Common Names: Blue Gourami, Opaline Gourami, Three-Spot Gourami
Scientific Name: Trichogaster trichopterus
Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
Care Level: Easy
Max Size: 6 Inches
Temperature: 72-82 F
Tank Level: Top
Blue Gourami Species Overview
The blue gourami is a freshwater fish. They do quite well living in captivity and lend a bit of vibrancy to a fish tank due to their distinctive, shimmering appearance. They make a perfect addition to a tank, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced pro.
They’re not overly fickle, and you can expect them to be relatively easy to keep. But, you should understand all there is to know about the blue gourami before you add it to your aquarium.
The blue gourami’s scientific name is Trichogaster trichopterus. Some people also call this fish the three-spot gourami due to its distinct markings.
The blue gourami is one of a few fish that has a labyrinth organ. This allows the species to breathe the air outside of the water in certain situations. As a swamp dweller, this is likely an evolutionary response to help the fish survive in very shallow water.
The blue gourami has a relatively long body that’s narrow. The anal fin is quite large, and the pectoral fins are long and thin, almost like needly filaments or strands of hair. Overall, the other fins appear roundish, especially when viewing the fish’s profile. The name trichopterus derives from Greek words for hairy (trichiasis) and wing (pteron).
The blue gourami has a distinct silvery sheen with a markedly blue tint. Some fish sport a dappled pattern of varying shades of blue, and some specimens may even have yellow or gold highlights.
The depth and darkness of their coloring can indicate changes in the blue gourami’s mood. Similarly, changes in coloring can also indicate the start and end of breeding periods.
Perhaps most distinctively, the blue gourami has the appearance of three dots on its body, hence the alternate three-spot gourami name. There are two spots on the body, one near the midline and the other slightly forward of the tail. The fish’s eye is the third spot, and when viewed from the side, all three ‘spots’ are roughly in a straight line.
The blue gourami is native to Southeast Asia. Found in the waters of Laos, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Malaysia, the flood-prone Mekong River Basin is the ancestral home of the blue gourami. However, you may also find them outside of their native range in countries, including:
- Papua New Guinea
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico,
Tropical waters, lowland marshes, swampy bogs, and flooded forests are the ideal home to find populations of native blue gourami. They can also be found in streams, or canals, so long as the water has thick vegetation.
They are among the hardiest of all gourami species, but they also prefer relatively shallow water that flows well but not too quickly. They thrive when there is plenty of room to maneuver, and they can move freely.
They will tolerate rocky or sandy substrates, and slightly cloudy water near the bottom of the tank won’t upset them. Their native habitat is fresh water, so try to avoid brackish conditions.
Adult blue gourami can grow to lengths of about five or six inches, while females can be slightly larger than males. Their filament-like pectoral fins can be quite droopy, and these delicate fins are sensitive to touch. So, consider that they can be pretty tall with their fins fully spread and that openings in hiding places should be large enough to accommodate their full size.
The common lifespan of the blue gourami is approximately five years. But tank conditions, diet, and overall health will go a long way toward determining the life span of these fish. If your fish live a stressful life, they probably won’t survive as long as they could have in ideal conditions.
Discerning the gender of blue gourami comes through comparing the shape of its dorsal fin. Female specimens have a blunt, rounded fin, whereas the males are comparatively longer and pointier. It is almost impossible to discern the gender of blue gourami by comparing size alone. But, in general, females are typically slightly larger than males.
When a female is ready to spawn, it will appear swollen. Males will appear much slimmer. During breeding periods, both males and females will usually display a deeper shade of blue.
The blue gourami can be quite territorial by nature. They can turn violently aggressive toward tank mates. That aggressiveness is even more likely in males during breeding periods, particularly if there are other male gourami fish around.
Even female blue gourami can become much more aggressive during breeding, and they will often attack smaller males that enter their territory. However, in general, the species is relatively peaceful when there is enough space for them to establish territory and their tank mates are peaceful and of similar size.
There are a few factors to keep in mind when keeping blue gourami, including:
- Don’t keep multiple males together, especially in a smaller tank
- Fast swimmers and nipping tank mates are likely to cause fighting
- Bright-colored or flamboyant tank mates can cause problems with aggressiveness
Due to their sometimes aggressive and territorial tendencies, fishkeepers should consider using the largest tank they can for their blue gourami. This will help keep things peaceful in your tank.
Minimum Tank Size
The smallest tank suitable for a single blue gourami fish will be about twenty gallons. Juvenile tanks could be as small as fifteen gallons, but by the time they reach maturity, your blue gourami will do best in a larger tank, perhaps with a 35-gallon capacity or more. For each blue gourami you add, consider adding three gallons of capacity to your tank.
The key is that your tank offers this active, playful swimmer plenty of room to roam and explore. Plus, larger tanks make it easier for fish to establish territory and remain well-spaced from aggressive neighbors.
The blue gourami is a reasonably hardy fish, making them popular and relatively easy to keep in aquariums. The more you mimic their natural habitat, the better.
The temperature of your tank’s water should be from 74 to 82 degrees. That’s the best range for blue gourami. While they may tolerate temperatures as low as 72 degrees, they prefer things warmer to colder in general.
When keeping blue gourami, you should aim for a relatively neutral pH. They will tolerate slightly acidic or base water, but they will do best when the pH is somewhere between 7.0 and 7.6, most of the time.
In nature, the blue gourami is a freshwater fish. However, since they often enjoy flood plains and other changing water conditions and are generally quite hardy, a slight bit of brackishness is unlikely to harm them. However, water that is too hard or salty is not conducive to their health.
Saltwater will kill blue gourami.
Make sure your tank setup is well-established before adding your blue gourami. Don’t dump your new fish into potentially chlorinated and harmful tap water! And don’t forget, blue gourami can jump, so your tank will need a sturdy lid.
The blue gourami does well with just about any substrate. But, you may want to consider using a fairly dark combination of sand, gravel, and rocks. This is essentially an aesthetic decision, as the darker substrate will help reveal the silvery-blue hues of your fish.
Blue gourami fish like to stake out territory. Consider this when you arrange your decorations, offering ample places for hiding, swimming, and territorial borders. The more space, the better.
Caves, driftwood, rocks, and other decorations all work well, so long as there is plenty of room for swimming and for each fish to establish their territory. In general, a wider tank is better.
In their natural environment, the blue gourami enjoys having plenty of vegetation and a mild current. Consider flowing, leafy plants that mimic river basins, flood-prone areas, and swamps. Grassy plants with long fronds offer plenty of room for hiding.
Ensure that there is also space for the blue gourami to swim freely at the top of the tank. Your vegetation shouldn’t go more than about two-thirds of the way up the tank.
Make sure that your lighting is on a timer. Establish a good night and day rhythm and stick to it as much as possible. You also want to ensure that you have plenty of light at the surface but shadowy areas closer to the bottom of the tank.
Find a compromise with your lighting that gives your fish bright, wide open spaces but also plenty of areas where they can conceal themselves a bit. Plus, you also want enough light to show off the colors of your blue gourami!
Your filtration system should be strong enough to keep the tank water clean and healthy. But ensure that it doesn’t create a massive current in the water. Blue gourami fish prefer docile waters and gentle currents.
Make sure your tank temperature is somewhere between 76 and 82 degrees. Breeding tanks should be 80 degrees.
The blue gourami is omnivorous, so they will eat almost anything you provide. In the wild, they can even leap out of the water to eat insects! Fish pellets and fish flakes can be a staple of their diet, but consider rotating their food a bit for better health.
Some other foods you can use as treats for your blue gourami include frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, algae pellets, and even live insects.
The rule of thumb for quantity is that you should only feed your blue gourami as much food as they can consume in two minutes. After that, scoop out all the remaining food. You can feed your fish at any time but only feed them once per day.
The best way to breed blue gourami starts with your setup of a separate tank. It should be relatively shallow, at least fifteen gallons, and have plenty of vegetation. The lusher the surroundings, the better.
Make sure the temperature is right around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The water conditions should be similar to your main tank but slightly warmer, softer, and more acidic for best results. Provide your breeding blue gourami with a diet rich in protein, with a preference for live food sources. This will help enhance the likelihood of your pair spawning.
With the right conditions, your male blue gourami will begin work on an expansive and sometimes very large bubble nest near the top of the tank. The male creates the bubbles by blowing them out of his mouth, and they rise to the top and collect at the water’s surface. After his nest-building work is complete, he will court his female tank mate.
Courtship includes demonstrations of swimming prowess by the male, lifting his tail and flaring his fins to impress his potential mate. His swimming is also an attempt to entice the female into swimming just below him.
Often, the female will swim up and bite the male on its back, signaling her willingness to mate. Finally, the male will brush against the female repetitively and wrap up her body with his own. This hugging embrace will also see the female’s body turned slightly upside-down, so the female’s fertilized eggs will float up to the bubble nest.
It’s common for blue gourami to spawn more than once in a period extending over a few hours. If you see the two fish quivering, it mark’s each spawning session’s end. When they’re done, the female may release thousands of eggs in total.
At this time, it’s best to remove the female blue gourami from your breeding tank. The male will guard the nest, and the presence of the female can cause some aggressiveness.
The male will patrol the border of the nest, and if an egg floats out of it, he will push it back inside. He may also move about the nest, rearranging the eggs to his liking.
Sometimes, you may see the male spitting a stream of water at the eggs. Scientists and fishkeepers think this is a breeding behavior and help the male keep the eggs in the nest.
Finally, in as little as thirty hours, the eggs will begin to hatch. It may take up to three days.
You should remove the male as soon as the eggs hatch.
The small fry will begin to swim, and when they are all moving freely about the tank, it’s time to begin feeding them. There are commercial preparations that are adequate for fry food, or you can use crustacean larvae. Infusoria or nauplii are often the ideal food source for blue gourami fry.
Keep the fry separate from the rest of your fish. Make sure to monitor and change your water frequently as the fry grows. In the third week after hatching, they will develop their labyrinth organ.
Like any aquatic creature, there are some things to keep an eye out for. Refer to this handy chart when monitoring your blue gourami for common diseases, ailments, and infections.
|Ailment or Disease||Causes and Symptoms||How to Help|
|Bacterial infections||Shredded fins, bloody or red areas on the body, sores, ulcers.||Use a commercially prepared antibacterial treatment.|
|Fungal infections||Wispy strands of white growth, especially near the head or mouth.||Immediately quarantine the affected fish, and treat it with a commercially-prepared antifungal medication.|
|Flukes (various species of parasites)||Parasites become attached to the fish’s body, often near the gills but can appear anywhere on the body.||Treat the entire tank with commercially-prepared antiparasitic treatments.|
|Ich (also referred to as White Spot Disease)||This specific species of parasite is evidenced by small, white spots spread across the body of your fish. The sick fish may also drag its body along objects inside the tank.||Increase your water temperature to 82 degrees (if necessary). Treat the entire tank with a commercially-prepared Ich medication.|
|Velvet||Highly contagious disease. Lack of appetite, swelling, lethargy, rubbing, scratching.||Dim the tank lighting and consult a veterinarian. Commercial treatments may be available.|
Potential Tank Mates
Some of the best tank mates for blue gouramis include fish of a similar size and temperament. These fish include barbs, danios, mollies, scavenger catfish, loaches, and platies.
Species to avoid as tank mates for blue gourami include goldfish, angelfish, guppies, dwarf gouramis, and bettas.
Blue Gourami: Wrap-Up
If you have the space for them, blue gourami can make for a colorful and playful addition to your aquarium. They are relatively easy to keep, but their moderate aggression means you need to be careful about what other fish are in the tank with them. To keep things peaceful, you must choose the most suitable tank mates and provide ample room for everyone to establish territories.
If you’re looking for an agile swimmer that is relatively hardy and peaceful, you have plenty of room and a gentle flow of water in your tank, consider the blue gourami!