Beginner’s Guide to Honey Gourami: Keeping Made Easy

Honey gourami (Trichogaster chuna) is a bright, colorful fish that is perfect for small nano tanks and it is very easy to keep. However, the fish is not as spread as its close relative dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius), but it quickly gains popularity among aquarists. The honey gourami is a lovely member of the gourami family, prized for its beauty and peaceful temperament. Proper care and a suitable environment will ensure they thrive in your aquarium.

Habitat in the wild

The honey gourami (Trichogaster chuna), also known as the sunset gourami, is a popular freshwater fish species belonging to the family Osphronemidae. This family is part of the order Perciformes, which includes various types of freshwater and marine fish.

Gouramis are labyrinth fish, which means they possess a unique organ called the labyrinth organ, allowing them to breathe air directly from the water’s surface. This adaptation enables them to survive in oxygen-deprived waters, such as stagnant ponds and slow-moving streams.

First was described in 1822 by Francis Hamilton and was considered to belong to Colisa genus, however today is quite often treated as one from Trichogaster genus. Female was mistakenly thought to belong to Colisa soto genus.

The honey gourami inhabits in Northeast India and Bangladesh in river Gang and Brahmaputra basins, in thickly planted waters. The fish is often encountered in lakes, ponds, small rivers, flooded fields and even drains. A lot of habitats are prone to seasonal droughts, that last from June to October.

As a rule the honey gourami dwells in waters with lots of plants and soft, low mineralized water. Honey gouramis are omnivores, meaning they eat both animal and plant-based foods. Honey gourami feeds on insects, their larvae and various zooplankton.

Description

One of the most eye-catching features of the honey gourami is its vibrant coloration. They have a golden-yellow to orange body color, often with a hint of red or brown hues on their fins and scales. The intensity of their coloration may vary slightly between individuals and can change depending on their mood and surroundings. Honey gourami males coloring varies from olive brown to orange-red. During spawning period the coloring becomes very bright and the body becomes rich red colored. There is a dark brown stripe that starts near the eye and goes along the body side, the abdomen is silvery and lighter colored. Dorsal fin edge is lemon-yellow; filamentary abdominal fins are bright-orange or red. Females coloring is the same as that of males, but a bit paler.

Like all gouramis, honey gouramis possess a labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe air from the water’s surface. This organ looks like a small, bony extension above their gills.

How long do honey gouramis live?

The lifespan of honey gouramis can vary depending on various factors, including the quality of care, water conditions, diet, and genetics. On average, honey gouramis typically live for about 3 to 5 years in a well-maintained aquarium. However, with excellent care and optimal conditions, they can sometimes live up to 6 years or even slightly longer.

To maximize the lifespan of honey gouramis, it’s essential to provide them with a suitable environment. This includes maintaining good water quality, providing proper filtration, regular water changes, and keeping the aquarium well-planted with hiding spots. Providing a balanced and varied diet is also crucial for their overall health and longevity.

How big do honey gouramis get?

Honey gouramis are relatively small fish compared to some other gourami species. Usually in a tank the honey gourami typically reach a size of around 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 cm) in length. Females tend to be slightly smaller than males.

Ends of dorsal and anal fins of the male are sharpened and females have them rounded. Filamentary abdominal fins are located in front of pectoral fins. The males are thinner and brighter colored than females.

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CharacteristicDescription
Scientific NameTrichogaster chuna
Common NamesHoney gourami, Sunset gourami
FamilyOsphronemidae (Gourami family)
OriginSouth Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal)
SizeApproximately 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 cm)
LifespanAround 3 to 5 years (with proper care)
TemperamentPeaceful and non-aggressive
ColorationGolden-yellow to orange with red or brown hues
Dark SpotDark spot on each side of the body, near the tail
FinsElongated, pointed dorsal and anal fins
Body ShapeSlender and streamlined for maneuvering in plants
Labyrinth OrganAllows breathing air from the water’s surface
HabitatSlow-moving waters with dense vegetation
DietOmnivorous; eats insects, larvae, and plants
Tank CompatibilityPeaceful community fish, avoid aggressive species

Difficulties in keeping

Honey gourami is a good choice for beginners. The fish is not aggressive, brightly colored, adapts to various tank water parameters and temperature. Besides above mentioned, this fish is the smallest in its genus.

Very seldom it grows up to 7 cm (2.8 in), since as a rule males are 1.5 in long, females are larger – 2 in. Once again, the fish is peaceful and, therefore, it is quite welcome in any community tank, though the fish is a bit timid. It can also dwell in very small tanks.

Keeping in a tank

Tank size

Fish can live even is small tanks. The honey gourami is a small fish, and while they don’t require an excessively large tank, providing them with a suitable environment is essential for their well-being and health. Recommended minimal tank volume for the fish couple or small group of honey gouramis is about 10 to 15 gallons (37 to 57 liters). The fish prefers swimming mainly in medium and upper water layers.

Keep in mind that a larger tank will always be more beneficial for the fish. With a larger aquarium, you can create a more stable environment, accommodate additional tank mates, and offer more swimming space for the gouramis to explore. A 20 to 30-gallon (75 to 114 liters) tank would be even better, providing more room for decorations, plants, and potentially a small community of compatible fish.

Water parameters

Honey gourami is rather not demanding and it’ll easily get used to your tank conditions. Here are the recommended water parameters for these fish:

  1. Temperature: 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C). The ideal temperature range for honey gouramis is between 78°F to 80°F (25.5°C to 26.5°C).
  2. pH Level: 6.0 to 7.5. Honey gouramis prefer slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. Aim for a pH around 7.0, which is close to neutral, but they can tolerate slightly acidic or slightly alkaline water within the specified range.
  3. Water Hardness: 2 to 15 dGH (degrees of general hardness). They can adapt to a wide range of water hardness levels but do best in soft to moderately hard water.
  4. Ammonia and Nitrites: 0 ppm (parts per million). Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish, so it’s essential to keep these levels at zero. Regular water changes and proper filtration are necessary to maintain low ammonia and nitrite levels.
  5. Nitrates: Below 20 ppm. Nitrates are less toxic than ammonia and nitrites, but elevated levels can still be harmful over time. Regular water changes help keep nitrate levels in check.
  6. Filtration: Use an appropriate aquarium filter to maintain good water quality. Gouramis are sensitive to poor water conditions, so adequate filtration is essential.
  7. Water Movement: Honey gouramis prefer gentle water movement. Avoid strong water currents that may stress them.
  8. Water Changes: Though the labyrinth organ have allows the fish to survive in oxygen-deficient water, quite often it is mistakenly considered that due to this the fish doesn’t require water renews. In this case the honey gourami may suffer from toxic poisoning with nitrates and ammonia and die as a result. Weekly 20-25% water renew is recommended. It is especially important in small tanks, where all processes occur several times faster.

When setting up the aquarium, it’s beneficial to include live plants, as they not only help to stabilize water parameters but also provide hiding spots and create a more natural environment for the fish.

Tank decor

Creating a well-decorated aquarium is crucial for the well-being and happiness of honey gouramis. The honey gourami likes when there is a lot of plants in a tank, so it’ll be perfect to make the back side of the tank thickly planted and leave a space to swim in the middle. Include various types of aquatic plants such as Java fern, Amazon sword, Anubias, Vallisneria, and floating plants like Water sprite or Amazon frogbit.

Also you can create lots of shelters in a tank, in case if some conflicts arise among the tank dwellers. Honey gouramis are timid fish and prefer having places to retreat and feel secure. You can add driftwood, rock caves to create hiding spots. Besides the functional elements, you can add some aesthetic decorations to enhance the tank’s appearance. Just make sure they are fish-safe and do not have any sharp edges that could harm the gouramis.

The honey gourami fancies dense tank plants and some floating plants. Honey gouramis prefer subdued lighting conditions, as they come from environments with dappled light due to dense vegetation. Use low-intensity lighting and provide shaded areas using floating plants or tall decorations.

Diet

Honey gouramis are omnivorous fish, meaning they eat a combination of both animal-based and plant-based foods. In their natural habitat, they primarily consume small insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, and various plant matter found in slow-moving waters with dense vegetation.

When keeping honey gouramis in an aquarium, it’s essential to provide a balanced diet to ensure their health and well-being. Here are some suitable food options:

  1. Commercially prepared flake or pellet foods specifically designed for tropical fish are readily available and serve as the staple diet for honey gouramis. Look for products with a good balance of proteins, fats, and other essential nutrients.
  2. Live foods are highly appreciated by honey gouramis and can help stimulate their natural hunting behavior. Offer them live foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and other small insects or insect larvae.
  3. Frozen foods provide a convenient alternative to live foods and can be easily stored in the freezer. Offer frozen foods like frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms to provide variety in their diet.
  4. Freeze-dried foods can be used occasionally as a supplement to their diet. For example, freeze-dried bloodworms or daphnia can be fed as a treat.

It’s essential to feed them a varied diet to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients for good health and vibrant coloration. Feed them small portions multiple times a day, as they have small stomachs and prefer to eat in smaller, more frequent meals. Avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to health issues and water quality problems in the aquarium. Observing their feeding behavior will help you determine the right amount of food to offer.

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Gender differences: male vs female

It is easy to tell between honey gourami male and female. Male and female honey gouramis have some differences in their appearance, which can help in distinguishing between the sexes. Here are the main characteristics that can help you identify male and female honey gouramis:

Male Honey Gourami:

  1. Larger and more elongated dorsal fin: Males typically have a more extended and pointed dorsal fin compared to females.
  2. Brighter coloration: Male honey gouramis often exhibit more intense and vibrant colors, especially during breeding or when they are trying to attract a mate. Their golden-yellow to orange body color may appear more pronounced than in females.
  3. Darker and thicker stripes: Males may have darker and thicker vertical stripes on their bodies, which become more apparent during breeding or when displaying aggression.
  4. Longer anal fin: The anal fin of males is usually more elongated and pointed compared to females.

Female Honey Gourami:

  1. Smaller and rounder dorsal fin: Females have a smaller and more rounded dorsal fin compared to males.
  2. Duller coloration: Female honey gouramis typically have less vibrant colors than males, with a paler appearance.
  3. Shorter anal fin: The anal fin of females is shorter and more rounded compared to males.
  4. Less prominent stripes: Female honey gouramis may have lighter and less distinct vertical stripes on their bodies.

It’s important to note that the differences in coloration and fin shapes may be more pronounced during breeding or when the fish are in optimal conditions. Outside of these times, the distinctions between male and female honey gouramis may be less apparent.

Honey gourami male and female

Tank mates

Honey gourami is timid, slow and fearful. The fish needs time to get used to new environment and you should keep an eye on its tank mates, so that it gets enough food. Thickly put tank plants will help the fish to become more confident and decrease the stress. Fish is active mainly during a day.

Dwarf gourami is not recommend as a tank mate, since it is aggressive towards its kind as well as fishes like tiger barb. Dwarf gourami may nip their long pectoral fins. Remember to avoid keeping honey gouramis with aggressive or territorial fish, as they may become stressed or bullied.

Many small tetra species make excellent companions for honey gouramis due to their similar peaceful nature and size. Here are some suitable tank mates that can coexist harmoniously with honey gouramis:

Breeding

Honey gourami just like all other fishes of Anabantidae genus make their nests from foam near the water surface. When they are ready for spawning, the male builds a nest from bubbles on water surface and then dances and swings around the female.

The male looks after the eggs and the nest cleanness. Spawning process may be repeated several times during several hours and hundreds of eggs can be fertilized.

After spawning is finished, you should put the female fish away. This fish doesn’t use any plants in its nest, like dwarf gourami does, but likes to have its nest under leaves of floating plants.

We should mention that the honey gourami males are more tolerant and calm towards females and respect if they are temporally not ready for spawning. While Trichogaster chuna can even kill its females in this case, if the latter don’t have enough of shelters.

The honey gourami male stands vertically in front of the female, slowly gets to the nest and makes her get there. This will last till the female gets inside the nest and they start spawning. After spawning is over the male will carefully collect the eggs that missed the nest and put them into it.

The male guards the nest and the juveniles. But when juveniles start swimming, you should put away the male, too. The juveniles should be fed with infusorians and encapsulated brine shrimp.