Pearl gourami (Trichopodus leerii)

The pearl gourami (lat. Trichopodus leerii) is one of the most beautiful gourami kinds and a renown tank fish. Just like the rest of climbing perches species the gourami has an interesting peculiarity – they have a special organ, that is called ‘a labyrinth’ due to its complicated shape and the fish use it to breathe with atmospheric air.

Species have gills like all fishes, but they perform an auxiliary function. If you leave the fish without any access to the water surface for a long time, they will suffocate and die.

Habitat in the wild

In the wild is encountered in South-East Asia: Thailand, Malaysian peninsula, Indonesia (Sumatra and Kalimantan islands).

The fish dwells in shallow warm waters with thickly growing plants. These are mostly small lakes, bogs, slow river backwaters and other lentic or slow flowing waters. Quite often their bottom is muddy with a layer of fallen leaves on it.

Water parameters there are the following: pH values is 6,0—8,0, hardness 5—19°dH, temperature 24-28°C.

In some areale, especially in central part of Thailand nowadays there is an intense recultivation of swamplands, that started in 1990. Therefore, the fish looses its natural habitat and their population decreases.

The same situation is observed in peninsular Malaysia. Areal is gradually getting smaller, which was the reason to put the fish into the category «Near Threatened».


The male fish is up to 12 centimeters (4.7 in) long, the female is a bit smaller. When living in a tank the fish size doesn’t exceed 8-10 cm. In the wild the fish lifespan is about 3-5 years, but in a tank it can live longer – more than 5 years.

Like other representatives of climbing perches species, the fish has an ability to absorb atmospheric oxygen right from the air when gasping it near the water surface.

The fish body is oval shaped, elongated and very flattened from sides; the snout is pointed, the mouth is small.

The fish has well developed fins. The anal fin is especially large, the dorsal is short and the abdominal fins are thin like filaments and very long. They act as kind of tactile organs.

The coloring is extremely beautiful. It is silvery liliaceous with perlaceous spots that resemble real pearls (due to them the fish got its name). These spots cover almost all the fish body, its anal, dorsal and tail fins, except its head.

There is a black dash line that starts from the fish nose and stretches till the beginning of its tail fin; it becomes less pronounced as it gets closer to the fish tail. The fish back is brownish.

Difficulties in keeping

The pearl gourami is a rather demanding fish, so it can’t be recommended for the beginning aquarists. It eats all kinds of food and it can eat hydra, that may get into the tank with food.

Though you have to keep in mind that this fish isn’t the most undemanding one among climbing perches species.

Therefore if you are just taking a shot at aquarium husbandry, it’s better to choose some other fish. For example, a betta fish.

Care and keeping in a tank

Scientific NameTrichopodus leerii
Common NamePearl gourami, lace gourami, mosaic gourami
Tank size20 gallons and more
TemperamentPeaceful Aggressive
DietOmnivorous bottom feeders
Temperature22–28°C (72–82F)
Sizeup to 12 centimeters (4.7 in)
Lifespanup to 5 years

From all gourami species the pearl gourami is the most demanding one. The fish is very timid and more sensitive to temperature change or water contamination than opaline gourami.

However, nothing special is required to keep the fish, you just have to create proper tank conditions. The fish will enjoy spacious tanks with dim light.

It is recommended to get a roomy tank of about 150 liters capacity. Such a tank will be enough for 3-5 species.

You can get a smaller tank, but you will have to decrease the number of the fish correspondingly. At that there should be more females than males to avoid the males rivalry.

Near the water surface the air should be we well ventilated and warm to make sure that the fish won’t catch a cold, that’s why covering a tank is a must. The lid not only covers the water and prevents various objects from falling into it, from dust and rubbish ingress, but also it ensures appearance of air layer with higher humidity and temperature. Such a layer decreases chances of the fish labyrinth organ damage while gasping the atmospheric air.

It is a shy and timid fish. It requires a thickly planted tank to feel comfortable. When decorating the tank use tank plants with strong roots, put them along the back and side tank walls.

Floating plants are also useful since they provide additional shadowing.

Water filtration is desirable, but at that it is important not to create excessive water flow, because fish prefers slow waters. Type of the bottom substrate isn’t important, but the fish looks better when the background is dark colored.

Preferable tank water parameters are the following: dH 4—20, pH 6—7,5 temperature 22–28°C (72–82F). There are no special requirements to the tank water composition, but it’s better if the water is old and soft (up to 16°dH), peat and weak acidic (pH 6,0-7,0).

It is important to maintain the tank clean, since the species are very sensitive to various fungus and infectious diseases.


The fish is omnivorous, in the wild it feeds on insects, larvae and zooplankton. In a tank it eats all types of food – live, frozen and artificial ones. You can base the fish diet on artificial food – flakes, pellets etc. and use live and frozen food as supplementary components.

These can be bloodworm, tubifex, brine shrimp. The fish eats everything you give to it. The only thing you should keep in mind is that it has a small mouth and therefore it won’t be able to swallow large sized food.

An interesting peculiarity of the fish is that it can eat hydra. This is a small coelenterates that has poisonous tentacles. In a tank it can prey on fish juveniles and small fishes. Of course, hydra is an unwanted guest in a tank and species will help you to get rid of it.

Tank mates

Pearl gourami swims slowly and creates calm atmosphere in a tank. The fish has peaceful, timid temper and gets on well with its tankmates. You can’t keep the fish together with active or aggressive fish species.

This is the most peaceful species, which makes it a perfect dweller of not very crowded community tank.

At that since the fish is timid, it may hide till it makes itself at home. Also the fish isn’t very brisk while feeding, so it’s important to watch that the fish gets enough food.

It’s better to keep this species together with other peaceful fishes. The best tank mates are fishes of equal size and behavior. But keep in mind that other gourami species may demonstrate aggression towards its kind.

Despite its intraspecific bellicosity angelfish will be a good tank mate. You can also keep it with betta fish, but they have unpredictable and quarrelsome behavior and are quite capable of haunting timid fish, therefore it’s better to avoid such tank mates.

The fish shows good compatibility with neon tetra, guppies and other small fishes. You can also keep this gourami with shrimps, but only with large ones, because the fish will treat small cherry shrimp as food.

Gourami won’t eat a lot of shrimps, but if you really need them in a tank, then it’s better not to keep these together in one tank.


The males are noticeably larger, stronger and slimmer, than females. They have larger fins and much brighter coloring. The fish dorsal like that of all Trichopodus kind species is elongated and pointed. Anal fin is also large with filamentary outgrowths.

The throat, chest, abdominal fins, front side of anal fin of the male fish are orange or even red. Red color becomes even more saturated during the spawning period and when the fish is exited as well as the coloring becomes brighter as the fish gets older.

The female fish is smaller than the male one and it has fatter abdomen. Her dorsal is smaller and rounded, the coloring isn’t that bright, throat and chest are silvery colored.


Breeding is more difficult, than that of the rest of gourami species. You will need a tank of at least 30 liters large, but considering high fertility of the fish, it’s better to have 50-60 liters tank; water level shouldn’t exceed 25-35 cm.

The water should be old and soft (up to 7°dH), pH around 7,0, water temperature within 27-32 °C. Spawning tank should be decorated the same way as the initial tank where the fish lives. It is desirable to put a bunch of riccia into it.

It is important to make sure that the fish feels safe and nothing disturbs it. Therefore, put the spawning tank in a quiet place and cover the glass walls.

Spawning is performed in couples. It is recommended to take young fish (starting from the age of 8 months old) with bright coloring. Keep the male and female fish separately for a week and feed them well with various live food to prepare for spawning.

The male fish is the first to be put into the spawning tank and then several hours later put a female fish. To trigger the spawning process renew 1/5-1/3 of the tank water with the fresh one and rise its temperature by 2-3 °C. Don’t feed the fish during this time and only two days later start to feed them with small portions of well washed bloodworm or tubifex.

As the spawning comes the male fish becomes more aggressive, therefore the female fish should have shelters in a tank. The male builds a nest from air bubbles, ricci pieces and its saliva on the water surface.

The nest of pearl gourami is low and large. Sometimes the fish can spawn even without a nest. As a rule spawning occurs on the second day of the fish stay in spawning tank and it lasts about 2 hours. The fish lays eggs in portions.

Each time the fish lays eggs under the nest, at that the male fish holds the female and turns it with her abdomen up.

Eggs have fatty cover and bob up to the water surface at once. The male fish gathers them and puts into the nest. The fish lays about 600—700 eggs at time, though their number may be up to 2000.

The female fish is removed from the tank right after the spawning is over; the male is left to look after the offspring. He fixes the nest and gathers the eggs together all the time. The egg stage lasts about 1-2 days, after that the larvae appears.

The latter is very small, it has yolk bag with some amount of nutrients that is enough for 2-4 days. After this the larvae turns into juveniles and starts to swim and feed.

They don’t need the male fish any more and you can take him out from the spawning tank.

The water level should be decreased up to 6-10 cm and you have to keep it like this for about a month, till the young fish starts using its labyrinth organ (they’ll start gasping air from the water surface).

Juveniles are very small. First 5-6 days you can feed them with infusorian, then add zooplankton into their diet. If there are a lot of juveniles in a tank, some aeration is required.

The tank should be ideally clean. Pearl gourami can spawn about 3-4 times in a season and they stay reproductive up to the age of 4 years old.