Dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius)

Dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius, earlier referred as Colisa lalia) — is a kind of small Anabantoidei fish of Osphronemidae family. Although the fish is very attractive and quite peaceful, it’s rather demanding – dwarf gourami care requires a lot more attention, than the one of other Anabantoidei fish kinds.
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neon blue dwarf gourami

two males

two males

Inhabitance in the wild

Dwarf gouramis are rather spread in Pakistan, in the North of India and Bangladesh. It was considered earlier that fish can be also encountered in Nepal and Malaysia, however nowadays it’s more likely that there was wrong identification of the fish. There are also some wild populations of fish in Singapore, USA and Columbia. Dwarf gourami inhabits mainly in slow, thickly planted waters including ponds, bogs, dykes, streams and irrigation channels.

Dwarf gourami has a quite interesting feature – it can hunt insects flying over water. They do it like this: the fish freezes near water surface waiting for its prey. Once an insect is within grasp, the fish splits in it with a water thread and knocks it down on the water surface.

Appearance

Male max size may be up to 7.5 cm (7 in) and the female is smaller, about 6 cm (2.25 in) long. The fish average lifespan is about 4 years, however provided that it has good care it can live longer.Body is tall, oval shaped, flattened from sides. The fish dorsal and anal fin have long base. The male fish is a bit larger and brighter colored, than the female one. Pelvic fin rays are located in front of pectoral fins. The fish has horizontal red and sea-green stripes along all its body, which are also seen on its fins. Dorsal, anal and fluke fins have red edgings.

Nowadays to preserve several popular colorings of dwarf gourami – flame or red dwarf gourami and blue dwarf gourami – some line crossing of species is being performed in the field of decorative fish rearing.

Feeding

In the wild the fish is omnivorous – it feeds on small spineless species, algae and other fouling. However, gourami is quite ok with the majority of fishfood. You may use some dry high quality feed as a basic of the fish diet and add sometimes small sized live and frozen feed into it. About the best feed for all types tropical aquarium fishes you can find here.

As for the blood worms, some breeders consider them to be harmful for the fish GIT and they avoid giving this kind of feed to dwarf gourami. However, keep in mind that dwarf fish is prone to gluttony and obesity, so you mustn’t overfeed the fish and it should have a hunger day once a week.

Keeping in a tank

To keep a dwarf gourami couple you’ll need a tank of about at least 10-12 liters (2-3 gal) capacity. Just like all the other Anabantoidei fish they won’t inhabit in a tank with strong water flow, since the fish is rather timid and therefore they need some dark tank bottom substrate and some fluctuants that’ll darken the tank space. Putting some snags, small tree branches, leaves and etc. into the tank will help to simulate the natural environment of Trichogaster lalius habitat in the wild. Some species raised in a tank may get used to any tank conditions and sometimes live there for up to 4-5 years. It is crucial that the tank has lots of covers to decrease the chances of males chasing their females. The following water parameters are preferable: temperature 22 – 27°C; pH: pH 6.5 – 7.5 and water hardness: 2 – 18°H.

Scientific Name Trichogaster lalius
Common Name Dwarf gourami
Tank size 5 gallons (20L) and more
Temperament Peaceful
Diet Omnivorous
Temperature 75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
pH 6.5-7.5
Size 8.8 centimetres (3.5 in)

Compatibility

Dwarf gourami with some reserve can be recommended to be kept in community tanks. They’ll definitely be good tank mates for quite a number of other fish kinds, however, at that they aren’t the best ones, since this species is very timid and territory-dependent, therefore in a small tank they should be considered as the only one inhabitant. Sometimes, cohabitation with other fish of Anabantoidei kind, namely betta fish or other bright guppy fish etc., leads to increasing aggression of the dwarf gourami male fish. On the other hand, if you keep gourami fish with some stronger and more active fish it makes gourami more timid.

In a large tank dependence of Trichogaster lalius on its territory doesn’t show that much and there’s a possibility to put some other fish kinds into the tank, – such as other gourami kinds or even dwarf cichlids. The most proper tank mates for Trichogaster lalius are schools of cardinal tetra, neon tetra.

Sex differences

Dwarf gouramis have rather strongly marked sexual dimorphism. The male fish is rather large (7.5 cm, max size is 8.8 cm) and its body has bright blue and red vertical stripes, whereas the female fish is small (6 cm long) and it has rather simple silvery coloring. Besides, when getting older male gourami fish develop elongated endings of dorsal and anal fins. Even the existence of dwarf gourami color morphs doesn’t make it difficult to see between the fish male and female.

Breeding

Becomes reproductive when being 4-5 cm long. As many other Anabantoidei fish, dwarf gourami are bubble nest builders. Breeding is quite an easy process and only spontaneous behavior of the male fish may give some trouble. A tank of 2-4 gallons capacity can be used as a spawning tank. The water level should be about 10 cm high, since juveniles are born without completely developed labyrinth organ and they require some easily accessible oxygen.

The water should be soft, about 4 -6°dH. You don’t have to put any substrate on the spawning tank bottom, however to soften the water you may put about 2 pieces of turf in the tank. The tank should have a lid on top, since the juveniles need some warm humid air to breathe. Some breeders put polythene film on top of the tank for this purpose. If not provided with required hothouse conditions, the development of the fish labyrinth organ may take significantly longer.

In the tank corners there should be lots of plants, so female fish has some place to hide from the aggressive male fish during the spawning period. Put some Riccia on the water surface, since it is actively used by the male fish to build its nest of bubbles. Couple should be separated before they are put into a spawning tank to get completely ready for spawning. Their diet should include a variety of live and frozen feed. When the female fish becomes rounded with the eggs inside it, it’s put into the spawning tank and during the next week it’s getting used for the new environment. If everything goes fine, the male fish starts building a nest – it creates some construction of bubbles on the water surface, using some plants to strengthen the construction. During this period of time male starts to attack the female fish and therefore there should definitely be some covers and plants in the tank. Once the nest is built, the fish change their behavior. The male fish stops being aggressive to the female one, and the latter becomes a dominant fish. The female swims under the nest and touches the male fish with its face. The spawning occurs under the nest with the “embraces” typical for Anabantoidei fish. The male fish embraces the female one with its body and the eggs and sperm are output simultaneously. Then the fish couple goes apart and the female fish gets down on the tank bottom. The fertilized eggs have positive buoyancy and they go up to the bubble nest. The male fish then gathers those eggs that are scattered around the tank. The female fish lays the eggs several times.

After the spawning is over dwarf gourami male starts haunting and beating the female fish and it can even kill her. That’s why you should remove her from the tank once the spawning is over.

Male himself takes care after the nest. He adds some air bubbles, removes spoilt eggs, and guards the nest. The incubation period is about 48 hours. About 3-4 days later the juveniles will start to swim. Now you can remove the male fish from the spawning tank and start feeding dwarf gourami juveniles with infusorians and crustaceans nauplii or at least with some egg yolk.

The juveniles grow comparatively slow and they have different rate of growth, so it’s necessary to sort them from time to time. With the time you may start feeding them with more large sized feed. When the juveniles become about 1.5-2 month old the stripes specific to adult fish appear on the male fish body.