Let's hear it for the Dwarf gourami!
The Dwarf gourami has long been among the most popular community fish, but in recent years its reputation as a hardy, easy-to-keep aquarium resident has taken a knock. So is it still worth keeping them on that beginner's wish list? Neale Monks thinks so...
Dwarf gouramis are enduringly popular fish with beginners to the hobby, but they have a bit of a mixed reputation among experienced hobbyists and retailers.
To their credit, Dwarf gouramis are very pretty little fish sporting colours that wouldn’t look out of place in a reef tank. They are also very adaptable and easy to feed, and rarely cause problems so far as aggression goes.
Overall, they can make first-rate community tank residents!
However, the debit side of the equation is worrying. As far back as the early 1980s aquarists had noticed the species seemed to be prone to untreatable diseases, with mycobacteria infections commonly suspected for their malaise.
More recently vets have identified a virus called the Dwarf gourami Iridovirus (DGIV) that seems to be causing real problems on East-Asian fish farms. One widely-quoted estimate suggests 22% of specimens shipped out of Singapore carry the virus — and, given the virus seems to be invariably fatal and so far untreatable, that’s a scary statistic!
So what’s an aquarist to do?
Should you avoid the species altogether, in favour of one of its less sensitive relatives? Or is it possible to choose healthy specimens and thereby improve the odds you’ll take home a Dwarf gourami that’ll live a long and happy life?
Selecting for health
Even if a proportion of imported Dwarf gouramis are sickly, there are still lots of healthy specimens out there in the trade. The key to success is identifying and choosing healthy specimens, and keeping them isolated from any sick or unhealthy specimens.
Let’s start with the most important rule, which is to simply reject any Dwarf gouramis from any retailer’s tank that also contains sick or dead specimens. That’s a pretty good rule when shopping for fish generally, but it’s absolutely essential when dealing with Dwarf gouramis.
In good condition, Dwarf gouramis are busy fish that spend time swimming about at all levels of the aquarium. Males often spar with one another and bullying may cause some males to be more reticent than others. However, both sexes should be alert and active.
Like all fish they can be shy or nervous in the wrong tank and they may be bullied by inhabitants like dwarf cichlids or nippy barbs.
Dwarf gouramis should appear bold and confident. You might want to ask your retailer to feed the specimens on sale and look to see that they’re all showing an appropriate level of interest in what’s offered.
Unless of course you can explain any unusual behaviour, reject Dwarf gouramis that seem sedentary or weak, particularly if they are hiding away at the bottom all the time.
Coloration tells a lot about the condition of a fish, and healthy male Dwarf gouramis should have strong, vibrant colours.
Both sexes should look gently rounded rather than fat — reject specimens that seem unnaturally bloated or swollen. They may simply be overfed or constipated, but it’s scarcely worth the risk. It’s just as important to reject those unusually thin, because wasting away is common symptom of both mycobacteria infections and DGIV.
Other gouramis worth considering
Banded gouramis (Trichogaster fasciata) and Thick-lipped gouramis (Trichogaster labiosa) — pictured above — are also widely sold.
They both look slightly longer and more thickly-set than Dwarf gouramis but exhibit similar coloration, although tending towards thicker brick-red stripes rather than the thin and rather more sharply-defined cardinal red stripes typical of Dwarf gouramis.
On the whole both species are very peaceful and easygoing, but, like many gouramis, the males can be territorial, even aggressive, when spawning. This behaviour isn’t necessarily any different to Dwarf gouramis, but, being that much bigger, the potential for problems is a little greater.
That said, if kept in aquaria of suitable size, for example from 90l/20 gal. upwards, these species are easy to accommodate. They get along great with things like non-nippy tetras, barbs and danios as well all the usual community tank catfish and loaches.
Hybrids on sale
Banded and Thick-lipped gouramis look very similar, but, as their name suggests, Thick-lipped gouramis do have thicker lips.
Many of the specimens on sale are likely to be hybrids, so worrying about the distinctions between them doesn’t make much sense.
As mentioned earlier, the wild-type forms of both species have irregular, slightly oblique brick-red bands on their bluish flanks, with males tending to have stronger coloration than females.
Artificial varieties are commonplace, particularly the orangey-yellow 'sunset' forms without any bands on their flanks.
One last little gourami that’s worth a mention is the Honey gourami (Trichogaster chuna).
The wild-type form of this species shows strong sexual dimorphism. Females are a fairly drab yellowy-brown with a dark band running from snout to tail, whereas males are deep golden-yellow with an extensive black patch that covers the chin, throat and belly. This dark patch is particularly well developed when the fish are in breeding condition, turning almost black.
Males also have a distinctive yellow band across the top of the dorsal fin.
Several artificial forms are sold as well and while these don’t exhibit the interesting changes in colour that mark the wild-type fish, they’re nice-looking fish nonetheless. The most popular of these is probably the 'Red sunset' form that is basically orangey-red in colour.
Compared to the Dwarf gourami, the Honey gourami is smaller, shyer, and more prone to hiding in aquaria with boisterous tank mates. Wild-caught specimens have had the reputation for being sensitive fish, especially if kept in hard water, and older books often describe this species as being one for the more experienced hobbyist.
However, the farmed specimens seem to be quite tough animals and provided they are kept in well-planted aquaria with only the most gentle tank mates, such as small tetras, then these fish are very easy to keep.
Like all fish, these species have their own personalities and temperaments, and so it is prudent to monitor them for the first few days after addition to check for behavioural anomalies.
Good water quality is always key, so it’s best to add them to tanks that are matured and have been running for a few months without problems.
The Dwarf should still be top of that list!
With some excellent alternatives available, is there really any point to buying Dwarf gouramis? Yes, indeed!
While Banded, Thick-lipped and Honey gouramis all have their places in community tanks of various sorts, the Dwarf still occupies a sweet spot when it comes to size, coloration and personality. You just have to be careful when shopping. Look over potential purchases thoroughly, make sure they look healthy and behaving normally.
Once you have your Dwarf gouramis, you might want to think about breeding them. This is one of those species for which there’s a ready market and I’ve had store owners tell me they’d pay good money for locally-bred, disease-free specimens. The demand for Dwarf gouramis remains strong, whatever their foibles, so if you’re in the market for a breeding project, they may be just the thing to try!
But even if you don’t plan on breeding them, this is a species about which there’s so much to enjoy.
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Above: In the picture is a Premium Male Peacock Dwarf Gourami, swimming in one of our aquariums, when one of us snapped this picture.
Comments:These are fabulous fish with vibrant colors.
Origin: The ancestors of these Gouramis came from East Asia, but now they live in aquariums all over the world. There are several species of Gouramis for sale in this store.
Maximum Size: In aquariums, Gouramis can grow to be about 3" long.
Behaviors:Gouramis are usually not aggressive fish but from time to time males may become territorial.
Compatibility: Some recommended tank mates include, other Gouramis and community fish.
Click here to read more about compatible groups of pet fish.
Temperature:Gouramis live best from about 75 to 80-degrees F. with 78 being perhaps ideal.
Click here to learn about aquarium temperature, aquarium thermometers, and aquarium heaters.
Feeding:Premium Fish Food Flakes and Premium Fish Food Pellets are best to feed these fish.
Click here to learn more about and shop online for premium fish foods.
Water Conditions: Gouramis seem to be tolerant of a wide range of water conditions.
Probably a pH of about 7 with moderate hardness is best.
Most water in the US seems to be OK, so it's probably best NOT to adjust the pH or the hardness of the water.
Here in our facilities the water is hard and the pH is usually about 7.8. We ship them in this water.
Click here for a lot more information about aquarium water conditions.
Aquarium Size:Gouramis can do well in a 20-gallon tank, but of course bigger is better.
Decor:Gouramis do not need gravel, and a layer of gravel more than 1/4" thick will usually fill with bits of uneaten food that will contaminate the water.
Click here for more about aquarium gravel.
Live plants are beautiful and improve the water quality.
Aquarium Filter:Bio-Wheel Filters are highly recommended. The Penguin 250B Filters will do well for a 20-30 gallon tank.
Click here to learn more about aquarium filters.
The addition of Lava Rocks will keep nitrates in the ideal range. Click here to learn more about using Lava Rocks in aquariums.
Life Span:Gouramis can live for several years. Keep the water conditions excellent and feed them premium foods, and they may live even longer.
Gender: We usually sell the males and the females seperately, the males are usually more bright and colorful, and the females are usually dull and smaller.
Breeding: Male Gouramis will blow bubbles at the surface of the water, creating a nest which also indicates to the female he is ready to breed.
They do a mating dance when ready, and she releases her eggs toward the surface, where the male fertilizes, guards and cleans them.
Click here for a lot more about breeding various tropical fish in aquariums.
Popularity: These fish are very popular fish in the aquarium hobby.
Names: The scientific name for Male Peacock Dwarf Gourami is Colisa lalia.
Variations: There are many variations of Gouramis in the hobby.
Click here for a lot more information about keeping and caring for Gouramis, including a picture gallery.
We hope you've enjoyed reading these comments.
The dwarf gourami is one of the most beautiful aquarium fish, and definitely the most beautiful gourami. Dwarf gouramis continue to rise in popularity among fishkeepers and aquarists.
In addition to their colorful appearance, they are low-maintenance and very hardy.
They exhibit some truly unique behavior, taking down their prey like true hunters.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about dwarf gouramis, including how to take care of them, how to choose tank mates, and much more.
Dwarf Gourami Facts & Overview
|Color:||Multicolored and variable|
|Minimum Tank Size:||10 gallons|
|Tank Setup:||Freshwater, heavily planted|
Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius), formerly known as Colisa lalia, are majestic looking freshwater fish native to the slow-flowing rivers, ponds, rice fields, and lakes of Southern Asia. However, now they can also be found in the USA, Singapore, and Colombia.
This fish is a member of the Osphronemidae family, more widely known as the gourami family.
Fish from this family are very popular due to their small size and ease of care. On average they live for about 5 years, but under good conditions can live even longer.
You might also know that Gouramis are included in the Anabantiformes order (or labyrinth fish order). Members of this order have a unique lung-like organ that allows them to breathe oxygen straight from the air.
These are schooling fish and prefer to stick together when possible. That way they feel more comfortable and secure. Most of the time they can be found in the middle or top level of the tank. Even in a group they still swim quite slowly and often hide around.
They are generally peaceful fish that should not cause any problems with tank mates. If anything, they are timid and will shy away from boisterous species.
Sometimes males may become protective over females and harass each other, but this won’t escalate if there is enough space.
Keeping just one male in the tank or a couple of females per male is a good preventative measure.
Due to their popularity they can be found almost anywhere; online, in-store, or from fellow hobbyists. As for price, you should expect to pay around $4.
Dwarf Gourami Types
Dwarf gouramis have a truly unique, colorful appearance. As commonly happens with popular aquarium fish, many new mutations have appeared over time, expanding the variety of color even further.
Dwarf gouramis can grow to be up to 4.5 inches in size, but on average most of them only reach around 3.5 inches.
Their bodies are quite narrow and compressed on the sides. Their fins, on the other hand, are large and slightly round. Both their anal and dorsal fins are merged. Their ventral fins have been transformed into a filiform outgrowth which plays the role of a sensory organ.
Identifying the sexes of dwarf gouramis can be difficult, but it is very important if you want to breed them.
Males tend to be slightly slimmer and shorter than females. Female dwarf gouramis will have rounded bellies too.
Their dorsal fin is also a useful indicator. The female’s dorsal fin is shorter and rounder than the male’s, which tapers to a point.
Identifying the sexes of dwarf gouramis gets easier as they age, as juveniles have less developed features.
Here are some of the most popular types of Dwarf Gouramis:
Blue Dwarf Gourami
This fantastically colored fish is one of the most beautiful variations of these species. As their name suggests, blue dwarf gouramis are bright blue and almost glowing. They have distinguishable reddish-brown lines running across their sides and fins.
Their fins also have a light brown edging. Their scales are large, easily recognizable, and are located very close to each other.
Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami
Similar to the blue dwarf gourami, the powder blue dwarf gourami has almost no other colors mixed in and is much brighter than its friends mentioned above. Although this variation isn’t supposed to have anything apart from blue on their body, dark colors sometimes manage to slip in.
Flame Dwarf Gourami
The flame dwarf gourami variation earned gouramis their popularity 40 years ago. After this color mutation, interest in breeding and keeping gouramis shot up.
Looking somewhat like ember tetras, the body of this fish is bright red with an orange gradient. Their fins also have a mix of these two colors.
Neon Blue Dwarf Gourami
The neon blue gouramis retain their beautiful blue color and improve upon it, making it twice as bright and visually striking. They also have red stripes running across their body, which under particularly good conditions may become even brighter and turn the fish into a crazy splash of blue and red.
Honey Dwarf Gourami
The honey dwarf gourami has a more modest coloring. They are mostly dark red with some orange mixed in. Their caudal fin will almost always be colorless. Their other fins will sometimes have dark patches that in some cases reach the body.
However, you can find honey dwarfs with completely black or grey heads.
Habitat and Tank Conditions
These fish prefer relatively small, slow-flowing bodies of water with densely planted beds. They inhibit all sorts of canals, ponds, rivers, lakes, creeks, and small rivers.
Monsoon rains allow them to explore new territories by creating small seasonal pools ideal for breeding. They are used to lots of light, heat, and nutrients in these small temporary pools, which make them a wonderful place to live in.
However, when the season is over fish swim back to their permanent habitats.
It is important to mention that dwarf gouramis have adapted quite well to temperature swings. The water they are usually found in heats up and cools down equally as fast, which doesn’t leave much choice but to withstand that.
Substrate for these fish doesn’t play a huge role.
We recommend using a dark substrate as the fish will be visually more striking against it, and they’ll feel more comfortable as well. You can use either well-rounded large grains of sand or small dark gravel.
Although the rivers and ponds they are naturally found in are not sheltered, they don’t like lots of light. Consider just getting a slightly dimmed aquarium lamp and keeping it switched on for 8-10 hours.
Having a good aeration system is a plus but not crucial. The intensity of filtration will depend on the number of plants and the number of fish you have. They prefer slow water flow, so a medium-powered filter will do the job.
As for the plants, free-floating or drifting plants are your best choice. Floating plants with fine leaves, such as hornwort, will help to replicate their natural environment. Gouramis use them to hide in and to build nests in.
Additionally, you can place some ceramics or wood in your tank to give them additional hiding places.
For water parameters:
- Temperature range: 77–78.5°F
- Water hardness: 10–20 dGH
- pH: 6–8
One thing that dwarf gouramis will notice instantly is dirty water. They require weekly water changes of 25–30%.
A clean tank helps them grow as large as possible and stay as healthy as possible.
Dwarf Gourami Tank Size
Two or three gouramis can be easily kept in a 10-gallon tank.
For each additional fish make sure to add 5 gallons.
Dwarf gouramis are peaceful and tolerant neighbors. They prefer to be placed in a tank with non-aggressive and relatively small fish with similar water chemistry requirements.
Their ideal tank mates would be the bottom or middle level of the tank as that will help to maintain territorial equilibrium and will also liven up your aquarium.
Such tank mates will not disturb them during breeding and will not tamper with their nests if breeding takes place in the community tank. Consider bottom dwellers such as plecos, or other gouramis such as the sparkling gourami or the pearl gourami.
Additional tank mate options for the dwarf gourami include mollies, swordtails, platies, rasboras, loaches, tetras, and catfish such as the otocinclus catfish. Consider adding other non-fish tank mates such as mystery snails and Amano shrimp. Avoid placing very active and fast fish, like barbs, that will create unnecessary competition for food in the tank.
Some people keep dwarf gouramis with a betta. This is possible, but you may spot flaring and signs of aggression because the two species are closely related.
Usually, it’s the larger varieties of gourami that cause problems though.
Keep an eye on newly established fish. If compatibility problems are frequent, you may have to separate the offending fish.
Keeping Dwarf Gouramis Together
Dwarf gouramis can be kept together if the proper ratio of males to females is maintained. Keep at least a couple of females for every male.
Dwarf gouramis get easily scared by loud noises and will often try to hide. Unfortunately, sometimes this species tends to get into hard-to-reach places and get trapped. The worst-case scenario is that they get stuck and eventually die, so keep an eye out for this.
It’s also important to know that they have an adaptation period. During that period it is especially important not to disturb fish. It’s completely normal for them to act strange or not be very active during that time.
The room temperature and water temperature in the tank shouldn’t significantly differ. In the case that there is a huge difference between the two, gouramis can damage their labyrinth organ. If you find yourself in that situation, place a lid on your tank to trap warm air.
However hardy these fish may seem, they are still very sensitive to water quality. If the quality of their living environment is overlooked, dwarf gouramis can easily get sick.
Below are some illnesses they’re prone to.
Dwarf Gourami Disease
Also known as DGD, this disease is unique to dwarf gouramis.
To date, there are no supplements or other chemicals that can cure this. DGD is a viral infection that can be spotted by fading color and degradation of fin structure (they may just start falling off).
The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to monitor the water parameters closely and keep them within the acceptable ranges.
Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus
Iridovirus in Dwarf Gourami (DGIV) is a severe infectious disease that in the majority of cases leads to the death of the fish. As in the case of DGD, there are no known treatments.
Out of all the factors affecting susceptibility to the disease, most can be controlled.
Firstly, water quality is key to having healthy fish. This will ensure that their immune system is strong. Secondly, a good and complex diet is wonderful prevention.
They are natural-born hunters, and they have a very interesting technique.
Dwarf gouramis will hunt insects that fly near the water. First, they swim up to the surface and stay still until they spot potential prey. When the insect gets in their range, they hit them with a spray of water. The unlucky insect falls right into the water with a bunch of hungry gouramis.
They don’t necessarily hunt for everything they eat. If the same insect for some reason ends up in the water by itself, gouramis will gladly eat it.
In the tank, these species happily eat all sorts of foods, pretty much anything that will fit in their mouth. It’s important to use food that doesn’t quickly as most of their feeding takes place in the upper level of the tank.
Dwarf gouramis can be fed live as well as artificial foods. If you are considering buying artificial foods, go for flakes. They usually have a very balanced nutrient and vitamin content. Plant-based foods will also be a great addition to their diet and will help keep your fish healthy.
You can substitute all the nutrients mentioned above with complex pre-made foods, but you need to understand that the size, health, and appearance of your fish rely on a diverse and nutritious diet.
Breeding them is a simple and rewarding process.
First, you need to decide whether you want to breed them in a shared tank or a separate one. If you decided to go with the first option, you need to make sure that there are no fish in your tank that will cause problems.
The breeding tank must be exactly like the main one, just slightly smaller. Water temperature should be watched closely, as juvenile fish are much more susceptible to water changes than adults.
The water level should be at around 4–6 inches and the base of the breeding tank should be covered in a thin layer of sand (or any other appropriate substrate).
Dwarf gouramis are ready to reproduce after six months. At that time most mature males begin constructing nests.
First, place future parents in a separate breeding tank. After some time, you will notice that the male starts working on the nest. To stimulate the whole process temperature should be slightly increased (82.5–86°F). All other parameters should be kept in the same range.
Their nests are constructed using foam and saliva. As you can imagine, this doesn’t make a particularly solid structure. That’s why it is important to set the right water flow, a weak flow is less likely to destroy them.
Spawning begins right after the nest is constructed. Females release multiple eggs, which males quickly catch and place into the nest. After spawning has ended, females should be transferred back to the main tank.
The first larvae will appear after 25–30 hours. They will stay in the nest for the next few days.
When fry start leaving the nest, the male should be placed back in the main tank. Now it’s important to ensure that fry constantly have food in the tank. You can initially feed the fry infusoria.
After a few weeks, you can introduce cyclops, daphnia, or artemia.
When the fry reach 0.6–0.8 inches they can be placed in the main tank.
The dwarf gourami is a sturdy and fascinating fish. Their color variety allows you to turn your tank into a colorful aquatic forest. There are colors and appearance to satisfy any preferences.
They are a great choice for hobbyists with any amount of experience. Their size and resilience make them a wonderful choice for beginners. But they would also be a wonderful addition for experienced aquarists!
If you would like to try your hand at breeding, these fish are your ideal choice. Their breeding behavior is interesting and unique, and the breeding process itself is not complicated at all.
Ultimately, they are among the most beautiful fish you can get.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dwarf Gouramis
Dwarf Gourami Compatible With Peacock Goby?
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