How to Set Up a Pea Puff Tank?

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Pea puffers are cute, tiny, and voracious predators. These 3 features alone are most likely sufficient to raise your interest and for good reasons.

Pea puffers are great for nano tanks, but they can easily adapt to larger environments as well.

Their temperament and environmental requirements make pea puffers more difficult to accommodate.

We’ll jump into these specifics in today’s article to shed some light on pea puffers and learn how to keep them puffy, healthy, and happy.

Well, not too puffy because puffers only puff when stressed or frightened.

What is the Best Tank Size for Pea Puffers?

It depends on how many pea puffers you plan on getting. One pea puffer requires 5 gallons of water, after which you can add 3 more gallons for each additional pea puffer.

This may sound excessive, given that pea puffers only grow up to 1.4 inches, but it actually makes sense.

Pea puffers are extremely aggressive and territorial, so they require more space than your standard guppy, for instance. Despite the puffers being half as big.

Not to mention, pea puffers live in lush aquatic ecosystems with a lot of live plants and other decorative elements.

So, you need to also plan your tank’s layout with these requirements in mind.

How to Cycle Your Tank Before Getting Pea Puffers?

Pea puffers are extra sensitive to harmful water chemicals like ammonia and nitrites. These are naturally produced in any aquatic setting due to organic matter decaying in the water.

Fortunately, you can mitigate the chemicals by allowing the tank to develop a natural layer of beneficial bacteria that digest ammonia and nitrites and convert them into nitrates.

The latter byproducts are consumed by plants which is already great since you’ll be having a lot of them in your puffer tank.

So, you need to cycle your pea puffer tank before adding the fish.

The cycling process consists of the following steps:

  • Get the necessary equipment – We’re talking about a tank, a fitting filtration system, a water dechlorinator, a water tester kit, a heater, an ammonia source, and a source of bacteria. All these will play a different role in the cycling process.
  • Prepare the tank – Add in the substrate, add your aquatic decorations and plants, and fill the tank with water. Always use the dechlorinator if you’re using tap water. Tap water is rich in chlorine which is toxic to bacteria, fish, and plants for that matter.
  • Get the equipment going – Mount the filter and heater in place and turn them on. Adjust the filter’s power and intake and output placement based on your tank’s layout. You want to minimize the water currents that could break plants or disturb the substrate, among other things. Set the heater to keep the water temperature stable between 65 and 85 F. I recommend closer to 85 to support the accelerated growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Add ammonia – You can go for a source of pure ammonia; no additives, colorants, or any chemicals that may change the substance’s composition. A few drops of ammonia should suffice. Once the ammonia is added, use the tester kit to check ammonia levels; you want ammonia to remain between 3 and 5 ppm. If it’s too low, add a few more drops. If it’s too high, change 10-15% of the water to dilute it a bit.
  • Ammonia maintenance and nitrite – Now you’re deep in the waiting game. You should test your tank water daily to check ammonia levels and replenish it if it goes beyond 3 ppm. After a while, your tester should indicate the presence of nitrites, which means that the nitrifying bacteria are now present. These will turn ammonia into nitrites which, unfortunately, are just as toxic. The level of nitrites shouldn’t go above 5 ppm. If they do, perform a 20-25% water change to dilute the chemical. Nitrites should become visible 2-3 weeks into the cycling process.
  • Nitrates appear – 2 more weeks later, approximately, nitrates will begin to appear. These are the result of denitrifying bacteria turning nitrites into nitrates which are far less toxic. Several other bacterial organisms will then turn nitrates into nitrogen gas, keeping the environment stable. The presence of nitrates is an indication that the cycle is complete and your tank now has the bacterial foundation it needs for improved chemical stability.

The denitrifying bacteria will consume the residual ammonia and nitrites and produce nitrates constantly.

You should only add the fish once ammonia and nitrite readings remain at 0. Nitrates are allowed to go up to 20 ppm, but no higher.

What do Pea Puffers Need in Their Tank?

Fortunately, pea puffers aren’t as pretentious as some people suggest.

If you’ve never owned pea puffers before, consider the following:


The heater is absolutely necessary, no matter how stable water temperatures appear to be.

Pea puffers come from warm environments with a temperature range of 68 to 92 °F. The latter reading isn’t common, but it can occur in some areas.

The ideal temperature for the pea puffer rests at about 77 °F, give or take. Large or sudden temperature fluctuations can stress your puffer and affect its health in the long run.

These are rather sensitive fish that require a clean and stable environment. A heater is necessary for this sense.


The filtration system goes without saying. You should have a reliable filter, even for a nano tank, so you better find the space for it.

When setting up the filter for your pea puffers, consider the following points:

  • Intake and output placement – Place the intake in an area where it will minimize its impact on the environment. The same goes for the output. You don’t want your pea puffers to experience direct water currents since these fish like to live in slow-moving waters. Also, consider covering the intake with a sponge to avoid puffers being sucked in.
  • Power management – Adapt the filter’s power to the environment. Nano tanks are incompatible with strong water currents for obvious reasons.


You need a good substrate for your plants because puffers demand a plant-rich setting with a lot of hiding areas.

I recommend fine gravel, sand, or even enriched soil, paired with a thorough substrate-cleaning schedule.

The ideal substrate should provide your plants with great anchoring capabilities.

Also, root tabs are necessary to provide plants with additional fertilization. Sand and gravel are inert substrates because they are devoid of any mineral content.

Live Plants

Pea puffers can cope with any live plants, provided they are compatible with a nano setup.

The idea is to get them taller plants that would provide them with hiding areas at all levels.

Java moss, java fern, hornwort, and Amazon frogbit are all great options in this sense.

The idea is to have dense and lush planted environments with a variety of hiding spots.

Puffers are both timid and territorial, which is a rather unusual combination, but pea puffers are unusual fish, so it works out.


Pea puffers require approximately 10-12 hours of moderate lighting per day.

Coincidentally, this is also what most aquarium plants need for their photosynthesis activity.

How to Maintain Your Pea Puffer Tank?

The maintenance activity goes pretty much the same for pea puffers as it does for any fish species.

The following are the necessary steps to consider when putting together a robust maintenance plan:

  • Substrate vacuuming – This is necessary to remove fish waste, food residues, and other dead organic matter that could turn into ammonia-producing sources. Fortunately, pea puffers aren’t as messy as other fish, but they’re not the cleanest either. You may need to vacuum the substrate at least once per week, especially if you have a smaller tank below 10 gallons.
  • Avoid overfeeding – Pea puffers are greedy and voracious animals, so they are always overly excited when food comes their way. Don’t fall for their excitement and only feed them small and manageable portions. Keep the meal size to whatever the fish can consume within 3 minutes tops, and remove any food residues immediately if you can.
  • Clean the tank walls – Use a piece of soft cloth to clean the interior of the tank walls. The goal is to remove any algae deposits from the walls, rocks, or other aquarium decorations. The algae particles will be picked off by the filter.
  • Water changes – You can’t have a sturdy maintenance schedule without at least one water change per week. You should change your puffers’ water regularly to prevent the accumulation of nitrates due to excess organic waste. Change up to 20% of the total water volume in one go, and be gentle and careful about it. Try not to disturb your puffer too much in the process.

You should also clean any dead or dying plant leaves. This alone will improve the ecosystem’s stability significantly.


Pea puffers are more pretentious than other fish in terms of environmental layout and overall care.

But they’re not that pretentious. Offer them a lush habitat, clean waters, and a fulfilling and meaty diet, and they will thrive.

Author Image Fabian
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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