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Family: Osphronemidae, Subfamily Luciocephalinae

Common Names: Snakeskin Gourami

Origin and Habitat: SE Asia: Naturally in the Mekong basin in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, also the Chao Phraya basin. Introduced to many areas in SE Asia. Occurs in shallow sluggish and still waters with dense vegetation, and flooded forest.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful; males are less territorial than most gourami species. Likely will eat smaller fish, so tankmates should be chosen from the medium/larger peaceful barbs, rasbora and danio, loaches and other peaceful substrate fish that will not themselves be bothered by this fish's large size.

Snakeskin Gourami Diet

Naturally omnivorous, feeding on plant matter, insects, larvae, algae and plankton. Being benthopelagic [having a natural buoyancy so it can float in deep water] it feeds primarily from the substrate and mid-water, less frequently from the surface. It will accept most prepared foods, and a balanced diet including vegetable matter should be provided.


Attains 10 inches (25 cm), some sources suggest 12 inches, in their habitat; 8 inches is common in aquaria.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches in length, at least a 50 gallon.

Water parameters for Snakeskin Gourami

Soft to medium hard (2 to 30 dGH), acidic to basic (pH 6.0 to 8.0), temperature 22-30C/72-86F.


A good community gourami and suited to beginning aquarists due to its adaptability and peacefulness, but its large size means it must have at least a 4-foot tank. In SE Asia, this species is more popular as a food fish than for aquaria. It has been introduced in many areas.

The aquarium should be heavily-planted, including floating plants, with plenty of natural hiding spots and some open space for swimming. Filtration should be suited to a large fish but water movement from the filter should be slow to replicate this fish's preference for still waters.

Males have pointed dorsal and anal fins, and the ventral fins are orange/red. The species is a bubble-nester, and spawning is reported to be easy.

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.

Initially described under the name Trigogaster pectoralis by C.T. Regan in 1910, the species was transferred to the present genus by Paepke in 2009 [see explanation below]. The species epithet refers to the extended pectoral fins. The genus name is from the Greek thrix (hair) and pous (foot); the former genus Trichogaster is derived 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 large gourami species, Trichopodus trichopterus, T. leerii, T. microlepis, T. cantoris and T. pectoralis. 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.

Paepke, H.-J. (2009), "The nomenclature of Trichpodus pectoralis Regan, 1910; Trichopodus cantoris Sauvage, 1884 and Osphronemus saigonensis Borodin, 1930 (Teleostei: Perciformes: Osphronemidae)," Vertebrate Zoology, Vol. 59 (No. 1), pp. 53-60. Also a correction by Paepke appeared in Vol. 59 (No. 2), pp. 143-145.

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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