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Dwarf or Pea Puffers have grown in popularity in recent years. They are probably now the most widely kept pufferfish in the freshwater fish keeping hobby. Whether you have a single puffer in a 10 gallon or a large school in a bigger tank, if one of your Dwarf Puffers stops eating, you may find yourself thinking….
How long can Dwarf Puffers go without eating? Dwarf Pufferfish can go for 5 – 7 days without eating. A healthy Dwarf Puffer can go even longer. If your Dwarf Puffer has stopped eating, try tempting them back into feeding by offering live bloodworms, blackworms, or small snails.
Why Has My Dwarf Puffer Stopped Eating?
It can be distressing when you first realize your Dwarf Puffer has stopped eating. Before panicking, try to work out why your Dwarf Puffer has stopped eating in the first place. Spend some time watching your Dwarf Puffer. See how your puffer is interacting with the other fish and check some basic parameters in your tank.
Check the aquarium temperature. It is a simple check, but heaters fail on a regular basis. If your puffer is too cold, it may not want to eat.
Is the Dwarf Puffer New To You?
If your Dwarf Puffer is a new addition to your aquarium, is it suffering from internal parasites? Dwarf Pufferfish, especially wild-caught specimens, often have internal parasites like tapeworms. These worms will consume all the nutrients from the food your puffer eats and then grow in the fish’s intestines until your Dwarf Puffer no longer feels like eating.
If you suspect your Dwarf Puffer does have internal worms, consider removing it from the aquarium and placing it in a quarantine tank. Once in the quarantine tank, Dwarf Puffers can be treated for internal parasites using a fish dewormer such as ParaCleanse by Fritz.
ParaCleanse treats a wide spectrum of internal parasites and a few external ones as well. Treating for internal parasites is a process that can take 4 weeks or more, so be patient and don’t try to rush the process.
Does your Dwarf Puffer have an obvious illness, infection, or external Parasites?
By spending some time observing your Dwarf Puffer, you may be able to see signs of an illness or infection. When Dwarf Puffers feel unwell, they can be put off feeding and if a disease or infection becomes serious enough, a Dwarf Puffer can die of starvation before the illness kills them.
If you believe your Dwarf Puffer does have an illness or external parasite which is affecting its appetite, make a note of as many of the symptoms as you can (eg white spots or fungus around the mouth) and call into your local fish store to speak with an employee there.
Discuss the symptoms your fish has and ask them to recommend a suitable treatment. If appropriate, move your Dwarf Puffer to a separate quarantine aquarium before commencing treatment.
Remember, always complete the treatment course before returning your Dwarf Puffer to the main tank, even if it no longer shows signs of the original illness.
Has the Quality of the Aquarium Water Fallen?
Dwarf Puffers can be sensitive to poor water quality and they appreciate regular partial water changes to keep their aquarium water fresh. Without these partial water changes, nitrate levels can build up in the water to the point where it starts to affect your Dwarf Puffers’ health.
Regularly testing your Dwarf Puffers water is the best way to check if your water quality has deteriorated. I have used the API Master Test from Amazon for many years. It is reliable and fairly easy to use.
Is your Dwarf Puffer being Bullied?
Occasionally, a Dwarf Puffer can be bullied or harassed by another fish in the aquarium. This bullying can be so extreme it actually deters the Dwarf Puffer from eating. If you believe bullying may be the reason your Dwarf Puffer has stopped eating, consider either removing the bully fish or moving the Dwarf Puffer to a new home.
Bullying can come in the form of physically attacking the Dwarf Puffer or simply denying the Puffer the chance to eat.
What Foods Can You Use To Get Your Dwarf Puffer Eating?
If your Dwarf Puffer hasn’t eaten for a few days and you are looking to tempt it back into eating, there are several foods you can try.
If you usually feed your Dwarf Puffers frozen bloodworms, but it is not interested in eating them now, try some live bloodworms instead. Live bloodworms naturally wriggle as they pass through the water column. This wriggling action can sometimes stimulate your Dwarf Puffers’ instincts to eat.
If you usually feed bloodworms, but your Dwarf Puffer just isn’t interested, try sourcing some live blackworms instead. Live blackworms form a clump of wriggling worms which instantly attracts fish to them. Even an especially stubborn Dwarf Puffer will struggle to resist a pile of wriggling live blackworms
Vibrabites is a dry food made by Hikari. The unique quality of Vibrabites is, it looks like bloodworms. Vibrabites is the only dry food I have successfully got Dwarf Puffers to eat. If your Dwarf Puffer is reluctant to eat its usual live or frozen foods, try some Vibrabites.
How Often Should Dwarf Puffers Eat?
Ideally, Dwarf Puffers need to be fed 3 or 4 times a week. Eating on a regular basis helps ensure the Dwarf Puffer remains healthy.
If your Dwarf Puffer won’t eat on a regular basis, try increasing the variety of foods on offer.
Going On Vacation?
If you are going on vacation and not sure how long you can leave your Dwarf Puffer without being fed, there is a simple trick I learned a few years ago. Purchase yourself a floating breeding trap, like this one on Amazon.
Put a handful of small snails in the trap and float it in the Dwarf Puffers aquarium. Over the week or so you are away, snails will slowly leave the breeding trap and your Dwarf Puffer will eat them..it is kind of like a floating, auto feeder.
Fish can go longer than we think when it comes to going without food. Dwarf Puffers can certainly go 5 to 7 days without eating, and I suspect they could go longer if needed. The real question is WHY has your Dwarf Puffer stopped eating. If there is an underlying issue, that issue may need to be resolved before your Dwarf Puffer can get back to its usual appetite.