Pea puffers with cardinal tetras?

Fishstery

Hey all! I've been going back and forth between what I wanted to stock my 12 gal long with since I lost my honey gourami. It has 12 cardinals in it. Originally I was just going to add a new centerpiece fish in, but I finally have an opportunity to get my hands on some rainbow shiners which I've been dying for. They are too cold water to be compatible with the cardinals, but I have a heavily planted 29g with nothing but my 5 pea puffers in it. I could move the cardinals over to the puffer tank and then get a school of 14 shiners for my 12 long. Has anyone tried smaller bodied tetras with pea puffers in a similar sized tank before? I put ghost shrimp in the tank once before to give my puffers a live treat....and they ignored them...so I'm tempted to try it out but cardinals are about $6 a piece out here so it would be an expensive snack if they did eat them. I believe I have mostly males, and my puffers are pretty peaceful with each other with the exception of mealtime.
 

Frank the Fish guy

Pea puffers are predators, but move very slowly. The cardinals can out swim them easily. The issue is if the tetras get tired and give up. So the tank needs room for the tetras to find rest out of sight and places to hang out. The puffers will get territorial while the tetras won't so it would help to have plenty of fish around so any aggression from one puffer is spread out amongst lots of other fish. Get a big school of tetras so if a pea puffer chases one fish he will lose it in the crowd.
 
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BigManAquatics

I feel like the cardinals may be a snack, even if they are too big for the puffer mouths!
 
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Fishstery

Pea puffers are predators, but move very slowly. The cardinals can out swim them easily. The issue is if the tetras get tired and give up. So the tank needs room for the tetras to find rest out of sight and places to hang out. The puffers will get territorial while the tetras won't so it would help to have plenty of fish around so any aggression from one puffer is spread out amongst lots of other fish. Get a big school of tetras so if a pea puffer chases one fish he will lose it in the crowd.
I could add to the school of cardinals after a trial period with the puffers, but again, at $6 a piece x12 I already have enough money invested in my school lol! The tank is very densely planted with a huge mass of Java fern to hide in, I'm more concerned about losing cardinals after the lights are out and they are more vulnerable. But still, my pea puffers were completely uninterested in ghost shrimp which was odd and perhaps it may work. They are past the Juvie stage and have had the tank to themselves for over 6 months which is my only setback here because they are already very comfortable and not used to having to share tank space.
I feel like the cardinals may be a snack, even if they are too big for the puffer mouths!
I may toss in 3-4 cardinals tomorrow as a trial and see what happens. At least then I won't be out too much money if they do decide to turn on the cardinals. I feel like the more cardinals that go in the higher the risk that I will lose some, as more cardinals equals more opportunities to catch one as a snack lol. I'm hellbent on having these shiners (already ordered) as they are super hard to come by online and I don't live in a US state where they are native. I was lucky enough to purchase tank bred specimens. So now my options are take a risk of moving the cardinals to the puffer tank, which would be very nice to have a colorful accent fish, or lose all my money on them anyways by rehoming them to my LFS that I got them from. Some of my cardinals are 2 years old or so, so most of them are on the larger side at least.
 
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Frank the Fish guy

I fed my pea puffers black worms. They would suck one up like spaghetti. Once their belly is full of worm they have no interest in hard to catch food. So feed them worms and they will leave your tetras alone. Be careful not to overfeed the pea puffers on worms though since they don't know when to stop. Black worms can easily pollute your tank and make it unhealthy. My peas would only go after stuff that moves slowly like black worms and live brine shrimp. I just can't see a pea puffer ever catching a cardinal unless the fish is exhausted or sick. A 29 is huge for pea puffers so your fish will have plenty of their own space.

It's cool you like shiners! Around here we use them as bait! But they will make for a cool tank. Very interesting behavior. They are cyprinidae. You should learn to breed them. They breed easily and folks breed them as bait fish in breeding tanks.
 
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Fishstery

I fed my pea puffers black worms. They would suck one up like spaghetti. Once their belly is full of worm they have no interest in hard to catch food. So feed them worms and they will leave your tetras alone. Be careful not to overfeed the pea puffers on worms though since they don't know when to stop. Black worms can easily pollute your tank and make it unhealthy. My peas would only go after stuff that moves slowly like black worms and live brine shrimp. I just can't see a pea puffer ever catching a cardinal unless the fish is exhausted or sick. A 29 is huge for pea puffers so your fish will have plenty of their own space.

It's cool you like shiners! Around here we use them as bait! But they will make for a cool tank. Very interesting behavior. They are cyprinidae. You should learn to breed them. They breed easily and folks breed them as bait fish in breeding tanks.
I'm lucky as my puffers eat frozen bloodworms lol! They don't care if it moves on its own, I trained them to feed off my aquascape tweezers so when they see the tweezers they recognize that as their cue for food lol! I had to fast them for about 4 days when I first brought them home until all 5 were hungry enough to try bloodworms, one or two of them ate frozen right away and the rest followed suit over the next few days. I dont feed live blackworm anymore because they gave my scarlet badis I kept a few years back some nasty internal parasite which killed all 3 of them--a sucky loss because I really liked them. However they refused anything that wasn't live, and that's all I had available.

As for the shiners, I've been waiting a few months to see some come back in stock so I'm really excited about them, I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of their stunning breeding dress sooner rather than later, I hope they send me a decent mix of both sexes. I did watch some breeding videos on these guys and as much as I would love to breed them, I'm trying to condense my number of tanks in the near future not add any more, so the shiners are just for display only. I wish I would have thought to ask any members here about trying to snag me some that had them locally!! These guys were SO expensive.....$100 for a school of 12. I assume the extra price tag is also because these are tank bred specimen, so I can be more at ease in regards to parasites and hardiness which makes up for some of the cost. I would have got 15 if they weren't so pricey.
 
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Fishstery

Just an update for ya, I have gotten my shiners and only lost 1. They are very very jumpy, which I spoke with a few people on other forums that breed them which were surprised mine jump. They definitely spook easily, so I had to seran wrap the tank temporarily until I take my custom acrylic lid to the LFS for them to cut some of the holes bigger to accommodate my new hardware since I rescaped the tank. Other than that they are doing well and I have a healthy mix of m/f. They are definitely stunning fish! As for my cardinals, they were put in Thursday night and all of them are still alive. A few of them have nipped fins however everytime I watch the tank I don't really see my puffers instigating them at all. They may have nipped once or twice out of curiosity but they mostly just chase them away when the cardinals get too close. I'm going to up the school of cardinals to 20 once the LFS gets more stock in, I can tell my cardinals are a bit stressed with predatory fish around and I think having a larger school will make them more comfortable. Too early to call this pairing a complete success, but time will tell once I up the school if there will be any actual fatalities. For reference here is how densely planted the tank is, which I contribute to the success of keeping tank mates with the puffers

20210320_130457.jpg
 
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Frank the Fish guy

Those cardinals will be able to grab food faster than the puffers. Make sure the puffers have a secure source of food and don't have to compete with the tetras for it. I would give the puffers live snails from my other tanks. Cardinals can't eat the snails but they puffers can, so no competition.

There are two kinds of behaviors of the puffers that you will be able to notice. One behavior is predation, the other is territorial aggression.

The male puffers will establish territory and let the others know about it. They will be aggressive and try to keep other fish out. This is where the large tetra school comes in to play since no single fish will get tired out.

But if the puffers decide to EAT the tetras, that is different behavior. Hunting down regardless of territory. This is where having full belly puffers on worms etc. comes into play. Spoil them on the 'candy' so they have no interest in bothering to hunt!

Beautiful tank! Try to grow some snails in there too for your puffers to eat. If you don't have snails get a small group from your pet store. Or get a small tank with just plants to grow them for food - a kind of refugium for the snails. That's what I do for my puffers.
 
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Fishstery

Those cardinals will be able to grab food faster than the puffers. Make sure the puffers have a secure source of food and don't have to compete with the tetras for it. I would give the puffers live snails from my other tanks. Cardinals can't eat the snails but they puffers can, so no competition.

There are two kinds of behaviors of the puffers that you will be able to notice. One behavior is predation, the other is territorial aggression.

The male puffers will establish territory and let the others know about it. They will be aggressive and try to keep other fish out. This is where the large tetra school comes in to play since no single fish will get tired out.

But if the puffers decide to EAT the tetras, that is different behavior. Hunting down regardless of territory. This is where having full belly puffers on worms etc. comes into play. Spoil them on the 'candy' so they have no interest in bothering to hunt!

Beautiful tank! Try to grow some snails in there too for your puffers to eat. If you don't have snails get a small group from your pet store. Or get a small tank with just plants to grow them for food - a kind of refugium for the snails. That's what I do for my puffers.
Thank you! I dont feed my puffers snails often to preserve water quality. Maybe a couple every few weeks or so. I have a glass shrimp feeding dish that I put snails in and sink, then when the puffers are done I pull the dish back out for easy cleanup. Most snails don't make it out of the dish before my puffers get to them. I don't like having pest snails in my tanks and don't want a bunch of uneaten snails rotting in there so I also have a few assassin snails hiding about in the substrate. My puffers just get gutloaded on frozen bloodworms every night. As for the tetras, I feed them daphnia and while they are picking at the daphnia floating around I go to the other side and feed my puffers their worms. My puffers are easy to separate for feeding because they will just follow me to whatever side of the tank I'm on. I'm definitely only observing territorial issues with my puffers, they nip at the tetras like "hey back off" but I've also observed my tetras trying to nip the puffers, so I think there's a good level of mutual respect being established. For the most part the cardinals just school tightly together and move around my puffers

Edit: I should add that I've had my puffers for the better part of a year now. That's why I was worried about the tetras, for the longest time they had the entire tank to themselves, but it seems they have taken to the new addition pretty well. I'll be making my way to the LFS when they get more cardinals in to up my school. I also just started co2 injection in this tank, hopefully that all goes well while I try and tweak my co2 and lighting schedule. The huge sponge filter I've had in there did produce a bit of co2 which is why the plants are nice and full with it being low tech, but I'd like to see what co2 can do for my tank so I bought a neo co2 DIY kit, just installed about an hour ago! Pretty excited as this is my first go around with co2. Trying to keep the levels low, I don't want to go completely high tech but would like to see some faster plant growth and less algae in here.
 
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Frank the Fish guy

Injecting a bit of C02 into a planted tank is great! Plants thrive, algae goes away, and if you keep the system small, there is no chance of overdoing it. I still just use soda bottles and fresh yeast and sugar water. Can't go wrong.
 
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Fishstery

Injecting a bit of C02 into a planted tank is great! Plants thrive, algae goes away, and if you keep the system small, there is no chance of overdoing it. I still just use soda bottles and fresh yeast and sugar water. Can't go wrong.
That's exactly what this kit is, yeast and a sugar mixture lol! It's just a simplified pre measured solution and came with everything I needed down to the co2 line and a very nice diffuser. Should last me a few months with what I got from the kit plus a bag of refill yeast powder. I'm going to get another one for a different tank, as it's pretty effective at producing co2. Only downside is I can't shut the co2 off or regulate it, but that can be solved by just making sure I replenish the yeast more often and running an airstone at night when the lights are off. It's only been one day but I'm super excited to see results. I didnt start dosing and ferts yet as I figure my plants need a bit of transition time to start ramping up their growth rate but will probably start dosing an all-in-one (thrive-c) after a week.
 
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Frank the Fish guy

Or just add a little tee and valve and let the C02 gas off at night.

I have also found that fresh yeast (use 2x the amount vs dry yeast) is way more productive and lasts longer. You can find it at a good deli or bread making shop.

fresh yeast drozdze
 
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