Pearl Gourami – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

The Pearl Gourami is a beautiful, delicate fish species.  This freshwater species is named for the pearl-colored spots found along its sides.  Cutting through this field of pearls is a black line running from head to tail.  These features have inspired other names such as Lace Gourami and Mosaic Gourami.

Male Gourami will display orange-tinged fins that are larger than the females.  Both sexes can grow up to five inches in length.  Amazingly, Pearl Gourami have been known to “speak”.  This is because of a special organ that allows them to pull oxygen from the surface of the water.

The Pearl Gourami presents some challenges along with its beauty.  They are very susceptible to stress when introduced to a new environment.  They also get sick easier than more hardy species.  You are likely to discover that the reward for mastering their care makes it worth it, though.

Natural Habitat

Originally native to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia the Pearl Gourami is currently found in aquariums all over the world.  It was officially cataloged by Dutch medical professionals in 1852.

It was found in the acidic waters of swamps and streams.  The waters’ acidity in these areas is the result of volcanic activity.

The waters it lives in are usually dense with plant materials.  The plants offer a low light environment that gives Pearl Gourami a place to hide.  When its not trying to hide, the Pearl Gourami likes to swim in brighter water.

Its natural habitat is void of surface covering plants.  It is equipped with an extra organ that allows it to breathe oxygen from the surface.  Too much plant cover on the surface of the water would make it difficult for the Gourami to get enough oxygen.

Also known as a “labyrinth organ”, this extra respiratory system helps the Pearl Gourami to build bubble nests for eggs.  In the wild these bubble nest would be built on the surface of shallow water.  This organ is also responsible for a croaking sound that has led some to say the Gourami can speak.

Pearl Gouramis have displayed another interesting behavior in the wild.  Generally, only seen after breeding, the Pearl Gourami can squirt water at prey outside of the water.  When the prey is knocked into the water it is quickly eaten.

Wild Pearl Gourami are omnivores.  Their main diet is made up of zooplankton, crustaceans, and bug eggs.  Zooplanktons are the small, microscopic larvae of different animals that free float in bodies of water.  Crustaceans in the area include sand crabs and shrimp.

In the wild, the Pearl Gourami has the designation of “Near Threatened”.  Population decline is blamed on a loss of habitat.  What habitat that remains continues to degrade.  They are now so rarely found in the wild that you are unlikely to purchase a wild-caught Gourami for your tank.

Aquarium Habitat

It is important to understand the Pearl Gourami’s natural habitat because the closer you can mimic it in your aquarium, the happier your fish will be.  Simulating an animal’s natural environment will allow it to flourish and bring out its best characteristics.

The pH range of the tank is one area where you can deviate from their natural habitat.  When kept in an aquarium Pearl Gourami can handle a pH range from 6-8.  The pH value of a fish tank is determined by the number of hydrogen ions found in the water.

You can increase the pH value by adding hydroxide, carbonate, or bicarbonate.  Diluting the water will lower pH.  Digital testers are available for quick and accurate readings.

The ideal temperature range for the tank water is between 77 and 82 degrees.  This will ensure your tropical plants and fish stay active and growing.  Tank temperature is not an area that you can alter very much when dealing with Pearl Gourami.

Look to add a layer of sand for ground cover at the bottom of the tank.  Fine gravel will also work.  A couple of larger rocks that provide hiding spots are also fine.  There is a balance to consider.  Adding too many large items for them decreases the freedom of movement they would find in their natural environment.  This will stress your Pearl Gourami.

Part of ensuring they have enough room is determining an appropriate tank size.  Thirty gallons is a good starting point for one to six of these fish.  Pearl Gourami aren’t going to complain in much larger tanks, though.

Plants can help filtration, oxygenation, and provide covered areas for your fish.  Though Pearl Gouramis are omnivores, they aren’t likely to bother plants in the tank.  Keeping this in mind, plants like Hornwort make a great addition.  Remember to avoid plants that are likely to cover the entire surface area of the tank as they will interfere with the Pearl Gourami’s labyrinth organ.

Pearl Gourami Tank Mates

Pearl Gouramis have a very shy and reserved personality when placed in a tank with other fish.  As a result, it’s more important to consider the temperament of the other fish in the tank.  The exception to the Pearl Gourami’s calm personality is during spawning season when they are known to increase their assertiveness.

There are some tank mates to avoid for your Gourami.  Any large aggressive fish will harass the Gourami.  Any breeds that are fond of nipping at fish fins are a real problem for Gourami.  A common fin-nipping breed is the Tiger Barb.  Another notorious nipper is the Cichlid.

Below is a list of friendly fish that will thrive with your Pearl Gourami.  These fish not only share compatible personalities; they will also live happily with the necessary tank conditions.

Many beginners have trouble with peaceful fish species fighting each other.  This can cause confusion and frustration.  After all, you’ve done your research and these fish shouldn’t be fighting each other!  Well, this usually indicates that you’ve put too many fish in a tank that isn’t designed to hold them all.

Maybe you’ve double-checked all your fish’s size requirements and they’ve all got plenty of elbow room.  Yet, they are still fighting each other.  Try to pay close attention to their behavior.

Are there one or two fish that always seem to be in the middle of the scuffle?  Like people, fish will have their own personalities.  Often, you are left with no other recourse than to remove the bully fish from that tank.

If available, try putting it in another tank.  Even if the fish is undersized in its new home, it may be aggressive enough to hold its own.

Feeding the Pearl Gourami

Luckily, Pearl Gouramis are not very picky eaters.  If it will fit in their mouth, they will probably try to eat it.  As an aquarist, this makes things easy.  However, you can plan out a diet for them that will maximize their happiness and healthiness.

Studies have shown that a diet made up of 26-36% protein is the most efficient way to maximize healthy growth in Pearl Gourami.  If you aren’t interested in keeping that much scrutiny over their diet, don’t worry.  Protein ranges as low at 13% have been proven effective.

Enough science.  What can you actually feed them?  Store-bought flakes, pellets, live, and frozen foods will all do the job.  Check the product information on the back of the fish food you are considering.  It will indicate how much protein the food contains.

Consider foods that are designed for mid or surface feeders.  Look for “slow sinking” or “floating” designations on the container.  Pearl Gourami may browse the bottom of the tank for algae but will be looking primarily in the middle of the tank.

Chances are your Pearl Gourami will love live food.  One live food option is Tubifex.  Tubifex is often blamed for transmitting diseases to aquariums.  This is because these worms are often bred on trout farms.  Picking healthy-looking worms and quarantining them for a couple of days can ensure you aren’t spreading illness.  Breeding your own is another option to look into.

A less controversial live food option is Brine Shrimp.  These can be found fresh or frozen.  Some fish stores will even sell Brine Shrimp eggs so you can raise them at home.

Pearl Gourami owners have also had success adding small pieces of fresh vegetables to their diet.  If you have a particularly clean tank that’s void of algae, adding some leafy greens or cucumber pieces may fill a nutritional gap in their diet.

They should be fed two or three times a day. Feeding them a lot of food once a day can overwork their digestive system.  Feed them enough that they can eat for two or three minutes.  Make sure you remove any uneaten food so that your water quality remains in peak condition.

Pearl Gourami Healthcare

Pearl Gouramis have received the reputation of being a bit of a challenge to keep healthy.  This shouldn’t discourage potential owners from considering them.

Most of the challenges that arise from Pearl Gourami are the result of beginner’s mistakes and can be easily solved.  Seen from a different point of view, Pearl Gourami can act as an early warning system for your tank when they begin showing signs of distress.

In general, weekly water changes will greatly reduce problems.  Use this opportunity to wipe down algae buildups.  Some Gourami tanks don’t have a strong filter because of their ability to breathe from the surface.  If this is the case, pay extra attention to cloudiness or other buildups.

Keep new fish in a separate tank for a period of time to make sure they aren’t bringing in anything you don’t want.  The same is true of new plants or features you decide to add.  Test new foods in small amounts to ensure your tank doesn’t react poorly to it.

Diseases will occur even if these precautions are taken.  That’s ok.  By identifying the symptoms early, you can take measures to fix it.

Fish with elegant fins like the Pearl Gourami are likely to suffer from fin rot.  Fin rot occurs when bacteria build up in a tank.  This problem can be compounded if the fish’s fins have open wounds from fin-nippers.  It is easily treated with antibacterial medicine.

Dropsy is another common Gourami ailment.  This is identifiable as puffy stomachs in your fish.  Bacterial infections are the culprit here.  Affected fish should be isolated as soon as possible to avoid losing all your fish.  Antibiotics and nutrient food can cure them.  Salt treatments are frequently used to kill off-tank bacteria as well.

Ich is a single-cell parasite that damages fish tissue, eventually leading to death.  It will look like white circles on a fish.  It is generally treated by raising the tank temperature and adding salt.  Special chemical mixtures can also be added to solve the problem.

Hopefully, your Pearl Gourami will never suffer from a nematode infection.  This is caused when a nasty threadworm works its way into the Gourami’s digestive tract.  If left unchecked long enough, the nematode can be seen hanging from the fish’s anal opening.  To get rid of them you can treat fish food with a compound that will drive them from the fish.  From there, thorough cleaning of every part of the tank may prevent their return.

Breeding the Pearl Gourami

Once you’ve mastered the care of the Pearl Gourami you may decide to increase your population.  If you’ve set up the required conditions than you can expect the results you’re looking for.

Let’s start with the easiest step first.  Make sure that you have both male and female Gourami located in the same tank!  Luckily, Pearl Gourami sexes are easily identified.  As mentioned above, males will have orange-tinged fins and chest.

The next step is to ensure you have about a four to one ratio of females to males.  This discourages fighting and competition among males.  This guarantees to the male suitors that there are, in fact, more fish in the sea.

Remove any other species that might make a meal of your freshly laid Gourami eggs.  This is probably easier than putting the Pearl Gourami in a new tank given how sensitive they are to new environments.

Increase the quality and frequency of feedings.  This is a great time to add more live foods to their diet.  Spawning takes extra energy, and everyone likes being treated to a nice dinner.

Depending on how warm you normally keep the tank, raising the temperature may encourage spawning.  If you already keep your tank at the high end of the temperature range don’t raise it anymore.

An early indicator that your Gourami wants to spawn is the appearance of bubble nests.  The males will build clumps of bubbles on the water’s surface that will house the eggs.  They are coated in saliva to increase their strength.

Once everyone has courted and found a suitable partner, the female will release her eggs into the bubble nest.  The males now have the responsibility to guard the nest against predators.

Guard duty is usually over in a couple of days when the eggs hatch.  The fry will float around aimlessly until they begin swimming after five days.  In order to get your tank back in order, you should move the fry to a separate grow tank.  Make sure that the grow tank temperature is around 84 degrees to keep the babies warm and happy.

The fry can eat food specifically designed for baby fish.  As they get larger, begin introducing them to the same diet that the adult Pearl Gourami get.  Initially, they should be fed brine shrimp.  Following that, they can begin eating flakes.  After the flakes, you can begin introducing freeze-dried tablets.

Spawning is a messy business so make sure your tank is cleaned well after the eggs hatch.  Once this is done, reintroduce the roommates that you kicked out.

Conclusion

Pearl Gouramis are a great fish to introduce on your way to mastering the art of fishkeeping.  Healthy Gourami indicates that you know how to keep a well-balanced tank.  At times they may frustrate you.  That’s good!  The reward is a beautiful school of fish.

A balanced aquarium full of delicate plants and gentle, calm fish defines why many of us keep them.  To that end, the Pearl Gourami is one of the finest fish that exemplify those traits.

 

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