A Freshwater Favorite: Gourami

by Keri K. on June 23, 2010

"Triana" and "Hank," Pearl Gourami

"Triana" and "Hank," Pearl Gourami

I’m a huge fan of the Gourami. Several species from this popular fish family are available in the aquarium hobby — check them out here. They’re mid-sized, have a peaceful temperament, and display a variety of beautiful bright colors and striking patterns that make them great “centerpiece” fish in a community aquarium.

Most Gourami rate an “easy” or “moderate” care requirement on our LiveAquaria quick stats, although there are some exceptions (like the “difficult” Chocolate Gourami), so don’t pick out yours on account of good looks alone. 

Generally, they require a tank of at least 20 gallons, with lots of hiding spots and preferably lots of plants. If you wish to keep more than one Gourami, more space is always better. Males are territorial and will fight. I’ve witnessed the female of my Pearl Gourami pair become aggressive to the male when they didn’t have enough personal space. They may bully slower, long-finned fish; I’ve also seen a Gourami become violent with a betta. However, they will usually become shy and stressed by other quick, aggressive fish, even smaller ones. They definitely seem to have personalities and opinions on their tankmates.

A Paradise Gourami from one of coworker Monica's tanks

A Paradise Gourami from one of coworker Monica's tanks

Gourami are omnivorous, and will do well on a quality flake food. Variety is always best, of course, and they will happily consume live, frozen fish food, and dried foods as well. Frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp are very popular with mine.

My current favorite Gourami is a Blue, or Three-Spot, male. He cohabitates with my guppies and helps keep the population down by snacking on guppy fry. (I should note that none of my variety of guppies have very large or ornate tails, and he has never shown any interest in them.) At about 5 inches long, I think he looks very stately as he drifts calmly amidst the much smaller, quicker guppies. When I first got him he was quite timid, and would dart into hiding whenever someone came near the tank. I’d have to feed and then move several feet away, waiting to see him venture up to the surface to snatch some food and then disappear again into the wisteria. He’s become much braver since then, and will even eat from my fingers.

Interesting Gourami facts:

  • They will often be seen gulping at the surface of the water. Like bettas, they possess a labyrinth organ that allows them to draw oxygen directly from air.
  • Most have elongated, thread-like rays for pelvic fins. I call them “feelers,” because they’ll use these fins like antennae to touch and explore their surroundings.
  • Kissing Gourami” aren’t actually kissing – males fight by grappling each other by the mouth.
  • Safe tankmates can be danios, small tetras, cory cats, loaches, and livebearers like mollies and platies.
  • They’re a relatively easy fish to breed in captivity. The males of many varieties will build and guard a nest of bubbles into which the female lays eggs.

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Keri is a lead catalog designer for Drs. Foster and Smith and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Stout. She shares a small home with her husband, two Chinese Crested dogs, two cats, two ferrets, several reptiles and amphibians, and 30-some gallons of freshwater planted aquariums. See more articles by Keri K.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ramon July 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Gouramis are one of my favorite fish too. But some are quite aggressive w/ their own kind, as explained in the article. I use to have 4 gold gouramis in my 29 gal tank; I now only have one. That one killed off the other three by constantly pumelling them like a rocket. But once those 3 died, it became somewhat docile. It’s still the undisputed dominant fish, since it’s one of 2 large fish (the other large one being a gold nugget pleco). Sometimes it attacks my red wag swordtail, but I think it’s more of a “don’t forget who’s boss” type thing. Most of the time it just hangs out. One fish that is particularly aggressive w/ that gourami is the Chinese algae eater. For some reason, it targets the gourami. Maybe it’s because it can get a good grip on it and is not as fast as my guppies and other fish. To me it’s like a balancing thing in nature. Sure, the gourami is dominant – until the Chinese algae eater gets a hold of it. And my gourami, as stated in the article, also helps to keep the guppy population to a minimum. It will eat ALL guppy fry. Good article.

Keri K. July 23, 2010 at 8:58 am

Thanks, Ramon! When I picked out my gourami from the store, he was terrorizing every other gourami in the tank. Since I knew he would be the only of his kind in my aquarium, I wasn’t worried. He seems to regard all my adult guppies as unimportant and completely ignores them.

In the case of the gourami and betta I mentioned in the article, the betta kept pestering the gourami until the gourami abruptly turned on it and nearly killed it. I ended up “rescuing” the betta and taking it to one of my tanks.

Chris May 9, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I have two gourami gold and two blue just got both bout 3 days apart but when I got my gold’s the smallest gold killed the two bala sharks I had and since I’ve added the blues he seems more happy and am wondering will the gold and blue fight and how do u tell male from female

Keri K. May 10, 2011 at 7:49 am

Hi, Chris. Sexing adult gourami can be done by looking at their dorsal fin (on top of their back). Males have a longer, pointed fin, while females’ are shorter and rounder.

If they have enough space to establish separate territories, they may get along. However, I would observe them closely and be prepared to provide one or more of them with their own aquarium. Good luck!

Corey November 5, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I am very confused with this article and barly helped me i know what catagory all my fish are in but my gouramis is very kind to all my other fish 3 glofish, 1 peppered cory catfish, 3 neon tetras, and s red one with a black triangle by its fin. But my orange glofish is the agrssive one im my tank so is my cosmic blue glofish but all my other fish avoid the gouramis but my baby starfire red is the oppisite of the other glofish

david bright January 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm

i have a golden gourami ive named him gary he is very friendly and always feeds from my fingers .

Amanda January 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Hey I have been having some issues with my Gourami fish fighting with my Angelfish. Can anyone help me solve the aggression going on between them. I don’t want any fish to die because I love them all. Is it pretty common for these two fish to battle like this at times? I could really use some help to get rid of the aggression.

Daniel thompson June 9, 2017 at 8:33 am

I have a blue gourami and he dosent hide never has 2 balas 2 damios and a silver dollar tetra can’t figure out witch one is eating at my 6in balas fins help

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