SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH
Distribution: Southeast Asia, centered on Thailand but the precise natural distribution of these fish is unclear, because they have been introduced to many separate localities in the region. The discovery of closely related species in Thailand supports the view that the original natural distribution of these fish was relatively small, being restricted just to northern, western, and central areas of the country.
Size: Up to 2.5in (6cm).
Form: The wild form of the Siamese fighting fish is far removed from its domesticated cousin, with the ancestral form being short-finned, compared with the elaborate flowing fins associated with the universally kept and highly colorful veiled form that is a product of centuries of selective breeding. Females have the rounded fin shape of their ancestor, with the long dorsal and anal fins of male fish allowing the sexes to be distinguished easily.
Diet: Will eat flake and small live foods readily.
Natural habitat and behavior: These bettas naturally inhabit shallow stretches of water, such as ditches, paddy fields, and even the klongs or canals that flow through towns. The wild form of this species is essentially unknown in the aquarium hobby today, even in its homeland where these fish are popular.
They are known locally as pla-kat, which translates as the “biting and tearing fish,” reflecting the highly aggressive behavior of the males. Their territorial instincts are such that they will fight to the death in a confined space such as an aquarium, but in the wild, after ritualistic displays, the weaker individual retreats from conflict.
Aquarium conditions: The aggressive nature of males of this species has meant that they are often confined in small containers that afford little space for swimming, and placing them in receptacles in close proximity to each other means they are displaying and under constant stress at the same time. Males must not be housed together in aquarium surroundings, and although they can be kept individually within a community setup, the choice of tank mates needs to be considered carefully.
A male Siamese fighting fish suffers badly if kept in an aquarium alongside more agile, fin-nipping species such as tiger barbs (Barbus tetrazona). Equally, it is not recommended to house a red example alongside fish displaying similar coloration, such as a red-tailed black shark (Labeo bicolor), because the betta might then decide to harry and attack its companion. Although Siamese fighting fish favor soft and slightly acidic water conditions, their most important requirement is the temperature of the water. This needs to be maintained between 75–86°F (24–30°C).
For breeding purposes, a male should be housed in the company of several females, in a tank where the water level has been lowered to about 6in (15cm). The aquarium must still remain covered to maintain the air temperature.
The female swells with spawn as the time for breeding approaches, with the male constructing the bubblenest between the floating plants at the surface. After spawning has occurred, the male collects the eggs and transfers them to the rather delicate bubblenest, often assisted for a time by the female, until she is driven away by her mate. The whole process takes about two hours.
The fry are free-swimming about four days after laying took place. Water quality is important during the rearing period. The sexes can be distinguished once the young bettas are between two and three months old.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, originally from the Perak region of Malaysia, but now more widely distributed on peninsular Malaysia and also present on Sumatra. The species is now generally regarded as synonymous with B. fasciata.
Size: Between 4–5in (10–12.5cm).
Form: One of the biggest members of its genus, with the more colorful males attaining a larger size than females, and developing more elaborate fins—their caudal fins develop a naturally spiky appearance, compared with those of females. The coloration of both sexes is similar, being yellowish-brown on the front part of the body, with evident bluish-green scaling becoming prominent along its length, extending to the fins.
Diet: Eats a wide range of prepared foods. Small invertebrates should feature in their diet, but large earthworms should be avoided, as reports suggest that fish may choke on them.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in water that is naturally soft and acidic, with a typical temperature of 82°F (28°C). Often associated with peat swamp forests. Primarily insectivorous, with dragonfly larvae featuring prominently in the diet of these fish in the wild. They may occasionally clamber out on to leaves of plants growing at the water’s surface.
Aquarium conditions: In spite of the warlike epithet of its scientific name “bellica,” this is a generally peaceful species, although males can become highly aggressive toward each other when breeding. Water conditions should match those in the wild, with retreats being created by dense planting and the inclusion of bogwood.
The aquarium should incorporate some floating plants, and so must not be filled to the top. It needs to be kept covered, because these bettas can easily jump out of the water. After spawning, the male carries the eggs to the nest, with the young hatching about a day later, although it takes three days for them to absorb their yolk sacs and start to swim freely around their quarters. They need to be reared on a suitable fry food at first. This is quite a challenging bubble nesting species to breed successfully.
PENANG MOUTH-BROODING BETTA
Distribution: Southeast Asia, occurring over the entire Malaysian peninsula south of Thailand. Also occurs on the adjacent island of Penang.
Size: Up to 4.75in (12cm).
Form: Slender body, with a powerful head. Basic color scheme is brown with greenish-blue iridescence extending from the lower jaw across the gill covers along the lower part of the body, but this pattern is quite variable. Females and young fish have two dark bars running down each side of the body, augmented by corresponding head stripes.
Diet: Insectivorous, so offer live foods in various forms, although they also feed on standard fare.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in mountain streams, where the water is clear and fast-flowing, although these bettas tend to occupy areas of aquatic vegetation where the current is not as strong, adjacent to the banks. Seasonal water flows affect the temperature of their environment. At peak flow rates, this may measure just 72°F (22°C), but when the current is slower, this can rise to 79°F (26°C). As its name says, this particular species is a mouthbrooder rather than a bubblenester.
Aquarium conditions: Water quality is important, and the filtration system must be efficient, since these bettas are relatively unusual in not inhabiting sluggish stretches of water. Being used to rain-fed streams, they require soft water conditions, with a slightly acidic pH, and should be housed in a well-planted tank to match their natural habitat.
The water level can be relatively shallow, being lowered to as little as 4in (10cm) when spawning is anticipated. Spawning itself is a protracted process, which may take as long as five hours, with the male retaining the eggs in his mouth until the fry hatch and emerge into the aquarium about 10 days later. They can be reared successfully on brine shrimp nauplii from the outset.
WINE RED FIGHTER (CLARET BETTA)
Distribution: Southeast Asia, in southern peninsular region of Malaysia, notably from Muar, and also from near Jambi in central Sumatra.
Size: Up to 2.25in (5.5cm).
Form: A beautiful, relatively narrow-bodied betta, with a somewhat variable reddish-brown body color and paler longitudinal stripes. Males display a dark spot on the flanks with bluish-green iridescence, and bluish-white edging to their dorsal and caudal fins.
Diet: Live foods, fresh, freeze-dried, and deep frozen.
Natural habitat and behavior: Found in both clear as well as blackwater stretches of water, colored by tannins, where the water temperature is 77–81°F (25–27°C).
Aquarium conditions: Soft, acidic water conditions, with a pH of around 4.5, are required by these bettas, with dense planting being required to reduce the risk of aggressive encounters. They are quite agile fish by nature, and must be kept in a covered aquarium because they can jump out quite easily. A blackwater extract can be added to the water.
When claret bettas come into spawning condition, the females develop a greenish stripe down the sides of their bodies, whereas the distinctive flank marking of the male is edged with white. They lay relatively small batches, typically between 30–60 eggs in bubblenests that are smaller than 2in (5cm) in diameter.
The fry are generally quite delicate, and, like the adults, can be vulnerable to velvet disease. They can be reared on a proprietary rearing food and infusoria at first, before being introduced to brine shrimp nauplii. It is possible to leave these bettas together as a family group, as the adults do not usually harm their offspring, with the young bettas being removed by the time they are two months old. Those spawning in their first year produce relatively small broods.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, present around Muar and other localities in southern Malaysia.
Size: No larger than 1.5in (4cm).
Form: Predominantly brown to blackish body coloration, with dark greenish-blue fins and blue on the iris. The coloration of the male becomes more intense at the start of the breeding period, with the larger size of the male’s dorsal and caudal fins also helping to distinguish the sexes.
Diet: Fresh and packaged live foods of suitable size.
Natural habitat and behavior: A reclusive species, found in shallow stretches of water in tropical forest. Its small size undoubtedly aids its survival, helping these fish to live in little more than puddles on occasions, and hide under leaves and roots in this type of environment. Its distribution is strongly influenced by rainfall, and not surprisingly, these bettas live in soft and yet acidic water conditions. It is reputed to occur in the company of the wine red fighter (B. coccina) near Muar.
Aquarium conditions: It is usually recommended to accommodate black bettas in densely planted aquariums, as single pairs. The pH should be maintained at about 5.0, with the water being filtered through aquarium peat. Black bettas are bubblenesters, with females laying small numbers of eggs, typically no more than 40 at a spawning.
The young need to be reared on infusoria, rotifers, or similar tiny foodstuffs until they have been free-swimming for about a week, when brine shrimp nauplii can be introduced to their diet. In spite of their small size, these bettas mature slowly, being unlikely to breed for the first time until they are nine months old. Up until this stage, it is usually possible to leave them with the adult fish, assuming that they are housed in a spacious aquarium, although males become territorial as they mature, and need to be separated by this stage.
PEACEFUL BETTA (CRESCENT BETTA)
Distribution: Southeast Asia, including the Malay peninsula, the island of Phuket off southern Thailand, northeastern Sumatra and western Borneo.
Size: Up to 2in (5cm).
Form: Males have a blackish or blue body coloration overall, with a greenish sheen like verdigris over the gill covers. The caudal fin has a deep red crescent-shaped marking on it, which is especially prominent when they are in breeding condition, with an outer black band. The body coloration of females is brown, acquiring a lighter, more yellowish cross-banding when they are in breeding condition. Their fins are smaller in overall size and, although marked with blue and red, are less colorful. The depth of coloration also varies according to the population concerned.
Diet: Prepared foods such as flake, plus live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: Usually occurring in shallow areas of water, these bettas are sometimes encountered in rice paddies, as well as ditches and ponds. They are found in association with aquatic vegetation, where they can conceal themselves from potential predators, even where the water level is low.
Peaceful bettas are a bubblenesting species, with courtship being much more gentle than in other members of this group. Spawning typically takes two hours, with the female remaining virtually motionless for part of this time, allowing the male to collect the eggs, numbering up to 15, once he breaks free from her. She may help to gather them as well, spitting them out to her mate close to the nest.
Aquarium conditions: As its name suggests, this species is peaceful by nature, and so it is possible to house several pairs together in the same aquarium, although it is likely to be hazardous to introduce another male into an established group.
Some disputes may occur close to a bubblenest created by a male but these territorial arguments do not result in serious fighting. Rearing requirements of the young are similar to those of other bubblenesting bettas.
Distribution: The island of Sri Lanka, off India’s southeastern coast.
Size: Up to 6in (15cm) but typically smaller.
Form: The distinctive rays present on the caudal fin of mature individuals of this species, resembling the teeth of a comb, are responsible for its common name. Combtails are not especially colorful fish, being pale yellowish-brown with more silvery underparts. Sexing is relatively difficult, although males may be distinguished by having a longer dorsal fin. A localized form is the pectoral spot combtail (B. s. jonklaasi), so called because of the area of darker coloration on this area of the body.
Diet: Omnivorous, eating both prepared foods and live food.
Natural habitat and behavior: These paradisefish are shy and retiring by nature. They occur not just in slow-flowing streams but also rivers in the lowlands of their native island, hiding near the banks among aquatic vegetation. A distinctive, dark-colored morph inhabits the streams that flow through the dense and gloomy Kottawa Forest in southwestern Sri Lanka.
Aquarium conditions: Subdued lighting, and a well-planted tank with a dark substrate helps to replicate the natural environment of these fish. Water conditions should be soft, with a pH around neutral, and a temperature between 74–82°F (24–28°C). Unfortunately, combtails can prove rather disruptive and even aggressive on occasions, and so companions for them need to be chosen carefully.
Kissing gouramis (Helostoma temminckii) will be suitable. Once individuals reach about 3.5in (9cm) in length, they are mature. The nest is not an elaborate construction, but may be comprised of just a single bubble trapped under a plant leaf at the time of spawning.
The young are slow to develop, only becoming free-swimming about six days after spawning, but they are large enough to be reared directly on brine shrimp nauplii. Unusually, both the adult fish watch over the brood, for as long as six weeks.
Distribution: Eastern Asia, including southern China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan and neighboring islands, including the Ryukyu group.
Size: Males up to 4.75in (12cm) with females being smaller.
Form: Distinctive alternating orange-red and blue vertical bands running vertically down both sides of the body, with black markings too, notably on the head. A prominent bluish spot is present on the gill plates. The fins are long and flowing, especially in the male, with the caudal fin in particular looking uneven at its tip, thanks to the extensions present on the rays.
Diet: Eats both prepared foods and live foods readily.
Natural habitat and behavior: Found in a wide range of habitats from paddy fields to streams and even sometimes brackish waters. Ranging farther north than other species, these fish can be found in waters that may dip down to 50°F (10°C) or even lower during the winter, and rise up to 95°F (35°C) in the summer period.
Aquarium conditions: Paradisefish are robust, with males being aggressive, to the extent they must be kept apart from each other. They need a spacious, well-planted aquarium, so that females can retreat from the close attention of the male.
Floating plants at the surface are recommended, with a site under a leaf often being chosen by the male to construct a bubblenest. Although paradisefish can be kept in the home without any artificial heat, increasing the water temperature typically up to around 82°F (28°C) and lowering the water level slightly should serve as spawning triggers, as will increasing the amount of live food in the diet.
Females may lay up to 500 eggs, with the male watching over the brood as the young hatch and develop. Infusoria should be offered as their first food. With so many potential fry, good filtration and regular partial water changes are essential. This species hybridizes easily with its two closest relatives, M. concolor (black paradisefish) and M. ocellatus (Chinese paradisefish).
ORNATE GOURAMI (MALPULUTTA)
Distribution: Asia, occurring in western Sri Lanka.
Size: Up to 3.5in (9cm) but typically less than 2.5in (6cm).
Form: Variable—pale salmon-pink body coloration, with darker markings, and bluish coloration on the fins, with darker spots. Males easily identifiable by their tapering dorsal fin as well as the long central rays of their caudal fins, which are almost 1in (2.5cm) long. Blue coloration is especially pronounced in the subspecies described as M. k. minor, with some individuals displaying a more violet hue.
Diet: Small live foods and prepared diets.
Natural habitat and behavior: Inhabits dark, shaded waters within the Kottawa Forest Reserve, often hiding in among accumulations of dead leaves. These gouramis stay close into the bank, being protected by overhanging vegetation. They are not common in the wild, but a government-approved breeding project has been established to ensure, it is hoped, that stocks can be maintained in aquariums around the world.
Aquarium conditions: The tank water needs to be soft and acidic, with the aquarium well planted. Ornate gouramis are quite delicate fish, and effective filtration is essential to prevent any accumulation of nitrogenous waste, which would adversely affect their health. Breeding too is often problematic.
The bubblenest is located quite close to the floor of the aquarium, sometimes located in a retreat or under a broad leaf. Both fish sink to the floor of the tank after spawning, with the female collecting the eggs, and the male then guards the nest site and subsequently watches over the young.
The hatching period is relatively long, typically taking 2.5 days, and it is vital to ensure the water temperature does not fluctuate significantly during this period. It should correspond to that of their natural habitat, being 81°F (27°C). Infusoria or a similar food is initially required for successful rearing of the fry.
SPIKE-TAILED PARADISEFISH (RED-EYE SPIKETAIL)
Distribution: Southeastern India and Sri Lanka. May also occur farther east.
Size: Up to 2.5in (6cm).
Form: Predominantly copperybrown, with bluish edging to the fins, especially the caudal. Although the extension forming a characteristic spike on the caudal fin tends to be a feature of males, this characteristic is also shared with some females. When in breeding condition, males develop their distinctive bright red iris, and similar coloration on the pectoral and anal fins, while females darken in color, becoming blackish.
Diet: Omnivorous, eating both prepared foods and live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: These fish inhabit slowly flowing streams and ditches, sometimes in rainforest surroundings as well as agricultural areas, such as paddy fields. Generally, they seek out darkened environments, where they can hide among aquatic vegetation.
Aquarium conditions: Ideal conditions for these fish consist of a dark base to the aquarium, which can be created by suitable gravel, and retreats formed not just by plants but other decor such as bogwood. They are quite undemanding in their water chemistry needs, and can adapt to water temperatures ranging from just 68°F (20°C) to 82°F (28°C).
Spike-tailed paradisefish are peaceful by nature, and should only be kept in pairs with gentle, quiet companions of unrelated species. Increasing the water temperature and live food component in the diet should trigger spawning behavior. The bubblenest may be built under vegetation, or elsewhere, even sometimes within a flowerpot.
The entire spawning process lasts about four hours, with the young fish hatching within 48 hours. Around four days after spawning, they start to become freeswimming and can be reared on infusoria at first. There is generally no need to remove their parents from the aquarium. Even when the male is guarding the nest, he is unlikely to be aggressive to his partner.
PEARL GOURAMI (MOSAIC GOURAMI)
Distribution: Southeast Asia, present in peninsular Malaysia, possibly extending to Thailand. Also present on Sumatra, Borneo, and perhaps Java.
Size: Up to 6in (15cm) but usually smaller.
Form: Beautiful pale whitish-blue spots on the sides of the body, extending to the fins, with a black stripe passing through the eyes along the body to the base of the caudal fin. Mature males have longer, more-pointed dorsal and anal fins, as well as a reddish area extending over the lower part of the face. A male in breeding condition is unforgettable.
Diet: Will take both prepared foods and live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: These beautiful fish inhabit shallow, flowing streams running through areas of rain forest. Unfortunately, males are quite slow to develop their distinctive coloration, and sexing is unlikely to be possible until they have reached a length of approximately 3in (8cm).
Aquarium conditions: To replicate their natural habitat, an aquarium for pearl gouramis should be filled to only 12in (30cm), with well-filtered, soft, slightly acidic water. The water temperature should be 74–82°F (24–28°C). A dense covering of floating plants is recommended, with subdued lighting. Pearl gouramis are usually quite peaceful fish, but companions for them should be chosen carefully.
Barbs are not recommended because of their tendency to engage in fin-nipping, but tetras are likely to be suitable. For breeding purposes, the depth of water needs to be halved, and the water temperature raised close to 86°F (30°C). The male creates a large bubble nest and displays beneath it to the female.
Both parents collect eggs. He guards them until they hatch after one day. A large aquarium is essential for breeding purposes, and should be at least 40in (100cm) long, given that the brood may comprise nearly 1,000 young fry. The fry require small foods such as paramecium at first.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, present in Cambodia (Kampuchea), Thailand, and Malaysia.
Size: Up to 8in (20cm) but usually much smaller.
Form: Shimmering silvery coloration, with a slight greenish hue especially in males. Males can also be distinguished by the orange-red coloration in the vicinity of the chest, which extends along their long, narrow pelvic fins, and the elongated, pointed shape of the dorsal fin. The red marking on the upper part of the iris occurs in both sexes.
Diet: Eats both prepared foods and live food.
Natural habitat and behavior: These shy gouramis occur in both slow-flowing and stationary stretches of water, and may even enter flooded paddy fields on occasions. Aquatic vegetation at the surface is important, providing anchorage points for their bubblenests. They may even nibble at the leaves of fine-leaved plants, and incorporate these pieces into the construction of the nest itself.
Aquarium conditions: These gouramis require a relatively large, well-planted aquarium, which should incorporate floating plants or those such as Nymphaea species whose leaves spread above the water surface. A water temperature of 79–86°F (26–30°C) is ideal, and the pH should be between slightly acidic and neutral, with soft water conditions being preferable.
Moonlight gouramis are quite shy and timid fish, and any companions need to be chosen carefully, particularly to prevent damage to their modified pelvic fins. Dwarf cichlids or tetras are normally suitable. When breeding is imminent, lower the water level, with a slight increase in water temperature often providing the necessary trigger.
At this stage, males construct a large bubblenest that may extend nearly 1in (2.5cm) above the surface of the water. The young gouramis are free-swimming within four days following egg-laying. They need a plentiful supply of infusoria at first, being transferred across to brine shrimp nauplii as they grow older.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, occurring over a wide area from Indochina to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and offshore islands.
Size: Up to 6in (15cm), although usually smaller.
Form: The appearance of these gouramis differs through their range. The form found on Sumatra is known as the blue gourami (T. t. sumatranus). It is less of a grayish shade and also grows slightly smaller than its mainland cousin—the two distinctive black spots on each side of the body are still evident, however.
Males can be distinguished by the pointed tip to their dorsal fin. Over recent years, color hybrids have become more common in the hobby, with the golden form in particular proving popular. The so-called “cosby” variant is also widely kept, displaying more prominent dark blue markings on its body than the true spotted gourami.
Diet: Exceedingly easy to cater for, eating almost anything.
Natural habitat and behavior: These gouramis rank as probably the most adaptable of all species, and they are even farmed as food in some parts of their range. They can be found in muddy forest streams and in the clear waters of paddy fields.
Aquarium conditions: This species is quite undemanding in its water chemistry requirements, and survives well at temperatures in the range of 72–82°F (22–28°C). It does require a large aquarium, especially for breeding, because in common with related gouramis, these fish are highly prolific.
In addition, males construct bubblenests which may be up to 10in (25cm) in diameter. It may well be necessary to remove the female after spawning, as the male can become aggressive toward her. Males should be kept apart from each other, but overall, these gouramis are not aggressive fish and adults especially can prove shy and retiring for a time when moved from familiar surroundings.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, being naturally present in Cambodia (Kampuchea), Thailand, and the Malay peninsula. Introduced to Sri Lanka and elsewhere. These fish are valued in Asia as a source of food, and have been widely introduced outside their native range for this purpose.
Size: Up to 8in (20cm) but usually smaller.
Form: This gourami is so-called because of its snakelike body patterning, although this can be influenced both by the fish’s mood and the lighting conditions, with their bodies becoming much more silvery in bright light. A broken band of black markings runs down the sides of the body, from the snout, passing through the eyes. Despite not being brightly colored, this is a subtly attractive fish.
Diet: Feeds on both prepared and live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: Quite at home in rice paddies, they are often encountered in the fields themselves, where the depth of water may be no more than 2in (5cm). The water temperature here may rise to 99°F (37°C) during the heat of the day, so snakeskin gouramis then retreat to the larger drainage channels where the water remains cooler.
Aquarium conditions: A large tank, which is well planted and includes vegetation reaching to the surface, is ideal for snakeskin gouramis. In spite of their size, they are peaceful by nature, and can also prove to be rather shy, at least until they are established in their quarters.
Although water conditions are not critical, the temperature should be within the range of 73–82°F (23–28°C), being increased toward the upper end to encourage spawning. As with other Trichogaster gouramis, females may produce over 1,000 eggs, although the bubblenest constructed by the male is relatively small in this species.
The rearing needs of the fry are identical, with a plentiful supply of infusoria being needed at first. As always, keep the aquarium covered, to prevent the young gouramis from breathing cold air.
Distribution: Northeastern India and Bangladesh, present in the waterways of the Ganges, Bramaputra, and Jumuna.
Size: Up to 2.5in (6cm).
Form: The colorful males display alternating vertical orange and sky blue banding running down the sides of their bodies. The terminal rays on the dorsal fin of males taper to a point, rather than being rounded, as in females, which are of a silvery shade.
Dwarf gouramis have been widely hybridized with other Colisa species, which has led to the development of a number of different varieties, they are generally infertile. These are often sold under names such as the sunset, thanks to its yellowish-orange coloration, and the neon, which is a brighter shade of blue, with its orange markings being broken up into irregular lines.
Diet: Prepared foods, including some vegetable matter.
Natural habitat and behavior: These gouramis form a strong pair bond, with male and female usually remaining in close proximity to each other. They are peaceful fish by nature, occurring in a range of habitats in the drainage areas of the major rivers where they occur.
Aquarium conditions: Dense planting is important, to provide adequate retreats for these gouramis (the most popular Colisa species), especially as they can be rather nervous. They are relatively undemanding about water conditions, providing these are not extreme, with a temperature between 72–82°F (22–28°C) suiting them well.
Floating plants are also important, both as cover and for nest-building purposes, with male dwarf gouramis producing distinctive bubblenests incorporating leaves of vegetation such as crystalwort (Riccia fluitans). A male may mate with more than one female in succession, collecting the eggs in sequence and adding them to the nest. Within three days, the young fry are free-swimming and the adult gouramis must be removed by this stage, because they are otherwise likely to eat their offspring.
Distribution: Occurs in the Irrawaddy river in Burma (Myanmar) and also present in Bangladesh.
Size: Typically between 2.3–4in (6–10cm).
Form: Blue prominent on the underparts with banding on the sides of the body. Similar in appearance to the banded gourami (C. fasciata) but with a smaller head. Males also have red edging to their extended dorsal fin, with a rounded white edge to the anal fin. Females are easily discernible by their underlying duller, silvery-gray body shading.
Diet: Prepared foods and plant matter.
Natural habitat and behavior: These fish are found throughout most of the Irrawaddy, extending from northern areas right down to the port of Bassein. Their distinctive thick lips help them to browse on algae growing on submerged rocks.
Although peaceful toward other aquarium occupants, males of this species can sometimes become extremely quarrelsome if housed in the company of others of their own kind, especially during the breeding period. Pairs should always be accommodated individually at this stage.
Aquarium conditions: A pH that is around neutral, with reasonably soft water conditions suits these fish well. A darkened base to the tank is preferred, and again, it should be well decorated with plants and bogwood, to provide cover.
Males construct a large but fragile bubblenest, which is home to as many as 600 eggs laid by the female, and diligently transferred there by her partner. A stable water temperature, in spite of regular partial water changes, is vital for the subsequent development of the young. If infusoria cultures are not available as a rearing food initially, a special fry food for egglaying fish can be offered.
They can then be weaned gradually on to brine shrimp nauplii from the age of about 10 days onward. Cross-breeding with the banded gourami has resulted in fertile hybrids being produced, including a yellow variant.
Distribution: Northeastern India, in the Assam valley, extending to Bangladesh.
Size: Up to 2in (5cm).
Form: One of the most beautiful members of what is a colorful genus, the honey gourami is so named because of its rich orange-red hue which extends over much of the male’s body, aside from a diagonal area running from the eyes down to the anal fin, which is a dark shade of blue, bordering on black.
Females are predominantly brownish, with the dark area seen in the male being a lighter shade of blue. There has been considerable disagreement over the correct scientific name for this species: it is also often referred to as C. sota.
Diet: Omnivorous, taking prepared foods, vegetable matter, and small live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: It is not always as easy to sex this species as might be thought, because males that are under stress for any reason resemble females in coloration. These gouramis are highly territorial by nature, and so males especially should not be kept together, because otherwise the weaker individual is inevitably bullied. A breeding territory of 80sq. in (500sq cm) is vigorously defended by the resident male.
Aquarium conditions: As with other Colisa species, a tank for these gouramis should be well planted, and must include floating plants. The water temperature needs to be in the range of 72–82°F (22–28°C), and a slightly acidic to neutral pH is recommended, with a dGH reading of up to 15.
The male constructs a bubblenest at the start of the breeding period, while the female’s abdomen swells slightly as the eggs develop in her body. Hatching takes a day or so, with the young requiring infusoria as their first food, once they have absorbed their yolk sacs and are free-swimming. Examine honey gouramis carefully prior to purchase, as they have acquired something of a reputation for being susceptible to the Oodinium parasite, which is the cause of the condition known as velvet disease.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, occurring on the Malaysian peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.
Size: Up to 1.8in (5cm).
Form: Predominantly light chocolate-brown in color, with a series of light golden vertical bands around the body, with one just behind the eye, another encircling the middle of the body and another three on the abdomen, including the base of the caudal fin.
A similar band runs horizontally from the strongly pointed snout to the eye, and a narrow line extends above the eyes. Males are discernible by the pointed rather than the rounded shape of their dorsal fin. There is also a red-finned form, recognized as a separate subspecies, S. o. selatanensis, originating from Borneo.
Diet: Live foods of various types—may also eat flake.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in heavily vegetated, sluggish stretches of water. On Sumatra, these gouramis have been caught in water that has been likened to dark coffee in color.
Aquarium conditions: This has proved a challenging species to keep, largely because of its water chemistry requirements. Chocolate gouramis require soft and acidic conditions, with readings of 2–3dGH and a pH around 6.0.
Dense planting is also necessary, but the low mineral level in the water means that not all aquatic plants thrive in these surroundings. Certain cryptocornes, such as C. walkeri, can be recommended for this purpose however, as well as Indian water star (Hygrophila polysperma). The aquarium water should be filtered through peat, and the lighting should be subdued. Chocolate gouramis are peaceful, rather timid fish and do not thrive in the company of more robust companions.
This has proved to be a maternal mouthbrooding species, with the female collecting the eggs after spawning, and retaining them in her mouth, with the fry emerging about two weeks later. They can then be reared on brine shrimp nauplii, growing to a length of 0.6in (1.5cm) within three weeks.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, extending from Thailand to Vietnam and south to Sumatra and the Sunda islands.
Size: Up to 2.8in (7cm).
Form: Varies in coloration through its wide range. Horizontal dark brownish stripes extend down the sides of the body, alternating with silvery bands, and a variable light blue suffusion, especially on the lower edge of the dorsal fin. A dark spot is often present behind the eyes.
Sexing on appearance is extremely difficult, but the semi-transparent nature of the body does allow direct visualization of the female’s reproductive tract in the form of a shadow running toward the tail, depending on the light. Mature males may also have longer, redder anal fins.
Diet: Omnivorous, taking flake and small live foods readily.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in ponds and ditches, where the water is often dirty. Typically found in groups, congregating in schools below the leaves of aquatic plants, close to the surface. When spawning is imminent, the distinctive croaking calls of the males are heard, although females too are able to utter similar sounds.
Aquarium conditions: Acidic, soft water conditions are recommended for these gouramis, and some breeders keep them in aquariums with peat bases. The planting scheme is important, with floating plants being required as the male may build the nest under the cover of their leaves. Plants and other retreats in the main body of the water serve to provide cover for these gouramis, which are rather nervous by nature.
Raising the water temperature up as high as 86°F (30°C) may help to trigger breeding activity, although this is not the easiest species to spawn successfully. Increasing water softness may also help. The pair mate under the bubblenest itself, allowing the eggs to rise up. Relatively few eggs—often no more than 150—are laid at a single spawning. These species interbreed with the sparkling gourami (T. schalleri).
DWARF CROAKING GOURAMI
Distribution: Vietnam and Cambodia (Kampuchea), through Thailand and Malaysia to Sumatra.
Size: Up to 1.5in (4cm).
Form: The smaller size of this species is the best way to distinguish it from the croaking gourami (T. vittatus). Another point of distinction is that this species only has two broken horizontal lines running down each side of the body, rather than three as in the croaking gourami. Blue and red markings are present on the fins. The actual depth of their body coloration varies according to the level of illumination.
Sexing is difficult, but males tend to have a more elongated, pointed anal fin. Again, examining the fish with a bright light behind the body helps to highlight the reproductive tract of the female.
Diet: Omnivorous, eating prepared diets such as flake and small live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: Lives in shallow ditches and small ponds, where the water temperature can rise to as much as 91°F (33°C) during the day. Invariably encountered in small groups in heavily vegetated waters, where the oxygen level can be low.
Aquarium conditions: A wellplanted aquarium incorporating floating plants is essential for these gouramis. Water conditions should be soft and slightly acidic, with the thermostat being set at 77–82°F (25–28°C). The eggs are laid in batches, with the female sometimes helping the male to transfer them to the bubblenest, which is not normally a particularly robust or conspicuous structure.
It may be constructed either under floating plants, or sometimes even under rockwork in the aquarium. The croaking calls of the fish are most likely to be heard at this stage, and in spite of their small size, dwarf croaking gouramis can become quite aggressive in defense of their nest site when breeding. Hatching occurs after two days, with the young then becoming free-swimming after a similar interval. They require infusoria or a similar food at first.
CLIMBING PERCH (WALKING PERCH)
Distribution: Asia, being widely distributed in tropical areas from India to southern China and Indonesia.
Size: Up to 10in (25cm) but usually smaller.
Form: Basically brownish, with silvery hues especially on the lower flanks, and odd darker markings on the body. Iris is orange. Males have a longer anal fin.
Diet: Eats a wide variety of foods, but prefer live food.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in a variety of environments, including temporary pools, usually lurking in among vegetation, where the temperature can range from 59–86°F (15–30°C), depending both on the locality and time of year.
May even be found in brackish water in some areas. Quite able to emerge on to land and breathe out of water, finding new pools as necessary. Usually moves after dark, when the risk of predation is lower. A yellow (xanthistic) form has been reported, but it is rarely seen, as is a second species, the high-bodied climbing perch (A. oligolepis).
Aquarium conditions: As might be expected, given the wide distribution of this species, climbing perches are relatively adaptable in their water chemistry requirements.
They need a spacious aquarium, incorporating hardy plants that they are unlikely to damage. These anabantoids are shy by nature, but can also prove aggressive and predatory toward smaller fish. As a result, companions should be chosen carefully, but provided that their accommodation is sufficiently spacious, then they can be kept with larger Trichogaster gouramis or bushfish (Ctenopoma species).
Their tank must be kept covered, and should be relatively shallow, especially for breeding purposes. There is no attempt at nest-building in this species, with the eggs simply being allowed to float to the surface after mating has occurred. The predatory instincts of the adult fish also mean the pair should be transferred elsewhere at this stage, with the eggs then hatching after approximately 24 hours.
The fry should be reared initially on infusoria, and are mature at about 4in (12cm) in length. It is especially important that these fish are kept in a covered aquarium to prevent them possibly escaping at night.
SPOTTED CLIMBING PERCH (SPOTTED BUSH FISH; LEOPARD CTENOPOMA)
Distribution: Western Africa, in the Congo basin, from Lisala to Kinshasa in Congo.
Size: Up to 6in (15cm).
Form: Relatively slim, flattened body shape, with relatively large eyes. The long dorsal fin reaches to the caudal fin, with a corresponding lengthy anal fin. The caudal fin itself is quite small and has a straight edge, with a prominent black spot at its base.
Overall body color is yellowish-brown with darker spots. Males have body spines, sometimes described as “thorn fields,” located behind the eyes and at the base of the caudal peduncle, which is short in this species.
Diet: Food tablets plus fresh or processed live foods.
Natural habitat and behavior: The prominent eyes of these fish suggest that they become more active toward dusk. Their deep mouth allows them literally to suck and swallow small creatures without difficulty, and so they should not be housed with any fish significantly smaller in size. They are shy by nature and hide away, even becoming a more brownish shade overall on occasions, to blend in with their background.
Aquarium conditions: It is usually small individuals that are available, and they grow slowly, taking as long as three years to reach their adult size. They require soft water conditions, with a dGH reading of 2–4, and a pH close to neutral. The temperature itself should be in the range of 79–84°F (26–29°C).
Lighting in the tank must be subdued, and there should be plenty of retreats provided, including bogwood. Relatively little has been documented about the breeding habits of the spotted climbing perch, but it is known to be a bubblenesting species, with the male being responsible for constructing the nest.
Frequent feeds with rotifers are necessary for rearing the young fry at first, once they are free-swimming.
KINGSLEY’S CTENOPOMA (TAILSPOT BUSHFISH)
Distribution: West Africa, from the Gambia south to Zaire.
Size: Up to 5in (12cm) or more, but usually smaller.
Form: A plain-colored fish, with dark slate-gray upperparts and a lighter silvery sheen on the underparts. There is often a yellowish tinge on the anal and pectoral fins. Younger individuals have a distinctive blackish spot at the base of the caudal peduncle. In juvenile specimens of C. kingsleyae the tailspot is usually ringed in gold.
Males can be identified by the presence of “thorn fields” of spikes in this area and also behind the eyes. The gill covers (opercula) are heavily serrated, compared with the closely related blunt-headed bushfish (C. petherici). As a result of the similarity between these species, it has been suggested that Kingsley’s ctenopoma could simply be a color variant of the blunt-headed bushfish, which highlights the difficulty in classifying these particular anabantoids.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs both in flowing stretches of water, including forest streams, and also more open areas of water, in ditches. The natural coloration of these fish may be influenced by their environment, with those found in less-shaded localities being darker and displaying a more pronounced greenish sheen on their bodies. Their appearance also changes with age.
Diet: Prepared foods and live foods.
Aquarium conditions: A large aquarium is needed for these bushfish, incorporating a darkened substrate, a well-planted interior and suitable retreats where the fish can hide. Water conditions are not especially vital, but a pH around neutral and a dGH up to 15 will suffice.
Maintain the water temperature at 77–82°F (25–28°C). When spawning, a female can produce thousands of eggs which simply drift up and develop in the vegetation at the surface (hence the greater number of eggs produced initially). The adults show no parental care and since they are likely to eat their spawn, they cannot be left with their eggs. Hatching occurs after 24 hours or so, and then the young are free-swimming within a further 48 hours.
The black marking at the base of the caudal fin starts to develop once they are one month old, with young fish of this species being more colorful than the adults. Do not mix Kingsley’s ctenopomas with smaller companions as they grow, because they will prey on such fish, but they can be housed with any non-aggressive species of a similar size.
Distribution: Widely distributed through southern Asia, from eastern India to China, south through the Malaysian peninsula to Java.
Size: Up to 28in (70cm).
Form: Protuberant mouth and pointed head. Although the coloration can differ widely, up to approximately 6in (15cm) in length, giant gouramis are grayish with darker transverse stripes on the body, and then start to acquire a distinctive reddish hue as they mature.
A golden color morph has also occurred, but the striped variety is now classified as a separate species, called the sevenstripe giant gourami (O. septemfasciatus). Male fish have longer, more pointed anal and dorsal fins.
Diet: Omnivorous, takes prepared foods. Older fish tend to be more vegetarian in their dietary preferences.
Natural habitat and behavior: The original natural range of these gouramis is unclear, because they are now widely farmed. Kept in large flooded areas, they can reach 10in (25cm) by 12 months of age when maintained under favorable conditions. A fully grown giant gourami may weigh 15lb (7kg). Males construct a massive nest incorporating aquatic vegetation. This can measure 20in (50cm) in diameter, and may be up to 10in (25cm) high.
Aquarium conditions: This is not a species to be selected without careful thought as to the future. The size of these particular gouramis means that they require spacious surroundings, and they are liable to eat their tankmates as they outgrow them. Younger giant gouramis can prove territorial too, but they become more placid as they grow older.
Their large appetites mean an aquarium for these gouramis must be well filtered. A slightly acidic pH reading is ideal, and they can tolerate quite hard water conditions, up to 25dGH. Although breeding in aquarium surroundings is unlikely, a successful spawning can give rise to over 20,000 eggs. The male watches over his offspring, and they grow rapidly, at a rate of up to 0.5in (1cm) each week for the first month.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, occurring naturally in Thailand and Malaysia, plus islands including Sumatra and Borneo.
Size: Up to 12in (30cm), but usually only grows to 6in (15cm) or so.
Form: The natural color of these gouramis is silvery-gray, although the pink form has become popular in aquarium-keeping circles. There is also a less appealing mottled variant that has been bred. Sexing these gouramis even as adults is extremely difficult, although females may have broader backs when viewed from above.
Diet: Eats prepared foods and plant matter.
Natural habitat and behavior: Occurs in relatively large stretches of water, ranging from rivers and lakes to swamps. Their unique kissing behavior, when two individuals join lips, is not indicative of pair bonding—in fact it represents a trial of strength, with the weaker individual ultimately breaking off this contact.
Aquarium conditions: A large tank which is at least 40in (100cm) long is needed for these fish, and should contain relatively robust plants, which are less likely to be destroyed by these gouramis. They are useful in an aquarium for grazing algal growth, however, rarely touching live foods and proving to be more vegetarian in their feeding habits than other species. Kissing gouramis prove reasonably adaptable in their water chemistry needs, and can kept within a temperature range of 72–86°F (22–30°C).
Breeding is uncommon in aquarium surroundings, and is much more likely to be achieved in a pond. The fish do not mature until they are approximately 5in (12cm) long. Females can produce over 10,000 eggs at a single spawning. The male kissing gourami makes little attempt if any to construct a bubblenest, and the eggs just float at the surface.
An established culture of infusoria in the breeding setup is essential for rearing the fry, with the adult fish having to be removed once egg-laying has occurred.
Distribution: Southeast Asia, ranging from the Malay peninsula to Sumatra, Borneo, and other islands.
Size: Up to 8in (20cm).
Form: Narrow, torpedolike body shape, with a prominent mouth and a powerful caudal fin. Predominantly brown in color, with two pale yellowish stripes running along the sides of the body, the upper one of which passes through the eye. This striped patterning becomes broken into spots in dominant males in breeding condition, while females become swollen with eggs. The anal fin is deeply divided, appearing to form two separate fins.
Diet: Feeds exclusively on live invertebrates and small fish.
Natural habitat and behavior: This is a highly predatory species, as reflected by its body shape. It inhabits stretches of still and gently flowing water, patrolling the middle areas in search of suitable prey. Food is sucked into the mouth, rather than being actively seized in the jaws. Pikeheads are sociable fish by nature, living in groups.
Aquarium conditions: This is not a species that is easy to maintain, thanks to its dietary requirements. Soft, slightly acidic water conditions are favored by these distinctive predators, with a temperature range of 72–84°F (22–29°C). The aquarium should be well planted, albeit with some open areas, and the lighting needs to be subdued.
Pikeheads are ideally housed in a species-only setup, and must never be kept with smaller companions, which are likely to fall prey to them.
When displaying, the male uses his pelvic fins and inflates his throat, with the female subsequently laying as many as 90 eggs. These are collected up by the male, who broods them in his mouth for approximately 28 days. When the young finally emerge, they are already 0.5in (1.3cm) long. Mosquito larvae have been used successfully for rearing purposes, and also the fry of other labyrinth fish.
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