Gouramis are popular aquarium fishes and they are also used for fish-fights in Asia. Examples of commonly kept Gourami species are Chocolate gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides), Three spot gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus), Paradise gourami (Macropodus opercularis), Pearl gourami (Trichogaster leerii), Croaking gourami (Trichopsis vittata), Giant gourami (Osphronemus goramy), Dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia) and of course the famous Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens).
Gouramis belong to the family Osphronemidae and are so called labyrinth fishes. To survive in waters low in oxygen, they swim up to the surface and breathe oxygen directly from the air. This is possible since they have a labyrinth shaped organ capable of utilizing oxygen from the air.
Gouramis come from Asia and are native to a region that stretches from Pakistan and India, over the Malay Archipelago, and into Korea. Since there are so many different Gourami species, it is hard to provide general guidelines that are true for all species. Always research the particular species you are interested in before you get a Gourami. One thing that all Gouramis do have in common is that they hail from warm waters. They should therefore only be kept in tropical aquariums where the temperature stays between 74 and 79 degrees F (24 and 26 degrees C). Most Gouramis appreciate soft and neutral to acidic water, but there are exceptions.
A majority of the Gourami species can be kept on a diet consisting of high-quality dry prepared food for Gouramis. To prevent malnutrition and ensure good health it is recommended to give your Gourami live food once in a while. You can for instance cultivate Brine Shrimp at home or purchase worms. Gouramis must also have plant matter in their diet to thrive and you can for instance give them lettuce and green peas. In a planted aquarium, the Gourami may nibble on the plants, especially if you do not serve it any vegetables.
Temperament, environmental preferences and maximal size varies a lot from species to species, and can also vary significantly between the two sexes. It is therefore important to research your species before you set up a tank and select aquarium companions. Some Gouramis should preferably be kept alone, while others can be mixed with other fish species or other Gouramis.
Just as the name suggests, the Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendes) is highly aggressive and two males will fight each other to the death in an aquarium where the weaker part can not give up and swim far, far away. Advanced aquarists have succeeded in keeping two males together, but this requires a really large aquarium and a clever set up with natural boundaries.
If you have a community aquarium, there are several Gourami species available in the aquarium trade which are much more peaceful than the Siamese fighting fish, at least if you combine them with fish of roughly the same size. The aquarium should ideally be quite big and well decorated, since this makes it possible for each Gourami to claim its own territory.
The fact that a fish is commonly called “Gourami” does not mean that it is a true Gourami. Several fish species, such as the Kissing Gourami and the Climbing Gourami, were once believed to be members of the family Osphronemidae, but new research has shown that they are not that closely related to the true Gouramis. The Kissing Gourami is today a member of the family Helostomatidae while the Climbing Gourami belongs to the family Anabantidae.
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