Giant gourami (Osphronemus goramy)

The giant gourami (lat. Osphronemus goramy) is the largest fish from all gourami species that are kept in tanks. In the wild it can grow up to 60 cm long and even larger according to some data. In a tank giant gourami grows a bit smaller, about 40-45 cm (18 in), but still it is a very large fish.

Habitat in the wild

Osphronemus goramy initially used to dwell in Greater Sunda Islands (Sumatra, Java, Borneo etc.), but nowadays the fish is bred for sale in various Asian countries (especially in South-East Asia and South Asia) and in Australia as well.

In many countries including Australia the fish is bred as harvested species. In Indonesia and Malaysia it is of high significance in this respect. The fish is tasty and it has large bones.

Gourami is always available in restaurants and the fish is used to cook lots of various dishes especially grilled fish and it is served with sweet-and-sour sauce. The fish is quite expensive as well.

It is extremely popular in Java cuisine – in Java island almost each village has its own artificial pond with fishes bred to cook them.

In the wild the fish dwells in large rivers with slow flow, lakes and bogs including those with brackish water. Fishes prefers shallow waters with lots of water plants. The fish can breathe with humid air and can survive without water for rather long period of time.

They are mainly plant feeders, but also they feed on insects and small fishes. As the fish is an active plant feeder it is used to fight against weed plants in ponds.


This is fish with a wide and flat body. Its standard length is twice larger than its body height. Total length of the body including its tail can reach 70 cm (28 in), but in tanks as a rule it’s not larger than 45 cm (18 in) long.

The young fish has pointed snout and about 8-10 stripes on its body. As the fish grows its coloring gets paler and the head becomes disproportionately large as well as a nuchal hump appears on its head.

The abdominal fins have one coarse spine and 5 soft rays, the first of which has transformed into a long pliant string that acts as a tactile organ. The dorsal has 11-14 coarse rays and 12-14 soft ones; the anal fin has 11-10 coarse and 20-23 soft rays.

The coloring varies from pale yellow to golden-yellow with a silvery tint and transverse light-blue stripes on its body. Adult gourami coloring gets paler in time and it becomes completely white, rosy or gray at the end.

Difficulties in keeping

This is a fish which in general isn’t difficult to keep, there is only one issue – its size. Keeping giant gourami can be recommended for experienced aquarists who have very large tanks, powerful filters, since the fish is a gluttonous one and produces lots of organic waste correspondingly.

The fish is interesting due to its temper which shows some sings of intellect and long life experience – the lifespan is often longer than 20 years.

Care and keeping in a tank

Scientific NameOsphronemus goramy
Common NameGiant gourami, true gourami, big gourami, kaloi fish
Tank size176 gallons and more
Temperature72°F- 78°F (22 to 26 °C)
Sizeup to 70 cm (28 in)
Lifespanup to 20 years

The biggest problem here is a tank capacity. The adult fish requires a tank of 800 liters capacity and more. Even provided with not perfect tank conditions giant gourami can grow from 7,5 cm to 50 cm long in four years.

High growth rate of the fish can become a problem for an inexperienced aquarist, since juveniles can be easily confused with those of chocolate gourami, which grows smaller.

Giant gourami can dwell at wide range of tank parameters, that’s why there only two parameters that are of key importance here: sufficient amount of free space and clean water.

The latter is usually a problem because fish leaves lots of organic waste and only several powerful filters can deal with such a load as well as regular water renew (25 — 50%of the total tank volume) in a must once a week.

The fish is large and active, it requires minimum of tank decorations and plants to make sure that it has room to swim.

Use large stones and snags as shelters for the fish. Tank plants have to be highly enduring with coarse leaves, for example, anubias, since for fish any plant is food.

Compatibility and tank mates

While the juveniles may demonstrate aggression, adult are very calm and quiet fish and due to this they are very often used for displaying in large exhibition tanks.

The fish is ok when it is alone in a tank or it can live as a couple (male and female). Young species often fight with each other, but they become calmer as they grow, however, adult males still can demonstrate aggression towards their rivals.

The size and habits allow it to feed on small fishes, so you can keep giant gourami with small tank mates only if they are supposed to be its food. As a rule this fish is kept together with large cichlids or catfishes.


The fish eats all types of food, the issue is about its amount. Giant gourami is a large fish and it requires corresponding amounts of food. There is a peculiarity – if the fish is bought being an adult (they live for a very long time), ask about its usual diet, otherwise it may refuse eating the food you give to it, since it’ll be new and unknown to the fish.

For example, if initially the fish was fed only with protein food (worms, small fishes, insects etc.), it’ll be quite difficult to start feeding it with artificial food and thus keeping it will become rather costly.

The easiest thing to do, is to get a young fish and feed it according to your possibilities, because the fish is undemanding, it’ll eat almost everything that you offer.


The male has high forehead, sharpened dorsal and darker body coloring, that becomes almost black during spawning period. The female has rounded fins and fleshy lips.


Giant gourami is an egg-laying fish. Before spawning the male builds a nest from bubbles, water plants and plant rubbish. The eggs are kept inside the nest attached to water plants in it.

The larvae hatches in 24 hours. The fish guards its eggs and juveniles for some time after the spawning is over. In home aquaria it is quite difficult or even almost impossible to obtain juveniles due to the tank size requirements.

In theory the breeding process is easy – the fish form a couple, build nests from bubbles where the juveniles grow etc., but the size of the proper tank becomes a problem, because it has to be a huge one.

Since after the juveniles appear the male starts to guard them and at that it attacks even the female, a lot of space will be required for her to find a shelter in the tank till the juveniles grow.