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Sparkling Gourami or Pygmy Gourami – Trichopsis pumila


Sparkling Gourami

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

Is the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami a good community fish? Whilst the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami is a shy little fish, it is perfect for keeping in a community tank, so long as you avoid keeping it with Tiger Barbs, Danios or Bettas (and other “nippy” fish). It is a beautiful little fish, quite rare but can be bred by aquarists by following some simple steps.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Sparkling Gourami – aka:
Pygmy Gourami
Scientific nameTrichopsis pumila
FamilyOsphronemidae
Originate fromSoutheast Asia including Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam
Care requiredModerate – reasonably easy to care for
TemperamentPassive species
Colour & FormBody sparkles with red, green and blue hues, finnage appears to shimmer. Blue eyes in correct light.
LifespanApproximately 4 to 5 years
Adult size1.6 inches
DietOmnivorous but favours small insects and zooplankton
Aquarium size5 gallons minimum
Compatible withMost peaceful, community species
Avoid keeping withTiger Barbs, Danios, Bettas and similar or species which may prey on them
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Male builds a bubble-nest on the water surface. Adults do not predate eggs or young
Water temp75 – 82 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 7.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 20 dGH

Origins of the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami

The Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami originates from southeast Asia including Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

Characteristics of the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami

As you can see, the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami, is a beautiful little fish. It will grow to only around 1.6 inches in size. The Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami is omnivorous but favours small insects and zooplankton. 

The Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami is a member of the climbing perch family of fishes so can withstand tough conditions and can breathe atmospheric air.

The Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami will live to around four to five years of age.

Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis kept in a mixed aquarium are a graceful and beautiful little addition to most aquariums. It is, however, recommended that these fishes are not kept with nippy fish such as Tiger Barbs, Danios, Bettas and similar, as they are likely to be victimized somewhat.

Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis are not shoaling fish but are happy to live as a group of, say, six to eight fishes.

The Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami prefers a diet of tiny, live food. It has a very small mouth so cannot tackle food that most species can handle so small brine shrimp and micro worms (live or freeze-dried) are appropriate. Note also that this species will not compete well against other, less timid species so, in a community tank, pay particular attention to ensure that your Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami is getting the food that it needs.

Particularly the female of the species is known to “sing”, especially once the tank lights are turned off. This is a feature of the labyrinth and the fish taking in air from above the surface of the tank. Such singing is very quiet so may be difficult to detect but, nonetheless, it is a characteristic of the species.

Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis are extremely fascinating to watch. They sparkle with red, green and blue hues and, in good conditions, their finnage “shimmers” as the light catches it and, again in the right light, the eyes can appear a bright blue in colour. The male of the species displays red spots above the lateral line and this is the best way of distinguishing the sexes (unless the female is gravid).

Much of the time, Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis tend to prefer to hide away and prefer a well-planted aquarium, including lots of floating plants and more subdued lighting.

Being such a small fish, the Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami can be kept in tanks of five gallons upwards so is the perfect aquarium fish for those with limited space in which to pursue this fascinating hobby.

Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami – Video

How do Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis breed?

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

Trichopsis pumila

The sex of this species is more difficult to ascertain than it is for most other Gouramis, as males and females are quite similar. The male can have red spots above the lateral line. The caudal (tail) fin can be a little longer (but this is a little subjective if you have fish of different sizes). 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.

Note that the differences in young Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis may not be obvious so it may be that you must wait for the fishes to become more mature before you can determine their sex with certainty.

When the fishes are ready to breed, the male will display richer, deeper colours and the outermost edges of the finnage of male and female will gain a red tinge to it.

The male Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gourami is generally the dominant fish and it will be the male Gourami who ensures that the eggs hatch into fry.

Breeding tank for Gouramis

You should prepare a tank of around 5 to 10 gallons in size with mature, still water. Remember that in nature, Sparkling (or Pygmy) 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 Sparkling (or Pygmy) Gouramis simply will not breed, as they require the water surface to be still. In general, these little fishes prefer fairy still water rather than flowing water.

The male Sparkling (or Pygmy) 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 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 from 40 eggs up to 80 eggs. Once the female has laid her eggs she can remain the breeding tank. Whilst the male becomes very protective of his nest and will take care of the eggs and the fry, once they hatch, he will not attack the female as some Gouramis do. 

The adult fish can safely remain in the tank with the fry as they are not known to devour them but if they breed in a community tank, other fishes may prey on them.

The eggs start to hatch usually after a couple of days.

Once the fry become free-swimming then 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 Sparkling (or Pygmy) 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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