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Pearl Gourami – Trichopodus leerii

Pearl Gouramis

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

Is the Pearl Gourami a good community fish? The Pearl Gourami is an excellent community fish. It has a very peaceful nature and, in my experience, mixes well with other fishes in the aquarium. It is also ideal for novice aquarists, as it is tolerant as to tank conditions.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Pearl Gourami – aka:
Lace Gourami
Mosaic Gourami
Scientific nameTrichopodus leerii
Originate fromSoutheast Asia including Borneo, Malaysia Sumatra and Thailand
Care requiredModerate – reasonably easy to care for
TemperamentMales can be quite dominant but generally good in the right community but can “fin-nip” species with elaborate finnage
Colour & FormSilver and tan, resembling lace or mother of pearl
LifespanApproximately 5 years
Adult size5 inches
Aquarium size20 gallon minimum, 40 gallons for adults recommended
Compatible withMost species of similar size or smaller
Avoid keeping withDwarf Gouramis, Fantail Guppies, Angel Fish or male Betta Splendens (Siamese Fighting Fish)
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Male builds a bubble-nest on the water surface.
Water temp75 – 80 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 8.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 20 dGH

Origins of the Pearl Gourami

The Pearl Gourami originates from southeast Asia including Borneo, Malaysia Sumatra and Thailand. As with many tropical fish, the Pearl Gourami has also been introduced far and wide into different continents that have an appropriate climate. The Pearl Gourami is also known as the Lace Gourami and as the Mosaic Gourami.

Characteristics of the Pearl Gourami

As you can see, the Pearl Gourami is an impressive fish which can grow to almost 5 inches in size and live for four or five years. The Pearl Gourami is omnivorous.

Pearl Gouramis kept in a mixed aquarium are a graceful and beautiful addition to most aquariums. Gouramis in general, however, can have a tendency to nip at the tails of fishes with elongated or elaborate finnage but, in my experience, I haven’t experienced this tendency with the Pearl Gourami.

The male Pearl Gourami is not overly territorial except whilst breeding. The females are comfortable as a small shoal so you could quite reasonably keep one male and several female Pearl Gouramis in the same tank. A tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended but 30 gallons would be preferable.

The Pearl Gourami has a deep but slender body, around twice as long as it is at its deepest point. Its scales are mottled in a tan and silver pattern, resembling lace or mother of pearl and a black line runs from the mouth, through the eye towards the caudal fin and ends with a black spot. Under the mouth and eye and stretching back to just beyond the pectoral fins, the body has an orange hue which continues along the extended anal fin, fading as it approaches the tail.

The dorsal fin is relatively short where it connects with the body; the male’s dorsal fin is elongated and ends at a point whereas the dorsal fin of the female is shorter and with a rounded tip. The lace or mother of pearl pattern extends throughout the finnage as well as the body.

As is true of all Gouramis, Pearl 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, Pearl Gouramis tend to move slowly and purposefully, using their pelvic fins as whiskers apparently to inspect things in the tank.

The Pearl Gourami is a particular favourite of mine not only because it was my first choice of Gourami back in 1972 but also because it is, quite simply, a beautiful and elegant species of fish and always a joy to watch.

Pearl Gourami – Video

How do Pearl Gouramis breed?

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

The male of the species is a slightly larger fish than a female of the same age. Of course, if there is a significant age difference then this observation may reveal nothing of value.

The male Pearl 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 most obvious ways to differentiate between the male and female Pearl Gourami, however, is, firstly, that the male has a more striking, orange to red colour in the lower body and the dorsal fin is longer than that of the female Pearl Gourami and has a pointed tip at the rear, whereas the female has a more rounded, shorter dorsal fin.

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

The male Gourami tends to become much darker around the throat, breast and anal fin 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, Pearl 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 Pearl Gouramis simply will not breed, as they require the water surface to be still.

The male Pearl 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 several hundred eggs.

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 a couple of 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).

Once the fry are free-swimming 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 Pearl 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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