Chocolate gourami breeding

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The chocolate gourami is a very delicate fish and is very difficult to care for in the aquarium. Breeding chocolate gourami is very difficult and is challenging even for an advanced aquarium fish breeder. The gourami breeding tank must have very ideal water parameters to induce these gourami fish to breed. The gourami fry are also delicate and succumb easily to fungal, bacterial and parasitic infections.

Chocolate gourami breeding aquarium

The breeding tank must have all the requirements needed for raising these gourami species. The water must be soft and acidic with the pH ranging between 5 to 6.5. The general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) must be maintained below 5 dH. The breeding aquarium water must have been well cycled and have minimal levels of nitrogenous waste. Creating natural environment with anchored plants and floating plants will help in inducing breeding. One or two spots in the bottom must have open space for the fish to court and spawn.

The temperature must kept at a constant 27-28ยบ C, if necessary with the help of heaters. As these gouramis are air breathing fish, from time to time they may come to surface to breathe. The temperature of the air above the water surface also must be similar to water temperature in order not to distress the breeding chocolate gourami. Covering the tank with a lid will maintain the water and air temperature especially when the room is cooler.

The breeder chocolate gourami must be fed with live food like Artemia, microworms, bloodworms and Daphnia. Live proteinuous food will speed up the growth and maturation process. The female gourami will spent nearly two weeks brooding the eggs and fry and it will not be feeding during this period. A weak female chocolate gourami may abandon the eggs and fry halfway during the brooding period.

Sexual dimorphism

The sexual dimorphism becomes apparent only when the chocolate gourami fish are mature and ready for breeding. During the breeding season, the male gourami will intense in coloration with white or pale yellow edge along the dorsal fin. The maturing females may also develop brighter color and carry a black spot on the caudal fin. The dorsal fin in the male chocolate gourami is pointed whereas in the female it is rounded. The breeding females are rounder and the area near the belly region is slightly plump due to the presence of eggs. They have the lower jaw slightly rounded and protruding due to the presence of distensible skin. The male chocolate gouramis in some populations may have caudal fin more forked when compared to females.
Chocolate gourami - Sphaerichthys osphromenoides
Chocolate gourami - Sphaerichthys osphromenoides

Selecting male and female gourami for breeding

It is always better to have at least six chocolate gouramis grown together so that one or two pairs may turn into breeding couple. One of the male fish may become dominant. Chasing away other males it may pair with a female. When there is pairing of fish for breeding, it is better to remove other fish so as not disturb the breeding process.

Courting and spawning

After pairing, the breeding chocolate gourami pair settle to the bottom of the tank for courtship and spawning. The courting may go on for hours. The male and female chocolate gourami go around in a small circle, the male nudging the female to move. After a few rounds the breeding pair may pause for a few seconds. Sometimes they surface to gulp air. Again they keep going in circles, now the male keeping its vent very close to that of the female. After a few rounds, the male chocolate gourami pushes the female on to its side and the female starts releasing eggs. The male simultaneously releases the seminal fluid on to the eggs and external fertilization takes place.

The chocolate gourami lays about 20 to 40 eggs on the bottom substrate and the male fertilizes the eggs as they are released. Soon after fertilization, the eggs swell, absorbing water. After a few minutes the female chocolate gourami collects the eggs into its mouth for brooding.

Sphaerichthys selatanensis is closely related to Sphaerichthys osphromenoides and once it was described as a subspecies Sphaerichthys osphromenoides selatanensis. Its breeding behavior is very similar to S. osphromenoides. The video below vividly shows the breeding process in S. selatanensis.


The Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides) is a maternal mouth-brooder. The breeding females have the lower jaw slightly rounded and protruding due to the presence of distensible skin that is expanded during mouth-brooding. The male chocolate gourami may disturb and annoy the brooding female. It is better to remove the male without disturbing the female. A disturbed or stressed female may spit her fry prematurely.

After a week of brooding the female may be moved to fry raising tank. After eight days of brooding, the female may start releasing the fry. After complete release of fry, the female can be removed to main breeding aquarium.

Chocolate gourami fry care

By the time the fry are released by the female chocolate gourami, the yolk-sac of the fry might have completely absorbed. The fry must be fed immediately with live food or else they will starve to death. The fry tank must be prepared in advance with plenty of aquatic vegetation. The chocolate gourami fry will initially feed on rotifers and Cyclops growing among the leaves of aquatic plants.

The chocolate gourami fry will also feed on newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii. Well fed fry may grow up to 2 cm in a month. The fry must be offered live feed in small frequent servings to keep the water clean and free from decaying organic load. Daily water exchange of 10% may be done to remove toxic metabolic wastes and maintain ideal water conditions. Like the gourami breeding tank, the fry tank also should be covered to maintain temperature and humidity.

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Image by: Tsunamicarlos / public domain
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