Chocolate gourami aquarium

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The chocolate gourami is a very delicate fish requiring special environment in the aquarium.
These gourami fish are very difficult to care for in the aquarium and are challenging even for the advanced aquarium hobbyists. These chocolate gourami fish get easily affected by the sudden changes in the water parameters and succumb to fungal and bacterial diseases and also parasitic infections.

Aquarium requirement

The chocolate gourami may grow up to 2½" in size in ideal conditions. The aquarium trade sells them in the size range of ¾ inch to 1½ inch. To house about three pairs of gouramis and a few small peaceful fish as tank mates, a thickly planted aquarium tank of at least 30 gallons (113 liters) capacity is necessary. Though these gourami fish can breathe air directly from the water surface, slow aeration and filtration is necessary to maintain good water quality.

Aquarium environment

The chocolate gourami aquarium requires, well cycled tank, slow aeration, biological under-gravel filtration, thick plantation, slightly acidic black waters, tropic temperatures, low alkalinity and small compatible and peaceful tank mates.

Water quality

Maintaining ideal water conditions within the required narrow range is the most important criterion for the success of the chocolate gourami tank. Though frequent water exchange is required for the health of the chocolate gourami, the exchange must be in small quantities (10-20% range) so as not to upset the delicate equilibrium in the water conditions.

Water temperature

The preferred temperature is 24° to 28° C (75-82°F). The chocolate gourami are quite comfortable at 30° C. At lower temperatures these fish may become lethargic, stop feeding and lose color. Water temperature may have to be controlled with a heater, especially, if the room temperature is low.

Water pH and hardness

Water pH may drop to as low as 3.0 or 4.0 in the natural habitat of these gouramis. The pH in wild environment may naturally range between 4.0 – 6.5 and specimen collected from wild may require similar range in the aquarium. Tank bred chocolate gourami may adapt to a slightly higher range. The preferred hardness values are 0.5-6 DH.

Aeration and filtration

Though in nature, these gourami fish live in sluggish or still environments, slow aeration and biological under-gravel filtration will help in cycling the aquarium as well as providing healthy environment.


Heavily planted, dimly-lit aquarium, mimicking the natural environment, is required for keeping these chocolate gouramis. A few rocks and ceramic decoratives may be placed on sandy substratum to create hiding and resting places. The Microsorum sp., Ceratopteris sp., Vallisneria sp., Alternanthera sp., Hygrophila sp., Taxiphyllum sp. and Cryptocoryne sp. thrive well in low lighting and are preferred species of aquatic plants. To diffuse light some floating plants may also be added.

Further by absorbing metabolic wastes and nutrients, they stabilize water. These plants control the algal growth, making the water crystal clear. These plants required to be periodically trimmed to maintain right density. Bog-wood and a bit of dry leaf-litter may add to creating ideal conditions.
Chocolate gourami - Sphaerichthys osphromenoides
Chocolate gourami - Sphaerichthys osphromenoides

Diet and feeding

The chocolate gourami fish are omnivores in nature. They feed on decaying plant material, zoobenthos, detritus, benthic crustaceans, worms and small insect larvae. These gourami are very reluctant feeders of prepared food. If not already introduced to prepared feed by the pet trader, they required to be slowly conditioned to take plant-based flake food as well as freeze-dried tubifex and blood worms. They prefer live feed and feeding them with live or frozen Artemia nauplii, daphnia, tubifex, micro worm etc., will keep them healthy and enhance their coloration.

Diseases and parasites

The chocolate gourami fish species get easily affected by Sporozoa infection by Hennegya sp.and Myxobolus sp. Internal and external parasitic infestations with protozoa and worms are also quite common. Unhealthy conditions and heavy organic loads can cause bacterial and fungal infections. The chocolate gourami, being very delicate, rarely recovers from diseases, even after treatment.

Tetrahymena disease (common in guppies), caused by Tetrahymena sp. (protozoan ciliate) has been found to occur in unhealthy water conditions and cause mortality. It initially appears as small (1 mm) white spots (necrosis spots) in the skin and musculature of the chocolate gourami, followed by elevation of the scales and extensive sloughing of the epidermal skin. There is loss of equilibrium and the fish dies within a week after infection.

Compatibility, temperament and behavior

The chocolate gourami is a peaceful fish and rather timid fish. Aggressive fish species as tank mates may intimidate and out-compete these gourami species leading to seclusion and starvation of the fish. Some peaceful small fish like Danionella, Trigonostigma etc.. can be ideal tank-mates. Four to six chocolate gourami may be kept in the tank for group behavior, interaction and establishing hierarchies.

Breeding chocolate gourami

Breeding chocolate gourami is very challenging and rewarding. These species of gourami are sexually dimorphic. The male fish has a yellow border extending along the edge of the anal and caudal fins whereas the female lacks the yellow border. These chocolate gourami species are mouth brooders and the female fish has extended lower jaw for mouth brooding. The eggs hatch in two weeks and the young fish fry require small live feed. For more information on breeding and rearing fry go to the post on breeding chocolate gourami fish.
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