Colisa lalia "Dwarf" Gouramis of Many Names, Honey,
Flames, Neon Blue, Sunset Fire... Behavior
Related Articles: Anabantoids/Gouramis & Relatives,
Genera Ctenopoma &
Related FAQs: Dwarf Gouramis, Dwarf
Gourami Identification, Dwarf Gourami
Compatibility, Dwarf Gourami
Selection, Dwarf Gourami Systems,
Dwarf Gourami Feeding, Dwarf Gourami Disease, Dwarf Gourami Reproduction, & FAQs on:
Gouramis 1, Gouramis 2, Gourami Identification, Gourami Behavior, Gourami Compatibility, Gourami Selection, Gourami Systems, Gourami Feeding, Gourami Disease, Gourami Reproduction, Betta splendens/Siamese Fighting
A Neon Blue male.
Dwarf Gourami Behaviour
I have been reading posts from your website for about a month now and I
think I can safely say that so far, it has proved to be the most
informative, at least for me anyway.
<Glad you're enjoying.>
I have 1 male and 2 female dwarf gourami. I have had them approximately
a month or so collectively and thus far none have showed any sign of
DGD. In fact all 3 seem very active, happy and confident. Both females
I bought online and are smaller than the male. The larger female is
approximately two thirds the size of the male. I'm told by the LFS
that the males are sold already sexually mature.
<More or less.>
The tank is 36" long by 14" high and 12" deep and medium
to heavily planted.
Since I've had the male he has built a bubble nest just once when I
dropped the water level, but failed to coax the seemingly adolescent
females into breeding.
Since then he has seemed to have lost interest in building any nests
and is content to swim with the larger female back and forth and ravage
my floating banana lilies (which is completely fine by me).
<Not uncommon. Do check water chemistry (needs to be soft and
acidic) and offer live foods regularly, or at least a good substitute,
e.g., wet-frozen foods.>
Don't worry, I'm leading up to my question very soon! I feed
them flakes, blood worm and frozen brine shrimp alternately, but no
live food as of yet.
Now all 3 DG's are very confident and affectionate towards me
insomuch that they love it when I have to put my hand in the water for
any reason (feeding, trimming, general maintenance). Even the usually
shyer smaller female comes out to nibble my fingers and arms.
I know that this is more than likely related to expectations of being
fed, but it illustrates how extremely comfortable these fish are with
<Yes and yes.>
I don't know if this is bad or not, but I even like to put my hand
in the tank and let them swim around me, nibbling and even bumping
affectionately against my hand.
<Do consider cross-infections though. Soap, for example, is very
toxic to fish, and conversely, open wounds on your skin can allow
Mycobacteria infections to become a problem. Dwarf Gouramis are known
carriers of Mycobacteria infections, and while not apparently dangerous
to humans, at least some of these fish-borne Mycobacteria strains can
cause unsightly and uncomfortable rashes.>
My question is this: would putting my hand in the aquarium and
encouraging physical contact with the fish discourage or interrupt
their desire or impulse to spawn?
I just enjoy 'playing' with them so much that it makes me worry
that they might lose the urge to reproduce.
<Yes, any disturbance has the potential to disrupt breeding
behaviours including nest-building. Breeders tend to put their fish
into a quiet aquarium so they can focus on one another and their
And I just want to be clear that I let the fish come to me on their own
accord. I never seek them out or torment them.
<Interaction with fish in the way you describe is fine, beneficial
even. But do understand the potential risks, problems.>
Your opinion would be greatly appreciated!
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 12/31/11
Thanks for the prompt reply.
Yep, the water is soft and acidic. I have an external canister filter
with active carbon and I recently bought a bag of Chemsorb (mostly
because I had green water beginning to develop) to remove as much of
the harmful toxins as I possibly could and soften the heck out of the
<Not familiar with this product but Google suggests it's largely
activated carbon. That's fine for removing toxins, if you think
there are some in the water, but needn't be used all the time. For
a start, carbon won't affect hardness or pH. Secondly, carbon
removes good chemicals such as medications. Thirdly, carbon has no
affect on things in tap water, like ammonia and chlorine. Fourthly, all
these chemical media need replacing every 2-3 weeks, so if used to do
the job you want, they're expensive to use. After about a month
they're so covered in dirt and bacteria they're simply wasting
space in the filter.>
Worked like a charm, too.
<In what way? To be honest, I don't see any use for these sorts
of chemical media in most freshwater tanks.>
Regarding the matter of my hands in the aquarium, whenever I need to
use soap to remove anything more harmful from my hands, I always keep
my hands under running water and scrubbing them for a further 10
seconds or so to remove as much residual soap as I can and then
completely dry my hands before immersing in the tank. Hope this makes a
<Yes, it will. Good approach.>
At present, it is summer here in Australia and although the dwarf
gourami are enjoying the warmer water (I've switched off the
heater), I'm concerned that my 'false julli' Corydoras and
my cherry shrimp will suffer. I understand that cherry shrimp eggs
prefer to hatch in cooler water. Are my concerns founded?
<They're valid concerns, but for a few months, no harm should be
done. If you're worried, float a litre-sized ice cream tub filled
with water in the tank to cool things down. But so long as the
temperature doesn't go above 28 C, you shouldn't have any
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 12/31/11
The Chemsorb from what I've been told by my LFS contains more than
just carbon. It has various types of absorbable rocks, stones and media
ground into a sand-like mixture.
<Quite so. But it's basically carbon and zeolite, and small
amounts of other chemical adsorbents. Not essential by any
And yes I am aware that both carbon and this other product don't
need to be used constantly and do need to be replaced.
And I always remove them when I need to medicate the aquarium.
For example, I had to treat the tank for some kind of cottony fungal
growth that was effecting my cardinal tetras with tri-sulpha and
removed the carbon and whatnot in that instance.
I treat the water with a chlorine-removing solution and I adjust my ph
with a proper test and adjusting kit.
<Ah, now you're worrying me again. Changing the pH directly is
bad. If you have soft water fish, lower the hardness by mixing tap
water with RO or rainwater, then stabilise the pH as necessary, e.g.,
with Discus Buffer.
But if you're adding a pH-down product to your water without mixing
new water with RO/rainwater, then you're creating unstable pH
conditions that can easily affect your fish.>
I cycled my tank with existing bacteria from other filter media for
about 11 days. The Chemsorb worked like a charm in that it eliminated
my green water and my male dwarf gourami started building his bubble
nest a short while after (Although the latter could have more to do
with a water change, but the green water disappearing was definitely
due to the Chemsorb)
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 1/3/12
Thanks for all your help, Neale.
I just thought of something else I had previously forgotten...
About 10 years ago when I was keeping Tropic-fresh water fish I had a
bottle of liquid peat extract.
Would this serve the purpose of softening my water sufficiently?
<Nope. That's blackwater extract. It's for colouring the
water. It does little/nothing of any value. Fairly pointless product
though some fish do look prettier in tea-coloured water than plain
water. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to soften water. If there
was an alternative to using an RO (reverse-osmosis) filter or
collecting rainwater, we'd all be doing that! But there isn't
an alternative. If you have hard water but want to keep soft water
fish, you need to either buy an RO filter (costs 100s of dollars up
front, and 100s of dollars to run per year) or else collect rainwater
(what I do here in the UK where rainwater is more plentiful than
money). Domestic water softeners, by the way, don't soften water at
all, merely replace carbonate hardness with sodium salts, so can't
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 1/3/12
hmmm, well I don't know if this makes a difference or not,
<Makes no difference at all.>
but all the water I put into the tank has gone through a water purifier
filter, although it isn't R/O.
Not even sure how to get R/O water.
<Buy an RO filter, install two or more carbon pre-filters, power up,
collect the water in buckets, add appropriate buffers (e.g., Discus
Buffer) to each bucket of RO water. And then, every month or two,
replace the carbon filter and do whatever other maintenance is
required. It's VERY expensive and wastes huge amounts of water,
typically 10 gallons of tap water for every 1 gallon of RO water
I do know that the same people that sold us our water purifier also
sell reverse osmosis filters, but that isn't really a financially
viable option for me at this point in time.
<Quite so. That's why I collect rainwater instead.>
I'm fairly certain that our purifier is basically just carbon as
but it claims to remove most if not all heavy metals etc.
<Which is fine, but not relevant to fishkeeping. In fact many/most
medics would argue it's fairly irrelevant as far as drinking water
goes, and more about the taste of the water as anything else, and
certainly doesn't do much/anything significant to human health. But
there are lots of people prepared to pay for the different flavour, so
things like Brita water filters sell by the bucketload.>
What can I do if this isn't enough? The fish seem very happy, but
I'm aware that like people, fish don't always know they are
sick or in a hostile environment at the beginning.
<Not all soft water fish keel over and die in hard water. But some,
like Neons and Cardinals, are notably shorter-lived in hard water. Here
in the UK, Neons seem to live about a year in hard water, whereas they
can live 5 years in soft, acidic water. So it's significant. Do
What's a more affordable option?
<Rainwater is cheap and can be used just like RO water, but it does
need to be cleaned before use and, in cities, can be polluted. Plus,
not everywhere has steady rainfall.>
Thanks in advance, regards Jason.
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 1/9/12
Thanks again for your insightful info and for helping me to realise how
much I truly don't know about keeping freshwater tropical fish.
<Either that or 40 misspent years of my life playing with fish
instead of doing more worthwhile stuff>
Since there is naught I can do about the hardness of my water at this
stage, I've decided to do nothing about it for now.
<Almost always the best approach.>
I questioned the guy from my LFS about this and he confirmed what you
have told me,
although he did suggest that large pieces of driftwood in my tank could
help to absorb the dissolved (undesolved?) solids for a time.
<Now here's the thing. Bogwood produces tannins, and yes, these
can make water more acidic. But the effect is unreliable, difficult to
control, usually slight in hard water (i.e., 20 degrees dH or so), and
will be expensive. Mostly bogwood just tints the water tea-coloured,
which lots of fish like, and that enhances the colours of things like
Neons and Tiger Barbs. It's more cosmetic than anything else. Not
worthless to be sure, but more about the look than the substance. A bit
like a woman wearing a push-up bra: not a bad thing at all, but not
necessarily what you're expecting!>
I was thinking to myself, 'Ah yeah, you just want me to buy lots of
expensive wood from your store!', but this same guy has persuaded
me against a number of different actions in the past that could have
made him and his shop a rather pricey sale, e.g. I enquired about a uv
sterilizer once; his response was that he stocked them, but I
didn't need one.
<In freshwater tanks, yes, largely true. But they are useful in some
I also asked him about a chiller once for the hot weather; he replied,
'Yeah we have them in stock, but just face a fan at the surface of
the water and that should be enough too keep the temperature
<True indeed, but only up to a point. Fans will knock a couple
degrees C off the water, but if your tank is rising about 30 degrees C
in summer, then a chiller may be helpful. Indeed, marine aquarists use
them very often because of their hot lighting systems. Freshwater fish
are often adapted to warm water, e.g., by being able to breathe air,
but marine fish rarely have tricks like these, and much about 25 C and
they get very stressed.>
So it seems he actually wants to help.
The question remains, are his recommendations accurate or is he misled
Anyway, My male dwarf gourami has started building his nest again and
proceeded to chase the females around the tank. I know its near
impossible for you to say for sure, but when will my larger female be
sexually mature if she is 2/3 - 3/4 the size of the male?
<Impossible to say. But there are things you can do to speed things
up. Raise the temperature to around 28-30 C if possible. Feed lots of
live foods (the availability of mosquitos and other prey is a common
spawning trigger). Allow some sunlight to hit the tank. Try doing water
changes where you add cooler water than usual (not freezing cold, but
enough to simulate rainfall).>
She isn't especially bulgy around her flank, but she does have some
minor red colouration around the tips of her bottom fins. Apart from
this she has some extremely faint blue lines on her sides and is silver
all over apart from that. The smaller female looks to me like she could
be from the flame dwarf gourami variation. She is a silvery, bronze
with light orange tail and fins.
I'll try and get some pics of them, but my camera isn't the
Thanks again for all your help.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 1/9/12
Thanks as always for your speedy reply.
When my LFS guy mentioned about the driftwood, I said to him, 'do
you mean bogwood?' and he said, 'No, bogwood will just release
tannins and make the water darker (the very things you just
mentioned!). I'm talking about large pieces of wood that will
absorb calcium, manganese ) magnesium?) etc'
<Hmm not sure he's right here. Wood, whatever the kind, decays
in the same way, releasing tannins and other organic acids. Some of
these acids neutralise alkaline substances like calcium carbonate in
the water. Beyond that, there's no real difference between wood
types that I'm aware of.>
He said he was having the same problems as me when he first got into
the aquarium hobby and discovered that driftwood went partway in
softening hard water. I don't know, I may as well try it, I guess.
I have nothing to lose, hey? I always thought bogwood and driftwood
were more or less the same thing (shrugs).
<Bogwood is wood that has been dug up from bogs. It has only
partially decayed in an acidic, oxygen-poor environment, so has a
certain sort of chemical composition. Driftwood is wood that has
drifted about in rivers or the sea, exposed to oxygen-rich water and
eventually to the air when it washes up on shorelines. It's decayed
much more because of the exposure to oxygen, and consequently contains
less of the organic material that forms tannins and the other organic
acids. Other than that, yes, these are much the same thing. Bogwood
tends to be denser and more acidic than driftwood. Driftwood tends to
float, at least initially, because it contains more air bubbles. Either
way, even bogwood will be an unreliable water softener. Honestly, if it
was as easy as dumping some wood in an aquarium, we'd all be doing
it. Instead people spend hundreds of dollars on RO systems to produce
RO water, or else collect rainwater and take the risk of introducing
Yeah, I've been feeding the fish live blackworms the past few or so
days. I've tried unsuccessfully for many weeks to coax mosquitoes
to breed in a bucket of old water outside. I've tried placing the
bucket in direct light, then shade. I tried putting it under an outside
table that has vines all around it as I know mosquitoes like to rest
among plants. I used to have no problems getting mosquitoes to breed,
so I don't know why I've lost my touch. Maybe they know my
Yeah, I did try to move things along. I lowered the water level, slowly
raised the temperature and fed live food. The problem is, I'm not
sure in what order to do things (if indeed there IS an order!).
<Trial and error.>
So if I begin with my tank at full water level, temperature is approx
26 C and I've only been feeding them dry or frozen foods, what
steps in order should I take to encourage the girls to give up their
goodies for the boy?
<Isolate them with a divider of some sort. Fatten up the female on
the best possible foods. Ensure water chemistry is appropriate to the
species in question. Make gradual changes in hardness and temperature
He keeps repairing his nest each day and I'm not sure if it was
just my imagination, but it seemed to me that the larger female was a
darker bronze colour when I turned on the lights this morning. Can it
take the female a few days to decide to respond to the male's
<Yes. Or at least, it may take a few days/weeks for a female to
become ripe with eggs, even if sexually mature. Spawning triggers are
important, but not always obvious. Some reading around the web will
help, I'm sure.>
Thanks again, and yes it ALL helps.
Re: Dwarf Gourami Behaviour 1/9/12
Ok, I have observed several things since my last email to you. Several
times today my larger female has approached the male under the bubbles
nest, poking him in on the anal fin and tail fin region. He
himself to her by floating on his side and spinning very slowly. A
couple of times he tried to wrap her and they seemed to 'dance'
for a few seconds, but she always breaks it off and swims away with no
eggs released, the male chasing her relentlessly out of what seems like
frustration. Could she be an adolescent acting out adult behaviour or
will only sexually mature dwarf gourami females display this
<Possibly, but unlikely. If the Gouramis are the right size and
displaying sexual characteristics, they're ready to spawn. Diet is
often the thing, with females needing conditioning before they will
If she IS sexually mature, is it common for female dwarf gourami to
tease the male like this prior to spawning?
<No idea. But generally, fish spawn when the female is ready; males
aren't so fussy. If spawning hasn't happened, it's usually
the female isn't ready and doesn't have a batch of eggs that
need laying. In species where the female plays no part in brood care --
as here -- there aren't any pre-spawning behaviours. She either
spawns, or she ignores the male (or is driven away by him).>
Thanks heaps, I'm just as frustrated as the male!
Is it also okay for a dwarf fire Gourami to sit
<They do rest near the
substrate, and if there's too much water current or aggressive
tankmates, they will become shy. Do also be aware of the symptoms of
Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus and Mycobacteria infections, and be
alert to any odd behaviours these might cause.>
Please I need this answer I'm very uneasy for new fish
Dear Crew,Dwarf Gouramis
5/17/08 are dwarf Gouramis air breathers? thanks <Yes.
Is it normal for a dwarf Gourami to swim from side to side in the front
of the tank? 01/03/10
<No. As we've mentioned earlier on, review Dwarf Gourami
Iridovirus and Mycobacteria infections, and be aware that Colisa lalia
needs very specific conditions to do well: gentle water current,
relatively high temperatures,
and water hardness that is towards the soft rather than hard end of the
range. They aren't good companions for hard water fish (Guppies,
Mollies, etc.) or fish that need relatively cool water (Danios,
Corydoras, Platies, Neons, etc.).>
Also, I have very active fish that gobble all of the food before my
dwarf Gourami can get any. How can I make sure the dwarf Gourami gets
<You really can't. If the midwater fish feed exclusively from
the surface, as with Danios, you could use a plastic tube of some sort
to direct food halfway down the tank, so the Danios couldn't get at
it. You could alternatively take a turkey baster and pipette food onto
the substrate. But in general it is best to select fish that won't
compete with one another, and then to offer sinking and floating foods
that are useful for feeding fish at different levels.>
Thank you for the answer its a new fish
Dwarf Gourami Behavioral Commentary 2-12-08
Hello, <Hannah> Firstly, this is a great site, it's been a
lot of help in setting up our freshwater tropical aquarium. :)
We've had the tank since just after Christmas, although we
didn't start putting fish in until a few weeks ago because of the
cycling. It's a 54 litre tank (14 US gallons?), <About this>
fairly heavily planted - 5 plants that are the full height of the tank,
6 that are about half the height and 5 smaller than that, plus some
weird moss ball things. In terms of livestock we have one very small
orange shrimp, 2 dwarf gouramis (I think the variety is flame),
<Mmm, could be Colisa lalia or Trichogaster chuna...> 5 ember
tetras and 6 neon tetras (we had ten, lost four, but it's now been
2 weeks since the last casualty so we intend to add another five or
so.) I hope this all sounds alright? <Thus far, yes> My question
in re: the behavior of the two Gouramis, I've had a look around on
the site (obviously) but had a bit of trouble separating material on
'Gourami's' and 'Dwarf Gourami's" - it seems
like behaviorally they are different (is that correct?). <The
dwarfs... particularly the two species mentioned above... are toward
the spectrum of smaller size, easier-going temperament relative to all
Gourami species> Unfortunately I am not sure what sex our fish are,
their Dorsal fin's seem around the same shape, although the smaller
one is overall less brightly coloured than the larger one, so maybe we
have one of each. <The sexes are very easy to distinguish... see
WWM, the Net...> The bigger fish seems to think so cause he built a
bubble nest a week after we got them, but then it disappeared...
<Will come and go> They both spend a fair amount of time lurking
around the bottom of the tank in the various plants and hiding places,
which I understand is normal behavior, the smaller one particularly
likes it in our coconut shell cave. In between times, they alternate
between chasing each other around (normally big one chases small one,
but sometimes it's the other way), or at other times they hang out
together and stroke the long feeler things they have across each other.
Does this behavior seem normal, or do our Gouramis have some sort of
personality disorder! <Mmm, normal> I was wondering if you might
be able to deduce their sex from the way they were acting. <Yes,
likely so> I'm sorry not to attach a photo but I don't know
how to make it small enough. Thanks for your help, Hannah <And you
for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Dwarf Gourami beh. 9/21/06 Hi there, I have am
fairly new to the fish keeping hobby so bear with me. I have a 90l Aqua
one (620) fish tank that has been set up for about a month now. I have
planted this fairly heavily but haven't yet upgraded the lighting
(currently 2 18 watt light units) <Low intensity> currently I
have in it 3 Zebra danios, 3 leopard Corydoras and... the problem: I
also have 2 dwarf honey Gouramis they are both bright orange so I
assume they are males, the smaller of the two keeps chasing the other
around the tank although I cant actually see any damage to either fish
yet. <Yes, typical> Is there some way of stopping this and is it
going to stress the chased fish? <Mmm, in this sized
system... either to remove one, or add females> I would really like
to keep them both but if its going to be detrimental to the fishes
health I would rather take one back to the shop, assuming they will
take it back. I have read somewhere on the net that if I were to get
something like tetras it may calm them down is this likely and how many
would fit with my other fish? <Possibly... though the Danios serve
the same "ditherfish" function> Thanks in advance of your
assistance. <Welcome. Bob Fenner>
My Flame Gourami, beh. 1/27/07 I have a 12
gallon fish tank with 8 fish inside. For the past three days I have
been experiencing an unusual behavior of my female and male Gouramis. I
got them both at fish man center about a month ago. The male would
proudly be in the center of the tank and the female would swim
peacefully around. This three days their relationship changed. Now my
male is hiding behind the cave and sometimes in the cave. If he comes
out the female quickly chases him away. <Somehow this sounds all too
familiar...> I do not see any nipping, I just see chasing. He seems
to be scared. Than he is behind the cave I do not really see him, but
in the cave it seems like he is in a sitting position. I checked all my
chemicals in the tank. All looks normal. I do not know what has
changed. I need help. Any ideas why this sudden change? <Not
atypical behavior for Gouramis period... and if the other fishes
aren't too large, not likely to become real trouble here in your
twelve gallon system. I'd just keep an eye on them for signs of
apparent damage. Bob Fenner>
Dwarf Gourami fins turning black - 02/09/2007 Hi,
<Melissa> Love your site. I have 2 pair of dwarf
gouramis in a 37 gal tank. Two of them (one male, one
female) have fins that are turning black. They are not torn or frayed,
just "ink stained". This is not normal, but I
don't know what to treat for. Any suggestions? Thank you, Nalo Meli
<Mmm... likely nothing amiss here... particularly if your other
livestock appear fine... This is likely a behavioral change,
expression... the two may well be engaged in a bit of breeding... Bob
Flame Gourami Help! My very 1st fish (purchased in May) was a
Flame Gourami who lived happily until I got a 2nd Gourami (a Blue one).
They lived together for about 2 months but the Blue Gourami was too
aggressive and nipped at the fins of the Flame. Fearing this would be
too stressful I have recently moved the Blue into another tank. This 10
gallon tank also contains 3 Tetras, 3 small Ghost Catfish,
and now 2 new Black Mollies. The Flame Gourami appeared to be getting
stressed from the other Gourami and began hiding and evading most of
his day. Now ever though the Blue Gourami was removed, the Flame
Gourami continues to spend most of his day hiding and rather than
coming to the surface at feeding time as he used to, now
"runs" and hides as fast as he can when I approach the tank,
sometimes running into the side of the tank in his hurry to get away.
Yesterday I found this Gourami laying on his side, seemingly gasping
for air and I assumed he was dying. However he has moved around but now
he is swimming around, but in odd ways, as if he is disoriented. He
seems unable to stay right side up and even swims in corkscrews
patterns to get around the tank. Looking at all your information about
fish disease the only thing I can attribute this to is stress but other
than staying away from the tank as much as possible so as not to care
him, I do not know what else to do. He has no growths on his body nor
are there any oddities about his general shape/appearance. He has some
fins nips on his tail fin, which were from the other Gourami, but they
have never affected his swimming before. His other fins appear fine.
The blue stripe on his dorsal fin varies in brightness from day to
day--but always has. The Ph level to the tank was a little acidic so I
have fixed that and I increased the output to the filter to increase
airflow into the water. None of the other fish appear to be bothered if
it were a general tank condition issue. How can I de-stress my fish
before it is too late or is there another explanation? <The stress
may have weakened you fish and caused an internal bacterial infection.
Do a 30% water change and clean the filter. I would treat with
Metronidazole and leave the light off for most of the day unless you
have live plants.-Chuck> Thanks for any help you can provide.