Blue Gourami

Three-spot Gourami

Family: Osphronemidae Blue Gourami, Three-spot Gourami, Trichopodus (Trichogaster) trichopterusTrichopodus trichopterusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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Can these gouramis be kept with goldfish?  ann

The name Three-spot Gourami at first seems a bit of a mystery. This fish actually only has two spots, the third spot is generally considered to be the eye!

The Blue Gourami is a color variation of the Three Spot Gourami Trichopodus trichopterus (previously Trichogaster trichopterus). The wild Three Spot Gourami is a brownish color with yellow on the gill covers down through the belly, and marked with irregular darker bars on the shoulder. But its name comes from the two spots on its side with a third spot being the eye. The Blue Gourami and the Three-spot Gourami are identical except that the Blue Gourami has a hazy, whitish-blue coat.

The Blue Gourami is a beautiful and durable aquarium fish. This species group is certainly one of the hardiest available to the aquarist. It makes an excellent first fish for people entering the hobby. They are long lived with each specimen having a remarkably individual personality. They will use their pelvic fins to feel their environment and even feel their tank mates. They also seem to be quite aware of their owners.

This species is one of the Labyrinth fish, members of the suborder Anabantoidei also called Anabantoids. This group is distinguished from all other types of fish because they can breathe atmospheric oxygen. They can still get oxygen by passing water through their gills, but they have an additional respiratory organ called the "labyrinth organ". In nature if the water begins to dry up or becomes polluted, this organ gives them the distinct ability to breath oxygen by gulping air at the surface.  Another labyrinth fish characteristic this fish displays is that of being a bubble nest builder. Once the female lays the eggs, the male will put them in his bubble nest and continue to guard the eggs until they hatch.

This it a fish that can get quite large.  It can reach almost 6 inches (15 cm) in length though will generally be a bit smaller in the aquairum. As juveniles they can easily be housed in a 15 - 20 gallon aquarium, but adults will do better with at least 35 gallons. The tank should be decorated in a way which allows both the dominant and quieter personality type fish to live happily. Provide some densely planted areas to create a few hiding places and they will also appreciate the cover of floating plants for some shadowy areas.

These gouramis are generally considered good community fish when small. However they are not as peaceful as the other gouramis and as they get bigger they have been known to attack smaller fish. They can also get belligerent or territorial when they get large. Tankmates should be of similar size, but temperament will need to be determined as the personality of your Blue Gourami begins to assert itself. Some will be peaceful to the point of being timid while others may become quite aggressive with their companions. Be prepared to adjust the tank's inhabitants to suite all personality types.

An interesting characteristic of these gouramis (as well as the Pearl Gourami Trichopodus leerii), is that they are well known for eating hydra. The hydra is a tiny pest that has tentacles with a venom. Very small fish that come in contact with the hydra are paralyzed by the venom and then held fast by the tentacles until eaten. If you have a hydra problem in your aquarium, here is your solution!

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care


Geographic Distribution
Trichopodus trichopterus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Osphronemidae
  • Genus: Trichopodus
  • Species: trichopterus
Gourami (trichogaster trichopterus) - Tropical Fish Profile

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This is the first in the series of upcoming Fish Profiles. This film focuses on the Gourami.

This is the first in the series of upcoming Fish Profiles. This film focuses on the Gourami.

Blue Gourami - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 35 gal (132 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Blue Gourami is a naturally occurring color morph of the Three Spot Gourami. The Three Spot Gourami Trichopodus trichopterus (previously Trichogaster trichopterus) was described by Pallas in 1770. This species is found widespread throughout continental southeast Asia and Indonesia. It occurs primarily in the River Mekong basin in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia and is also found in parts of northern Indonesia; Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan. it has also been widely introduced outside of its native range with populations found in Sulawesi, Philippines, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, the islands of Reunion, the Seychelles, Namibia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Colombia.

There has been a recent change to its generic name. A paper by Myers way back in 1923 resulted in a taxonomic misinterpretation which was only recently brought to light. At the time of his paper, the generic name Trichogaster was adopted for the larger eastern species of gourami from Southeast Asia, and the generic name Colisa was adopted for the small western species. Recently the interpretation by Myers came under review and this previous taxonomical structure was revisited and then restructured. The result is that the species which had been placed under Trichogaster have now been reverted back to Trichopodus and the species that had been placed under Colisa reverted back to Trichogaster, as per Topfer and Schindler in 2009, and Tan and Kottelat in 2009.

This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). The occurrence of this species is very wide, it is common throughout its range and there are no major concerns identified. They are often used as a food fish and processed into salted dried fish. Most of the fish available in the aquarium trade today are commercially produced primarily in the Far East and Eastern Europe. Wild caught specimens are less often encountered for the aquarium. Some other common names it is known by include Siamese Gurammy, Threespot Gourami, Two-spot Gouramy, Gourami Bleu, and Pla-salit.

In nature these fish occur in lowland wetlands. They are found in marshes, swamps to peatlands, as well as flowing streams and canals. They inhabit shallow waters that are sluggish or standing still, but with a lot of aquatic vegetation. During the flood season, throughout the middle and lower Mekong, they will migrate from the Mekong main streams or other permanent water bodies to areas of flooded forests and then return to the permanent water bodies during the dry season. They are omnivorous in nature and feed on crustaceans, insect larvae, and zooplankton.

An interesting behavior, similar to that of the Archer Fish Toxotes spp., found in both the Trichopodus and Trichogaster species is that they have been observed catching their prey by squirting water. They do this by aligning themselves diagonally in the water to watch for prey above. Then with sudden contractions of their mouth cavity, they will squirt drops of water at the prey, knocking it off its perch into the water, where it is quickly snapped up by the fish. In these fish it has been observed primarily right after breeding.

  • Scientific Name: Trichopodus trichopterus
  • Social Grouping: Groups - In nature this species lives communally with other peaceful species.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Blue Gourami is an elongated fish and somewhat compressed laterally. The fins are rounded and relatively large. The ventral fins are threadlike and carry touch-sensitive cells that are extremely perceptive. This fish has a labyrinth organ, a part of the fish which allows it to absorb atmospheric oxygen directly into the bloodstream. It can reach about 6 inches (15 cm) in length, but will generally be a bit smaller in the aquarium. They will be able to breed at about 3 inches (7.5 cm). They have an average lifespan of 4 years, but can live longer with good care.

The body has a hazy, whitish-blue color, sometimes with an irregular striped patterning. There are two dark spots, one at about mid body and the other at the base of the tail. The third spot, from which its name 'Three-spot' is derived, is generally considered to be the eye. White spots extend on to the fins, giving them a very attractive pattern.

There is a interesting history behind the natural coloring of this species. A non-blue, but rather brown-toned or even lavender fish, sometimes described as a subspecies Trichopodus trichopterus trichopterus, is the fish most often associated as its wild color today. It is sometimes called the Brown Gourami or Lavender Gourami. This brown fish was the color of the specimens first described by Pallas in 1870. However this species actually has some naturally occurring variations.

The blue form, now call the Blue Gourami, was later found from Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Ladigas described it as a subspecies Trichopodus trichopterus sumatranus in 1933. In that same year it is recorded that a sailor took large numbers of these blue toned fish to Hamburg, Germany. So then it became common thought that the blue-tone fish was the natural coloration. Still, convention has it that the brown fish was found first. So now brown is usually described as its natural coloration and the blue varieties are described as a color morph of the browner fish, and both are designated as T. trichopterus.

There are a number of different mutations of T. trichopterus selectively bred for the aquarium trade today. An early variety was developed from the blue form by an american breeder named Cosby. It is a silver blue color with darker irregular blue markings and became known as the Cosby Gourami. Further developments of this form are the Opaline Gourami or Marbled Gourami. A gold color form called the Gold Gourami and a silver color form called the Platinum Gourami both appeared in 1970. Today there are very few wild specimens found as the majority of these fish are commercially bred in the Far East and Eastern Europe.

  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm) - They can reach almost 6" (15 cm), but are usually a bit smaller in the aquarium. They will breed at about 3" (7.5 cm).
  • Lifespan: 4 years - The average lifespan is 4 - 6 years, but with proper care they can live longer.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This is a hardy fish and has long been recommended as a good choice for the beginner. They are undemanding and can tolerate a range of tank conditions within reason, and will accept a wide variety of foods. They are normally marketed as community fish, but take caution that as these fish age they can become a bit nippy.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Blue Gouramis are omnivorous, in the wild they feed on on crustaceans, insect larvae, and zooplankton. In the aquarium these fish will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a quality flake or pellet food as the base to the diet. Supplementation should include white worms, blood worms, brine shrimp, or any other suitable substitute. Fresh vegetables can be offered as well, blanched lettuce being a good option for many aquarists. Generally feed once or twice a day.

An interesting characteristic of these gouramis is that they are well known for eating hydra. The hydra is a tiny pest that has tentacles with a venom. They will capture very small fish and paralyze them with the venom and then hold them fast with the tentacles until eaten. If you have a hydra problem in your aquarium, here is your solution.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily - Generally feed once or twice a day.

Aquarium Care

These gouramis are extremely hardy fish. Although the labyrinth organ allows the fish to survive in oxygen depleted water, it is a common misconception that this makes water changes unnecessary. This is hardly the case as these fish will suffer the same tissue damage from built up toxins as any other fish. Regular water changes are a must with 25% weekly being recommended.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Weekly water changes of 25% are recommended.

Aquarium Setup

The Blue Gourami will swim in all parts of the tank. When young they can easily housed in a 15 - 20 gallon aquarium, but adults will need at least 35 gallons or more. It is desirable to keep the tank in a room with a temperature as close as possibleto the tank water to prevent damaging the labyrinth organ. The tank should have an efficient filtration system but should not to create too much of a current. This fish will be bothered by a strong current in the tank, especially if the tank is small. Air stones can help provide well oxygenated water.

These gouramis will show their colors best on a dark substrate. The tank should be decorated in a way which allows both the dominant and quieter personality type fish to live happily. This means the construction of a few hiding places and some dense plant cover. This species appreciates the cover of floating plants, however they will regularly breath air at the surface so its important to have some areas unencumbered with plants.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 35 gal (132 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes - Juveniles can be kept in a 15 - 20 gallon aquarium, but adults need more space.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C) - Keep the surrounding room temperature consistent with the water temperature will help avoid trauma to the labyrinth organ. Breeding temperature is about 80° F (26° C).
  • Breeding Temperature: 80.0° F - They will breed with temperatures raised to about 80° F (26° C).
  • Range ph: 6.0-8.8
  • Hardness Range: 5 - 35 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Weak - This fish doesn't like a strong current in the tank, especially if the tank is small.
  • Water Region: All - These fish will inhabit all levels of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Blue Gourami is generally considered a good community fish when small, but they are not as peaceful as the other gouramis. They have been known to attack smaller fish. When they get older only keep them with fish their own size. Individuals will show varying degrees of aggression. Some will be very belligerent and will handle their tank mates quite roughly. Others will be peaceful to the point of shyness. The aquarist should be prepared to adapt their tank to suit all personality types.

A mix of neutral personalities is an ideal goal for the range of tank mates. You should not include fish which will provoke this species into aggression as they are often passionate fighters. Fin nippers and gouramis should absolutely never be mixed. The trailing pelvic fins and generally slower movement of this gourami make it the perfect victim for nippers. Being skilled hunters, extremely small fish or fish fry rarely last long.

Good tankmates for this fish are robust cyprinid species like barbs, but avoid those that are notorious fin nippers like Tiger Barbs and Clown Barbs. Other good selections include larger characins, loricariid catfish from South America, and loaches. They can be kept with other medium to large gouramis, but bullying between gouramis is a likely scenario. These fish, which is typical of the family, are fixated on constantly working out the details of the hierarchy.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful - Although the fish is generally peaceful, very small tankmates may be bullied.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - As they mature some remain peaceful while other can become belligerent. Males are territorial and will tussle amongst themselves, becoming very aggressive when breeding.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - Will need to monitor compatibility as the fish matures.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - Gouramis can be quick at feeding time. Make sure any fish that are not so quick get fed if you are keeping them with gouramis.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male Blue Gourami has a longer and more pointed dorsal fin while the female's is shorter and rounded.

Breeding / Reproduction

Like most fish in this family, the Blue Gouramis are bubble nest builders. Breeding is fairly easy and providing a breeding tank that is to their liking is perhaps the biggest challenge. A pair will be most likely to spawn if there is a fair amount of plants, a good sized surface area, and the temperature is to their liking. Prior to spawning they should be well conditioned with small offerings of live and frozen foods several times a day. When well fed, females should begin filling out with eggs, appearing very plump.

An individual breeding tank of 10 to 20 gallons or more should be set up. A shallow water level is not as critical for this fish as it is for other Labyrinth fish species, but it can be kept at about 5 - 6" (13 - 15 cm). Normal water parameters are fine but raise the temperature to about 80° F (26° C). You can add a small gently air-powered sponge filter or some peat filtration, but the tank current should be minimal. Many aquarists find that floating plants, or stem plants grown to the surface, or any other floating debris will help keep the bubble nest in place.

A healthy pair of adults should be introduced into the breeding tank. The male will spend a lot of time building a large bubble nest, usually in a corner. Once the nest had been built the male will begin a courtship display to entice the female to spawn. He will swim back and forth, flaring his fins and raising his tail until the female allows him to wrap his body around hers. The two will spawn and eggs will be deposited in the nest. If the female was well filled out the spawn can be huge, between 700 to 800 eggs.

The female must be removed after the eggs are produced or she risks being killed by the male. The male will tend the nest and guard the eggs until they hatch. After hatching the fry will soon emerge from the nest and become free swimming. This is when the male should be removed or he might eat the fry which emerge from the nest. Free swimming fry can be fed infusoria or a liquid fry food until they are large enough to eat baby brine shrimp. See the description of breeding techniques in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Anabantoids. Also see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

Blue Gouramis are very hardy so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. Some diseases they are prone to are bacterial infections, constipation and Hole in the Head if good water quality, nutrition, and maintenance is not provided. With any additions to a tank such as new fish, plants, substrates, and decorations there is a risk of introducing disease. It's advisable to properly clean or quarantine anything that you want add to an established tank prior to introduction, so as not to upset the balance.

These fish are very resilient but knowing the signs of illness, and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. An outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your fish the proper environment and a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Blue Gourami is readily available both in stores and online and is moderately priced.

References

Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS, Barbara Roth
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Lastest Animal Stories on Blue Gourami


ann - 2013-12-02
Can these gouramis be kept with goldfish?

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-12-10
    Goldfish are a coldwater fish and they also put a very heavy load on the aquarium. However goldfish can adapt to a tropical tank, which is what the gouramis need, and if the water quality is kept up with more frequent water changes, these types of fish can be kept together. There may be an issue with aggression you'll have to watch out for. Gouramis pick out a target fish, and although it is usually another gourami, it could become a goldfish.
Reply
Tiffany - 2012-09-04
I just recently took my sisters 10gal tank for my betta fish but it came with 3 blue or 3 spot gourami. So I set up my 50gal tank for them. They are large and I can not tell if they are male or female. I am very new to the fish world and I want to add some more fish to the mix but am worried about what will coexist with these semi aggressive fish. Feel free to ask questions about my tank. Any and all opinions welcome, thanks!!

  • Clarice Brough - 2012-09-17
    Gouramis are actually great community fish, it's just other gouramis that they get testy with as they mature. You have a nice sized tank and so should be able to easily introduce other community species. Good luck!
  • Melissa - 2013-10-29
    i keep reading they are great community fish. petsmart and petco keep having us try different fish but the gouramis keep killing every fish they recommend. it is crazy b/c i watch it happen. not sure what else to pair with them but be careful b/c it's becoming a huge waste of money.
Reply
James - 2012-03-26
Hey my blue gouramis just laid eggs and the fry hatched early this morning. Both parents are still in there but I am going to remove them both later today but what can I feed the fry?

  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-03-26
    You will need to lower the water level down to about half to make it easier for the fry to get to the top. Do this with a sponge. You can feed them newly hatched brine shrimp or liquid fry food. Good luck!
  • Friendttyy - 2012-06-07
    Leave the male and take away the female. The female will munch on em while the male protects them. PS.watch the male gobble and spit them into the nest. Take out the male once the fry are free swimming.
Reply
sandy mclintock - 2012-01-25
I have put two blue guramis in large tank with other fish all put in tank at same time. The blue guramis bully and chase one larger marbled angel fish, who has a fin missing (like it when we got him) all the time but don't seem to bother any other fish. Will this stop in time? I don't know what sex they are. I was wondering whether to take them back to the fish centre and change them, but I really like the blue guramis as they are so attractive.

  • Charlie Roche - 2012-01-25
    Yes, they are attractive but there is no way to know if they will stop bullying the marbled angel fish. Mayb it's a chase game, maybe it is I don't want you in here or in my territory - If you like the gouramis - keep them and then watch or remove the angel fish if there are any major signs of agression. Just could be newness.
  • sandy mclintock - 2012-01-25
    Thanks, I will keep an eye on them, I feel sorry for the poor old angel fish!
  • Charlie Roche - 2012-01-25
    Yeah, I feel sorry for the Angel fish also. Maybe the Gouramis that are new are just making sure they have their terriotry or maybe there is agression going on. Real hard to tell. If agression, just move the angel fish and get that little one another angel to play with.
  • Shawn Handley Jr. - 2012-04-05
    I once had a blue gourami that was so mean that I caught a blue gill from a pond and put it in a tank with him and he killed it and it was the same size as him.
  • Friendttyy - 2012-06-07
    Are the gouramis dark blue cause if they are ya better get them their own tank if they are a pair. They are ussually friendly.
Reply