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Moonlight Gourami (Trichopodus microlepis)

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Family: Osphronemidae, Subfamily Luciocephalinae

Common Names: Moonlight Gourami

Origin and Habitat: Mekong and Chao Phraya basins in Vietnam and Cambodia; introduced into Thailand. Occurs in standing, sluggish or standing lowland waters thick with plants such as swamps, ponds, bogs.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful and skittish, suitable for a community tank of similar-sized non-aggressive fishes including the quieter barbs, loaches, other gourami of the genus and Trichogaster in larger tanks as males are territorial. Smaller fish may be seen as food, and boisterous tankmates will frighten this fish.

Moonlight Gourami Diet

Naturally feeds on aquatic insects, crustaceans and zooplankton. Accepts most prepared foods; dried foods should be supplemented with frozen or live worms, insects, artemia.


Attains 6 inches (15 cm).

Minimum Tank Suggestion

36 inches in length.

Water parameters for Moonlight Gourami

Soft to moderately hard (< 25 dGH), acidic to basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water, temperature 25-30C/77-86F. Available fish will most likely be commercially raised and adaptable to the given ranges; wild-caught fish require soft acidic water.


A beautiful gourami if not as colourful as other species. The common name is particularly descriptive, as the fish has a lovely silvery sheen in a well-planted aquarium. The ventral fins are longer in this species, and the head has a conclave slope unlike other gourami species. In its native lands it is a food fish.

The male has orange/red pelvic fins and a longer pointed dorsal fin; the female's pelvic fins are colourless to yellowish, and the dorsal is rounded. Breeding is relatively easy; this species is a bubblenest spawner. The male builds the nest among floating plants and engages the female with quite an elaborate courtship dance. Up to 2000 eggs may be produced that float up into the nest which the male then guards. Conditioning the pair with live foods and placing them in a spawning tank will be more likely to result in a successful spawning and fry. This fish lives up to four years.

This fish occurs in still plant-thick waters and should only be housed in well-planted aquaria with minimal water movement from the filter. Floating plants are important as the species, like all gourami, spends much time near the surface, browsing plant leaves and dangling roots for food. Floating plants also provide support for the bubblenest. Subdued lighting, partly achieved with floating plants, will calm the fish; this species is particularly timid, but in a very well-planted aquarium it will feel more confident. It generally remains in the upper half of the aquarium.

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. The fish must use this accessory method, and it allows the fish to live in oxygen-poor muddy waters. To accommodate this, the aquarium must be kept covered to maintain warm moist air above the surface.

This species was first named Osphromenus microlepis when A. Gunther described it in 1876. [It appeared as Trichopus parvipinnis in a paper by H.E. Sauvage in 1876, and as Deschauenseeia chryseus in a paper by H.W. Fowler in 1934; both names are (invalid) synonyms.] Subsequently [date unknown to the writer] the genus changed to Trichopodus, the name from the Greek thrix (hair) and pous (foot); for a time the fish was in the genus Trichogaster [see explanation below], the name derived from the Greek thrix (hair) and gaster (belly). Both genera names refer to the extended thread-like pelvic fins that have taste cells at the ends.

Until 1923, Trichogaster was used as the genus for the small gourami species and Trichopodus for the larger species. When the genus Trichopodus was established by Lacepede in 1801, it was not usual to designate a type species (as it is now), and later ichthyologists frequently designated one. A "type species" is the species that exhibits all the scientific characteristics for that genus, normally today the first such species to be described, and all species assigned to that genus will also share those characteristics. Topfer & Schindler (2009) detail the matter of the type species designations and errors respecting Trichogaster and Trichopodus; the end result was that in 1923, Dr. George S. Meyers incorrectly assumed the type species earlier assigned for Trichogaster and consequently established Trichogaster as the true genus in place of Trichopodus (which name became a synonym for Trichogaster) for the larger gourami species. Colisa was then selected as the genus for the small (dwarf) species previously assigned to Trichogaster.

This state remained (although in the literature there was frequent confusion) until 1997 when E. Derijst pointed out the error of the assumed type species by Meyers [see Topfer 2008]. R. Britz (2004) obsoleted the name Colisa, but its popularity continued in the literature. In 2008, J. Topfer thoroughly investigated the issue and recommended renaming of the species and K.-H. Rossmann (2008) followed. In 2009, Topfer & Schindler established Trichopodus as a currently valid genus of Osphronemidae, which includes the four large gourami species, Trichopodus trichopterus, T. leerii, T. microlepis and T. cantoris. The Colisa species reverted back to the genus Trichogaster as Trichogaster chuna, T. fasciata, T. labiosa, T. lalius, and T. bejeus. The species epithets of this genus were also corrected grammatically in accordance with the rules of the ICZN [Schindler 2009]. The California Academy of Sciences--Ichthyology [W.N. Eschmeyer] has adopted the afore-mentioned revisions.


Britz, R. (2004), "Why Colisa has become Trichogaster and Trichogaster is now Trichopodus," AAGB Labyrinth 136, pp. 8-9.

Derijst, E. (1997), "Nota over de geldigheid van de genusnamen: Trichogaster Bloch & Schneider, 1801; Trichopodus Lacepede, 1801; Polyacanthus Cuvier, 1829 en Colisa Cuvier, 1831 (Perciformes: Belontiidae)...," Aquarium Wereld 60 (9), pp. 217-236.

Rossmann, K.-H. (2008), "Neue Namen fur die Fadenfische?" Der Makropode [Zeitschrift der Internationale Gemeinschaft fur Labyrinthefische] 30(3), pp. 79-80.

Schindler, I. (2009), "On the spelling of the Species name of the genus Trichogaster (formerly Colisa) and Trichopodus," Der Makropode 1/09.

Topfer, J. (2008), "Lacepede-2. Teil: Seine Labyrinthfischgattungen Osphronemus, Trichopodus und Macropodus sowie die Gultigkeit der Namen," Der Maropode 30(2), pp. 41-52.

Topfer, J. & Schindler, I. (2009), "On the type species of Trichopodus (Teleostei: Perciformes: Osphronemidae)," Vertebrate Zoology 59(1), pp. 49-51.

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