Gouramis are a very unique and diverse species of freshwater fish. Their wide variety of vibrant colors, sizes, and temperaments make them popular among fish keepers of every skill level.
The basic needs for most gouramis are the same, but some species have different needs than others. This article will outline the basic care for most gouramis and detail 8 of the most popular species.
Gouramis (pronounced gore-ah-mees) live in the shallow swamps, ponds, canals and other slow-moving bodies of water of Eastern and Southern Asia.
The water they live in often doesn’t have a lot of oxygen in it, so they breathe with the help of the “labyrinth organ”. The labyrinth organ acts as a lung so gouramis can breathe air from the surface of the water. Some people call them “labyrinth fish” because of this unique ability.
In the wild, gouramis eat insects, other invertebrates, underwater plants, and zooplankton. This makes them omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals.
The males of the species are often larger and have brighter colors than the females. They also have pointed dorsal and anal fins while the female’s fins are more rounded. This is called sexual dimorphism. It is important to know the sex of your fish if you are planning to breed (spawn) them.
The basic care requirements for most species of gourami are relatively the same. There are some general rules to follow, but it is important to research your specific species before purchasing them.
Always assume that the bigger the tank, the better. A good starting point is 35 gallons, but the bigger the gourami, the larger the tank it needs.
A gourami’s minimum tank size refers to one gourami. Every fish after that needs 5 extra gallons. For example, a minimum tank size of 20 gallons can house one gourami, 25 gallons can house two, 30 gallons can house three, and so on. Be sure not to add any more fish in a tank than it can house.
Your tank should have a filter to keep the water clean and free of dangerous nitrates. You should also do regular water changes of 25% once a week. Use a water conditioner to get rid of any harmful chemicals in the tap water before adding it to your tank. Always be certain that the temperature, pH, and hardness of the new water matches exactly with the old to avoid shock and illness.
Generally, gouramis thrive in water that is an average of 75° F, 6.5 pH and a hardness of 5 dH (degree of hardness). You can buy test strips at your local pet store to check for pH (the level of acidity of the water on a scale of 1-14) and hardness (how hard or soft the water is on a scale of 0-30+ dH). Anything that is higher or lower than a gourami can handle can be fatal, so be sure to research your specific species.
Gouramis of all species like lots of plants in their tanks. They use the plants for shelter, hide, and on some occasions, eat. Species that are timid in nature rely on plants more than aggressive species. Good underwater plants include java ferns and various species of anubias.
Substrates, such as sand, soil, or small stones, allow beneficial bacteria and plants to grow. Soil-like substrates such as fluorite are better for gourami tanks because they allow natural plants to grow. If you have fake plants, feel free to use any kind of substrate as long as it is fine-medium sized.
You can be as creative as you desire with your substrate. Black or dark-colored substrates help bring out the bright colors of your gouramis, but light or neutral colors are more natural.
You may wish to add tank mates into your aquarium. Some breeds of gourami are better with other species than others. Docile gouramis may live with passive species such as guppies, pelcos, danios, and tetras. More aggressive breeds can live with peaceful fish of the same size or slightly bigger, but do so with caution.
Gouramis can eat most fish foods and even some vegetables in moderation. They should eat a varied diet to ensure balanced nutrition. You should rotate between tropical fish flakes, pellets, and an occasional live or frozen treat.
They should eat once or twice a day, keeping treats to a minimum. Be sure to only feed them what they can eat within two minutes. Uneaten food can rot and add to the dangerous nitrate and ammonia buildup in their water.
Gouramis are susceptible to the same diseases as any other fish. This includes countless fungal, parasitic, and bacterial diseases.
All these diseases get worse when the tank has too many fish in it. If a fish shows any sign of illness, move it to a separate, smaller tank to get treated. This makes it so the disease doesn’t spread. You can get medication from the local pet store to treat most diseases your fish may get.
Most diseases are often preventable by proper care. This includes regular water changes, an appropriate tank size, and a balanced diet.
Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIV) is a disease that only dwarf gourami can get it. Symptoms include loss of appetite, lethargy, dulling of their color, and tumors. As of now, there is no cure.
Since there are countless diseases that fish can get, it is important to research your fish’s symptoms as soon as you see them.
Popular Breeds of Gourami
Some gouramis only grow to be two inches long, while some can grow to be a massive two feet. Some have vibrant colors while others are dull. Some are docile and shy and some are aggressive to other fish. A fish as diverse as the gourami makes it easy for anyone to find the perfect species, no matter their skill level.
Some things to keep in mind while choosing a species is their lifespan, their size, water pH and hardness requirements, water temperature, and behavioral temperament.
The pearl gourami (Trichogaster leeri) is one of the most popular breeds of gourami. They are hardy and easy to care for, making them great for beginners. They are adaptable to most conditions, including water changes and tank mates.
Pearl gouramis can grow up to 4 inches and live up to 8 years with proper care. They should live in a minimum size tank of 35 gallons. Water should be 74-82° F with a pH of 6.5-8.5 and a hardness of 5-19 dH. They are docile and can live with other smaller, peaceful fish.
The honey gourami (Trichogaster chuna) gets its name from its golden yellow and orange coloring. They are very popular beginner fish.
Honey gouramis can grow up to 3 inches and can live up to 8 years with proper care. They should have a minimum tank size of 10 gallons. Water should be between 72-82° F and have a pH of 6.0-7.0 and hardness of 4-15 dH. They are docile and do well with other smaller, peaceful fish.
Three Spotted Gourami
The three spotted gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) gets its name from its two distinctive spots aligned with its eye. This makes it appear to be three-spotted. This breed comes in three color varieties: opaline, golden, and blue. All three of these breeds have the same requirements and are very easy to care for. They are very hardy and great for beginners.
Three spotted gouramis can grow up to 6 inches in length and live up to 4 years. They should have a minimum tank size of 35 gallons. Water should be between 73-82° F with a pH between 6.0-8.8 and hardness between 5-35 dH. They are aggressive but may do well with peaceful tank mates of similar size.
The moonlight gourami (Trichogaster microlepis) is popular for its beautiful iridescent silver scales. Its long fins make them an easy target for tankmates to attack them. It is best to keep them with smaller, passive species to avoid damage. They are a good beginner species because they are hardy and tolerant to water changes.
Moonlight gouramis can grow up to 6 inches and live up to 4 years. They should live in a minimum tank size of 40 gallons. Water should be between 79-86° F with a pH of 6.0-7.8 and hardness of 2-25 dH. They are docile and can be housed with smaller, peaceful species that will not nip at their fins.
The kissing gourami (Helostoma temminckii) is popular because of its big lips and “kissing” behavior. They appear to kiss each other but are actually establishing territory and dominance.
Kissing gourami can grow up to 12 inches and live up to 5 years. They should live in a minimum size tank of 75 gallons. Water should be between at 72-82° F with a pH of 6.0-8.8 and a hardness of 5-35 dH. They are aggressive but do well with slightly bigger, peaceful species.
The paradise gourami (Macropodus opercularis) is one of the brightest colored gouramis. They are hardy and perfect for beginners. There are three variations– Macropodus operculari, Macropodus chinensis, and Macropodus cupanus.
Paradise gouramis can grow up to 3 inches and live up to 10 years. They should live in a minimum size tank of 20 gallons. Water should be between 72-80° F with a pH of 6.0-8.0 and a hardness of 5-30 dH. They are aggressive towards other fish and prefer to live alone or with slightly bigger, peaceful tank mates.
The dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia) is one of the smallest species of gourami. They are a popular species among beginners because they do well in smaller, easily manageable tanks. They are the only species of fish that can catch the incurable Dward Gourami Iridovirus, so be sure to give them proper care.
Dwarf gouramis can grow up to 2 inches and live up to 4 years. They should live in a minimum tank size of 10 gallons. Water should be between 72-82° F with a pH of 6.0-7.5 and a hardness of 5-18 dH. They are docile and do well with smaller, passive fish.
Giant gouramis (Osphronemus goramy) are the largest species of gourami. They can reach up to a massive 28 inches in length. They also live to be over 25 years old in optimal conditions. They aren’t very popular because they need a tank that is at least 200 gallons, but they are very unique and worth learning about.
Their water should be between 68-86° F with a pH of 6.5-8.0 and a hardness of 5-25 dH. They are gentle giants and can live with other large fish, such as catfish, but will eat any fish smaller than them.
Can gouramis live with other gouramis?
Gouramis can live with other gouramis similar to them in size and temperament. A docile species of gourami should do quite well with other docile species. More aggressive species are trickier due to their territoriality. Use your best discretion when housing species together and watch them closely.
What fish can live with gouramis?
Many smaller, passive species are often safe to house with gouramis of most species. This includes rasboras, danios, tetras, and dwarf cichlids. For larger species, loaches and catfish may be a good fit. More aggressive species, like the kissing gourami, may not like living with other fish. Be sure to add other species together with discretion and keep an eye on any territorial disputes or high stress levels.
Are gouramis aggressive?
Every species of gourami can be aggressive if the conditions are not adequate. If they are under stress or kept with the wrong tank mates, even the most docile gourami can become aggressive. Sometimes it is just their personality.
There are specific species that are more aggressive than others, though. This includes the kissing and paradise gourami.
Measures to reduce aggressiveness in gouramis include giving them a large tank and lots of places to hide. If these fail, it might be best to keep your gourami alone.
Are gouramis easy to keep?
Every species of gourami is different. Some species, such as the pearl, dwarf, and moonlight gouramis are popular with beginners because of their hardiness. Others, such as the giant gourami need a lot of care that only an experienced fish keeper can give.
Easy is also a subjective word. Some new fish keepers only have the resources to keep small dwarf gouramis while some new keepers may have the means of taking care of a giant gourami right off the bat. Use your best judgment to choose the best gourami for you.
Why are my gouramis changing color?
Color changing may be due to inadequate conditions in your aquarium. For example, in three spotted gourami, their spots may fade due to stress. Test your water to make sure that the temperature, pH, and dH are within the correct levels for your species. If there are too many fish, consider transferring some to a new tank or selling them.
In some species, your gourami may just be maturing. For example, the moonlight gourami gets a light green tint as they mature. This is completely harmless. If your species is not known to change color naturally, look for a different cause.
It might also be due to disease. For example, dwarf gouramis get duller in color when they get Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIV). Color changing due to disease will often come with other symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, tumors, and more.
If you believe that your gourami is changing color due to disease, get them treatment as soon as possible. Move them to a separate tank to keep your other fish safe and get medication.
Gouramis are a fun way to add a splash of color to your aquarium. No matter your skill set or experience, there is a species of gourami for you.
Use this care guide to help give your gourami a great life. Though this article only outlined eight different species, be aware that there are many more species out there to choose from.
Most gouramis require the same care requirements, but it is important to research your particular species before buying one. Your particular species may need something else that other gouramis don’t, or vice versa. Remember that even fish require the same amount of care as any other pet, and only deserves the best care possible.