Gourami care – Complete guide

 

Gourami are a popular and desirable species for both new and experienced fishkeepers because of their peaceful demeanor, gorgeous look, tiny size, and effortless care requirements. 

Many people commonly refer to gourami as “Fish that Stick their Nose Out of the Water,” which is precisely what gourami means translated from the Javanese language.

Their calm and kind demeanor combined with ease of care distinguishes them from any similar-looking fish types. Adding gourami to the living room, bedroom, and children’s rooms will make it more colorful and fascinating to watch for hours. 

Gourami are easy to care for, and their appearance is stunning. In addition to being visually appealing, the smooth motions of the gourami are very satisfying to even the most avid fishkeepers.

General information about gourami

Classification Description
Common NamesGourami, gouramis, gouramies
Scientific NameOsphronemidae
OriginMalaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and other East Asian regions depending on species
Care levelEasy to care for
BreedingPretty easy, but you need a separate fish tank
ColorsMany dozen types of colors like red, yellow, blue, silvery, with various patterns and shades
MaturityBetween 8 to 12 months depending on species
Aquarium size5 to 10 gallons or 20 to 40 liters
TemperatureBetween 77 to 81 Farenheight or 25 to 27 degrees Celsius
Lifespan4 to 6 years
TemperamentGenerally peaceful and calm
SizeMost species reach 3 inches or 8 cm in length
Acidity pH6.0 to 6.8
Water hardness dGHUp to 10
KingdomAnimalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Anabantiformes
Suborder Anabantoidei
Family Osphronemidae
SubfamiliesTrichogastrinae, Osphroneminae, Luciocephalinae, Macropodusinae, Belontiinae

The name gourami draws attention to the most distinguishing feature of these fish. The gourami has a labyrinth, a unique respiratory organ that makes it one of the fish from a short list that needs no oxygen. Because of the labyrinth organ, gourami can literally breathe and ingest air from the water surface. Unlike many other fish species, if gourami won’t have access to the water surface, they will die. Thus they must often reach the surface of the water to take a “breath.” Be aware that the life span of gourami might range from 5 to 7 years. Beginners frequently acquire them due to the simplicity of care despite some hassle in breeding.

Another unusual feature is gourami’s pelvic fins. They are considerably different from other fish, as they look like long threads that function as tactile organs that help them find food. Gourami fish in nature often inhabit shallow ponds and rivers. These long front fins work as an adaption to assist with movement in murky waters allowing them to perceive everything around them thoroughly.

Gourami appearance

Gourami appearance

There are more than one hundred gourami species, ranging from very small to pretty big ones like snakeskin gourami or giant gourami, that can grow to 40 inches or 100 cm. The ones you may see in aquariums are usual tiny fish that seldom reach larger than 4 inches or 10 cm in length. 

The gourami’s body is slightly flattened and is somewhat longer in length than the average fish. The pelvic fins are made up of thin, long threads that are equal to the gouramis’ body length, which gives the fins their distinctive appearance. They perform the function of tactile organs. Don’t be scared if they get broken, sometimes it happens, but they have regeneration ability. The pectoral fins originate behind gills and are often small in size. Fins look fantastic and highly unusual. That’s why many fishkeepers love it.

Each species has a distinct coloration, color morphs, and sometimes different body structures. The color can also indicate the presence of an illness or approximation of the spawning period.

The history of gourami discovery.

At the start of the nineteenth century, the gourami made its initial appearance throughout Europe. There were a number of reasons that led up to discovery with a plethora of problems. During the middle of the nineteenth century, a French scientist and fish breeder named Pierre Carbonnier desperately tried to introduce these stunning tropical animals into Europe. It was all because of gourami’s robustness and, at the same time, their beauty that he was tempted to do. 

In gourami’s natural habitat, countries like Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, they may be found in some of the most problematic places and dire situations. Often they can be found in shallow waters as well as in rice fields or even storage containers. This is a testament to the gourami’s incredibly high level of vitality and stamina.

At that time, barrels were utilized to transport fish from one continent to another. Barrels were covered with lids to protect them from being spilled over and filled with water until they reached the top of the water vessel. Following many failed attempts, the gourami was labeled as a problem fish, and its transport attempts were stopped entirely as a result of this. Because gourami is labyrinth fish that require atmospheric air to survive, shipping them the usual way was impossible.

Unfortunately, there was not enough knowledge about gourami care available at the time concerning the care complexity of labyrinth fish and their essential need for access to the atmospheric air. Captured gouramis perished in large numbers even before the voyages started due to being placed in barrels filled to the brim with water and hermetically sealed. In late 1896 they stopped filling barrels to the brim, successfully delivering them to Europe. 

Where does gourami live in the wild?

Gourami can be found in various stagnant streams or shallow water, which may appear unfit for such beautiful fish species. Still, gourami fish may be found basically anywhere in the world, in the worst possible conditions. There are a lot of gourami species that can live in various places. For instance, Three spot and Snakeskin gourami can endure small increases in salt concentrations allowing them to live in the river mouth of oceans. Depending on the species, gourami can be found practically anywhere in the world, but the origin is considered to be Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

From more than one hundred gourami species, many of them can be found in Southeast Asia. Pearl gourami was found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Moonlight gourami was found in Thailand. In the Malay Archipelago, the beautiful three-spot gourami was found.

Because of how easy it is for gourami to survive anywhere, they were seen in locations where they had never been before, including North and Central America. Some people say that happened due to fishkeepers who released their aquarium gourami into the wild.

Some of the most popular gourami species.

Gourami is an unpretentious kind of labyrinth fish that can be found in many world areas. There is a large number of species in existence. While many species may be found in the wild, some were produced by fishkeepers, whether it was by selection or a random chance. From all the known gourami species known in existence today, most are from the genus Trichogaster like Snakeskin gourami, Moonlight gourami, Three spot gourami, Pearl gourami, Kissing gourami, Croaking gourami, Chocolate gourami, Honey gourami, or Gold Gourami.

Pearl gourami

Pearl gourami

 

Usually, when speaking about aquarium gourami, the most well-known and recognized type is pearl gourami. Thailand is the natural habitat of this beautiful species. It usually grows up to 2.5 inches or 10 cm in an aquarium, while it can be two times bigger in nature. This gourami’s silvery body and fins are coated with numerous green iridescent spots over the whole body earned its popularity. The pupils of the eyes are black. The coloring is reddish-purple from the bottom of the mouth to the pelvic fins. Right from the mouth straight to the tail spans a thin black stripe at full length. Despite being smaller than the rest of the fins, the spinal fin is long and resembles a sail.

Kissing gourami

Kissing gourami

The kissing gourami are native to Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia with similar climates. The name of this gourami speaks for itself. When they eat something, fight with someone, or have mating games, they do “kissing” movements with their mouth. Kissing gourami can be in various colors yellow, gray, red, or even albino. The anal and dorsal fins are often greenish or yellowish in color and are short and small in size. 

Honey gourami

Honey gourami

Besides being almost entirely yellow, honey gourami’s distinct feature is its almost fiery red color change during spawning. It has a pretty small size and grows only up to 2 inches or 6 cm. A small school of honey gourami fish looks incredible in any aquarium.

Gold Gourami

Gold Gourami

While honey gourami has a yellow color, gold gourami has truly golden colors and texture. With a few orange tints in some parts of the body. Often gold gourami’s eyes have a red shade. The fish can grow up to 5 inches or 13 cm, and it needs a bigger fish tank. They require a lot of light for better coloring.

Moonlight gourami

Moonlight gourami

The name of this species comes from the remarkable pearl shine and silvery tint that is obviously similar to the soft moonlight glow, which earned the name of this species. Moon gouramis are excellent for both decorating and cleaning your aquarium. With all the species variations of gourami fish, this one is remarkably good at cleaning the aquarium.

Three-Spot Gourami

Three-Spot Gourami

This pretty popular gourami species was introduced to Europe only in 1958. It was found in the Sumatra rivers in Southeast Asia. 

This gourami is very tranquil and calm, lives in the top water column, and is mostly active during the day. You can settle it with a wide variety of other fish types, being sometimes aggressive to its own kind during the spawning period. It doesn’t mean three-sport gourami are not fun to look at and observe. They have good spirits and never cease to show interest in other fish and new things in an aquarium.

Opaline Gourami

Opaline Gourami

The opaline gourami is genuinely one of the most spectacular gourami species that is also a close relative and is similar looking to the three spot gourami. Dark and navy blue colors are prevalent in body coloring. While three spot gourami has parallel stripes, opaline has chaotic dols and stains all over the body. Fins have small light dots. It may reach a similar size as most aquarium gourami.

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami is one of the most sought-after aquarium fish overall, not just compared to other gourami species. Its calm demeanor, vivid coloration, and petite size are the characteristics that make dwarf gourami so beloved. The body is tiny and squished on the sides. The fins are sizeable and rounded. Males can grow up to 3 inches or 7.5 cm in length, but females only to 2.3 inches or 6 cm. If they are well-cared for, they can survive for up to four years on average.

Dwarf gourami has one the best colors, brightness, and texture of all gourami species’. It has a silvery body with colorful blue and red stripes running throughout it, providing a striking contrast to other fish and backgrounds. Like many other gourami species, females have a more serene coloring than males. Often when you choose this kind of fish, its colors are very important. Dwarf gourami needs more care and better quality water parameters than other gourami species, especially if you want to achieve bright colors.

Chocolate gourami

Chocolate gourami

Chocolate gourami was found in Malaysia. This gourami got a chocolate color with four white stripes running vertically across the body with one running across the gills. Fins are pretty small, with the tail being transparent. The fish is relatively tiny, with an average size of 2 inches or 5 cm.

Sparkling gourami

Sparkling gourami

The sparkling gourami is one of the smallest gourami species that only grow to a bit more than 1.5 inches or 3.5 cm in length. Right in the middle of the body, a dark stripe is going full length, and dark specks are at the top. The body has an olive-green hue. All fins are transparent with a bluish color and have distinct red lines at the ends. Sparkling gourami has shorter maturity and can reproduce at the age of five months but lay only a couple hundred eggs. They choose various floating or big-leaved plants to build their nests for spawning. 

Croaking gourami

Croaking gourami

Croaking gourami is average in size. Because its croaking sounds similar to a frog, it got its name – croaking gourami. Some fishkeepers call it jokingly grumbling gourami.

Giant Gourami

Giant Gourami

 

All of the giant gourami’s are consistently silvery-white in color. Despite being one of the biggest and longest-living gouramis, it likes swimming on the top layer and playing not less than smaller species. Giant gourami has a pretty long lifespan, close to 20 years, and bigger size, close to 8 inches or 20 cm. 

How to care for gourami?

Now, if you want to get gourami in your aquarium, read everything in this section carefully. Gourami is a labyrinth fish that is quite simple to care for and even breed. Most of the time, they maintain a calm and serene demeanor. You can choose gourami species of your liking depending on your desired coloring and difficulty of care from all the one hundred gourami species existing. These fish usually spend their time in the middle and top layers of the water. 

Gourami Care - The Good | The Bad and The Beautiful!

Gourami routine maintenance procedures include water changes, cleaning debris, glass washing, and cleaning the filter sponges. Not much different from other fish.

Gourami’s labyrinth is a respiratory organ that allows gourami to “breathe” oxygen from the water surface. It is essential to calculate the required aquarium volume for gourami depending on the species and size. Additionally, some gourami types may need special care for water parameters. Gourami can be in various sizes and colors, including giants and dwarfs. For some small gourami species, 5 gallons or 20 liters will be enough, whereas bigger ones may need a minimum of 26 gallons or 100 liters. Overcrowding can cause many diseases in gourami, but it is still better to keep them in small schools. This way, fish won’t be bored, and you will look at them playing and having fun with each other. Keep one male per two to three females to decrease aggressive behavior in the aquarium.

There are a couple of rules that must be obligatorily followed for every labyrinth fish, which gourami is. Firstly, you must cover the aquarium with a lid. The cover will prevent fish from accidentally jumping out and suffocating. The lid serves another vital purpose: it helps maintain a “microclimate” between it and the water surface. During winter, air temperature can get so low that it will damage gourami’s labyrinth organ leading to fish’s death. Secondly, gourami fish must be able to float to the top and breathe air. If your aquarium is going to be filled to the brim with a lid on, they will die. 

Gourami fish are the primary feature of any aquarium. Living plants, stones, decorations, and driftwood serve as an excellent addition to these fish. Good plants will help increase the brightness of gourami’s colors and increase their immunity. They are hardy fish, but still, it is not recommended to neglect water quality, do timely water changes, and monitor poisonous compounds.

When it comes to gourami, a compressor is not needed, but a filter is required. In nature, gourami live in stagnant waters, so it better has a low running water stream. It is also vital to use a special aquarium temperature controller in order to keep the water at a reasonable temperature.

Water parameters for gourami

If you are going to maintain the following water conditions for your gourami fish, they will feel good, have better immunity, and have brighter colors. The temperature should be ranging between 77 to 81 Farenheight or 25 to27 degrees Celsius. Acidity pH should be ranging from 6.0 to 6.8 and water hardness up to ten dGH. Take additional care into the temperature regulation as it is very critical for gourami because they cannot withstand cold water conditions. In nature, they live in places where snow never falls, and the temperature never falls below a certain number. 

All fish produce poisonous compounds by excreting or other mucous substances. To keep all those harmful substances like ammonia at a low level, it is advised to do a water change of at least 20 percent every week, if not more. Tap water can have chlorine and other metal residues, so it is better to add a special water conditioner for aquariums that will destroy them. 

Lighting and substrate for gourami

On average, gourami need about eleven hours of light per day. It is important to buy specialized lighting that is specifically fit for aquarium fish. Additionally, you can purchase mechanical or electric timers that will enable and disable light in the aquarium in time.

All colorful fish will look more bright and contrast with a dark substrate. Gourami does not only have vivid colors, but their scales reflect light, so it is two times better to use a dark substrate to emphasize their colors. Dark basalt pebbles and granite gravel are good choices for a sand base.

Plants and decorations in an aquarium with gourami

During the spawning period, gourami females require plants to hide. You should also use various stones, driftwood, and decorations that do not have sharp ends. During the spawning period, males always chase females around the aquarium. Having sharp edges will damage those already stressed fish. Gourami love eating algae and various plants, so better choose hard stemmed ones. Usually, experienced fishkeepers choose floating plants like Riccia or Nitella or bottom plants like Anubias, Elodea, Vallisneria, Ceratopteris, Cryptocoryne.

When putting plants, make sure to leave enough space so your gourami fish can swim freely. 

Gourami compatibility with other fish

Gourami compatibility with other fish

In order to understand which fish are compatible with gourami, it is better to understand their character and behavior. Gourami have gentle and uncomplicated character, allowing them to get along with the other fish. They usually do not try to disturb their neighbors purposely. Yes, they can eat their small fry, but only because they mistook them for the little food they typically consume. While females will frequently seek to hide in thick plants or shelters and only in necessity swim out to take a breath, males can be unpredictable and violent at times. Gourami are often incapable of defending themselves against even similar or smaller predatory animals. Their long pelvic fins are often damaged as they are very thin and elegant. 

Do gourami fight with one another?

Often you can see them chasing each other, and it can be hard to understand if they are just playing or whether they have territorial and hierarchical disputes. Sometimes incompatibility comes from gourami of the same species, especially between the males. They often fight with each other for territory and female attention. That’s why having a couple of females per male is an excellent decision to lower aggression and tension.

Aggressive gourami behavior

Another way to decrease aggression is not having your aquarium overcrowded. Make sure to consider all possible ways to reduce aggression as often fighting can lead to bad injures and even death.

Gourami have fragile and often transparent fins that can be damaged pretty easily.

Gourami compatibility with other fish species

As we said, gourami often can better peacefully coexist with other similar aquarium fish than their close relatives. Gourami live in the top and middle water column, so consider picking fish that live in the bottom or middle parts of the aquarium so they would not often cross. You can get some upper living fish types as long as they are not aggressive. Some of the best fish compatible with gourami are neon tetra, rainbowfish, zebrafish, as well as some small cichlid and angelfish species

Now let’s talk about what fish are not compatible with gourami. It is not recommended to mix them with giant predatory fish or other energetic and playful fish species since this might result in a conflict for territory or other reasons. Animals such as barbs, most cichlid species, Discus, betta fish, goldfish, and oscar fish are included in this category since they can chop off gourami’s fins and otherwise interfere with their territory or daily activity. It is also not recommended to put any shrimp in an aquarium with gourami as they will simply eat them.

Here are some general reasons and problems for gourami compatibility or incompatibility with other fish species. Firstly, gourami often have brightly colored fins that easily attract any other fish’s attention resulting in torn or damaged swimming “limbs.” Secondly, if other fish you want to settle live in the same, meaning upper, water column, it can create problems. Make sure that other fish species don’t often see each other. Thirdly, overcrowding leads to aggression problems not just in gourami but with basically any other fish species. Make sure all fish have enough space for swimming. Last but not least, fish types who are considerably bigger than gourami can often become aggressive and feel superior to them. Try to select the same or smaller-sized neighbors for your gourami.

How to feed gourami?

Feeding gourami is simple and requires minimal expertise. Generally, gourami will eat whatever is put in front of them, but you must be conscious of the portion amounts, feeding schedule, and types of foods that you can give them.

All aquarium fish, no matter what species for healthy life and good immunity, need various and diversified types of food in their diet. Gourami can easily live off the same dry food every day, but they will become more active and colorful by varying good quality live or special dry food that increases fish’s colors. Make sure that food pieces are fit for the gourami’s mouth. If it is too big, they will be unable to bite it, and if it is too small, they will not notice it. Some gourami experts say that it is better not to feed gourami males with caviar to not entice them from eating their own eggs. 

There are many fish food types that you can feed your gourami with. The first one is live food. You can buy or even grow live food yourself. Usually, aquarium shops provide a lot of live food types to choose from. It can be bloodworms, tubifex, daphnia, glassworms, etc. If you are a more sophisticated fishkeeper and want to ensure that the live food you give to your gourami is disease-free, you can breed it at home. You can successfully breed microworms, earthworms, ciliates, cyclops, or brine shrimp. The second one is frozen food. Virtually every live food can be frozen and late fed to your gourami without a problem. They will still love and devour it as fast as they can. Dry food is third. Usually, it is the most popular fish food. It is recommended to buy not the cheapest ones available but at least from world-renowned firms like Tetra or Dajana Pet. Usually, cheap dry food has a low amount of valuable elements that are so invaluable for the vivid colors of gourami. The other options consist of self-made food, food from your refrigerator, and even gelatin food. But we would recommend buying only specialized food for fish or live food of good quality.

How to feed gourami fry? 

How to feed gourami fry? 
This is how the newly hatched gourami fry looks like.

When gourami fry hatch, they are extremely small. Feeding them is a bit of a problem as small fry can easily become food for other fish or their own parents. The best way to feed the fry is to give them microworms and ciliates, and as they grow a bit, provide them with brine shrimp. You can take the dry food with which you feed your grown-up gourami and crumble it until it becomes dust. The best way to feed gourami fry is to order special made food for fry and even better if it is tailored for gourami fish.

Gourami breeding

Gourami is easy to care for, but its breading is not as easy as similar aquarium fish. Another thing is that there are many gourami species and they all have their own differences in care and breeding. In this section, we will give you general gourami breeding information. 

Gourami reach their sexual maturity and are able to breed at the age of 8 and 12 months. Their breeding consists of a couple of stages which may seem complicated, but sometimes, they can spawn new fry in a community fish tank provided there are a lot of plants and hiding places.

It’s not that hard to distinguish between male and female gourami fish. To do that, you can look at gourami’s dorsal fin. It is pointy and elongated in males, but it’s shorter and more spherical in females. 

How to Breed Honey Gouramis

When it comes to spawning, it is better to have a separate aquarium with a volume of 5 to 8 gallons or 20 to 30 liters. A separate tank is needed to defend the newly hatched fry from being eaten by other aquarium fish. It is better not to fill the fish tank to the brim but up to 4 to 7 inches or 10 to 15 cm. You can stimulate the spawning period in gourami fish. To do this, it is better to transfer a pair couple for two weeks in a separate aquarium and start actively feeding them with high-quality live food. Additionally, you can increase water temperature by a couple of degrees and increase water changes. During the spawning period, males increase the brightness of their colors.

Male gourami builds a nest with saliva and air bubbles and then cares for it. He usually has to spend the whole day building it. After nest completion, beautiful mating games start. The male will actively chase the female around the whole aquarium. That’s why you need a lot of plants and decorations, for her to hide there. Then when the time comes, he bends the female under the nest with her belly up, and she spawns eggs. If some eggs miss the nest, the male will transfer them to the nest. Eggs can still successfully hatch fry even outside the nest. They can stick to the filter or thick plants. Usually, at this stage, females should be transferred back to the community aquarium, and the male will care for the nest. Some gourami species spawn eggs even without building the nest.

gourami eggs
Gourami fish eggs floating on the surface.

The eggs usually start hatching in a couple of days. At the start, they eat their own nutrient parts of the eggs. When they grow up, give them ciliates and tiny quantities of zooplankton. When you notice these small fry start leaving the nest, transfer the father away. The male can start eating his own fry as he usually doesn’t eat anything for a week or a bit more during nest building and eggs spawning. 

Gourami fish are known for their ability to live in low oxygen waters, but young fry develop their labyrinth organ only at around one month. Until that time, they need good aeration in their spawning tank. Don’t forget to do water changes and clean food residues, and your small fry will grow into beautiful and healthy gourami.

Raising and Feeding Tiny Gourami Fry

How to determine is it male or female gourami?

Usually, the first way to determine is it male or female gourami fish is to look at the dorsal fin. Males have a more pointed and extended dorsal fin while females have a bit rounded one. Males often have a lot brighter colors than females. 

Here are some of the distinctions to look at to understand the gender of gourami:

  • The females are typically 1-2 cm shorter in length but somewhat rounded. 
  • Males have a more elongated body but are slimmer on the sides, giving a thinner appearance.
  • The colors in females are constant and do not change in different situations. 
  • Males have bright and vibrant coloring. During spawning, the colors get even more beautiful and vivid.
  • Females have small and rounded dorsal fins.
  • Males have dorsal fins greater in size, more pointed, and elongated.
  • When spawning season starts, females avoid aggressive behavior and seek refuge in shelters. 
  • Males during the spawning period are more aggressive and swim a lot as they try to catch the female.

Conclusion

Gourami is a beautiful fish that may be kept by any fishkeeper and in any aquarium. This fish is a fantastic choice for beginners because of its modest size, low cost, and maintenance. Gourami can survive in a small aquarium, but it is better to put them in a bigger one. It is an extremely peaceful fish that can live with any neighbor. Breeding is not that easy but can be done by a newbie fishkeeper. The spawning period is in itself an exciting thing to look at.