Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons (75 Litres)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 6.0-7.5 pH and Soft to Moderately Hard
Temperature: 72-82 °F (22-27 °C)
Maximum Size: 3.5 inches (9 cm)
The dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius), also known as the powder blue dwarf gourami, is a small fish that remains one of the most popular gouramis available in the aquarium trade. It is native to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though in recent years it has become established through releases and escapes in Australia, Columbia and the United States.
It primarily inhabits slow moving water, and can be found in canals, streams, ponds and lakes. It is nearly always found in heavily planted areas, and fleeting glimpses are often caught of dwarf gouramis surfacing for air among thick mats of aquatic plants.
They remain a small fish in the home aquarium and most won’t grow beyond 3 inches (7.5 cm), though some are known to reach lengths upwards of 3.5 inches (9 cm). It should be noted that there is a significant size difference between the sexes, and females will generally only reach 2 inches (5 cm). If a dwarf gourami is well cared for, it will live for an average 4 years in a home aquarium , though there are reports of them living as long as 6 years.
Like most gouramis, dwarf gouramis are a hardy fish that aren’t demanding when it comes to housing them. While a 10 gallon (45 litre) tank will likely be sufficient for a pair of dwarf gouramis, a 20 gallon (90 litre) is generally agreed upon to be a far better choice. The larger tank size provides more stable water parameters for the fish, and also requires less maintenance than a smaller tank. It’s also important to note that they should only be kept in pairs that contain one male and one female in smaller tanks. Males often fight one another, and in smaller tanks this can quickly become deadly for the fish.
Any tank containing dwarf gouramis should be heavily planted, and should include floating plants. This fish is notoriously shy, and a heavily planted tank with subdued lighting will help them to overcome their innate shyness. A significant number of hiding places should be also provided, since dwarf gouramis are known to become aggressive towards each other.
While they are often branded a community fish, they seem to do best when kept in species only tanks. The problem with keeping them in a community tank is two-fold. The first problem is that if their tank makes are overly active, they will spend the majority of their time in hiding and you will never see them. The other problem is that they are known to become very aggressive with colorful fish like bettas and guppies. If you do plan on keep them in a community tank, it is recommended that they are only kept in tanks that are at least 45 gallons (205 litres) so they can establish their own territories.
When choosing a filter for them, the key concern is to keep the current as low as possible in their tank. The best choices for tanks containing dwarf gouramis are either a high quality canister filter, or a hang on back filter that has had its output reduced or redirected. Generally speaking, hang on back filters are the better choice, since they are nearly as effective as canister filters, and much cheaper.
I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for a dwarf gourami tank. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
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The dwarf gourami is an omnivore, and feeds on algae, small invertebrates and plant matter in the wild. This diet should be replicated as closely as possible in the home aquarium, and this can be accomplished through offering them a highly quality flake food, along with feedings of live or frozen foods and vegetables. I personally use New Life Spectrum Small Fish Formula which is one of the best prepared foods on the market.
Their favorite live foods are mosquito larvae (illegal to culture in some areas), blackworms, bloodworms and daphina. Their taste in frozen foods are very similar, and they happily accept frozen bloodworms, blackworms, daphnia and brine shrimp.
Most dwarf gouramis are sold sexed, so generally it’s not hard to ensure that you have both a male and a female for breeding. But if you need to sex the fish, the male is nearly always larger than the female and will have much brighter colors. The males will also have an extended anal and dorsal fin, while the females will have shorter fins.
Dwarf gouarmis are bubble nest builders and breeding is relatively easy with this species. If you are serious about breeding, you will require a separate tank for breeding and the bottom of the tank should be kept as bare glass. It is also a good idea to add plants to the breeding tank, and Java Moss and floating Water sprite make excellent additions to the breeding tank.
In most cases a male and female will breed on their own, but if you need to trigger spawning then you can try by lowering the water level and increasing the temperature to 80-84 °F (26.5 °C) until they begin to spawn. If this still doesn’t trigger breeding, then you can try a large water change with slightly cooler water.
Like most other bubble nest builders the female and the male should always be separated from each other before breeding. The key is that when they are separated, they should still be kept where they can still see each other. This can be accomplished through tank dividers, or by placing two aquariums side by side.
After a week of conditioning in separate tanks where they are regularly feed high quality live, or frozen foods, the female should begin to plump up with eggs. About 3-4 days after the female first began to plump up with eggs, the male should be added to the tank. To avoid any problems, the male should be added either before or after the lights have been turned on.
After the male has been added to the tank, he will generally begin to construct the bubble nest. This is why it is important to add plants to the breeding tank, since the male will take bite size pieces of the plants to help build the bubble nest. Floating plants can also be important, since the male will often use those to anchor the nest while he constructs it.
Unlike many other Anatabids, the female is the one that initiates breeding. The female will guide the male under the nest and will initiate mating behaviour, which usually involves caressing the male with her feelers and mouthing the male along the side of his body.
The male will then wrap himself around the female and her eggs will be released as he fertilizes them. This may occur several times, and its a good idea to ensure that the female does not become injured during the mating. Most of the eggs will float up towards the nest, but many may sink to the bottom of the aquarium. A bare aquarium allows for the male to easily find the eggs, and he will pick up any of the eggs that he finds and add them to the nest.
The female should be removed at this point, and the male will begin to guard the nest zealously. The male can be kept in the tank until the fry are free-swimming, which generally happens in about 36 hours. The fry can be fed with infusoria and then after a few days they can be moved on to live foods such as baby brine shrimp or mirco-worms.