Caring for the Dwarf Gourami

Trichogaster lalius

Colisa lalia - Dwarf Gourami Sunset Morph
Dwarf Gourami Sunset Morph. Rick Leche

The Dwarf Gourami is a peaceful and shy fish. If you have a pair of them, the two fish will swim together.  Dwarf Gouramis are considered labyrinth fish, which means they breathe straight from the air with a lung-like labyrinth organ and need to have access to the water's surface.

Dwarf Gourami: Basics

  • Scientific Name: Trichogaster lalius
  • Synonym: Colisa lalia, Colisa lalius, Colisa unicolor, Polyacanthus lalius, Trichopodus lalius
  • Common Names: Dwarf Gourami, Flame Gourami, Powder Blue Gourami, Red Gourami, Sunset Goruami
  • Family: Belontiidae
  • Origin: Ganges, Jumna, Bramaputra
  • Adult Size: 2 inches (5 cm)
  • Social: Peaceful
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Tank Level: Top, mid dweller
  • Minimum Tank Size:  5 gallon
  • Diet: Omnivore, eats algae
  • Breeding: Egglayer - bubblenest
  • Care: Intermediate
  • pH: 6.0 - 7.5
  • Hardness: 4-10°dGH
  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)

Origin and Distribution

Originating from India, West Bengal, Assam, and Bangladesh, the dwarf gourami are native to thickly vegetated waters. They are often found together with other Colisa species. In the river plains of northern India, they are one of the most common fish for food and are sold dried or as fish meal in many markets.

Description

The common name fits this dwarf fish well, as it grows to only two inches at best. Males are slightly larger than the females and have a bright orange-red body with turquoise blue vertical stripes that extend into the fins.

The dorsal fin of the male is pointed in contrast to the rounded dorsal of the female. Females remain a duller silvery blue-gray color and never achieve the male's brilliant colors. Several color hybrids exist, including blue/powder blue), neon, rainbow, and red/blushing.

Powder Blues are predominately blue with only a little red showing on the body.

Neons display a brighter blue pattern than the standard variety. Rainbows have especially brilliant orange-red bodies and blue stripes, in addition to a green-gold metallic sheen. Reds are almost solid red throughout the body, with solid blue dorsal fins.

Tankmates

This species is usually peaceful and can be kept with other peaceful species that are not too large or aggressive. Brightly colored fish can sometimes cause males to become aggressive, as they are perceived as rivals. Peaceful, small schooling fish are suitable tank mates as well as most bottom-dwelling fish.

Habitat/Care

Dwarf Gouramis are well suited to smaller aquariums as well as community aquariums because of their peaceful nature. They should not be kept with very large or aggressive fish. Gouramis can be skittish when subjected to noise and should be kept in a quiet location. Provide plenty of vegetation, including floating plants that cover part of the surface of the water. The optimum pH is in the neutral range, and water hardness should be 4-10 dGH. The ideal water temperature is 77 F (25 C). Dwarf

Diet

In nature, gouramis eat small insects and larvae from the surface of the water and graze on algae growth on plants.

In captivity, they will eat flake food, freeze-dried food, frozen foods and vegetable tablets. To maintain good health, supplement their diet with periodic feedings of live foods such as worms. Live foods should also be used to condition breeder pairs.

Sexual Differences

Males are generally larger than the females and more vividly colored. As males reach maturity, they develop elongated dorsal and anal fins that come to a point. In females, these fins are shorter and rounded.

Breeding

Lowering the water level to 6-8 inches and raising the water temperature to 28-30 C will trigger spawning. Vegetation is essential as males build their bubble nest using plant material, which it binds together with bubbles. Nests are very elaborate and sturdy, reaching several inches across and an inch deep. Limnophila aquatica, Riccia fluitans, Ceratopteris thalictroides, and Vesicularia dubyana are good choices for the breeding tank.

You can also offer peat fiber as building material.

Once the nest had been built, the male will begin courting the female, usually in the afternoon or evening. He signals his intentions by swimming around the female with flared fins, attempting to draw her to the nest where he will continue his courting display. If the female accepts the male, she will begin swimming in circles with the male beneath the bubblenest. When she is ready to spawn, she touches the male on either the back or the tail with her mouth.

Upon this signal the male will embrace the female, turning her first on her side and finally on her back. At this point, the female will release approximately five dozen clear eggs which are immediately fertilized by the male. Most of the eggs will float up into the bubblenest. Eggs that stray are collected by the male and placed in the nest. Once all the eggs are secured in the nest, the pair will spawn again.

If more than one female is present in the breeding tank, the male may spawn with all of them. The spawning sessions will continue for two to four hours and produce between 300 and 800 eggs. Upon completion, the male will place a fine layer of bubbles beneath the eggs, assuring that they remain in the bubblenest. At this point, the female(s) should be removed from the tank.

The male will then take sole responsibility for the eggs, aggressively defending the nest and surrounding territory. In 12-24 hours the fry will hatch and continue developing within the protection of the bubblenest. After three days they are sufficiently developed to be free swimming.

Remove the male from the tank once the fry has left the bubblenest or he may consume the young. Feed fry micro-food such as infusoria, rotifers, or commercial fry food for the first week. They can then be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp and finely ground dry foods.