The Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius) is a very pretty fish that has recently had its reputation tarnished. But despite changes in its popularity, this fish is still a hardy, colorful fish that should be considered for any beginner hobbyist or experienced keeper.
I don’t think we have ever come across a Tropical Freshwater fish keeper that has never kept one of these popular and colorful fish.
Here’s our complete guide to keeping Dwarf Gourami tropical fish
Have you kept dwarf gouramis?
If the answer is yes then you’ll know how easy to keep these fish are and what a difference they can make to your home aquarium.
Where do Dwarf Gourami’s come from?
The Dwarf Gourami is a member of the Belontidae family. This family includes many different gouramis. The Dwarf Gourami is native to south-east Asia, living in slow-moving waters in rivers, streams, and lakes. In the wild, it prefers areas with lots of plants. This fish has also been introduced in areas outside of its natural range.
Some of the places where you can now find the Dwarf Gourami include the US, Singapore, and Colombia. These populations have established themselves and are doing well, however, they are invasive and their success is often to the detriment of local species.
Dwarf Gourami: Species Profile
|Scientific Name||Colisa lalia|
|Tank Size||10-15 Gallons +|
|Price||$3-$8 Depending on size|
As its name suggests, the Dwarf Gourami is a smaller member of the Gourami family. It only grows to about two inches with the males being slightly larger. Distinguishing between the male and females can be done by looking at the dorsal fin. The males have a pointed dorsal fin while the females’ is more rounded.
Males are often in more demand as they have brighter colors than females who tend to retain a duller color.
The natural colors of the Dwarf Gourami include a bright orange-red body with blue vertical stripes extending into the fins. However, there are numerous color morphs available which can make this fish very appealing.
Some of the color morphs include blue/powder blue, neon, rainbow and red/blushing. Sometimes, pet shops may label their stock with these names such as Neon Gourami or Rainbow Gourami.
Sometimes, these color morphs make it more challenging to sex individuals. However, if you use the dorsal fin method, you should have no issues.
Aquarium needs- Tank size, Water Conditions, General Information
The setup for the Dwarf Gourami, if done correctly, can look beautiful and be a showpiece in any home. The minimum size for the aquarium should be 24” x 12” x 24” (60cm x 30cm x 30cm). This can accommodate a pair if the setup is optimum for the fish.
However, if you can afford or have space for a large aquarium, it is wise to offer a larger space. This can reduce aggression or territorial behavior that can often cause issues when keeping this breed of fish.
The water flow within the aquarium should not be fast. Dwarf Gouramis, like other Anabantoids, don’t like fast moving or turbulent water. Keeping flow to a minimum should be fairly easy to do with most filters offering this as an option.
Next, you need to ensure you’re offering enough plants for the Dwarf Gourami to feel secure. A heavily planted tank is best. They like lots of hiding spots and shade. Floating vegetation can be a great help in creating this environment.
Best Aquarium Substrate For Gouramis
The substrate for your aquarium should be dark. If you don’t like dark substrate, ensure that you have the most natural colors as possible. Those with bright colored stones could stress their fish out and they will be more susceptible to diseases.
As this fish prefers a very natural setup and likes lots of hiding places and stones, you can add twigs, branches, and leaf litter.
Despite the advice above though, Dwarf Gouramis can be very adaptable. Therefore, if you can maintain your aquaria well and provide shade and hiding spots, you should see your fish thrive.
For more details on how to set up the perfect freshwater aquarium read our complete guide to setting up an aquarium.
Aquarium Decor perfect for Gouramis
If you do have an aquarium that is sparsely decorated, you might have issues. Dwarf Gouramis can become shy and withdrawn when there isn’t space or locations for the fish to retreat into.
Driftwood is one of the best materials to decorate your tank. It looks good and look natural but also helps balance the pH levels in your tank making it perfect for dwarf Gouramis to live in. You’ll find some great deals on aquarium safe Driftwood at Chewy.com one of the largest online aquatic retailers.
The location of your aquarium should also be a consideration. They prefer quiet spaces where they aren’t disturbed by regular or loud noises. If you can place your aquarium in a quieter place in your home, you’ll see your Gouramis more often.
Dwarf Gouramis prefer to have a neutral pH in the aquarium. They also like a temperature of about 77 Fahrenheit (25 Celsius). Water hardness can be between 4 and 10 dGH. Make sure you test your waters regularly using a good test kit. We like the API Freshwater Complete Test Kit.
Do Dwarf Gourami fish make good community tank fish?
While the Dwarf Gourami can be accommodated with many different fish in the aquarium successfully there are some words of caution. Firstly there are health concerns.
Since the 1980s, there have been some hobbyists who have noticed the species can be prone to untreatable diseases. Common suspects for shortened lifespans for the species is mycobacteria infections.
Vets have also identified a virus called Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus. This is apparently rife in East-Asian fish farms where as many as one in five imports carries the virus. The virus is untreatable and is fatal to fish, so it is scary. If you can, try to identify where your fish were bred.
However, those that are healthy can survive, live and thrive alongside many other community fish.
Species to avoid are aggressive fish. For instance, the introduction of guppies or even anabantoids (such as Bettas) can cause the Dwarf Gourami to become aggressive. When aggressive, your fish may hurt or kill some of your other fish such as the guppies.
Likewise, your gouramis might not like larger fish. The presence of large fish can make them shy and force them to hide away more often than you would like.
Therefore, the best companions for your Dwarf Gouramis are smaller peaceful fish that like similar conditions and a planted tank. Good examples of this can be the Harlequin (Trigonostigma heteromorpha), Rasboras and some Barbs.
You might also have some success with certain loaches. However, do your research first. Some loaches grow big and could threaten your fish later on.
Finally, your gouramis can often cohabit with Corydoras, Otocinclus, Rainbowfish, and Tetras. If you’re looking to add some invertebrates to your tank then many of the popular freshwater shrimps can be a great choice as a tank mate for your fish.
If you have a particularly large aquarium then the aggressive and territorial behavior is lessened. Therefore, you can sometimes have other species in the tank such as peaceful cichlids. Though again you should do your homework. Some cichlids may act aggressively towards your gouramis which will intimidate them and outcompete them when feeding.
One tank mate that should not be considered when buying Dwarf Gouramis is others of their own species. While a sexed pair can live in a tank, two males will often fight to the death over territory. While the chance of this can be reduced by a larger aquarium, it is not guaranteed and you should not rely on that.
Even a mixed-sex couple can sometimes have issues. The male can be very insistent on the female. This can stress her out and cause her to hide more.
What do Dwarf Gourami’s eat?
Dwarf Gouramis are easy to feed. In the wild, they will eat a variety of small insects and larvae from the surface of the water. They will also graze on algae that grow on the plants.
This varied diet in the wild helps hobbyists to feed their captive gouramis. They will accept good quality freshwater flake food like Tetra Min Flakes as well as freeze-dried food, frozen foods, and vegetable tablets. You can improve the health of your livestock with periodic feedings of live foods. Some of the best live foods to use include mosquito larvae, daphnia, and brine shrimp.
Below are some or the more common foods for dwarf Gouramis:
- Brine Shrimp
- Mysis shrimp
- Flake food
- Mini Pellets
- Frozen foods
Remember to try to restrict the amount of water added to the tank when feeding your gouramis live food. Sometimes the water that live food comes in can be dirty from days of the food being kept in it. This can quickly upset the careful balance.
Regular water changes will ensure better water quality for you Dwarf Gourami, Read our guide on water changes.
Live food can also be used to enhance the coloration of your fish.
Food, of whatever you are feeding your fish should be offered twice a day. The aquarium should contain no more than what the fish can eat in two minutes. After this time, remove uneaten food otherwise it can break down and release toxins into your water.
The number 1 rule in fish keeping is ‘ Never overfeed your fish” Read our article on this topic which tells you what you should do if you overfeed your fish.
Dwarf Gourami Cost and availability
Due to their ease of breeding in captivity, you are unlikely to find wild-caught individuals for sale. There’s very little difficulty in buying a Dwarf Gourami and you can expect prices to be about $6 (£3.95) per Gourami depending on quality and size.
The important things to note with the Dwarf Gourami is its social compatibility and its environment. If you can get these right, there’s no reason why you can’t keep these fish very successfully.
How to breed Dwarf Gouramis
If you are looking at a particularly interesting project, you can breed Dwarf Gouramis. A pair should be fed a varied diet for several weeks before breeding. This food should include live food.
You should then setup a breeding tank. This needs to be a long shallow aquarium that has a good amount of floating plants. For the best results, you can try adding dried Ketapang/Indian Almond leaves.
The temperature for the breeding tank should be higher than usual, around 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 or 30 degrees Celsius).
The female should be first introduced and allowed to settle in for a few days. Build up her strength and health with a continuous diet of live food. The male should be introduced after at least three days. Regular breeders often advise to introduce the male at night when it is dark.
The male will start to build a bubble nest in the aquarium. This can be up to an inch think and will be several inches across, so will be hard to miss. Once he has finished he will court the female. This will include a dance showcasing his fins.
If the female accepts his approaches, she will swim underneath the bubble nest. This is when the male will embrace the female by wrapping his body around her. At this point, he will attempt to turn her onto her side and then onto her back. This is when the female will release up to 60 eggs. The male will fertilize these eggs immediately.
The eggs will float up towards the nest that the male has made, and most should enter it. However, if there are eggs that don’t enter, the male will collect and deposit them into the nest.
Once the couple is satisfied that the eggs have been collected and none have been missed they will repeat the spawning several times. By the time the couple have finished there can be as many as 600 eggs in the male’s bubble nest.
You can be sure that the mating has finished when the male starts to secure the nest by building another layer of bubbles.
At this point the female should be removed from the aquarium. She can be placed back into the main aquarium or another quarantine aquarium with additional food to help her recover.
The male needs to stay with his nest. He will defend his nest aggressively if you attempt to remove him or approach the aquarium. At no point should another fish be introduced into the breeding tank.
It takes between 12 and 24 hours for the eggs to begin to hatch. After just 3 days, the fry will be free-swimming. At this point the male needs to be removed. If the fry and adult male share the same aquarium, the male may eat some of the fry.
The fry can be fed on tiny foods such as Infusoria or finely powdered fry food. This should be suitable for at least the first week. As the fry grow you can increase the size of the food.
The most important part of breeding is to ensure you are maintaining a warm layer of air between the surface of the water and any cover on your aquarium. This is to help the fry develop their labyrinth organ. Some breeders will not use the normal aquarium covers. Instead, they use clingfilm.
It is a truly awesome sight to see your Dwarf Gouramis breed. I am lucky enough to have had several breed in my home aquarium.
Conclusion: Should you buy a Dwarf Gourami?
There is little doubt that the Dwarf Gourami is a popular, colorful specimen that will offer your aquarium a touch of beauty that some fish cannot. They are a great showpiece and with the right care can thrive.
According to many freshwater fish keepers they should appear on lists like 20 Coolest Freshwater fish and Popular Tropical Fish. However, they often do which is a real shame as we agree they are very special little fish.
Their lifespan in captivity is about four years, so you can expect to have your fish for a while.
However, there are some things to consider if you’re looking to keep this species. The species cannot be kept in large groups, with aggressive fish, large fish or in aquariums with little cover. There are also concerns about illnesses that many gouramis can carry which can be fatal.
You can also be wary about the location of the aquarium. They like quiet locations otherwise they can be very shy.
But if you can overcome these downsides, the Dwarf Gourami should be an excellent addition to your aquarium.
Let us know if you have any Dwarf Gouramis or are you thinking of buying some?