Care Guide for Dwarf Gouramis — Feisty Relative of Betta Fish
Looking for an eye-catching fish that isn’t a betta fish? The dwarf gourami is a very popular alternative because of its vibrant colors, bold personality, and hardiness. Despite the beginner-friendly reputation, it isn’t always the most peaceful community fish, so before you get one, let’s talk about its care requirements when it comes to housing, potential tank mates, food, and breeding.
What are Dwarf Gouramis?
Trichogaster lalius is a gourami with the classic oblong silhouette and two whisker-like pelvic fins that help the fish navigate through obstacles. Growing up to 3 inches (8 cm) long, it is one of the smaller gouramis available in the aquarium hobby and is part of the same family as betta fish and paradise fish. Like the betta fish, it is a labyrinth fish (or anabantoid) that possesses a lung-like labyrinth organ for gulping oxygen directly from the air. This adaption allows it to live in the shallow, oxygen-deprived waters of South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
What are the different types of dwarf gouramis? The regular variety is already stunning with its shiny, light blue body and red, vertical stripes. The powder blue dwarf gourami is all light blue with no red stripes, whereas the flame dwarf gourami has a red-orange body with iridescent blue fins.
Are dwarf gouramis easy to care for? In our experience, this species is very resilient and can put up with a wide range of water parameters. With good care and diet, they tend to live about 2–4 years. Many online articles talk about how they are prone to having Iridovirus dwarf gourami disease — a viral infection that is nearly impossible to cure and has a high mortality rate. After years of buying thousands of dwarf gouramis for our fish store, we have yet to personally encounter this disease. That being said, we occasionally get batches that have genetic deformities caused by overbreeding, so if you are buying a dwarf gourami at the fish store, just make sure it looks and acts healthy before you bring it home.
Dwarf gouramis at the pet store
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Dwarf Gouramis
Dwarf gouramis are used to dwelling in slow-moving waterways and ditches that are filled with dense vegetation, so they would appreciate a 10-gallon or larger aquarium with slow flow and live aquarium plants. They are hardy enough to survive in areas that experience sudden flooding from monsoons and can live in pH levels of 6–8, temperatures from 72–82°F (22–28°C), and soft to hard water.
How many dwarf gouramis should I keep together? There is a lot of conflicting information because they are commonly sold as community fish and several online sources suggest keeping them in a group. However, in reality, almost all of the dwarf gouramis you see at the pet store are male and they can be territorial bullies. When you put them together, expect a lot of squabbling, chasing, fin nipping, and other damage. Yes, a group of dwarf gouramis might work in a huge tank where the males have space to establish their own space and can’t find each other, but in general, we recommend getting one as a centerpiece fish with other community tank mates.
What fish can live with dwarf gouramis? Even if you only get one dwarf gourami, they are kind of similar to betta fish where it comes down to the individual’s personality on whether or not it can live in a community tank. Some are pretty mellow and won’t bother anyone, some only get aggressive during mealtimes, and others indiscriminately attack any creatures that cross into their territory. If you can find them, female powder blue dwarf gouramis are one of our favorites because they are often more peaceful than males but still have the same brilliant blue color.
If your dwarf gourami happens to have a calmer temperament, try keeping them with peaceful, similar-sized fish like corydoras catfish, tetras, rasboras, loaches, and platies. They tend to not get along with other labyrinth fish (like bettas), but again, it all depends on the individual’s disposition. Like most fish, they will opportunistically snack on anything that can fit in their mouths, like cherry shrimp and baby fish.
Flame dwarf gourami in a planted tank
What do Dwarf Gouramis Eat?
Anabantoids usually hang out in the top half of the aquarium, but we find that dwarf gouramis swim at all levels and will go after both sinking and floating foods. They are eager eaters that may try to chase away other fish and eat the lion’s share of the food, so watch out for slower species getting outcompeted during mealtimes. For the best health and color of your gourami, provide them a varied, omnivorous diet of prepared, gel, frozen, and live foods. They enjoy eating fish flakes, floating betta pellets, community pellets, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and more. They sometimes like to pick on algae as well.
How to Breed Dwarf Gouramis
If you have never bred a bubble nester before, dwarf gouramis are relatively easy to reproduce. The main difficulty is locating a female since most stores do not carry them. Males are usually more colorful and have a dorsal fin with a pointy end, whereas females have a dorsal fin that is more rounded. Start with conditioning the adults by feeding them lots of high-quality foods. Set up a 10-gallon breeding tank with shallow water between 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) deep and warmer temperatures around 80–82°F (27–28°C). Use a sponge filter with gentle flow, and add floating plants (like floating water sprite) to reduce the surface agitation and give the male a foundation to build his bubble nest. Some hobbyists also like to cover the aquarium with plastic cellophane wrap to keep the humidity as high as possible for proper labyrinth organ development in the babies.
After the male has created his bubble nest, he will court and wrap himself around the female, causing her to drop a cloud of eggs that look like tiny grains of white sand. They will repeat this behavior several times until hundreds of eggs are released. Each time, the male will pick up the eggs with his mouth and spit them back out into his bubble nest. Once the pair are done mating, remove the female because the male will relentlessly chase her away as he guards the nest. The male will protect the fry for a few days until they hatch and are freely swimming. At that point, remove the male so he will not predate on his own offspring. Offer the baby fish tiny foods such as infusoria, powdered fry food, and vinegar eels for the first couple of weeks. Once they are big enough, switch to feeding baby brine shrimp, which will help them grow fast and healthy.
A pair of powder blue dwarf gouramis courting
If you like the look of gouramis and want to learn about other peaceful species you can keep, check out our article on the Top 5 Peaceful Gouramis for a Community Tank.