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Snakeskin Gourami – Trichopodus pectoralis


Snakeskin Gourami

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

Is the Snakeskin Gourami a good community fish? The Snakeskin Gourami is an excellent community fish despite growing to around 8 inches in length. It has a very peaceful nature and 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)Snakeskin Gourami
Scientific nameTrichopodus pectoralis
FamilyOsphronemidae
Originate fromSoutheast Asia in the Mekong and Chao Phraya basin of Cambodia, Laos, Southern Vietnam and Thailand
Care requiredModerate – reasonably easy to care for
TemperamentDespite being larger than average, is considered to be an excellent community fish
Colour & FormOlive green over dorsal area fading to pale silver/white on belly with broken black lateral line. Slender in depth relative to other Gouramis.
LifespanApproximately 4 to 6 years
Adult sizeUp to 10 inches
DietOmnivorous
Aquarium size30 gallon minimum, large aquarium preferred
Compatible withExcellent community species
Avoid keeping withNo species to avoid in general
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Male builds a bubble-nest on the water surface.
Water temp73 – 80 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 8.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 20 dGH

Origins of the Snakeskin Gourami

The Snakeskin Gourami originates from southeast Asia in the Mekong and Chao Phraya basin of Cambodia, Laos, Southern Vietnam and Thailand. As with many tropical fish, the Snakeskin Gourami has also been introduced far and wide into different continents that have an appropriate climate. 

Characteristics of the Snakeskin Gourami

As you can see, the Snakeskin Gourami is an impressive fish which can grow to between 6 inches and 10 inches in size (averaging 8 inches in a 30-gallon tank) and live for four to six years. The Snakeskin Gourami is omnivorous.

Snakeskin 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, the Snakeskin Gourami is generally considered to be a very peaceable fish and an excellent community fish.

The male Snakeskin Gourami is not overly territorial even whilst breeding. The females are comfortable as a small shoal so you could quite reasonably keep one male and several female Snakeskin Gouramis in the same tank. A tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended but 30 gallons would be preferable for mature fishes of more than five inches in length.

The Snakeskin Gourami has a slender body which is not as deep, relative to its length, as most other Gouramis. Its scales are graduated in colour ranging from an olive green over the dorsal area, through grey along its flanks to almost white on its belly and it has a black, broken line runs from the mouth, through the eye towards the caudal fin and ends with a black spot. The black line tends to be broken and is often not evident between the eye and the gills in adult fishes and generally follows the lateral line.

The overall impression of the scales of this Gourami is that they resemble the skin of a snake, hence its common name.

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 pectoral fins are significantly longer, hence the “pectoralis” moniker in its Latin name, and orange/red-tinged in males.

As is true of all Gouramis, Snakeskin Gouramis are extremely fascinating to watch. They tend to occupy the area of the tank from the middle to the bottom of the tanks, which is uncharacteristic of Gouramis in general but will venture to all parts of the tank on occasion.

Much of the time, Snakeskin Gouramis tend to move slowly and purposefully, using their pelvic fins as whiskers apparently to inspect things in the tank. Like most Gouramis, they prefer slow-moving, well-planted water. In nature, they are common in paddy fields.

Snakeskin Gourami – Video

How do Snakeskin Gouramis breed?

Snakeskin 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 Snakeskin Gourami tends to have a slimmer, less rounded body whilst the female has a more rounded, slightly deeper 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 Snakeskin Gourami, however, is, firstly, that the dorsal fin of the male is longer than that of the female Snakeskin Gourami and has a pointed tip at the rear, whereas the female has a more rounded, shorter dorsal fin. The male also tends to have orange pelvic fins (the “feelers”) whereas the female pelvic fins are white.

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 30 gallons in size with mature, still water. Remember that in nature, Snakeskin 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.

Snakeskin Gouramis that are five inches in length (or more) are mature enough to breed.

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

The male Snakeskin 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 thousand eggs.

Once the female has laid her eggs she can remain in the tank with the male because the male is not aggressive and neither of the fishes will eat their own young.

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

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.

Once the fry are hatched or free-swimming then you may wish to consider removing the adults from the breeding tank, not because they are any threat to the fry, merely because the fry will not need to compete for food with adult fishes.

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 Snakeskin 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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