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Moonlight Gourami – Trichogaster microlepis

Moonlight Gouramis - Pair

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

Is the Moonlight Gourami a good community fish? In fairness to several other community fish, the Moonlight Gourami should not really be considered to be a true community fish because it can be quite territorial and, at times, aggressive. Avoid including Guppies, Dwarf Gouramis or Angel Fish with Moonlight Gouramis.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Moonlight Gourami
Scientific nameTrichogaster microlepis
Originate fromSoutheast Asia including the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam as well as in the Chao Fraya basins
Care requiredModerate – reasonably easy to care for
TemperamentMales can be quite dominant but generally good in the right community
Colour & FormMale Moonlight Gouramis have red pelvic fins whilst those of the female are yellow or colourless. 
LifespanApproximately 4 years
Adult size6 inches
Aquarium size20 gallon minimum, 40 gallons for adults recommended
Compatible withBarbs, Danios, Mollies and Tetras.
Avoid keeping withDwarf Gouramis, Guppies, especially any of the Fantail Guppies, Angel Fish or male Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish) and any fish that might target its long pelvic fins
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Male builds a bubble-nest on the water surface.
Water temp78 to 85 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 7.5
Water hardness (dGH or dH)2 to 20 dGH

Origins of the Moonlight Gourami

The Moonlight Gourami originates from southeast Asia including the Mekong in Cambodia and Vietnam as well as in the Chao Fraya basins. As with many tropical fish, the Moonlight Gourami has also been introduced far and wide into different continents that have an appropriate climate.

Characteristics of the Moonlight Gourami

As you can see, the Moonlight Gourami is an impressive fish which can grow to around 6 inches in size and live for around four years. The Moonlight Gourami is omnivorous.

The Moonlight Gourami should not be kept with Dwarf Gouramis, Guppies, especially any of the Fantail Guppies, Angel Fish or male Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish) but are generally happy with Barbs, Danios, Mollies and Tetras. Noting the extremely long pelvic fins it would also be sensible to keep the Moonlight Gourami away from other fishes that may seek to nip those fins.

Moonlight Gouramis kept in a mixed aquarium are a graceful and beautiful addition to most aquariums if you take into account the type of fishes that they should not be kept with. Gouramis in general do, however, have a tendency to nip at the tails of fishes with elongated or elaborate finnage.

The male Moonlight Gourami is territorial, especially when he is ready to mate whereas the females are comfortable as a small shoal so you could quite reasonably keep one male and several female Moonlight Gouramis in the same tank. A tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended since the Moonlight Gourami is quite large. You should consider a tank of up to 40 gallons for mature, adult Moonlight Gouramis to ensure that they have the room to thrive.

Gouramis, in general, can dart extremely quickly across even a large tank and the adult Moonlight Gourami is a relatively large freshwater tropical fish.

As is true of all Gouramis, Moonlight 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.

Much of the time, Moonlight Gouramis tend to move slowly and thoughtfully, it seems, using their pelvic fins as whiskers or feelers apparently to inspect thinks in the tank.

Moonlight Gourami – Video

How do Moonlight Gouramis breed?

Moonlight Gouramis are labyrinth bubble-nesters which provides an excellent clue as to how they breed. Before you can breed Moonlight Gouramis, however, first you need to know whether or not you have a male and female fish.

Male Moonlight Gouramis have red pelvic fins whilst those of the female are yellow or colourless. 

The male Moonlight Gourami tends to have a slimmer, less rounded body whilst the female has a more rounded body which is greater in girth. This more rounded body is usually particularly obvious around the belly area between the pectoral and anal fins.

The male Moonlight Gourami is generally the dominant fish and it will be the male Gourami who ensures that the eggs hatch into fry.

The pelvic fins of the male Moonlight Gourami tends to become a much darker red when it is time to breed. The belly of the female Gourami becomes much larger as it is filled with eggs.

Breeding tank for Gouramis

You should prepare a tank of around 20 gallons in size with mature, still water. Remember that in nature, Moonlight Gouramis thrive in still 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.

If the tank contains an air block and/or a filter then turn them off or the Moonlight Gouramis simply will not breed, as they require the water surface to be still.

The male Moonlight Gourami will start to build a nest of bubbles into which he wants the female to lay her eggs.

Once he has built a substantial nest he will then entice the female to lay her eggs by performing a ritual dance which includes wrapping his body around hers and rolling her onto her side so that she deposits her eggs into his nest.

The male will collect any eggs that are not contained in the nest and place them into the nest. The female can lay up to 2,000 eggs but she may lay only a dozen or could lay more than 2,000.

Once the female has laid her eggs she should be removed carefully from the breeding tank because the male then becomes very protective of his nest and may well kill the female. He will certainly chase her away from his nest so she will have a miserable time until she is removed back to the community tank.

During the time it takes the eggs to hatch, the male will tend to the nest and protect the eggs.

Once the eggs start to hatch (usually after two to three days) then it is wise carefully to remove the male, as he may devour the fry as they hatch.

It will take the fry a few days to be capable of swimming freely so it may be prudent not to switch on an air block (unless it is contained in an under-gravel filter tube).

At this point, you can switch the filter back on.

Assuming that the breeding tank is a mature tank with a good collection of mature plants then the natural cycle of life in the tank will have produced the infusoria (a collective term for the microorganisms that help with the decomposition of plant material) that the fry (baby fishes) will consume once they are hatched. If in doubt, add infusoria at least daily for the first week after hatching.

After around one week you may wish to add some small, live brine shrimp, as the fry will probably have grown sufficiently to catch and consume them.

Should your Moonlight 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.

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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