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Family: Osphronemidae, Subfamily Macropodusinae

Common Names: Licorice Gourami

Origin and Habitat: Endemic to the island of Bangka, Indonesia, where it inhabits very slow-flowing creeks among thick vegetation.

Compatibility/Temperament: A very timid species that will be best in a pair on their own. It may be maintained with similar quiet, peaceful and small fish such as sparkling gourami, chocolate and samurai gourami, small/medium rasbora, and peaceful substrate fish.

Licorice Gourami Diet

Live foods are essential: small worms, daphnia, insect larvae and brine shrimp. May be enticed onto frozen bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp. Prepared foods if accepted should include some with algae, spirulina or kelp base.


Attain 4 cm (1.6 inches).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

5-10 gallons for a pair; a small group can be kept in 15-20 gallons.

Ideal water parameters for Licorice Gourami

Very soft to soft (< 8 dGH), acidic (pH 5 to 7), temperature 24-27C/75-81F. Will not manage in harder water; available fish will be wild caught and are demanding with respect to water conditions. Brilliant colouration will only result with excellent water quality. This is a blackwater fish; tannins from wood and/or leaves will aid in preventing fungal and bacterial infections.


There are several distinct species commonly termed "Licorice Gourami," and they are very similar in appearance; this is further discussed below. Many of the habitats are difficult to reach, and sadly, all species are deemed endangered due to the destruction of their habitats for agricultural purposes. The subject species is the oldest described; care for all species is identical.

This is a beautiful fish that may often be overlooked in the store tank where it will be pale and colourless. To ensure it is in good health, it should be given a few weeks in the store tank and then carefully observed before being acquired.

The aquarium should be small, 5 to 30 gallons depending upon number of fish and any tankmates, as this species will get "lost" in larger tanks. A dark substrate, well planted, and very minimal flow from the filter (a sponge filter is ideal). Floating plants are mandatory. Some bits of bogwood to provide hiding places is advisable, and PVC pipe or similar structures if spawning is contemplated. Leaves (dried oak leaves, almond leaves, etc) are useful to provide tannins that will help to prevent fungal and bacterial infections. Frequent small partial water changes are recommended rather than larger less frequent changes. This fish will not show its beautiful colouration without ideal water chemistry.

Males are more brightly coloured, and the female is noticeably more plain and slightly larger. Some sources suggest that the male's ventral fins are longer than the female's. This species builds a bubblenest, but both male and female do so not at the water's surface but on the roof of a cave or PVC pipe; after laying the eggs, the female will be driven away by the male who then guards the nest. The male should be removed when the fry begin to leave the nest.

In common with all the species in the suborder Anabantoidei, this fish possesses an auxiliary breathing organ called the labyrinth, named because of the maze-like arrangement of passages that allow the fish to extract oxygen from air taken in at the surface. This species, however, rarely rises to the surface for air. Even so, the aquarium must be kept covered to maintain warm moist air above the surface.

This species was initially described in 1859 by Pieter Bleeker who placed it in the genus Osphronemus erected by B.G.E. Lacepede in 1801, which at the time contained all the known gourami species. The name comes from the Greek osphra (= smell) and nema (= filament), a reference to the thread-like pelvic fins that have taste cells at the tips. The spelling "Osphromenus" was an unjustified emendation by Gunther in 1861; the correct spelling of the genus is Osphronemus. In 1877, Bleeker erected the new genus Parosphromenus for this species; the name means "like Osphromenus," and Bleeker obviously used Gunther's emended spelling of the original genus name.

In the early 1950's a slightly different form of Licorice Gourami appeared, described as Parosphromenus paludicola by Tweedie in 1952. Over the following decades, a number of new distinct "Licorice Gourami" species were identified and described. A significant characteristic to differentiate species in this genus is the branching of the caudal fin rays in males. There are presently 18 described species, and there are a number of other forms that may eventually be described as new species or subspecies, or simply variants of existing species. The second photo below is of the "red" form.

It was not until 1998 that the true identity of the type fish on which Bleeker had based his description was resolved by Kottelat & Ng (1998). The type specimen [termed a holotype] used by Bleeker for his description of this species was a female (thus lacking the male colouration) and the caudal fin was damaged. Having described a new species, Parosphronemus bintan, which occurs on the island of Bintan but also on Bangka, the sole known locality of the subject species, Kottelat and Ng had to re-describe the species P. deissneri from a new specimen [termed a neotype] in order to accurately differentiate the two distinct species. This accords with the rules of the ICZN [International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature]; the species epithet assigned by the initial describer remains valid and Bleeker is correctly named as the original describer of this species.


Kottelat, M. and P.K.L. Ng (1998), "Parosphromenus bintan, a new osphronemid fish from Bintan and Bangka islands, Indonesia, with redescription of P. deissneri," Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 8(3), pp. 263-272.

Parosphromenus Project, at Home

Schafer, Frank, "Good Outcome--Good Name? Licorice Gouramis," Aqualog News, No. 18.

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