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Top Fish: Dwarf Gourami

filed under: The Fishlist

When I was a child, I first encountered this small, brilliantly colored fish, known as the dwarf gourami, in the pages of a coffee table book about freshwater aquarium fishes. This fish is strikingly beautiful - it is bright red and covered with luminous blue stripes. Its shape is compact and has very slender pelvic fins resembling feelers.

And despite how good it looks on a book's page, seeing a live dwarf gourami with one's own eyes, seeing not only how it looks but also how it moves and behaves is a thousand times better.

The dwarf gourami easily makes it to my top fish list. There is a lot going for the dwarf gourami. Its brilliant coloration is rivaled only by very few freshwater fish, It has lots of personality, on par with that of cichlids, and it is pretty easy to keep. These bubble nest builders also have very interesting behaviors. As an added bonus, dwarf gouramis are one of the cheapest fish one can buy.

With so much going on for the dwarf gourami, one may think that this is a perfect beginner's fish, and in some ways it is an excellent fish to start with. Dwarf gouramis are generally peaceful, however I have seen individuals that are quite the bully. I have personally experienced dwarf gouramis terrorizing a tank stocked with fish four times its size. But this is a very rare occurrence.

Another thing one should know is that male dwarf gouramis may dislike other males of its own species. Two male gouramis in the same tank spells trouble. Unless you have a heavily planted tank (for hiding spaces and territory) with a lot of space, one should consider keeping a single dwarf gourami per tank.


This is my male dwarf gourami, my photo skills don't do him justice


Aquarium setup

A dwarf gourami would do well in a 10 gallon tank, larger if kept with other community fish. Whether kept singly or with other fish, it is important that the tank is well planted. They will feel more comfortable and be at their best in a well planted tank. If possible, consider having floating plants on your tank, as they love to hang around the surface.

These fish live in slow moving waters and are not particularly strong swimmers, hence I do not recommend filtration systems with strong currents.

dwarf gourami needs floating plants for his bubble nest

A diffuser of some sort such as a rain bar is recommended for filters with strong pump output. Submerging it beneath the water level may be a good idea to avoid surface agitation. Too much surface agitation may prevent these gouramis from building bubble nests, which is a sight to behold.

Care and feeding

It is said that water quality is very important for this fish. A 20 percent weekly water change will benefit the fish greatly. After feeding, make sure to net out the leftovers to prevent waste buildup.

Dwarf gouramis are omnivores and will need food made of vegetable and animal matter. When feeding commercial foods, make sure the ingredients list contains appropriate amounts of meat and plant matter.

Also, when feeding, try to vary the diet and not stick to one brand of fish food for a prolonged period of time. See my article on feeding your pet fish for more detailed suggestions.


Dwarf gouramis are bubble nest builders, like its more popular cousin, the Betta (fighting fish).

The brilliantly colored male constructs a bubble nest, courts and mates with the less colorful female beneath the bubble nest, only to latter drive away the female and care for the eggs and then the hatched young by himself until they are fee swimming. When the fry are free swimming, it is recommended to remove the male.

Newly hatched dwarf gourami fry are very small and should be fed with the appropriate commercial fry food, prepared infusoria, or greenwater. When they are big enough, you can feed them baby brine shrimps, then crushed flake food.