One established the Honey Gourami is a beautiful fish, and very desirable for a smaller aquarium!
The Honey Gourami Trichogaster chuna (previously Colisa chuna and Colisa sota) becomes very pretty once it gets settled, making a very pleasant addition to a smaller aquarium. It is colored in soft hues of silvery gray to light yellow, sometimes with a very light horizontal brown stripe along the center. The male develops a vibrant honey color when in breeding mode. A strong contrasting blue-black marking adorns its underside running across the face, throat, and abdomen. It is also commonly known as the Honey Dwarf Gourami.
When this species was described by Hamilton in 1822, because of the color differences in the sexes, he mistakenly described the male and female as two different species. The male he called Trichopodus chuna and the female Trichopodus sota. Earlier literature sometimes used these other names, but today they are recognized as being just one species. They are very closely related to the well known Dwarf GouramiTrichogaster lalius, but are not quite as popular. This is presumably due to the fact that when seen in a retail setting, the coloring of both sexes is quite bland. They may even be mistaken for female Dwarf Gouramis.
Once they become acclimated and comfortable in their own environment their truly beautiful colors begin to emerge. Rapid color changes depending on their mood and the other tankmates is common too, and so helps you know how they are doing. In captivity a number of color varieties have been selectively bred in two basic forms, red color morphs and gold color morphs. These are often more available to the aquarist than the “true” form because they maintain their coloration better, especially at the retailers. A number of descriptive common names are used for these varieties that including Sunset Gourami, Red Flame Honey Gourami, Dwarf Fire Gourami, Red Robin Gourami, Gold Honey Gourami, Red Honey Gourami, Red Fire Dwarf Gourami, Red Flame Gourami, Red Honey Fire Gourami, Sunburst Gourami, and various combinations of these terms.
Many of these common names are used for some of the color morphs of the Dwarf Gourami T. lalius as well, and for hybrids of T. chuna and T. lalius. When selecting these fish, unless the term “honey” is incorporated in the common name, it helps to know the scientific name as well. One of the most commonly confused varieties is the Flame Dwarf Gourami. This attractive color-morph of the Dwarf Gourami can look very similar to a red color morph of Honey Gourami.
This species is a Labyrinth fish and must have access to the surface of the tank so it can breathe. Labyrinth fish can still get oxygen by passing water through their gills, but they have an additional respiratory organ called the “labyrinth organ”. Characteristic of all the Labyrinth fishes, this species is a bubble nest builder as well. However it does not use vegetation in its nest as the Dwarf Gourami does, but will build the nest under a leaf if available. The male will spit water droplets in both brood care and to catch prey. Spitting water above the nest bubbles forces the bubbles down into the water where he can arrange them back in the nest.
These fish are fairly easy to maintain and are a good choice for the beginner. They have a great appetite and are not in the least bit picky about what foods they will eat. These are the smallest members of the Trichogaster genus. Although on rare occasions they can reach up to about 3 inches (8 cm) in length, Males will usually only reach about 1 1/2″ (4 cm) and the larger females will grow no more than 2″ (5 cm).
Being a peaceful fish makes them a good addition to a community tank but they can be a little timid, especially if housed with fish that pester them. These fish are very desirable for a smaller aquarium. The minimum size is 5 gallons for a single fish, but a pair will need at least a 20 gallon tank. Be sure to provide them with lots of plant cover so they have plenty of places to hide. Ideally place plants along the back of the aquarium, have some floating plants, and leave open spaces in the front for them to swim.
For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Perciformes
- Family: Osphronemidae
- Genus: Trichogaster
- Species: chuna
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
- Temperament: Peaceful
- Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Honey Gourami Trichogaster chuna was first described by Hamilton and Buchanan in 1822. It is found in South Asia from Gangetic provinces as well as from Assam and Manipur in India, and from Nepal and Bangladesh. Although this is just one species, the male and female were originally described as two different species by Hamilton. He named the male Trichopodus chuna and the female Trichopodus sota. Another common name it is known by is Honey Dwarf Gourami.
A paper by Myers in 1923 resulted in a taxonomic misinterpretation and at that time the generic name Colisa was adopted for the small western species of gourami. This interpretation has more recently come under review and the taxonomical structure revisited, and restructured. The result is that all the species which had been placed under Colisa have now been changed 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) as it is widespread and there are no significant threats across its range. Virtually all these fish available in the aquarium trade today are commercially produced. It is very unlikely that wild caught specimens would be encountered for the aquarium.
A number of selectively-bred ornamental strains have also been produced and are known by a number of common names including Sunset Gourami, Red Flame Honey Gourami, Dwarf Fire Gourami, Red Robin Gourami, Red Fire Dwarf Gourami, Gold Honey Gourami, Red Honey Gourami, Red Flame Gourami, Red Honey Fire Gourami, Sunburst Gourami, and various combinations of these terms. These names are also often used for color morphs of Trichogaster chuna and for hybrids of T. chuna and Trichogaster lalia.
They are pretty much a low altitude species of the tropical Far East. They inhabit rivers and lakes, ponds, ditches, and flooded fields. Many of these areas experience seasonal fluctuations due to the annual monsoons between June and October. These fish typically occur in areas with thick vegetation where the water is sluggish, soft, and poorly mineralized. They are omnivorous in nature and feed on small invertebrates, insects and other zooplankton.
An interesting behavior, similar to that of the Archer FishToxotes 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.
- Scientific Name: Trichogaster chuna
- Social Grouping: Groups – In nature this species lives communally with other peaceful species.
- IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern
The body of the Honey Gourami is somewhat compressed and similar to that of the Dwarf Gourami, though slightly narrower and the dorsal and anal fins are not as large. The ventral fins are threadlike and carry touch-sensitive cells. This fish has a labyrinth organ, a part of the fish which allows it to absorb atmospheric oxygen directly into the bloodstream.
They are the smallest member of the Trichogaster genus. Although they can reach up to just over 3 inches (8 cm) in length, they are usually smaller in the aquarium. A good length for the male is 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) with the slightly larger females up to 2 inches (5 cm). They have an average lifespan of 4 – 8 years with proper care.
The basic coloring is a silvery gray to light yellow with a light brown horizontal band mid body. Females retain this coloring while males develop more coloration when in nest building and spawning mode. The sides of the male’s body, the anal and caudal fins, and the posterior portion of the dorsal fin will become bright honey-yellow or reddish-orange. The dorsal fin will become a brighter gold and the face, throat, and belly will become bluish black.
A number of color varieties have been selectively bred in captivity in two basic forms, red color morphs and gold color morphs. Breeders selectively pair specimens with the most desirable characteristics, thereby strengthening those characteristics in their offspring. These varieties are often more available to the aquarist than the “true” form because they maintain their coloration better, especially at the retailers. The beautiful Red Flame Honey Gourami is a variety that looks similar to the Honey Gourami but has a bright blue dorsal fin. The Honey Gourami is also more orange than red and has a darker belly and dorsal fin.
- Size of fish – inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm) – The Honey Gourami is the smallest member of the Trichogaster genus. Though in rare occasions they can reach about 3″ (8 cm) in length, males will usually reach about 1 1/2″ (4 cm) and females about 2″ (5 cm).
- Lifespan: 4 years – Their average lifespan is 4 – 8 years with proper care.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
This is a hardy fish with a peaceful nature and makes as a good choice for the beginner. They are fairly easy to maintain and readily take most commercially prepared foods. They like warm water but are quite adaptable. Not being overly sensitive to water chemistry conditions, they can tolerate changes within reason. They are prone to Velvet disease if the tank is not maintained.
Be very careful when selecting a specimen as in recent years there have been a number of health problems. These are found with dyed, hormone-treated, and virus-carrying gouramis that are commercially bred in the Far East. A quarantine period is suggested when purchasing these fish.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Foods and Feeding
The Honey Gouramis are omnivorous, in the wild they feed on on small invertebrates, insects and other 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. Supplement this with live foods such as white worms, blood worms, brine shrimp, or any other suitable substitute. Vegetable tablets can be offered as well. Generally feed once or twice a day.
- 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.
These gouramis are 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.
The Honey Gourami will swim in all parts of the tank, but especially likes the middle and top portions of the aquarium. As a small fish they can be housed in smaller aquariums. But in a larger tank there will be plenty of space for plants, the water will be more stable, and there will be room for some tankmates as well. A single fish will need at least a 5 gallon tank but a larger 10 gallon aquarium is recommended. When keeping pair or a group, they will do best with about 20 gallons.
It is desirable to keep the tank in a room with a temperature as close as possible to the tank water, or risk damaging the labyrinth organ.The tank should have an efficient filtration system but should not to create too much of a current. Air stones are also recommended for these fish as they prefer well oxygenated waters.
These gouramis will show their colors best on a dark substrate. They enjoy an aquarium that is decorated in a manner that provides plenty of hiding places for this shy fish to feel safe and secure. If the tank is too sparsely decorated tank they will become shy and withdrawn. These fish appreciate dense vegetation with some floating plants to give some cover. However they will regularly breath air at the surface so its important to have some areas unencumbered with plants.
- Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L) – A single fish can be kept in as small as 5 gallons but a pair or group will need a larger tank, with 20 gallons being a good size.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
- Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C) – Keep the surrounding room temperature consistent with the water temperature to avoid causing trauma to the labyrinth organ.
- Breeding Temperature: 80.0° F – Needs a temperature of 80° F (27° C) for reproduction.
- Range ph: 6.0-7.5 – 7.0 for breeding.
- Hardness Range: 4 – 15 dGH – About 8° dGH is needed for breeding.
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Weak
- Water Region: Middle – These fish will swim primarily in the middle and top portions of the aquarium.
The Honey Gouramis are generally good community fish but they are timid and slow-moving, so it may take a bit of time to become comfortable in an aquarium and come out of hiding. Once they are happily established the male’s coloring will begin to show. Take great care when picking tankmates as very active or aggressive fish can easily intimidate them and often out-compete them for food.
They can be kept singly, in pairs, or groups. These are not a gregarious fish as far as schooling, but they do enjoy the company of their own kind and will display better in groups of 4 to 6 individuals. Still, within a group they will develop a pecking order of sorts, with the dominant member chasing away the others during feeding time or from a chosen area in the tank. When in pairs, the male may become belligerent to the female. If kept in a group make sure there are plenty of hiding places to keep one or more of the individuals from being bullied. In larger aquariums they may be kept with some of the other gouramis, but territorial species such as many cichlids are best avoided.
They do best when kept them with other peaceful fish. Good tankmates are peaceful cyprinids such as the Harlequin RasboraTrigonostigma heteromorpha and many of the other rasboras, danios, smaller Pethia, and Puntius species. Some of the peaceful barbs also work well, but avoid those that are notorious fin nippers like Tiger Barbs and Clown Barbs. Smaller loaches like the Kuhlii LoachPangio kuhlii and its relatives, many of the Tetras, smaller catfish like Corydoras species and Otocinclus, and smaller Rainbowfish make great tankmates.
- Temperament: Peaceful – Breeding males can be quite belligerent.
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – In a large, heavily planted tank they can be kept as a pair or in groups of 4-6 individuals.
- Peaceful fish (): Safe – These fish are very timid, so make sure to keep with less boisterous fish.
- Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
- Plants: Safe – These fish appreciate a well planted tank.
Sex: Sexual differences
These fish exhibit sexual dimorphism with the male becoming much more colorful when in breeding mode He will become a vibrant honey color with a strong blue-black marking across the face, throat, and abdomen. The female is larger than the male, yellowish brown in color with a brownish mid-lateral stripe extending from behind the eye to the caudal peduncle, and her coloring does not change. Pairs will generally swim together.
Breeding / Reproduction
Breeding the Honey Gourami is not too difficult. Like most fish in this family, it is a bubble nest builder. They can be bred in pairs or small groups. It differs from its close relative the Dwarf Gourami in that it does not use vegetation in its nest, but will build the nest under a leaf if available. Pairs will also form a temporary bond and the male is more tolerant of the females hesitancy to spawn, whereas the Dwarf Gourami male may cause damage to the female if there are not enough places for her to hide.
It is best to provide a breeding tank, either a 10 or 20 gallons works fine, and keep the water level low at about 6 – 8″ (15 – 20 cm). Water parameters should be about 8° dGH and the temperature between 80 – 84° F (26 – 29° C). Add a small gently air-powered sponge filter or some peat filtration. They need plenty of floating plants and/or stem plants grown to the surface. The nest for this species has relatively large bubbles and building it under a leaf helps to keep it stable. If it’s built on a bare water surface it tends to break up unless its in a corner. Cover the tank well to keep the air above the water warm and humid, to help prevent damage to the labyrinth organ.
A pair or small group will need to 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. While there is a bubble nest, the male will frequently show his courting colors. When he sees a gravid female, he will swim to her, display diagonally in front of the female, then swim towards the nest a bit encouraging her to follow. He will repeat the displaying and swimming until they reach the nest and begin to spawn.
As the female releases her eggs, about 20 per spawn, the male will immediately fertilize them. The male will pick the eggs up in his mouth and put them in his bubble nest. The pair will then spawn again until about 300 eggs are produced. The eggs are kept in position by water spitting. The male will spit water droplets above the nest bubbles, which forces them down into the water where he can arrange them back in the nest.
After spawning you can remove the female, as the male will chase her away. He will continue to tend the nest and guard the eggs until they hatch. The eggs will hatch in about 24 – 36 hours, depending on the temperature, and at this time all adults should be removed. The fry will be free swimming and leaving the nest in about 3 days. 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: Moderate
Honey Gouramis are pretty hardy so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. They are prone to Velvet disease if the tank is not maintained. It has the appearance of a golden or brownish dust over the fins and body and is caused by the parasite Oodinium pilularis which attacks the fish’s gills, skin and mouth. Some other diseases they are prone to are bacterial infections, constipation and Hole in the Head if good water quality, nutrition, and maintenance is not provided.
In recent years there have been a number of health problems found with dyed, hormone-treated, and virus-carrying gouramis that are commercially bred in the Far East. So select specimens carefully and a quarantine period is suggested before adding them to an established aquarium. 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 resilient but knowing the signs of illness, and catching and treating them early makes a big 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.
The “true” Honey Gourami is generally available in stores and online, however it is not seen as regularly as the Dwarf Gourami. Selectively bred color varieties, such as the Red Flame Honey Gourami, are often easier to find as well. It is reasonable priced, with the females or purchasing by the pair, usually being a little less.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Trichogaster chuna (Hamilton, 1822) Honey gourami, Fishbase.org
- Trichogaster chuna, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Trichogaster lalius Dwarf Gourami, Seriously Fish, 2013
- Dr. Rudiger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch, Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1, Publisher Hans A. Baensch, 1991
- Joseph S. Nelson, Fishes of the World, Wiley, 2006.
- Greg Jennings (Editor), 500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish, Firefly Books Ltd, 2006.
- Glen S. Axelrod, Brian M. Scott, Neal Pronek, Encyclopedia Of Exotic Tropical Fishes For Freshwater Aquariums, TFH Publications, 2005
- David Alderton, Encyclopedia of Aquarium and Pond Fish , DK Publishing, Inc., 2005.
- Hans-Joachim Richter, Gouramis and Other Anabantoids, T.F.H Publications, Inc., 1988
- Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Aquarium Fishes of the World, TFH Publications, 1998