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Tropical fish: Gouramis are bubble-nest breeders and labyrinth fish

Updated on June 9, 2013

Gouramis are labyrinth fish

Gouramis are popular tropical fish that are kept and bred by many hobbyists. The many species of gouramis are labyrinth fish that can breathe atmospheric air.

Like the Siamese Fighting Fish they gulp air at the water surface and the males of most species also have the unusual behaviour of building bubble-nests for the eggs of the females.

Most gouramis are colourful or have attractive patterns and they all have their pectoral fins modified into long feelers with which they probe the water ahead of them.

Male Thick-lipped Gourami

Colisa labiosa by Oliver Gorski
Colisa labiosa by Oliver Gorski | Source

The Thick-lipped Gourami

The Thick-lipped or Thick-lip Gourami (Colisa labiosa) is a personal favourite of mine. This species is usually peaceful and can be kept in the community tank. It reaches around 9cm.

The male is a chocolate-brown with reddish and green-blue stripes and the female is mainly a silvery-brown colour.

The Thick-lipped Gourami will accept a wide range of foods including flake food as well as live foods.

The Thick-lipped Gourami has been cross-bred with the Giant Gourami or Indian Gourami (C. fasciata) and its smaller relative the very pretty Dwarf Gourami (C. lalia).

Best books about Gouramis on Amazon

Dwarf Gourami

The Dwarf Gourami is probably the most colourful of all gouramis. The male in breeding condition is striped in pale iridescent blue and red. He has more blue and red colouration on his fins and around his head and gills.

The female Dwarf Gourami is a far less colourful fish and mainly a silvery colour. They tend to be a bit smaller than the males too.

the Dwarf Gourami comes from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As its name suggests it is not a large fish by gourami standards and seldom reaches much longer that 5 cm.

The male Dwarf Gourami builds a more complex bubble-nest than many other labyrinth fishes and gouramis because he weaves bits of plant matter into the frothing mass of bubbles too.

This is an easy species to breed. The male will look after the eggs but can be removed because he may decided to eat the fry after they hatch.

Dwarf gourami and bubble-nest

The Three Spot Gourami

The Three Spot Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) comes in several colour variations known as the Blue Gourami, the Opaline Gourami, the Cosby Gourami and the Gold Gourami. The natural form has a light-blue body with two black spots that with the eye make the three of its name.

The Opaline and Cosby Gouramis have dark mottling and look very different to the usual form. The Gold Gourami is like this but with a golden sheen throughout the body instead of the blue. All of these variations can readily be crossed.

The Blue Gourami will grow to around 15 cm in length. In a community tank they are generally peaceful enough when smaller but can become aggressive as they get bigger. They will often attack other labyrinth fishes such as other gouramis and Siamese Fighting Fish. At the same time other fish with a tendency to nip fins may cause a problem by nipping off the ends of the Blue Gouramis' feeler-like pectoral fins.

This gourami is easy to breed and another bubble-nest builder.

Gold Gourami & Blue Gourami

Pearl Gourami

The Peal Gourami (T. leeri) is around the same size as the Three Spot Gourami to which it is related. It is also known as the Lace Gourami or the Mosaic Gourami. All of its name refer to the attractive patterning all over its body and fins. 

The Pearl Gourami has a brownish-silver body dotted all over with pearly flecks and with a contrasting black line or lace running down the middle. The male Pearl Gourami is more attractive than the female and also has bright orange-red colouration around his throat and extending out onto his ventral fin.

The Pearl Gourami is a very gentle species and is not suited for housing with more boisterous species or those with a tendency to bully and harass other fish. 

The Pearl Gourami when kept in ideal conditions is a truly stunning fish. It comes from Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo.

Like most of the gouramis, the Pearl Gourami is a bubble-nest breeder.

Giant Gourami

Giant Gourami adult
Giant Gourami adult

Giant Gourami/ Osphronemus Gourami

The Giant Gourami or Osphronmemus Gourami (Osphronemus goramy) truly lives up to its description when referring to its size because this species can grow to a length of some 70 cm. It obviously needs a very large tank or can be kept in a pond in climates where this is possible.

The Giant Gourami comes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Indochina and India but it is farmed in other tropical countries too. This is because the Giant Gourami is regraded as a food fish. It has also been used to help control water-weed growth because this species will browse on vegetation as well as taking fruit.

Its colouration is a silvery blue-grey with no bright colours on it. Small specimens are often sold as novelties in tropical fish shops and large specimens are sometimes displayed in show-tanks.

Giant Gourami is also used as a name for the very much smaller C. fasciata, species known too as the Indian Gourami and the Banded Gourami. There is no doubt that the Osphronemus Gourami really is a giant though.

The Giant Gourami is a bubble-nest breeder and the male makes a huge nest and incorporates bits of twig and water plants into it too.

Buy Dr Axelrod's Atlas of Tropical Fish on Amazon

The Chocolate Gourami

The Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides) is an oddity in more ways than one. This small gourami, which comes from Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo is a mouth-brooder and the male does not build a bubble-nest like so many other gouramis do. In this unusual species it is the female tht looks after the eggs and this she does in her mouth. Mouth-brooding is a technique used by cvarious chichlids and catfish species too..

The Chocolate Gourami, which as its name suggests is a chocolate-brown and with golden-yellow bands running down its sides too.

Besides having unusual breeding habits for a gourami, the Chocolate Gourami is also not an easy species to keep like so many of the other types of gourami. It can be fussy about its food and generally prefer small live food and it needs the right water conditions. In the wild it lives in peaty water and this needs to be duplicated in captivity for best results. The Chocolate Gourami is more of a species for a tropical fish specialist and does best if kept in its own specially set up aquarium.

The Chocolate Gourami is one of the species described in detail in Dr Axelrod's Atlas of Tropical Fish.

There are very many more species of gourami and this has just been a look at some of the most notable and differing types.

Copyright © 2013 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Giant Gourami eating a tomato


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      What a fantastic idea for a present and surprise!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Nice Bard - I keep reading your hubs and thinking I really miss our fish tank. I had an idea that it might make a very cool Christmas gift to the girls! It would look pretty cool all set up on Christmas mooring and I love coming up with unusual gifts.

      Once I managed to wait u til they fell asleep on Cristmas eve and I sneaked them out of their beds - redecorated the entire rooms with their favorite bed spreads, curtains, pillows and sneaked them back into bed and when they woke up they thought Sants had done some magic;) a fish tank would really be unexpected! Thanks!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Yes, they are beautiful in their own way. Personally I think all plants and animals are! Thank you for posting your comments, Amata!

    • profile image

      Amata 6 years ago

      Thank you for this very informative hub, Bard of Ely. I have a pair of dwarf gourami and the male has just built a nest. I am wondering when the fishes decide for their family to grow!

      The female is less colourful indeed, but I find her beautiful anyway. She is silver and have a blue spots on her heads. She seems to be very gentle and I have special feelings of symphaty for her!