Red-tail dwarf puffer Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Red-tail Dwarf Puffer is a freshwater fish that is native to South America. This fish is also known as the Peruvian Puffer, the South American Puffer, and the Red-tail Puffer.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Red-tail Dwarf Puffer care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

The red-tail dwarf puffer (Carinotetraodon irrubesco) is a type of freshwater pufferfish that’s native to various parts of Southeast Asia.

They are most commonly found in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia but have also been spotted in Laos and Myanmar.

These fish prefer slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation. This could be anything from a swamp to a river with a lot of plants growing along the banks.

The red-tail dwarf puffer is a very small fish, only getting to be about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length. Despite their size, they are very feisty fish and are known to be quite aggressive toward both their own species and others.

One of the most unique things about this fish is their red tail. As you might’ve guessed, this is where their name comes from. The rest of their body is a drab brown color, so the tail really stands out.


Red-tail dwarf puffer

The first thing you’ll notice about this little freshwater pufferfish is their unique coloration. As their name suggests, the vast majority of their body is a deep red.

The only real exception to this is the white spots that run along their sides (more on that later).

They have a very distinct body shape that’s a little hard to describe. They’re short and stocky with a wide head and a big mouth.

Their dorsal fin is rather large and begins right behind their head. It extends back about two-thirds of the way down their body before tapering off.

The anal fin is much smaller and is about halfway back on the body.

Their caudal fin is forked and symmetrical.

One of the most notable features of this fish is their teeth. They have four large teeth in the front of their mouth that they use for crushing shells. They also have smaller teeth lining their jaws.

The teeth on the Red-tail Dwarf Puffer are quite sharp, so be careful when handling them.

These fish also have a very interesting set of eyes. They’re very large and bulbous, and they sit on the top of the head (unlike most fish).

This gives them excellent eyesight and they’re able to see in all directions quite easily.


The lifespan of a red-tail dwarf puffer is around 3 years, but with proper care, they can live up to 5 years.

A lot of things affect the lifespan of a red-tail dwarf puffer. Some of these include the quality of the water they’re kept in, their diet, and whether or not they’re stressed.

If you take good care of your red-tail dwarf puffer, you can expect them to live a long and happy life.


2-3 inches


Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for one red-tail dwarf puffer is 5 gallons. If you’re looking for a freshwater fish that can fit in an average-sized tank, this is not the fish for you.

If you want to keep two red-tail dwarf puffer fish in the same tank you’ll want to add at least another 5 gallons to that minimum number if you want them to thrive.

Another reason why you need to provide enough space is for the sake of enrichment and comfort. These fish like to roam and will often run gentle but steady laps around your tank. Giving them a little bit of extra space can go a long way in making sure they can comfortably turn around in the tank.

Water Parameters

The most important thing to remember when keeping red-tail dwarf puffers is to maintain stable water parameters. These fish are very sensitive to any changes and can quickly become sick or die if the parameters fluctuate too much.

To keep your red-tail dwarf puffer healthy, you should aim for the following water parameters:

  • Water temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 7.0 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 5 to 15 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4 to 8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for Red-tail Dwarf puffers you can be as creative as you want. There aren’t any specific things that this species NEEDS to have, which gives you plenty of options.

We recommend some of the standard decorations that you find in a lot of freshwater tanks. There are a ton of great plants you can include (like hornwort or water wisteria). You can even throw in some floating aquarium plants too!

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all suitable as well. It’s important to avoid going overboard with this since these fish like some room to swim.

Also, if you’re keeping your Red-tail Dwarf puffers in a smaller tank then it’s going to be difficult to include a lot of this stuff anyway.

A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too (use other species you keep as a guide with this).

Common Diseases

As with any fish species, there are a number of diseases that can potentially affect your red-tail dwarf puffer.

The most common one is ich, which manifests itself as small white spots on the body of your fish. This disease is caused by a parasite and is fairly easy to treat if caught early.

Another disease to look out for is hole-in-the-head disease. This is a condition that is caused by poor water quality and the presence of activated carbon in the tank.

It presents itself as one or two pits/holes in the skin of your puffer’s head. While it’s almost always curable, it will usually leave some scarring on your poor fish!

As with ich, the best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain clean and stable water conditions in your tank. This will create a healthy environment for your fish and make them less likely to get sick.

Behavior & Temperament

The red-tail dwarf puffer is a unique fish that is both beautiful and interesting to watch. They’re not the most active fish in the world, but they make up for it with their personality.

These fish are relatively peaceful and can get along with other tank mates as long as they are not too small. They are known to nip at the fins of fish that they see as a threat, so it’s best to avoid putting them in a tank with fish that are much smaller than them.

Although they are peaceful, they are also very curious creatures. They are constantly exploring their surroundings and checking out anything new that goes into their tank. This includes their tank mates. So, if you have fish that are easily intimidated, they may not do well with a red-tail dwarf puffer.

It’s also important to note that red-tail dwarf puffers are escape artists. They are known to jump out of tanks, so it’s important to have a tight-fitting lid on their tank.

Tank Mates

There are a few things to consider when choosing tank mates for a red-tail dwarf puffer.

First, these fish are aggressive. They’re not known for being community fish and do best when kept alone or with other puffers.

Secondly, they come from brackish waters. As a result, they need some salt in their water to stay healthy.

This means that you have to be careful when choosing tank mates. The wrong fish will quickly succumb to the salt and die.

That being said, there are a few species that can handle the salt and also hold their own against a puffer fish. Good red-tail dwarf puffer tank mates include:


Breeding the red-tail dwarf puffer is not an easy task. In fact, it’s one of the hardest freshwater fish to successfully breed in captivity.

The first step is to set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 10 gallons and have a sponge filter. The water should be well-oxygenated and have a pH of 7.0.

You’ll also need to add a lot of hiding places. These fish need plenty of places to hide and feel safe. Driftwood, rocks, and plants all work well.

When ready, add two males and two females to the tank. Be sure to carefully monitor the fish. These fish are known to be aggressive and may fight each other.

The next step is to trigger spawning. The easiest way to do this is to lower the water level by about half. Then, raise the temperature to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the fish have spawned, the female will lay her eggs on the plants. The male will then fertilize them.

After about a week, the eggs will hatch. At this point, you can remove the adults and begin feeding the fry live foods.


As you can see, there are a few things you’ll need to be aware of before you get a red-tail dwarf puffer. But overall, they’re a great fish for people who want something a little different in their tank.

They’re active and interesting to watch, and they’ll get along with other fish in your tank as long as they’re not too small.

We think they’re a great addition to any freshwater tank, and we hope you’ll consider them the next time you’re looking for a new fish!