What Do Gouramis Eat, and How Often Should I Feed Them?

Most of the Gouramis are omnivores by nature, feeding under natural conditions on various bite-size aquatic creatures such as crustaceans, aquatic insects and larvae, small fishes, algae, and other living things that happen to come their way.

As with most omnivore aquarium fishes, their number one choice in the aquarium is living food similar to that which would comprise their fare in nature. Fortunately, however, gouramis are perfectly suited to the wide variety of excellent dry foods that are available for aquarium fishes today.

Here are some of the best foods for Gouramis:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Flake fish food
  • Ground beef heart
  • Bloodworms
  • Earthworms and white worms
  • Algae/spirulina

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There are a number of prepared fish foods available which so closely approximate the nourishment qualities of natural foods that the urban apartment dweller who must rely strictly on what he can buy to feed his fish can expect to raise gouramis of size and quality almost equal to those produced by another aquarist who has access to various live foods which he may collect for himself.

Frozen food

Frozen brine shrimp, Daphnia, mosquito larvae, and others can be purchased, while freeze-dried versions of these “natural” foods are also available, and very little nutritional value is sacrificed in processing. Frozen clams, shrimp, etc., normally sold for marine fishes, are often very suitable for feeding your gouramis.

Flake fish food

Perhaps today’s real “staple” fish food, if one type can be nominated above the others, is the amazingly high-quality flake fish food upon which so many aquarists rely. There are several brands of flake food, most of which are imported, which are so well balanced that many fishes will thrive on one of them alone, not supplemented by other foods.

Such an exclusive feeding program is not advocated, since a bit of variety in the diet tends to generate more zest and enthusiasm in our fishes, especially gouramis. Without trying to anthropomorphize gouramis, most of us would agree that a nutritionally perfect, laboratory-prepared diet which consisted of only one food item which never changed in texture, taste, or appearance would become rather tiresome.

Ground beef heart

Ground beef heart is excellent food. For young gouramis it can be blended, while for older ones twice through the fine blade on a food grinder is adequate. Fat and vein material or connecting tissue should be removed before grinding.

Beef heart can be kept frozen in balls which are adequate for one feeding. It can also be “stretched” by blending or fine grinding and adding to plain gelatin which has been prepared according to directions. The beef heart and gelatin should be folded together or gently stirred together while the gelatin is still in a liquid state.

Don’t try to mix them in a blender or with a mixer, since air bubbles will also be mixed in which won’t rise in the thick gelatin, resulting in the final gelled food’s floating instead of sinking. After mixing, pour onto a cookie sheet if you wish, and chill. Usable pieces can be easily cut with a dull knife and frozen. By slicing very thin, long strips, and

cutting to the desired length, “worms” can be cut which float down in a most interesting and enticing way. The added gelatin is not simply padding, because gelatin is about 85% protein.

Living food

Living food, when available, is of course preferred by the fish above all other foods. Gouramis particularly enjoy the chase of living, moving objects, and among their favorites are mosquito larvae, known in some areas as “wiggle-tails,” bloodworms, which are the larvae of non- biting midges of the family Tendipedidae, Daphnia or “water fleas,” white worms or enchytraeid, small earthworms and Tubifex.

Especially relished, but hardly suppliable in quantities to keep several large gouramis going, are baby guppies and babies of other livebearing species. Without a doubt, these create the greatest excitement to be seen in a gouramis tank, although many aquarists object to feeding live fish to fish.

I personally do not particularly advocate or object to the practice, but it should be remembered that the major food for fishes in nature is other fishes, and even in the guppy tank, there are probably many more baby guppies eaten by their parents than ever reach full size.

One thing which might be remembered is that should prized gouramis go “off his feed,” baby guppies are as likely as anything to start it feeding once more. This problem seldom occurs in clean, well-cared-for aquariums.

For those who enjoy collecting live foods, the best can often be collected from the cleanest places. Both mosquitoes and the little gnats or midges which are responsible for the larvae which we call bloodworms will lay their eggs on almost any calm water surface.

The larvae are often found in man-made receptacles (or even unoccupied fish ponds) which happen to have caught a little rainwater and where perhaps a few rotten leaves are present for nourishment. While almost everyone is familiar with the larvae of mosquitoes, some may be less so with the larvae of tendipedid midges, or bloodworms.

These larvae live in the organic “mud” formed by decaying vegetation, in little cylindrical chambers which they construct around themselves. An interesting point is that the reason for the red coloration of these worm-like creatures is due to a red blood pigment called erythrocruorin, the presence of which allows them to live in water that is severely depleted of oxygen.

Earthworms and white worms

Earthworms and white worms can, of course, be raised by the aquarist in a small box of compost kept in a cool place. If room permits, fish shipping containers are excellent worm beds. They can be filled with half garden soil and half leaf mold or peat moss.

Bread crusts, oatmeal, cornmeal, etc., serve as food for the worms. More elaborate instructions on their care can be obtained from most dealers who handle them or from a number of the larger handbooks on aquarium keeping in general.


Daphnia can be collected at various times of the year from most permanently standing, fish-free bodies of water. Better still, since it is safer concerning the introduction of parasites or other disease organisms sometimes present in Daphnia ponds, get a starter culture and raise your own in a suitable container.

Excellent for this purpose are the various sizes of vinyl wading pools which are quite reasonably priced.

Brine shrimp and tubifex

Live brine shrimp and tubifex are available at times from larger aquarium shops. Both are excellent fish foods.

Tubifex must be properly cleaned before use by flushing away dead worms and debris with cool running water. Because of the unclean conditions under which they live in nature, they have been named as being the carriers of some of the strange diseases which occasionally occur in gouramis and discus, especially discus.

How often Should I feed my gouramis?

Feeding adult gouramis twice a day is desirable, although once will do if the other is impossible. For those who can manage, even a third feeding is desirable, in which case feedings can be a bit more sparing so that the food is thoroughly cleaned up.

Never feed more than can be consumed by the fish in a few minutes. Healthier fish will be produced by feeding just short of what would have completely satisfied them.

Foods can be alternated for variety, routinely if you wish. An example would be frozen brine shrimp morning and evening with flake food between, or perhaps flake food in the morning and frozen shrimp in the evening if you feed twice a day.

Another food such as beef heart might substitute for one of these, or perhaps live food regularly once or twice a week. Good nutrition pays off in good fish, and feeding is to most fishkeepers the most enjoyable part of their avocation; it also challenges the aquarist to provide nutrition which will bring his gouramis to their best and keep them there.

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