Honey Gourami (Trichogaster Chuna): a Species Profile

If you’ve kept fish, the honey gourami is probably not a stranger.

Its bright colors and peaceful demeanor are just some of the reasons why they make one of the top choices for aquarium fish today.

Honey gourami swimming in aquarium

In today’s article, we’ll go through in detail about this species and what makes them special!

At a Glance

Minimum tank size: 10 gal (38 l)
Temperature: 70-82°F (21-28°C)
Lifespan: 4-8 years
Size: 3 inches (7.6 cm) males, 2 inches (5 cm) females
pH: 6.5-7.5
Hardness: 6-13 dGH
Ammonia: keep close to 0 ppm
Nitrite and nitrate: keep close to 0 ppm

Origins

Traditionally, the honey gourami is found in slow-moving rivers or stagnant ponds throughout India and Bangladesh. Although there have been appearances in Nepal and some parts of South-East Asia, by and large, the wild population of honey gouramis tends to come from India.

The honey gourami also prefers heavy foliage and tends to stay near fallen trees or wherever there is more leaf litter.

This species of fish do not grow large (a maximum of about 3 inches), so they look exactly like a fallen leaf in the water.

You will also notice that due to the habitat that they come from, they tend to do exceptionally well in blackwater environments. Like what we mentioned earlier, their habitat consists of slow to stagnant pools of water which make great places for blackwater stew!

Appearance

In this section, we cover some of the interesting and important aspects of the fish such as size, behavior, food, and some interesting facts about the species!

The honey gourami is a small fish that is popular for a myriad of reasons. Its hardiness, ease of care, bright coloration are just a few reasons why they’re so popular.

Color

Once the honey gourami has successfully established itself in its new environment, you will realize that the males will display a beautiful shade of gold, much like honey! Hence its common name, the honey gourami.

Generally, they do not display their full-color potential in fish stores often due to stress and overcrowding, thus they are usually not picked by new hobbyists for this reason and prefer their slightly larger cousin, the dwarf gourami instead.

Size

Honey gourami in a planted tank
(source)

The honey gourami is a small fish that grows to a maximum of 3 inches for males and about 2 inches for females.

They should not be confused with their slightly bigger cousin, the dwarf gourami which has a blueish hue and grows to a size of about 3.5 inches.

Temperament

This species of fish is timid and usually reclusive, making them very suitable for community tanks due to their peaceful nature. They are not aggressive or territorial and will do well in small schools.

Although they do well in small schools, they will develop some form of hierarchy within the group and some aggression is to be expected. Do not be alarmed when you see them chasing each other.

Males are also more aggressive than females during feeding time and when they become sexually mature, which happens anywhere from 5 months of age.

That said, they can be bullied by fishes of similar size due to their timid temperament. Fin nippers should not be housed with honey gouramis as they are prime targets for fin nipping.

Sexing

Honey gouramis are sexually dimorphic, which means you can tell the males apart from the females visually via physiological differences.

Males once established are a bright maple color while females, once sexually mature are slightly smaller and have a paler color as compared to their male counterparts.

Also, males display brighter colors, like dark blue around their abdomen, during the breeding season. They also have generally sharper features as compared to females which tend to have more rounded features.

Lifespan

If cared for properly, this species of fish lives for quite a long time, usually between 4 to 8 years! Of course, this heavily depends on the quality of care given to the fish e.g, diet, water, temperature, and stress, etc.

Tank Size

Due to its small size and generally sedentary disposition, the honey gourami does not need a big tank. A 10 gallon planted tank for a pair will do just fine.

Our general rule of thumb is to start with 10 gallons and add 1 gallon per inch of fish you want to add.

For example, if you’d like to add another 5 more 2-inch fishes to the tank, the minimum tank size you should have would be 10 gallons plus another 10 gallons for the additional fish which makes 20 gallons.

Not much equipment is required for keeping honey gouramis, however, a low power internal filter or a sponge filter is highly recommended as it keeps the water from going stagnant and helps to prevent dead spots in the tank.

Some owners even opt to keep them in a planted tank without any added filtration!

Parameters

The honey gourami does well in tanks that have slow-moving water flow, much like their natural habitat where they usually occur in slow-moving streams and stagnant pools.

As they are not fast fish, slow-moving water helps them feed easier and creates a less stressful environment for them.

Heating might be required for this species if you are located in colder parts of the world. However, heating is usually not required as they are a tropical species and can withstand temperatures anywhere from 70°F (21°C) to 82°F (28°C).

As for water parameters, the honey gourami originates from softer waters that are generally rich in tannins due to the abundance of fallen trees and plant matter that are commonly present within their habitat. A general hardness of around 6-13 dGH is recommended with a slightly lower pH range from 6.5--7.5.

Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should be kept to a minimum as this species stresses out easily. Weekly water changes of 25% total volume should be made to keep them healthy.

Decor

In the wild, their habitat is filled with fallen logs, sticks, leaf litter, and aquatic plants. While they will do fine without many decors, it is best for them to have as much hiding space as possible.

Live plants also have the added benefit of oxygenating and reducing nitrates in the water. Honey gouramis tend to spend much of their day in a certain spot of the tank, much like a floating leaf.

The substrate is usually not needed however it is recommended if you are keeping plants in the tank. Some substrate (like aquatic soil) also helps to buffer pH which is an added benefit considering they enjoy slightly acidic water.

Tank mates

Honey gourami in aquarium with its tankmates
Honey & Moonlight Gourami and Neon Tetra (source)

The honey gourami is a very peaceful and usually reclusive species of fish. The most common aquarium fish like guppies and mollies will make very good tank mates.

However, there are certain species of fish that you should steer away from if you decide to house them in a community tank.

Below is a classification of types of fish that will not make suitable tank mates.

  • Aggressive fish: Aggressive fish tend to stress tank mates out due to their territorial behavior. Fishes like betta splendens will attack most fish that infringe their territory.
  • Carnivorous fish: Fishes that have a diet that consists of other fishes are a big NO. Fishes like arowanas and various species of catfish, should not be housed with honey gouramis as they will make a good snack for these carnivorous fishes!
  • Large fish: Large fish tend to stress out their tank mates due to their larger disposition. Fishes like koi and big goldfish while do not necessarily attack are aggressive, they are very zealous especially when it comes to feeding.
  • Fin nippers: Fish like neon tetras and tiger barbs don’t make good tank mates because they tend to nip at fins. Slow-moving fish like honey gouramis make perfect targets for fin nippers as they generally don’t move much and are docile.

If the fish you intend to get falls within one of these 4 categories, we highly recommend you reconsider the decision as this will cause a lot of stress for your honey gouramis.

Diet

The honey gourami, like most of its cousins, is an omnivorous fish. This means that their diet consists of both animal and plant matter.

It’s is very important because they often suffer from problems such as bloating and impaction due to an improper diet in the aquarium. While most commercially available floating pellets are sufficient nutritionally, they are still chemically processed and manufactured.

In the wild, they are opportunistic feeders and live near the surface of the water to feed on insects that come too close.

Therefore, feeding them should involve both commercially available pellets as well as fresh foods such as bloodworms or tubifex worms, to stimulate a healthy digestive system.

Another problem with commercially available feeds is that owners tend to overfeed, resulting in easily bloated fish due to the lack of water content in the dry food, causing the food pellets to rapidly expand once the fishes ingest too much of it.

Breeding

Breeding honey gouramis is easy and is suitable even for beginners. The honey gourami is a bubble nester, much like bettas, which means they build nests out of saliva bubbles to house their eggs once mating has taken place.

Of course, this is assuming you already have both a male and female fish. Both fishes must be healthy as breeding does take a toll on their health due to the amount of energy involved.

The Ritual

Males usually will have made a bubble nest on the surface of the water in a corner of the tank. Sometimes the nests also appear around an anchor that protrudes the surface of the water, like a plant or an object.

Once the bubble nest is ready, the males will start courting the female by displaying his dark blue coloration towards the female. You may also notice some chasing involved, however, this is normal mating behavior and you do not need to worry unless there is more aggression involved.

If the female is not ready, mating will not take place and the male will continue courting her. If the female seems stressed, remove her from the tank and try again in a few days once she has been nursed back to health.

Mating

This part of the process usually happens very quickly and the pair will mate multiple times up until the female rejects the male’s advances.

You will observe that the male wraps his body around the female and she will release her eggs. Fertilization happens simultaneously with releasing the ovum.

Eggs

The fertilized eggs usually sink and the male will proceed to collect and deposit them into his bubble nest. Each mating releases anywhere from 20-30 zygotes and the female is capable of laying up to 300 eggs each season!

Once the eggs have been deposited into the nest, you might also observe the male spitting water at the top of his nest. This behavior is to prevent them from drying out from the top of the nest as well as to push them down closer to the water.

The eggs will hatch within 36 hours. During this period, the nest is usually closely guarded by the male and sometimes will even chase the female away. At this point, the females should be removed.

Males should be removed by the 3-day mark after all the fry have hatched and are free-swimming.

Feeding the fry

Most keepers opt to feed liquid fry food or infusoria at this stage up until the fry are large enough to consume baby brine shrimp or daphnia. This should take about 2 weeks before they can be switched over.

During the first 2 weeks, the fry should be fed 3-4 times daily and once they have been switched over to baby brine shrimp they can be fed twice a day.

Interesting facts about the honey gourami

The honey gourami is an interesting fish because they possess an additional breathing organ called the labyrinth. In the wild, most of their habitat consists of oxygen-deprived waters, as such this organ comes in handy!

Like most other fishes, the honey gourami also possess gills that enable them to breathe in the water, however, the labyrinth allows them to extract oxygen from the air.

Although most aquarium environments are oxygen-rich, they still like to spend most of their time close to the surface of the water, much like they do in the wild!

Of course, this does not mean that they can survive on land because they can extract oxygen from the air, rather this organ aids the extraction of oxygen so that they can survive in environments with little to no oxygen.

Common diseases

Due to their sedentary nature and opportunistic feeding habits, coupled with the harsh environment that they originate from, they are surprisingly hardy fish and are quite disease resistant.

However, they are prone to certain diseases such as impaction, fin rot, and bloating, as we mentioned earlier in the article.

Impaction

Unlike other fish that swim freely in the water column, honey gouramis love their spot and will stay there for most of the day with little movement.

This causes a problem as they have a relatively short digestive tract and commercial pellets tend to be very dry. Blockages are common if you do not vary their diet with raw food such as tubifex worms or bloodworms.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a common problem within aquariums that have slow-moving water flow and bad care. Fin rot is a bacterial infection that is easily prevented by consistent water changes.

When the water quality improves, the chances of fin rot are negligible

Bloating

Bloating and impaction are closely related. However unlike impaction, bloating occurs due to a gas buildup inside the fishes digestive tract.

To prevent bloating, a varied diet is a must. Some remedies for bloating include feeding your fish boiled peas or to stop feeding for a few days to let the digestive tract work itself out before feeding again.

Closing Thoughts

The honey gourami is an easy fish to keep and is an ideal choice for a starting fish. They are extremely hardy and will withstand most beginner mistakes that might happen.

Feeding them is also very easy as they will most likely eat anything that is thrown at them (no pun intended).

Although these species are prone to certain diseases, they are easily prevented with a varied diet as well as consistent water changes.

They are also very easy to add to existing community aquariums due to their calm disposition.

We’ve come to the end of the article, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting it together for you.

Do leave us questions and comments in the section below!

Comments:

  1. Peter Sykes

    Great reading, I have kept tropical fish since I was 10 years old, I am 65 now and this fish is a little corker, I have just purchased a few of them for a new tank setup I have just completed solely for these little corkers, can’t wait till they arrive, good reading keep up the good work. Many thanks Pete

    Reply

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