Gourami Fish Keeping Guide—Best Tank, Mates, Care, Food, Breeding

Gourami Fish Keeping Guide—Best Tank, Mates, Care, Food, Breeding

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There are a couple of freshwater gouramis in the aquarium trade, that are widely available in fish stores, and have similar care requirements.

In the wild, all gouramis are found in Eastern and Southern Asia from Pakistan through Thailand, Vietnam, the Malaysian archipelago, China and as far North and East as Korea.

They inhabit slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes, corals, wetlands, and temporary pools.

Also, all gouramis have labyrinth organs that acts sort of like lungs, which allows them to breathe air at the surface of the water. In nature, this adaptation enables them to occupy even shallow, stagnant, oxygen-poor water.

Even so, most gourami fish types prefer soft, acidic water with a ph between 6.8 and 7.8, water hardness between 4 and 20 dGH and a temperature range of 72°F to 82°F.

The fishes love heavily planted tanks as well, and most will fit in a 30-gallon aquarium. However, the number of fish you can maintain in this size tank will depend on the average size of the species you are keeping.

A majority of gouramis are omnivores that’ll accept a wide range of fish food including flake, pellets, frozen and live foods.

If you are considering keeping and breeding gouramis, keep reading! The article should help you cover the general aspects of the fish. Then see the profile for specific species you want including dwarf gourami and pearl gourami.

Gourami Fish Overview

Gouramis are a group of fish in the families Osphronemidae native to (as stated above) Asia from Pakistan down to Malaysia and Thailand and East towards China and Korea.

However, the name gourami, of Malay archipelago origin, is sometimes used to refer to species of the families Helostomatidae and Anabantidae.

Most gourami species have elongated (thread-like) rays at the front of each of their pelvic fins, and all show parental care,though some are mouthbrooders, and others build bubble nests.

All gourami species are labyrinth fish and swim near the top of the aquarium (top dwelling). Plus since they are tropical fish, an aquarium heater is often required.

Having said that, some species grow quite large and are often unsuitable for the everyday hobbyist, but others are peaceful and make good community fish.

Male gouramis are more likely to be aggressive than females and juveniles.

You can keep these fish with other aquarium species including danios, mollies, silver dollars, neon tetras, and plecos.

Overall, most gouramis kept in home aquariums grow to between an inch and 6 inches, with the majority being 2.5 to 3 inches long.

Gouramis live for an average of 3 to 6 years.

Gourami Fish Tank—Size, Conditions, and Maintenance

Most gourami species are easy (dwarf, honey, three-spot, pearl) to moderately-hard (paradise, moonlight, kissing) to keep, though rare species like licorice and chocolate types are difficult to care for.

Usually, a 30-gallon aquarium is sufficient for a pair of the more common types, but a bigger tank is reccomended.

Maitain your gouramis in a tropical temperature environment, and add aquarium plants and decorations like rocks and driftwood.

However, when keeping kissing gouramis, go with sturdy plants like Java fern, Java moss, or Vallisneria because of their hearty appetite for plant matter.

Floating aquarium plants are generally good for cover and to provide hiding spots, so are long background plants to help break the fish’s horizontal line of sight and help them establish territories.

Gouramis are native to still and slow-flowing streams and rivers, plus they have labyrinth organs, so water movement is not too crucial in the aquarium.

For this reason, a powerful filter is not a must and a basic hang-on-back or corner filter will be good enough; these fish will survive without an air-pump.

Nonetheless, you will need a heater for your fish tank as gouramis are tropical fish that need water temperature to remain above 72°F. Moreover, make sure the room temperature doesn’t deep below 70°F, especially during the colder months.

An aquarium heater that is anywhere from 150 Watts should be sufficient for a 30-gallon tank, but to be safe, consider one that is rated for double your aquarium capacity.

Also, invest in a thermometer and be sure to place it at the furthest corner of the tank away from the heater.

Alternatively, change the position of your thermometer in the tank now and then to test if the heat is getting distributed across the whole tank.

Moving to the substrate, gravel or fine pebbles are the best depending on the species you plan on keeping. A darker substrate is preferable, but even a light one is fine.

Even so, licorice and chocolate gouramis, plus a few other species, prefer a dark substrate and low-lighting that mimic their natural environment.

Also, add peat or leaf litter or driftwood that will release tannins and blacken aquarium water; the fish tank should have a weak-tea color.

Common species like dwarf, pearl, honey, and blue gouramis are Ok in clear water. Plus a light substrate is fine as long as they are enough floating plants for cover.

Gourami Fish Water Conditions

In the wild, many gouramis inhabit soft, acidic water. However, the majority of aquarium bred species today can survive in higher ph and alkalinity.

Most types are also adaptable because of adaptation to seasonal changes in water quantity and quality in their natural habitat.

The optimum water temperature for these fish is anywhere from 72°F to 79°F and the ph best ph is neutral to slightly acidic and relatively soft.

You will need to clean your tank out and do regular water changes to remove the build-up of nitrates which can become dangerous to fish in high quantities.

Ideally, change 10 to 30 percent of your aquarium water every one to two weeks. Where 10 percent water changes are best done after every week and 30 percent every two weeks to a month.

That said, since gouramis are brightly colored fish, look out for change in your fish’s shade as this is usually a sign of stress, agitation, and aggression. Plus make sure you acclimate them properly to avoid temperature or ph shock associated with introducing fish to a new aquarium.

Gourami Fish Tankmates—Behavior, Aggression

What kind of fish can live with gouramis?

This is a common question among fish keepers, and probably, the best answer (though not satisfactory) is ‘it depends’.

Based on the demeanor and temperament of the species you have in your fish tank, you will either have many or a limited option.

Basically, small, peaceful, non-fussy species like honey gouramis and dwarf gouramis make good community fish. Whereas, other species like paradise and pearl gouramis are often feisty hence lack many companions.

Male gouramis also have a reputation for being aggressive towards each other and should typically be kept individually, though females will tolerate each other.

Mixing different gourami species should only be done in larger, well-decorated aquariums.

But remember blue, three-spot, opaline, gold, and lavender gouramis are the same species, same as dwarf and flame powder blue gourami and can be maintained together.

In a community with other species, your gouramis will probably be the slowest fish with conspicuous colors and fins, so avoid fin nippers or too-active fish.

Larger tetras, livebearers, fancy guppies, peaceful barbs, most danios, and angelfish can all be good companions depending with your gourami. So are docile bottom-dwelling catfishes and plecos.

However, avoid keeping these fish with colorful, equally sized fish that will be considered a threat by the gouramis, plus other aggressive species. Especially don’t maintain them with betta, or tiger barbs

Some peaceful cichlids that are fairly threatening than the gouramis make good companions and are good at calming down aggressive behavior.

Lastly, it always a good idea to consult an expert at your local fish store before pairing your gourami.

Gourami Fish Food—Diet and Feeding

In their natural habitat, gouramis live an omnivorous lifestyle, which means they feed on both meaty foods and plant matter and are not picky eaters in an aquarium setting.

The fish will eat almost any food you offer them, but it is imperative to vary the food to provide a healthy and balanced diet.

An algae-based flake food of good quality, along with freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex, and brine shrimp form a perfect base meal and should provide your fish with proper nutrition.

That said, a few species like kissing gouramis are more herbivorous that should be fed spirulina flakes and algae rounds as opposed to the normal tropical flake, color flake, tropical granules or shrimp pellets

Live food can also be fed to all gouramis as occasional treats.

When conditioning your fish before breeding, fresh vegetables such as lettuce, cooked peas, and spinach are good offerings, as well as live foods such as blackworms, bloodworms, and glass worms.

For best results, rotate your diet daily and feed your fish what they can consume in under 5 minutes when feeding them once a day, or what they’ll consume in 3 minutes when feeding the gouramis twice a day.

Since most gourami fish are top-dwelling and rarely swim to the bottom of the aquarium to feed, offer them floating foods, and schedule to remove leftovers to keep your water pristine and safe for the fish.

Gourami Fish Breeding

Most gouramis are fairly easy to breed, but it’s important to note not all breed the same way. Majorly, gouramis are either mouthbrooders (which keep the eggs in the father’s mouth) or build bubble nests for the eggs. Still, some scatter them on surfaces inside the aquarium.

Consequently, the very first step to breeding these fish is to identify your species and how it breeds.

That said, the breeding process of most gourami types kept in home aquariums is standard and the conditions are fairly similar.

Please note that, when talking of ‘popular or common species’, most aquarists are referring to dwarf gourami, pearl gourami, kissing gourami, three-spot gourami, honey gourami, paradise gourami, and maybe moonlight gourami.

On the other hand, licorice, chocolate, and true gouramis are difficult to care for and breed, meaning this process may not be ideal for these types.

Also know that chocolate gouramis and a few other species care for their eggs in a parents mouth, while breeding kissing gouramis require quite a big tank.

Having said that, once you’ve identified your gourami species correctly, start feeding them live or frozen foods to condition them for spawning.

Animal foods such as bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and adult brine shrimp are especially good sources of nutrition, so supplement their normal dry food diet with these options several times a week.

Then start looking out for changes in your fish size and color.

Adult females will swell and change color in their underside as they produce eggs, while males may become more brightly colored when their diet improves.

More important, when choosing your breeding pair, go for the male and female that displays good coloration and shows a considerable change in size with the improved diet as this are indicators of good health and suitability for breeding. Avoid fish that have visible defects.

Usually, it is easiest to notice the changes in a fish size when looking down from above.

How Can You Tell if a Gourami is Male or Female

When its finally time to choose a pair to breed, it is fairly easy to distinguish male from female because gravid females will have a noticeably rounded shape, especially around the belly area.

It is also not hard to tell the gender of your gourami even when they are not breeding as males have more brilliant colors than females (same as betta).

And if the color is not good enough a way to identify them, look for other clues such as fin configuration and body shape.

Female gouramis have more rounded dorsal and anal fins, while males have more pointed ones. Also, lady gouramis will maintain a rounded shape even after you are done conditioning them, but the boys will eventually slim down.

That said, you may be wondering how to tell if a gourami fish is pregnant.

Well, first, gouramis are not livebearers, so they will never be truly pregnant.

What most hobbyists refer to as pregnant is a fish that has a rounded-bulging belly area as it is bearing eggs, and the correct reference to such a fish is gravid (in this case gravid gourami).

That said, the only and sure way to know if your gourami is pregnant is to look out for a rounded fish around the belly area when looking at it from above.

Another less sure sign to look out for is the fish behavior.

If any of your fishes are swimming together with their bodies touching, this could be a sign of potential mating and a precursor to having a gravid female.

Laslty, if you are keeping gourami species that lay eggs in bubble nests, any bubble mat floating atop the water surface, particularly constructed by the male fish is a clear sign of breeding and another precursor for a pregnant fish.

Can Gouramis Breed in a Community Tank

It is not advisable to breed gouramis in a community aquarium because they get too aggressive and will often get into fights with any tankmates that come close to them.

However, it’s technically possible to breed peaceful types like honey and dwarf gouramis in a community albeit it’s a long short and you would need to take extra caution for the fry to survive.

And even then, only a small number of baby gouramis will grow to adult size.

Setting Up a Gourami Fish Breeding Tank

To set up your breeding tank, you’ll need an aquarium that can hold 10 to 20 gallons of water, where up to 6 inches water level is recommended for smaller types like honey, dwarf, and blue gouramis.

Kissing gouramis will only spawn in a larger tank that is at least 24 inches deep. While pearl gouramis require a slightly deeper tank at 31 inches but will still breed in a 10 to 20-gallon setup.

Add gravel and anchored plants that are large enough for the females to hide behind if the male fish become aggressive. Clay pots and caves are also good add-ons to create extra hiding spots and obstacles.

To keep your aquarium temperature appropriate for breeding, get a cover for your tank to protects the water from cold drafts and add a heater.

This is important since breeding gouramis and young fry are susceptible to air temperature changes and could die if the aquarium becomes too cold.

Adult females will not lay eggs unless the water is completely still, so use a sponge filter, but avoid air pumps or powerheads that will create a water current

Lastly, adjust the temperature and ph, and check your nitrate levels. Keep your breeding tank temperature between 77°F and 82°F and adjust the ph to anywhere from 6.6 to 7.5.

You can lower your aquarium ph by adding soft water (RO water) and raise it by adding crushed limestone, coral or other safe carbonate materials.

Caring for Gourami Fry

Gourami fish eggs typically hatch within 30 hours of spawning, but the new fry will remain attached to the yolk for 2 to 3 days as they consume the sac.

Once the fry are free swimming, start feeding them liquid fish food, infusoria, rotifers or hard, boiled egg yolk pushed through a cheesecloth. Offer them these foods at least 6 times a day.

Start feeding the young fish brine shrimp only when they are larger, about 8 to 10 days old for smaller gourami species like honey and dwarf gouramis. Larger types should be able to eat baby shrimp 4 days after hatching.

Water changes are also important and should be conducted regularly. Plus siphon off debris collecting at the bottom of the tank.

Because young fry easily get sucked in the siphon, give the removed water some time to settle so you can find and transfer any fry back into the tank.

When you baby gouramis are several weeks old, you can start giving them an ordinary diet that includes a variety of animal and vegetable proteins.

You may also want to start making arrangments on where to raise your young fish, and if you don’t plan on raising all of them, contact any potential buyers, especially your local fish store.

That’s all!

Have fun keeping gouramis.

Eddie Waithaka

Resident Content Creator and Marketer at AquariaWise who talks about aquariums and fish and aquascapes a lot.

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