How To Care For Gourami Fish: A Complete Fact Sheet, Breeding, Behavior, and Care Guide

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Gourami fish are one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish for beginners to pros for a number of reasons.

One of the biggest ones being that they’re exceptionally hardy fish – which means they can survive some challenges that newbies face for the first time.

They’re colorful and active – which make them super interesting fish for anyone – and can handle a range of water conditions. There are a ton of different types of gourami, ranging from the perky little Dwarf Gourami to the vividly colored Honey Gourami and Red Gourami.

Gourami care varies slightly from one type to another, but for the most part, they all have the same basic needs, apart from aquarium size.

They all need loads of space, but, of course, the largest ones need larger gallon tank sizes than the smaller. Be sure to read up specifically on the species you’re selecting for the tank size they require.

You’ve got other questions, I’m sure, like “How big do gouramis get?” Or “How many dwarf gourami types are there?”

We’ll take a look at all those critical questions, diving into things like what do gouramis eat, what are the best gourami fish tank mates, what the best gourami food is, how long do gouramis live, and whether or not there’s a difference between different species – like is the dwarf gourami care different than sparkling gourami care or honey gourami care.

Our focus is the general gourami fish care requirements, but we’ll provide notes on any differences that are pertinent in breeding or feeding care for these guys, as logical.

kissing gourami

Quick Intro to Gourami

FamilyOsphronemidae
Scientific NameTrichogaster lalius, Trichopsis, Colisa, Trichopodus
Popular varietiesBlue Gourami, Opaline Gourami, Three Spot Gourami, Gold Gourami, Sunset Gourami, Powder Blue Gourami, Neon Gourami, Honey Gourami, Sparkling Gourami, Kissing Gourami, Giant Gourami, Licorice Gourami, Moonlight Gourami, Chocolate Gourami, Snakeskin Gourami, Samurai Gourami, Pearl Gourami, Paradise Gourami, Cosby Gourami, Red Gourami, White Gourami, Yellow Gourami
Care LevelEasy to intermediate

Natural Habitat, Identification, and Where to Buy

Gouramis are native to slow-moving, large rivers in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Archipelago, and surrounding regions, filled with lush vegetation, rocky soil, and shallow water. Rivers, canals, marshes, swamps, wetlands, and even temporary water pools have often been found to house these fish.

They specifically love heavily planted aquariums, so be prepared to stock them in with loads of live plants along with that slow flow rate in the water.

Gouramis are considered medium to large fish, ranging from a small 2-inches to a giant 28 inches in length, depending on the species you’re working with. Gourami lower classifications tell us that these fish are a part of the osphronemidae group.

Many of the Gourami species have elongated, feeler-like rays at the front part of their pelvic fins. Gouramis come in a wide range of colors and sizes, so it’s most easily identified through looking at photos of the species you’re particularly wishing to purchase.

Gourami are fairly common at pet stores, so they’re not likely to be mislabeled, but it doesn’t hurt to know which ones you’re looking for.

Optimal Water Conditions for Gourami

Temperature77 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit
Water Flow RateLow flow
pH6 – 8
Hardness5° to 20° dH

Tank Setup

Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Optimal Tank Size30+ gallons for most species, 55+ for larger species of gourami
Optimal Tank ShapeTall, rectangular
Recommended Filter TypeCanister filters are the best for the larger gourami tanks, that a single or few HOB filters that are powerful enough will work great, as well.

Extra Air Flow and How to Provide It

Gourami fish are oxygen breathers, so they may rise to the top to breathe in through their labyrinth organ. This does not mean they are suffocating. But they do need plenty of oxygen in the water to keep them healthy. The best way to improve the air flow without giving too high a flow rate is through air stones and baffled water and air pumps.

Gourami need 30+ gallons to thrive, so if possible, you should go for one of these, unless you’re keeping the small gourami species of Dwarf Gouramis – which do okay in 20+ gallons, though some claim as few as 10 gallons. Keep a secure lid on their gourami fish tanks – they can be jumpers.

Also, make sure that the water flow is slow and relaxed or your fish will get stressed out. They’re naturally from slow-moving bodies of water – in many cases, stagnant water – so high flow will cause issues for their mental and physical health.

They do need loads of oxygen, though they can survive with less oxygen-rich environments, but who wants their fish to “survive” instead of thrive? Provide air movement through air stones and baffled air pumps that protect them from a heavy stream.

Creating the Landscape

Gourami are a surface-oriented species of fish, so having loads of tall plants is your best bet, not floating plants. This will help them to feel at home. They’ll also be less stressed and have those eye-catching colors pop from feeling safe and secure in a heavily planted aquarium.

You should aim for fine substrate options, like sand and small, smooth gravel. And choose neutral colored substrates for the most part. This will help with the calming atmosphere in the aquarium for them.

Best PlantsJava Moss, Watersprite, Hornwort, Cryptocorynes, Vallisneria, Java Ferns, Crystalwort, Water Lettuce, Amazon swords
Best LightingModerate
Best DecorationsHeavy decorations. They will become shy with sparsely decorated tanks. Give them caves, lots of tall plants, smooth, polished gravel, 3D backgrounds, ledges to roost on, et cetera.
Decorations to AvoidAnything with sharp edges and, of course, not using many.

Physiological Considerations

Maximum Gourami Fish SizeStandards grow between 2 and 8 inches
Rate of Growth14 to 20 weeks
Gourami Lifespan3-4 years in captivity
TemperamentMostly Peaceful
Preferred Tank RegionMiddle to top

Gill Considerations

They breathe air on the surface with labyrinth organs that act like lungs. They do also breathe through their gills. This combination gives them the ability to survive in lower oxygen waters, though it is not recommended you keep them in such conditions.

Swimbladder Considerations

Gourami, like most freshwater aquarium fish, are susceptible to swim bladder disorders and diseases. Providing them with proper nutrition is the top way to prevent this – through no-grain or limited-grain food instead of standard flake and pellet foods.

giant gourami

The osphronemidae lifespan is typically between three and four years in captivity – or five to seven in the wild. However, some species have longer lifespans. Specifically, Kissing Gourami have markedly longer lifespans than other gourami species.

Society

Generally speaking, Gourami are a peaceful species of fish, which means you can somewhat have a gourami community tank.

They can, however, still harass or even kill smaller fish. They’re also more likely to get aggressive on fish with long fins – think bettas, angelfish, et cetera – and they may even spar with each other, if you’ve got two males in the same fish tank together.

Overcrowded fish tanks are especially prone for this behavior, so make sure you never overstock any of your aquariums.

All that being said, Gouramis have successfully been housed with a wide variety of fish species, including some of these popular freshwater aquarium fish:

The type of gourami that you have will also decide how aggressive they’ll be. Dwarf gourami, for example, are very compatible with others and typically considered the most peaceful gourami for community tanks, since they’re less aggressive. But they should be housed with other non-aggressive species. You should also make sure that you provide a proper ratio of males to females in your fish tank – i.e. for every one male, have at least two or three females.

Ideal gourami tankmates will also be bottom or middle level tank dwellers. This can help to maintain the territorial equilibrium which can otherwise cause additional competition, which results in aggression.

Specifically, you need to avoid housing gouramis with faster, active fish like barbs. These guys will cause unnecessary competition for your gouramis, which can bring out that aggressive side in them. Some species of gourami may also make good tankmates, as they’re bottom dwellers, though these are less common in Gourami. A good example of a bottom dwelling gourami, though, is a Sparkling Gourami.

Gender, Breeding, and Reproductive Considerations

Determine gender with gourami is generally pretty easy. Females tend to be on the gray side of the coloring scale, while males have larger, more decorative fins and brighter colors throughout their bodies. Males are also usually larger, as well.

Once you’ve determined that you have a breeding pair, if you decide you’d like to encourage your gourami to spawn, it can happen. It’s vital that you put the breeding pair into a breeding tank to ensure the eventual safety of the fry once they hatch. Put only the male and female pair into the tank that you wish the breed, along with some tall plants and other décor that will give the pair shelter while they breed.

Give the parents-to-be loads of live food – rather than pellets or flakes or other forms of food – for the week leading up to when you place them into the breeding tank. This will help boost their immunity and ready them for spawning.

First, move the female to the breeding tank and then after a few hours to a day, move the male into the tank.

The breeding tank should have the same pH, temperature, water hardness, and other water conditions that adults require, along with low flow filtration. This is particularly important to avoid destroying bubble nests.

moonlight gourami

Many gourami species are mouthbrooders, which means what the name sounds like. They literally brood their eggs in their mouths until they’re ready. Other gourami make bubble nests at the water surface and incubate their eggs there until they’re ready to hatch.

The courtship practices of gourami can be rather unique and interesting to watch. The couple will touch their pectoral fins that sort of look like antenna. The male will create a layer of bubbles on the surface of the water – if they’re a bubble nester species – where the eggs that have been fertilized will be deposited. You’ll know, though, that there’s breeding going on when you see the male chasing the female incessantly.

There may be up to 1000 eggs – most of which will not survive, of course.

If possible, remove the female back to the main aquarium after the ages have been laid. The male will become extremely protective over the nest and may cause issues for the female if she’s left in there with him.

If the eggs fall to the floor of the aquarium, the males will pick them up and return them to the bubble nest. The eggs then stay in the nest for around three days before they hatch out the tiny little fry.

At this point, it’s pertinent to remove the male from the breeder tank. The males will eat the fry if they are left in the breeding tank with them, a natural response to the stress the males feel over caring for the eggs for those few days.

The fry will first eat on their yolk sacs and then later on the food you provide for them. Once they’ve consumed this sac, they’ll gather toward the middle region of the water, where they will be looking for more food. Provide them with small food choices, like rotifers and paramecium. After they’ve been around for about seven days, giving them brine shrimp is a good idea to help continue their growth.

Between the sixth and eighth week of life, the little fry develop their labyrinth organs – it’s an important stage, so pay attention to the water conditions. They need to have a very steady environment during this time.

Nutritional Needs

Gourami are not scavengers, but they are omnivores, so they’re game for just about any food that comes their way.

Thanks to that, it’s easy to feed them, but it’s also tricky getting the right balance together for their diet. It’s critical that they get that variety of both protein and vegetation to have a sound body and mind.

A combination of a variety of foods is going to be your best bet. Black worms, brine shrimp, glass worms, lettuce, cooked peas, spinach, and prepared fish food. Avoid any grain-heavy foods – most flakes and pellets are terrible for fish, so read ingredient lists carefully – and give a 50/50 division of the food types you offer these guys.

If you’re hoping to kick off spawning, especially focusing on the peas, lettuce, and other veggies will help.

Gouramis will eat almost any food; however, it’s important to vary the diet to ensure balanced nutrition. A combination of dry as well as frozen and fresh/live foods will provide a well-rounded diet. When conditioning prior to breeding, fresh vegetables such as lettuce, cooked peas, and spinach may also be offered, as well as live foods such as black worms, brine shrimp, and glass worms. It is important that the male and feel male specimen you choose are well-fed and healthy before you move them to a breeding tank. 

Best Sustenance Food TypeBloodworms, brine shrimp, vegetables, black worms, glass worms, algae-based flake food
Additional Food for Optimal HealthLettuce, other insects, small crustaceans, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex
Special Foods and Considerations for Best Color and GrowthFocus on algae flakes, tubifex and bloodworms for the best coloration.
When and How Often to Feed Fish Based on Life CycleGouramis should generally be fed twice daily. Two smaller feedings are ideal, rather than one large feeding, but a single large feeding may be done. Never feed your fish more than they can eat in a two-minute period.

Gouramis may well also pick at the live plants in your aquarium. They’ll also love blanched veggies any time, along with algae wafers and flakes.

If there is any food leftover, immediately remove it from the water to avoid causing water changes in the conditions.

Gouramis are also sometimes competitive when it comes to feeding time. Be careful to spread out the feedings across the tank to give plenty of space to each fish for eating time.

Common Diseases and How to Avoid and Treat Them

Gourami are some of the most popular freshwater tropical fish in aquariums for two reasons – they’re beautiful and hardy. But being hardy isn’t enough to prevent them from getting some pretty nasty diseases, disorders, and parasites.

Gourami are prone to a nasty protozoa called Ich. It occurs most commonly in dwarf and blue gourami. This bug appears as little white grain-sized nodules on the fish’s skin. The fish will also have a loss of appetite, have cloudy eyes, aversion to its usual social activities, and will have abnormal breathing patterns.

There are a few things you can do to treat this nasty bug. First, raise the water temperature to around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s warm, but your gourami should be okay for a short period of time at this temperature. Do keep an eye on them, however, to verify this is true for them. Maintain this temperature for 10 days.

pearl gourami

This can potentially kill of the ich by itself. If not, increase the aeration in the tank as well. This will boost your gourami’s metabolism, which will help them fight off the ich with an increased immune response. If you use CO2 injection, turn this device off during the treatment period to increase the oxygen in the tank.

You should also do daily partial water changes to both help clean and clear the water of the ich, but the small portion changes will help your fish fight the ich. It will also add oxygen to the fish tank, which also helps.

Fish Flukes are a parasitic flatworm that is also common in gourami and other freshwater fish. These nasty little worms settle inside the fish’s body, draining out the nutrients they need, and make the host pale and weak. If you notice your gourami scraping against hard surfaces – like it’s a bear trying to scratch its back in the woods – mucus over the gills, rapid respiration, drooping and decaying fins, or turning pale, your fish likely has flukes.

The best way to treat fish flukes is through partial water changes. Typically these changes – until the water has been completely changed out – will help your fish recover from this nasty parasite.

Best Antibiotics: Those safe for freshwater fish should generally be suitable. Contact your veterinarian to verify any before use.

Treatments to Avoid: Anything unsuitable for freshwater fish.

Food Recommendations When Sick: frozen peas and duckweed may well help with recovery for your ailing gourami.

Hospital Tank or Isolation Within the Community Tank Specifics: Depending on the disease or condition, a hospital tank is usually recommended.

3-5 More Things to Know About Gourami

  1. There are 133 types of Gourami that have been identified.
  2. Not surprisingly, the Giant Gourami is the largest species of Gourami. They can grow to be 28 inches in length. Now, that’s a large gourami!
  3. The most popular species of Gourami is the Dwarf Gourami, primarily thanks to its smaller size, making it more compatible in the average aquarium.
  4. Gourami are freshwater tropical fish, despite their brilliant coloring, usually associated with saltwater fish.

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