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Paradise Gourami – Macropodus opercularis

Paradise Gourami

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

Is the Paradise Gourami a good community fish? The Paradise Gourami is a semi-aggressive fish. The male likes to dominate the aquarium and unless you have an aquarium of 40 gallons or more you should only have one male in the tank. The Paradise Gourami can and does kill smaller fish so the community should be similar in size.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Paradise Gourami
Scientific nameMacropodus opercularis
Originate fromChina, Taiwan, Vietnam and surrounding areas
Care requiredAggressive, similar to Bettas
TemperamentMales can be quite dominant and may eat smaller fishes but can be good in the right community
Colour & FormThree distinct species (see main article)
Black spots over gold over its back
Orange and green stripes on flanks
Orange to red Caudal fin
LifespanApproximately 8 to 10 years
Adult size2.5 to 3.5 inches, can attain 4 inches
DietOmnivorous but prefers live insects and invertebrates
Aquarium size20 gallon minimum, 40 gallons for adults recommended
Compatible withGouramis of similar size, Mollies and catfish.
Avoid keeping withSmaller species (which may be eaten) or larger species (which may bully the Paradise Gourami
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Male builds a bubble-nest on the water surface.
Water temp65 – 80 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 8.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 25 dGH

Origins of the Paradise Gourami

The Paradise Gourami originates China, Taiwan (where due to pollution it is currently threatened) and Vietnam and surrounding areas. The Paradise Gourami is probably the first freshwater tropical fish to be kept in the western world, as it was first introduced to Europe from China in the early 1800s.

Characteristics of the Paradise Gourami

As you can see, the Paradise Gourami is a beautiful fish. It will grow to around 3.5 inches in size and adult fishes range from around 2.5 inches upwards – some Paradise Gourami of around 4 inches have been observed. The Paradise Gourami is omnivorous but favours insects and invertebrates to other foods but can be “trained” to eat food offered by hand.

The typical lifespan of a Paradise Gourami is around 8 years but could well be as long as 10 years.

The Paradise Gourami comes in three varieties as follows:

  • One with a rounded tail (Macropodus chinensis)
  • One with a pointed tail with rays spreading outwards from the middle (Macropodus cupanus)
  • One with a forked tail (Macropodus operculari)

The latter of these three seems to be the most popular of the species amongst aquarists.

The male Paradise Gourami is significantly more “flamboyant” in his colouring displaying a red tail and a body that is either blue with red, vertical stripes or red with blue, vertical stripes. The blue can show as a blue/green colour whilst the red can show as a red/orange colour. The male Paradise Gourami, unlike most Gouramis, can not only change (usually deepen) his colour during mating but also in response to stimuli.

Paradise Gouramis are not shoaling fish but are happy to live as a group of, say, six to eight fishes but, unless you have a large aquarium it is advised that you only have one male in the tank.

Aquarists report that they have successfully kept several male Paradise Gouramis in the same tank but that if one or more of the larger males are removed then the other males might contest each other to establish which is now the dominant male.

The elongated finnage of the male Paradise Gourami becomes apparent as the male grows to become an adult.

The nature of the male Paradise Gourami can be very similar to the male Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish) in that they can lock jaws with another male in a battle for dominance.

Paradise Gouramis are renowned for attacking smaller fish and even eating them. By the same token, they do not appreciate being dominated by bigger fish or fishes that can fight back. They may also make life miserable for fishes with elaborate finnage such as Angel Fish and slow-moving fishes.

If you are keeping them in a community tank then the tank needs to include Gouramis of similar size or, for example, Mollies and catfish.

Paradise Gourami – Video

How do Paradise Gouramis breed?

Paradise Gouramis are labyrinth bubble-nesters which provides an excellent clue as to how they breed.

The sex of this species is easy to ascertain in adults due to the significantly darker colouring of the male and his elaborate finnage, as already described. The female, if gravid (carrying eggs) will have a significantly rounder belly than her male counterpart. This more rounded body is usually particularly obvious around the belly area between the pectoral and anal fins. The male will tend to display an even darker body colouring and more spectacular finnage colouring during breeding times.

The Paradise Gourami is, as previously stated a bubble-nester. The male will build his nest of bubbles on the surface of the water (it is advised that you consider including broad leaves on the surface under which he will build his nest. If the gravid female likes his masterpiece, she will swim under his nest and roll onto her side as a signal that she is ready to mate.

Breeding tank for Gouramis

Many aquarists breed Paradise Gouramis in whatever aquarium they reside as a community fish (or as a single-species fish). This has much to do with the nature of the Paradise Gourami.

The male will protect his nest zealously (driving off his mate if she encroaches and, of course, any other fishes. His mate will patrol around the fringes of the area of the nest, acting as a first line of defence. That said, once the fry hatch and are free-swimming they are likely to be devoured by not only the parents but also any other fishes that fancy a fish supper.

On the basis of the above, I would highly recommend the breeding pair of Paradise Gouramis are removed to a breeding tank.

Paradise Gouramis prefer slow-moving water so take this important fact into consideration when preparing their tank. That said, the male is quite an energetic fish. The water surface needs to be reasonably still and with only limited currents within. In general, these fishes prefer fairly still water rather than faster flowing water.

The male Paradise Gourami will start to build a nest of bubbles on the surface of the water (preferably under floating leaves).

Once he has built a substantial nest he will then entice the female to lay her eggs. If the female approves of his handiwork she will swim under his nest and roll onto her side as a signal that she wished to mate with the male. The male will wrap himself around his mate who will release some eggs which the male will then fertilize and the eggs will float up into the nest or the male will catch them in his mouth and move them into the nest.

Typically, the female will lay eggs in batches, which the male will fertilize and this will be repeated until the female is spent of her eggs – which could be between 500 and 1,000 eggs.

The male Paradise Gourami will then protect the eggs by driving away the female. The female, at this point, should be removed from the breeding tank and returned to her normal tank

Once the eggs start to hatch (after two to four days) the new fry will not be free-swimming but will hover under the nest and feed on infusoria found there. At this point, assuming a breeding tank, I would recommend removing the male back to the main tank, as he does not need to protect the fry. In a community tank, leave the male until the fry are free-swimming, as he will continue to protect the helpless fry.

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 Paradise 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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