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Family: Osphronemidae, Subfamily Luciocephalinae

Common Names: Pearl Gourami

Origin and Habitat: Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia (the islands of Borneo and Sumatra). Inhabits swamps in the lowlands and quiet streams thick with aquatic vegetation including floating plants.

Compatibility/Temperament: A peaceful gourami, quiet and sedate, suitable for a community tank of non-aggressive fishes that are not too active. Males are territorial, so best kept as a pair provided there are hiding places for the female to escape the male's attentions. Rasbora, loaches, less-active tetras, small catfish would make good tankmates; fish larger than the gourami are not suitable.

Pearl Gourami Diet

An omnivore in its habitat, it will eat almost any prepared foods; for variety feed frozen daphnia and bloodworms, artemia, live worms and insects. Will often "inspect" food before eating; should not be kept with aggressive-feeding tankmates or it may go hungry.


Attains just under five inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

36 inches in length.

Water parameters for Pearl Gourami

Soft to moderately hard (up to 30 dGH) acidic to basic (pH 5.5 to 8) water, temperature 24-30C/75-86F. Available fish will be commercially raised and will adapt to the given ranges; wild-caught fish require soft acidic water.


A truly beautiful fish, very hardy and good for beginners. Peaceful for a gourami although males are territorial. Should not be kept with boisterous fish or fish that are larger; this will cause the pearl gourami to lose its colour and become shy and timid, and it may refuse to eat.

Males are the more colourful, and have extended dorsal and anal fins. Easy to breed, this is a bubblenest spawner. The female should be removed after spawning is completed to avoid injury from the aggressiveness of the male who tends the nest. The male can be removed when the eggs hatch. The fish may live for up to eight or nine 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. 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.

When the species was first described by P. Bleeker in 1852 it was named Trichopus leerii; the species name honours Dr. J.M. van Leer who was a colleague of Bleeker. Subsequently [unknown to the writer] the genus changed to Trichopodus, the name from the Greek thrix (hair) and pous (foot); the current genus Trichogaster [see explanation below] comes from the Greek thrix (hair) and gaster (belly). Both 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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