harmless, they’re anything but. Pea puffers are widely known for their explosive personalities and unhinged behavior.

Their fiery temperament is the result of their territorial temperament, but also a native inclination towards aggression that makes them difficult to house with other fish species.

Fortunately, it can be done, and I’m here to dissect this exact topic.

Do Pea Puffers Make Good Tankmates?

No, they don’t. Pea puffers are rather difficult to house with other fish, even larger ones that the puffers shouldn’t, theoretically, be able to bully.

However, there are ways around it, provided you consider the following strategies:

  • Manage tank size – One pea puffer demands at least 5 gallons of water for itself. This is already amazing, given that pea puffers only grow up to 1 inch on average. Any additional pea puffers demand an increase in tank size with at least 3 gallons per fish. So, you need to provide all fish with sufficient space, especially since pea puffers also require a lot of plants and hiding areas.
  • Pea puffer behavior – While pufferfish are aggressive by nature, they are also individuals with different personalities and temperaments. Some are more aggressive and unhinged than others, and this makes a lot of difference when housing them with other fish. Always assess your pea puffers’ behavior and personalities before deciding whether they can adapt to a community setup or not.
  • Plant compatibility – Pea puffers demand a plant-rich habitat to keep them calmer and more docile. A heavily-planted setup will mimic the fish’s natural environment and allow for puffers to hide when bullied, stressed, or frightened. The same plants will also shelter other fish from the puffers’ bullying behavior, should it arise. So, make sure that the puffers’ tankmates also love lush ecosystems with a lot of plants around.

Addressing these 3 strategies should allow you to create a most stable ecosystem for your puffers to minimize their aggression in the long run.

Best Pea Puffer Tankmates

Today, we will look into 10 of the best tankmate options for your pea puffers.

These will not all live up to the same compatibility standards, but at least they can share the same space with puffers. Because most fish can’t.

1. Otocinclus Catfish

The Otocinclus only grow up to 2 inches, although most of them remain below 1.5 inches. They are fast swimmers with an introverted behavior that love lush ecosystems, allowing them to keep a low profile.

They will spend most of their time latching onto rocks and other aquatic decorations, constantly on the lookout for algae and other meal opportunities.

This is a herbivorous fish that lives up to 5 years in optimal conditions and requires at least 10 gallons of swimming space.

You can easily keep more than one, as they’re not that territorial or aggressive towards each other. Not unless they lack sufficient food or they’re overcrowded.

The ideal water parameters include a temperature around 72-79 F and a pH of 6.8 to 7.5.

Compatibility Level – High

These tiny swimmers are great companions for your pea puffers. This is primarily due to 3 reasons:

  • Fast swimmers – The tiny otocinclus catfish will dart through the tank at the first sign of danger. This allows it to exit the puffer’s red zone before the attacker can realize what happened. Speed is their most useful asset.
  • Hide-n-seek – These small catfish can easily render themselves invisible in their environment by blending with their habitat. Their brownish color and randomized color pattern camouflage them around the rocks and driftwood that they love to populate.
  • Armored bodies – The otocinclus catfish has a dorsal protection of armored plates that protect them from incoming attacks. It may not shield them from larger fish planning to eat them whole, but it can shield them from smaller attackers like the pea puffers.

Overall, a good tankmate for your pea puffers, all things considered.

2. Bristlenose Pleco

The bristlenose pleco is probably the most well-known cleaner fish in the aquarium business. This bottom-dweller can only grow up to 5 inches and spends most of its time on the substrate.

As an opportunistic herbivorous animal, the pleco eats whatever it can find on the substrate, including food residues from other fish, algae deposits, detritus, etc. That being said, you should also feed the fish more nutritious meals for a properly-balanced diet.

Plecos are only territorial against each other but won’t bother other fish roaming around them. They also spend their time foraging the substrate, constantly on the lookout for feeding opportunities.

They keep a low profile and are not interested in bothering other creatures trespassing their territory.

Compatibility Level – High

Bristlenose plecos and pea puffers have different dwelling areas. Puffers like to remain in the mid-to-top area, while plecos are substrate dwellers, spending most of their lives near the bottom.

They will rarely come across each other, and nothing will come out of it when they do. Plecos have a low profile and are rarely observed by other fish due to their bland-brown coloring.

It also doesn’t hurt that their bodies are packed with bony armor plates, protecting them against the more aggressive puffers, should they ever engage the plecos.

3. Corydoras Catfish

This is another bottom-dweller with a behavior similar to that of the pleco. The Corydoras catfish only grows up to 4 inches, but most remain smaller than 3, especially the males.

These omnivorous fish showcase a friendly and timid demeanor and avoid interacting with other fish as much as possible.

Their white-brown spotted bodies allow them to blend in the environment, and they much prefer plant-rich habitats for a plus of safety and comfort.

Corydoras catfish live up to 5 years in ideal conditions and are easy to keep since they don’t require much to thrive.

Keep the water temperature at around 70-77 F and the pH around 5.5 to 7.0.

Compatibility Level – Moderate

This is a bottom-dweller with camouflaging colors and patterns and protective body plates. The ideal combination for any puffer-compatible tankmate.

That being said, Corydoras often dart to the surface of the water to take in some gulps of oxygen because they can breathe atmospheric air.

This can cause them to traverse the puffers’ territory, which could result in some minor confrontations here and there. However, the fish will quickly sink into its safe space, which will take it out of the puffers’ line of sight.

Make sure that the plant-rich environment doesn’t restrict the Corydoras’ access to the water’s surface.

4. Kuhli Loach

The Kuhli loach is a colorful addition to any aquatic setting. This bottom-dweller is shaped like an eel with a long and snakey body, allowing it to move graciously on the tank bed.

As a burrower, this fish requires a fine substrate that makes it easy for it to dig and bury its body occasionally.

Kuhli loaches grow up to 4 inches, typically less, and live up to 10 and even 14 years in captivity in ideal conditions. They’re easy to keep, peaceful, and require an omnivorous diet to thrive.

Aim for a water temperature of 73-86 F and a pH of 5.5-6.5, and maybe keep more than one loach. Although this is not a schooling species, Kuhli loaches like each other’s company.

Compatibility Level – Moderate/High

The main problem with Kuhli loaches is their lack of scales. They have sensitive skin prone to injuries and parasites, which requires more care and consideration than other fish.

Fortunately, Kuhli loaches lack the larger and more colorful fins that would attract the attention of pea puffers.

They also spend their lives on or in the substrate, which further decreases their puffer radar signature.

Provide your loaches with a fine substrate so that they can practice their burying behavior, and they will make for great tankmates for your puffers.

5. Neon Tetras

Enough with the bottom-dwellers, let’s talk about a more free-roaming species. Neon tetras are the go-to species for aquarists who want a group of shoaling and colorful fast-swimmers to add to their community tank.

These fish grow up to 1.5 inches and are peaceful, colorful, and adaptable, allowing them to thrive even in suboptimal environments.

The ideal temperature for neon tetras is between 68 and 79 F, with a preferred pH of around 7.0. These are omnivorous middle-tank dwellers that like to cover a lot of swimming space.

Keep them in groups of 6-8 or more members as this helps them feel safer and become more active within their habitat.

Compatibility Level – Moderate/High

Neon tetras are as large as pea puffers and share the same swimming space. You would think that this will lead to a lot of tensions between the 2 species, but that’s not always the case.

That’s because neon tetras rely on their numbers to intimidate attackers and protect themselves.

If you plan on pairing puffers with tetras, consider increasing the tank size to at least 30 gallons, which is enough to house several puffers and a decent tetra school.

A heavily-planted setting will work wonders for both species.

6. White Cloud Minnows

This is a schooling species that live in groups of at least half a dozen individuals. White cloud minnows are adaptable and peaceful fish that can live up to 5 years in captivity.

They’re also small, only growing up to 1.5 inches, making them great additions to nano and smaller setups.

As a friendly reminder, these are cold-water fish, demanding temperatures around 60-72 F. You can keep them in warmer waters, but they won’t fare as well in the long run.

Compatibility Level – Low

White cloud minnows can handle themselves pretty well in a pea puffer setting, but it’s the temperature that drops their score considerably. Their top preferred temperature is 72 F, which is the minimum temperature requirement for puffers.

As I’ve said, you can pair these 2, but minnows will experience shorter lifespans at temperatures exceeding 72 F.

You can optimize the tank water to accommodate minnows and force the puffers down to lower temperatures, though.

Pea puffers are known to thrive even in temperatures below 72 F, although not for long.

7. Zebra Danios

Zebra danios are easy to maintain, grow up to 2 inches, and can live for 5 years in optimal conditions. Their stripped bodies help them deliver a unique presence, and they’re active and energetic, constantly darting through the tank.

These fish love to live in larger groups, as it helps them feel more comfortable and secure.

Zebra danios are always eager to breed, which tends to happen more often at temperatures above 78 F.

So, you need a nursing tank ready because the danios can easily produce upwards of 300 eggs in one spawning.

Compatibility Level – Moderate

Zebra danios are mid-dwellers, so their dwelling space will intersect with that of the puffers. This can create problems quite often due to the puffers’ more territorial and aggressive demeanor.

Fortunately, you can mitigate these tendencies by keeping the danios in larger groups.

This will help them combat any aggressive behavior by intimidating the attackers via their numbers.

Violence may still occur occasionally, so always monitor your fish dynamics to see whether puffers grow more aggressive than they should.

8. Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin rasboras are active and energetic fish that remain small (1.7 inches) and like to live in large groups.

You should go for at least 10 rasboras to give the fish some leverage when facing the more aggressive pea puffers.

Rasboras require a water temperature of up to 82 F with a water pH of 6.0 to 7.5. These omnivorous fish eat a variety of foods but prefer live foods for the higher protein content.

They will dwell mostly in the tank’s middle and top areas and like to avoid all territorial conflicts with other fish.

Compatibility Level – Moderate/High

On paper, harlequin rasboras are rather vulnerable in the face of puffers. They’re small, have no means to impose themselves, and can’t really fight back.

Fortunately, these fish prefer living in lush ecosystems with a lot of plants, a dark substrate, and plenty of hiding areas.

Keep them in larger groups and optimize the tank’s layout according to their preferences, and they will thrive.

9. Dojo Loach

This is another bottom-dweller that makes for a great pea puffer companion. The Dojo loach grows up to 12 inches in ideal conditions and requires at least 55 gallons of space. So, no nano tanks for you.

The ideal temperature revolves around 65 to 75 F and a pH of 6.5 to 8.0. Dojo loaches are omnivorous animals that like to scan the tank bottom for feeding opportunities.

They’re easy to care for, provided you change their water regularly. These fish require at least 25% water changes weekly to remain healthy and happy in the long run.

Compatibility Level – High

While Dojo loaches have thin scales and are prone to injuries, there’s no way that a pea puffer can hurt them in any way. They’re simply too big and intimidating.

They’re also substrate-burying nocturnal animals, so they will keep a low profile during the day.

Provide them with a fine substrate so that they won’t hurt themselves when digging around. Also, it’s unlikely that the loach will attack your puffers, despite the size difference.

Pea puffers are too snappy for the Dojo loach to hunt them down. The loach is lazy and likes to move slowly around the tank bed. It doesn’t really care about what’s going on above its head.

10. Amano Shrimp

Amano shrimps grow up to 2 inches and thrive in heavily-planted aquariums. The ideal temperature for them is 70-80 F with a pH level of 6.0-7.0.

These are hardy animals that can adapt to nano and full-sized tanks, both in single-species and community setups.

Amano shrimps require a rich and lush environment with a lot of plants and rocks for hiding purposes.

They also rank as the best cleaning crew thanks to their predilection towards algae and food leftovers, are easy to breed, and have a small bioload.

In many ways, the Amano shrimp is the perfect tankmate for pea puffers and many other fish species.

Compatibility Level – High

Although Amano shrimps are relatively small, they have nothing to fear pea puffers for. Their armored exoskeleton can handle any pea puffer attack, and the shrimps themselves are unhinged by the puffer violence.

So long as they have a variety of hiding areas to use, they won’t be bothered.

That being said, newborn shrimp and shedding adults can be more vulnerable due to their lack of hardened exoskeleton.

Conclusion

Pea puffers aren’t exactly the best tank companions. They’re violent, territorial, inquisitive, and a real pain in the fish butt for most fish species.

However, they can share the same living space with other species, provided you approach the situation wisely.

Hopefully, today’s article will allow you to do just that.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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