Chocolate Gourami

Sphaerichthys osphormenoides

Noa Táboas

Chocolate Gouramis originate from Borneo, Malacca, Malaysian Peninsula, and Sumatra. Known for their gentle, shy nature, they should only be kept if the owner is willing to provide the special care this species requires. For those who want to take on the challenge, this fish is a beautiful and interesting species to keep.

Adult Gouramis reach an adult size of no more than two inches. Like many Gourami species, they have a flat oval shaped body, small head, and pointed mouth.

Its common name refers to the dark chocolate brown color of this Gourami, which can vary slightly from reddish-brown to greenish-brown. Three to five yellow-white stripes run vertically through the body. The fins are long and edged in yellow, with the caudal fin slightly forked.

Are Chocolate Gouramis Good Tankmates?

Due to the sensitivity of this fish to its habitat, tankmates should be chosen carefully. Some owners have found them to be good companions for Discus, which require similar water conditions and care. Generally, these fish do best in pairs or schools of their own kind.

Small, peaceful fish, such as Tetras, Danios, and Rasboras are satisfactory tank mates. Peaceful bottom feeders, such as Loaches and small Catfish are also good tankmates. Avoid other species of Gourami as well as larger and more aggressive species. Species known for fin nipping, such as the Barbs, should also be avoided.

How to Care for Chocolate Gouramis

Chocolate Gouramis are very sensitive to water conditions. Their native habitats are peat swamps and black water streams. Such habitats have a very low mineral content which results in an extremely low pH, sometimes below 4.0. The water is very soft and usually dark from decayed organic material.

Ideally, the Chocolate Gourami habitat should be well planted with live plants, including floating plants to maintain partial light. The water should be conditioned with peat extract, or filtered through peat. Filtration should not produce strong currents within the tank. Therefore, a sponge filter is ideal for this species.

Water should be changed often, but only in small amounts (10% or less) to avoid major changes in the water chemistry. Cleanliness should be carefully maintained, as the Chocolate Gourami is prone to parasites, as well as fungal and bacterial infections. Keep water temperatures warm, preferably at least 80 F. Leave a few inches of space above the water surface and the top of the tank, and keep the lid closed tightly. This will produce a layer of humid air near the water surface, which this species thrives on.

What to Feed Them

As omnivores, the Chocolate Gourami will accept most foods. However, they require a well-balanced diet to remain healthy. Algae-based flake foods are essential, as well as meaty foods. Feed them small live foods when possible. Freeze-dried or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, or mosquito larvae are good alternatives to live foods.

It is particularly important to feed the female well before attempting to spawn, as she will go for up to two weeks without food while she holds the eggs.

For breeder conditioning, live foods are recommended, as well as high-quality algae-based flake or pellet food.

How to Tell Males and Females Apart

Male Chocolate Gouramis are generally larger overall and have larger more developed fins than females. The dorsal fins of males are more pointed, and their anal and caudal fins have a more defined yellow edge than females do. Males also tend to exhibit more reddish-brown coloration.

The throat of the male is straighter, while females have a more rounded throat and head, presumably to facilitate mouth brooding. Females will sometimes develop a black spot on the caudal fin.

Information on Breeding Chocolate Gourami

Breeding should only be attempted in a species tank, never in a community tank. Owners should be aware that breeding is difficult and water conditions must be carefully adhered to.

Always condition the breeder pair with high-quality foods, particularly the female.

The Chocolate Gourami is a mouth brooder, but on rare occasions will create a bubble nest. Spawning begins with the female laying a small number of eggs on the bottom of the tank. The male fertilizes the eggs, followed by the female collecting them in her mouth. Males will sometimes assist with this process by picking up fertilized eggs and spitting them towards the female.

Once the eggs are collected, the female will incubate them in her mouth for up to two weeks, while the male protects her from predators. After the fry are fully formed, the female will spit them out. Newly released fry should be fed frequently on Cyclops, Rotifers, and freshly hatched brine shrimp. Ideally, the fry should be reared in a separate tank to ensure optimum conditions. However, if the breeding tank is well prepared, with plenty of cover for the fry, they can be reared there.

It is important to note, that fry are slow-growing and very susceptible to water changes. Some breeders will use plastic wrap around open spaces at the top of the tank to ensure that humidity is high above the water surface. It is believed that the lack of warm humid air can result in failure of the labyrinth organ to develop properly. Daily small water changes are a must.