The gorgeous Pearl Gourami has earned its name from the beautiful iridescent ‘pearl’ patterning!
The Pearl Gourami Trichopodus leerii (previously Trichogaster leerii) is one of the most beautiful freshwater fish. It is a light brown to reddish brown color covered with white pearly dots, a mosaic type pattern that gives them an almost violet glow. A thin lacy brown stripe runs horizontally along the center, tapering away as it approaches the tail. Breeding males are extremely striking with a deep red throat and breast. This fish is also known as the Leeri Gourami along with some common names derived from its elegant accents that include the Mosaic Gourami, Lace Gourami, and Diamond Gourami.
This species is one of the Labyrinth fish, members of the suborder Anabantoidei, also called Anabantoids. They are distinguished from all other types of fish because they can breathe atmospheric oxygen. Although they can still get oxygen by passing water through their gills, 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.
Some labyrinth fish have voices!…and the Pearl Gourami is no exception. The fish has a kind of vocalization that sounds like croaking, growling, or cracking tones. This is generally most pronounced during breeding or with territorial type behavior, but whether it has any special function is unknown.
This is an excellent aquarium fish. It is hardy and easy to breed making it an excellent first fish for people entering the hobby. They are able to reach a length of about 4 3/5 inches (12 cm) but will usually be about 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm) in the aquarium. They are long lived and seem to be quite aware of their owners. This beautiful fish also has an endearing habit of using its pelvic fins to feel the environment and even feel its tank mates.
Despite being relatively large they are among the most peaceful fish of this size. Their pleasant demeanor makes them a perfect community fish but they do tend to be shy. They need to be housed in a well planted, roomy aquarium with open areas for swimming. In such a set up these initially timid fish will begin to show themselves. The best tankmates are those with a similar temperament, though make sure companion fish aren’t so small that they get snacked on. Avoid tankmates that are overly boisterous. Also avoid those that are aggressive, such as cichlids, or this beautiful fish will hide in a corner, loose its color, and may stop feeding.
Another interesting characteristic of the Pearl Gourami is that they are well known for eating hydra. This is also a characteristic of the Blue Gourami and its color morphs. 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 by the hydra. 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
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Perciformes
- Family: Osphronemidae
- Genus: Trichopodus
- Species: leerii
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.99 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 35 gal (132 L)
- Temperament: Peaceful
- Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Pearl Gourami Trichopodus leerii (previously Trichogaster leerii) was described by Bleeker in1852. It is found in Asia, originating from the tropical Far East in Thailand, Malaysia and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. it has also been introduced outside of its native range with populations found in Singapore and Colombia. Other common names it is known by include Lace Gourami, Mosaic Gourami, Diamond Gourami, and “Leeri” or Leeri Gourami.
There has been a recent change to its generic name. A paper by Myers 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. 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, as per Topfer and Schindler in 2009, and Tan and Kottelat in 2009.
This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened (NT). Populations have declined in some areas of its range in the last 20 years, especially in central Thailand and possibly the Malay Peninsula. This is primarily due to habitat loss and degradation, and population decline is suspected to continue for the next 10-20 years as well. Wild caught specimens are rarely encountered for the aquarium as almost all those available for sale are being mass-produced in the Far East and Eastern Europe.
In nature these fish occur in lowland swamps with acidic water and in rivers, both heavy with plants. They are primarily found in shallow ponds and lakes with dense vegetation. They are omnivorous in nature and feed on crustaceans, insect larvae, and zooplankton.
An interesting behavior, similar to that of the Archer FishToxotes jaculatrix, 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. It has been observed in these fish mostly right after breeding.
- Scientific Name: Trichopodus leerii
- Social Grouping: Groups – In nature these fish live communally with other peaceful species.
- IUCN Red List: NT – Near Threatened
The Pearl Gourami has an elongated oval shape and is somewhat compressed laterally. The dorsal and anal fins become long and flowing pennants, especially in the male. The ventral fins are threadlike and extremely sensitive. 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 almost 5 inches (12 cm) in length, but will generally be about 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm) in the aquarium. They have an average lifespan of 5 to 8 years with good care.
The body color is a brown to reddish brown covered with white pearly dots, from which its name is derived, that extend onto the fins and tail. There is a broken brown stripe running horizontally mid body. Below this line some darker spots intermingle with the white spots.
- Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.99 cm) – These fish generally get up to 3 – 4 inches (7.5 – 10 cm), though they can reach just under 5 inches (12 cm).
- Lifespan: 5 years – The average lifespan is 5 – 8 years with proper care.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
This gourami is a very hardy and stunning fish which is highly recommended to the beginner. These are very adaptable are undemanding fish, and can live up to 8 years with good care. They will easily take most commercially prepared foods and will also consume pesky hydra in the tank.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Foods and Feeding
The Pearl Gouramis are omnivorous, in the wild they feed 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 and vegetable tablets can be offered as well. 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.
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.
The Pearl Gouramis enjoy an aquarium that is roomy but with more subdued lighting. They will swim in the middle and top portions of the tank. While juveniles can be easily housed in a 15 – 20 gallon aquarium, adults do better with at least 35 gallons. It’s desirable to keep the tank in a room with a temperature as close as possible to the tank water to prevent damaging the labyrinth organ. They also need to be kept at the proper temperatures because if the tank becomes too cool they quickly succumb to illness. Provide a good filtration system that produces a gentle flow while also efficiently removing waste. 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 manner that provides plenty of hiding places for this shy fish to live happily. This species appreciates the cover of floating plants, however they will regularly breath air at the surface so its important to have some open areas as well.
- Minimum Tank Size: 35 gal (132 L) – Juveniles can be kept in a 15 – 20 gallon aquarium, but adults need more space.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting
- Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8° C) – Keep the surrounding room temperature consistent with the water temperature will help avoid trauma to the labyrinth organ.
- Breeding Temperature: 82.0° F – They will breed with temperatures at about 82° F (28° C).
- Range ph: 6.5-8.5
- Hardness Range: 5 – 30 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 spend most of their time in the middle and top portions of the aquarium.
The Pearl Gourami is a very peaceful fish, even relatively so when in breeding mode. These fish make excellent community fish. They are timid however, and may hide when first introduced to an aquarium. They need to be housed in a well planted roomy aquarium, but it may take some time for them to become comfortable and behave normally.
Keep them with other peaceful fish. The best tankmates are those with a similar temperament, though make sure companion fish aren’t so small that they get snacked on. Avoid tankmates that are overly boisterous and those that are aggressive such as cichlids, or this beautiful fish will hide in a corner, loose its color, and may stop feeding.
- Temperament: Peaceful – This fish is generally peaceful, though very small tankmates should be avoided as they may get eaten.
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Males will display territorial type behavior when breeding.
- Peaceful fish (): Safe
- Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- 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 is more slender than the female and has longer, more pointed dorsal and anal fins. Males also develop a red throat and breast when courting.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Pearl Gourami is easy to breed. When they are breeding mode the males develop a brilliant red hue to their throat and breast. Males will also participate in mouth combat with other males. It’s not quite like that of the cichlid species, but more like that seen in the Kissing GouramiHelostoma temminkii.They will face each other and swim slowly together. The lips are then pressed into contact and quickly released. Like most fish in this family these fish are bubble nest builders, and their nest will be quite large.
A pair will be most likely to spawn if the tank is roomy and well planted with a good sized surface area and a temperature to their liking. It is best to provide a breeding tank, 10 to 20 gallons or more, and keep the water level low, ideally about 4 – 5″ (10 – 13 cm). Water parameters should have a pH of around 7 and a temperature at about 82° F (28° C). A small gently air-powered sponge filter or some peat filtration can be added, but the tank current should be minimal. They need some floating plants like Ricca or stem plants grown to the surface which will help keep the bubble nest in place.
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. The male will spend a lot of time building a large bubble nest. One peculiarity of the Pearl Gourami is that they will spit grains of sand into their nest and can develop a rather large sand hill underneath of it.
A healthy pair of adults can be introduced into the breeding tank. Once the nest had been built the male will begin a courtship display to entice the female to spawn. It is especially important not to frighten these timid fish during this time. This species is not as driven in their courtship as other gouramis, they always seem to maintain themselves with a great deal of dignity. The male will flare up his dorsal fin and begin swimming around a female trying to draw her underneath his nest. Once the female is receptive, she allows the male to wrap his body around hers and then expels a few eggs. The male will immediately fertilize them. As the eggs float upwards the male shepherds them into the nest and the pair will then spawn again. These fish have known to produce anywhere up to 2000 eggs. After spawning the female may be kept in the tank as these males are much less aggressive than similar gouramis, or she can be removed.
The male will tend the nest and guard the eggs until they hatch. The eggs will hatch in about 2 days and the fry become free swimming in about 3 more days. At this time both the parents should be removed or they might eat the fry emerging 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. At this time the tank needs to have little or no water movement, filtration won’t be necessary as they can receive air at the surface. The water also needs to be kept quite warm for the fry, at about 84° F (29° C). See the description of anabantoid 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 – Breeding is not exceptionally difficult, however finding a suitable breeding pair is not always easily accomplished.
Pearl Gouramis are very hardy so disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. They must be kept at warm temperatures however, as in colder water they become very susceptible to illness. 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.
The Pearl Gourami is readily available both in stores and online and is reasonably priced.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Trichogaster leerii (Bleeker, 1852) Pearl gourami, Fishbase.org
- Trichopodus leerii, 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