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Chocolate Gourami – Sphaerichthys osphromenoides

Chocolate Gourami

Gouramis originate in Asia and have a form of lung which enables them to breathe air and make nests from bubbles.

The Chocolate Gourami is, however different in several respects from most other Gouramis. Because this is quite an uncommon fish and requires an unusual environment it is not recommended for novice aquarists.

  • It thrives only is quite acidic water (as low as pH 4.0)
  • The water needs to be filtered through peat or conditioned with peat extract
  • This Gourami is a Mouthbreeder, not (usually) a bubble-nester
  • The female Gourami cares for the brood, not the male
  • This Gourami prefers live food (or frozen live food) and tends to reject flakes
  • It is a very small and timid fish.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Chocolate Gourami
Scientific nameSphaerichthys osphromenoides
Originate fromBorneo, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra
Care requiredRequire specialized care and conditions
TemperamentVery placid species
Colour & FormBrown body usually with four gold or silver, vertical stripes
LifespanApproximately 8 years
Adult size2.5 inches
DietOmnivorous – tends to reject flake food
Aquarium size20 gallon minimum, 30 gallons recommended
Compatible with Small rasboras, danios, loaches (such as the Kuhli) and, perhaps surprisingly, can be kept with Discus
Avoid keeping withAny aggressive species
BreedingMouth-breeder – female will look after eggs and fry until free-swimming and male will protect female
Water temp75 – 80 Fahrenheit
Water pH4.0 to 6.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 8 dGH

Origins of the Chocolate Gourami

The Chocolate Gourami originates from Borneo, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra.

Characteristics of the Chocolate Gourami

As you can see, the Chocolate Gourami is quite a dainty fish which can only grow to around 2.5 inches in size but can live for up to eight years. The Chocolate Gourami is not hugely omnivorous; unlike its cousins, as it prefers a diet of live food but will accept freeze-dried live food and tends to reject flake food if other food is available but it will browse on algae.

The colouring of the Chocolate Gourami gives a clue to its natural habitat where it lives in blackwaters peat swamps and pools in which there is plenty of decaying vegetation.

The Chocolate Gourami is a very timid fish which will not thrive in any aquarium where it can be outcompeted for food. Tankmates (if any) should include peaceful fish such as small rasboras, danios, loaches (such as the Kuhli) and, perhaps surprisingly can be kept with Discus. That said, some aquarists advise that the Chocolate Gourami is kept as the only breed of fish in the tank. Despite being such a small fish a tank size of 30 gallons or greater is recommended for the Chocolate Gourami.

The Chocolate Gourami likes a well-planted aquarium and, being a timid fish, it will use plant cover if there are aggressive fish in the tank.

As is true of all Gouramis, Chocolate Gouramis are extremely fascinating to watch. They tend to occupy the area of the tank from the top to the middle but will venture to all parts of the tank on occasion. The timidity of this particular species means that in a well-planted aquarium it may conceal itself amongst the plants.

Much of the time, Chocolate Gouramis tend to move slowly and purposefully, avoiding contact with other species in the tank.

Chocolate Gourami – Video

How do Chocolate Gouramis breed?

Chocolate Gouramis are labyrinth fishes but only rarely will they breed using a bubble-nest. Before you can breed Chocolate Gouramis, however, first you need to know whether or not you have a male and female fish.

The male of the species is a slightly larger fish than a female of the same age and will tend to have larger fins than the female. The anal and caudal fins of the male often display a yellowish tinge to them which is not present in the female.

The male Chocolate Gourami tends to have a slimmer, less rounded body whilst the female has a more rounded body which is greater in girth. The female has a more rounded “chin” area which may be an adaptation related to the fact that she is a mouthbrooder. The more rounded body of the female is usually particularly obvious around the belly area between the pectoral and anal fins. Female Chocolate Gouramis sometimes have a black spot just before the caudal fin.

Breeding tank for Chocolate Gouramis

You should prepare a tank of around 30 gallons in size with mature, still water. Remember that in nature, Chocolate Gouramis thrive in still, swampy water. Ensure that there is plenty of floating vegetation in the tank but further ensure that there is clear water surface where the Gouramis can take their gulps of air.

It is also recommended that, with Chocolate Gouramis, the tank temperature is raised slowly to between 78 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the tank contains an air block then turn it off or the Chocolate Gouramis may not breed, as they require the water to be still.

The female Chocolate Gourami will start to lay her eggs on the bottom of the tank, a few eggs at a time. The male will then fertilize the eggs. The female will collect the fertilized eggs into her mouth. Sometimes the male will pick up fertilized eggs in his mouth and “fire” them towards the female.

Once egg-laying is complete the male will defend his mate against any other fishes (though it is strongly recommended that just the breeding pair are kept in the tank).

It takes up to two weeks for the eggs to hatch. As they hatch, the female will spit out the newly-hatched fry. If the aquarium is well-planted there is no need to remove the adults provided that they are well fed.

The fry are slow-growing compared with other Gouramis. They should be fed on a diet of fresh brine shrimps, cyclops and rotifers.

Some aquarists suggest that the tank should be almost covered in cling film (above the waterline in order to create a high level of humidity in the air above the water. It is believed that this high humidity assists in the development of the labyrinth organ of the young fishes.

Should your Chocolate Gouramis have a special diet for breeding?

This is a much-discussed topic amongst aquarists. My personal belief is that all fishes should enjoy a rich and varied diet at all times including flake food, vegetable matter, live food and dried, live food. The fishes will themselves determine what they prefer to eat. In a community tank, fishes should be fed, as a general rule, once or twice each day and any food placed in the tank should be consumed within three minutes. The only exception to this is live food which the fishes will hunt down and devour.

Having decomposing food lying at the bottom of the tank is bad for the tank and bad for the fishes and, if you have catfish in the tank, they are not there as vacuum cleaners and should be treated with the same thoughtfulness as your other fishes.

If your fish are always maintained in the best possible condition then there is no reason whatsoever why any fishes should require a special diet to induce them to breed. You could make a point of feeding more than the usual amount of live food if you make any changes at all.

Featured image courtesy of: Tsunamicarlos

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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