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Originally Posted by thegabzzz View Post
Fish release pheromones which are chemical substances. We do major water changes to remove them, because there is no other way, and they build up until they are removed with water changes. Other fish read these signals. This is one issue behind aggressive fish; even if there is no physical interaction, the aggressor is sending out the chemical signal that "I am nasty, watch out" and other fish pick it up and it gives them stress. This is the reason I never recommend Betta with small characins; the Betta may or may not physically attack the neon, but it is sending out signals and the neon is picking them up, and the neon will be stressed. The same works in reverse; the neon is likely looking at the Betta as a good target to nip, and the Betta can read that even if no nipping occurs. All this is stress, and that--if you read the article I linked previously--weakens fish seriously. This is also the issue behind your gourami, which I'll come to momentarily.
Back to the store tank. Being in the afore-mentioned conditions affects the fish. Sometimes they become more aggressive. But often in such situations, because the shere number is overwhelming, they do the opposite and withdraw, behaving far differently from their normal behaviours. They "appear" to tolerate each other, but the fact is that they are under such severe chronic stress they simply can't do anything. This too is having an impact on their physiology. When we then buy these fish and place them in normal surroundings, they may "recover," or they may not. Or they may turn even more aggressive as a sort of backlash. The increased aggression is the fish's only way of dealing with frustration, it must just lash out. And all because it has been weakened and harmed by the prior environment.
It is true that within a given species, variance can be seen from individual fish. Science does not yet know why, but it does know that any stress-related issue can throw the switch inside the fish and cause deviant behaviour, which ever way it goes. If the fish is not behaving normally, chances are something is--or was-wrong, and the abnormality may or may not correct itself; usually it does not.
Now to your gourami. All male Gourami, every species, are territorial. Same as all male cichlids. It is in their nature. Increased stress may worsen this, or weaken it (and the fish's health with it). That it why we maintain one male with 2-3 females of a species like the Pearl Gourami or the Blue Gourami. The males will be territorial, and usually this means they view the tank as "theirs." In sufficiently larger tanks, it is possible to arrange territorial spaces for them, and sometimes this works, sometimes not. Same holds for angelfish. If you took the time to dig through the threads, you will find several from members who tried combining various gourami only to have them "suddenly" at some future point turn on each other, and I recall Inga lamenting how her gold gourami killed all the other gourami in the tank within a few days. This is not unusual. So the wise aquarist understands the fish's "normal" behaviours, and provides for them. This is the only way to ensure probable healthy fish. Because any deviant from what the fish "expects" is guaranteed to cause stress, and we know--or should know--where that leads.
Inga had her gourami "doing fine" too--until one decided it had enough of the artificial environment and took matters into its own hands--or should I say fins.
Is this beginning to make sense?
Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada
The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]
Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
Last edited by Byron; 04-17-2012 at 12:42 PM.
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