Paradise Fish: Species Profile

Category: Gourami

Common Names: Paradise Fish

Scientific Name: Macropodus opercularis

Family: Belontiidae

Minimum Tank Size: 30 Gallons

Care Level: Moderate

Temperament: Semi-Aggressive

Max Size: 4 Inches

Temperature: 72-82 F

pH: 6.0-8.0

Tank Level: Middle to Top

Colors: Blue, Orange, Yellow

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Difficult

Paradise Fish with Plants and Black Background

Paradise Fish Species Overview

Paradise fish are a freshwater species that also go by the name paradise gourami. They’re popular because of their striking red and blue stripes and how easy it is to care for them.

Although paradise fish are good for beginners since they’re relatively easy to maintain, these fish have a combative nature and don’t play well with similarly sized fish breeds. Therefore, knowing which species you can safely house in the same tank with them is crucial.

Distinguishing Features

Paradise fish have alternating reddish-orange and blue stripes across the sides of their body. Some paradise fish also have blue or green stripes, and they often appear to change color depending on the angle of light.

Breeders have also developed genetically engineered paradise fish.

The albino paradise fish is striking with pink eyes and stripes ranging from white to pink and blue. In contrast, the concolor paradise fish is a darker variation of this fish’s traditional colors.

It’s also common for paradise fish to have small black and blue spots across their body, particularly on their top and bottom, framing their bold stripes.

The paradise fish always have a solid orange color tail that often—but not always—matches the color of its stripes.

Not all paradise fish have bright colors, as they change according to conditions such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Fighting
  • Sex

Male paradise fish always have more vivid colors than females. Both fish also develop deeper colors with good nutrition and temporarily darken their colors when they fight.

Paradise fish are lookers because of their long fins. Depending on the paradise fish you purchase, their caudal fin will have one of three shapes.

The shapes and the respective scientific names of these paradise fish are as follows:

  • Forked (Macropodus opercularis)
  • Rounded (Macropodus chinensis)
  • Pointed (Macropodus cupanus)

Of these varieties, a forked caudal fin is the most common.

Paradise Fish with Rock and Black Background


Paradise fish originate in the freshwaters of Southeast Asia. You can find them in several countries, from Taiwan to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Due to the poor handling of paradise fish, you can also find them living in the wild in non-native areas like Madagascar and the United States.

Unfortunately, for native paradise fish enthusiasts, there’s debate in the scientific world about whether the captive variety is the same species as in the wild.

Since these fish have undergone so much human-initiated breeding, some argue that the paradise fish in pet stores aren’t the same species as those native to Southeast Asia.

In the wild, paradise fish enjoy lowland areas with sandy, rocky, and muddy bottoms and slow-flowing water. For this reason, it’s common to encounter them in irrigation channels and paddy fields. To replicate their native environment, give them a soft substrate.

Paradise fish enjoy areas with lots of aquatic plant vegetation, but they can tolerate murky, low-oxygen water. Some of their favorite plants include java moss, hornwort, and dwarf hairgrass.


Paradise fish can grow up to four inches long, with males being larger than females. However, these fish often range from two to three inches long.

That said, you’ll notice a female’s stomach growing larger when she’s in an egg development stage.

In all cases, high-quality nutrition and the right tank parameters will foster larger growing paradise fish.


Paradise fish have a notably long lifespan for tropical fish of their size, ranging from eight to ten years.

That said, they can live as short as three years, depending on the quality of their environment.

As you’ll soon learn, diseases and parasites introduced into the tank can prematurely shorten a paradise fish’s lifespan.

Paradise Fish with Lots of Plants in Background


Male paradise fish have more vibrant colors and are larger than females.

You can also tell males from females because they have longer dorsal and anal fins. For this reason, many aquarium owners enjoy choosing males because they’re the showier fish of the two genders.


Paradise fish are aggressive. They’re notorious for their fin-nipping ways, meaning that you should never place them in a tank with fish around the same size or smaller.

Sadly, new paradise fish owners often discover injured or dead fish in their tank if they mix paradise fish with other fish species of a similar or smaller size.

Of the two genders, males are even more aggressive than females.

Males become particularly aggressive during mating when they become exceptionally territorial and fight other male paradise fish for a female’s attention.

Tank Parameters

Properly setting up your paradise fish’s aquarium is crucial to their physical and emotional health. Below are the must-knows when you’re preparing their tank.

Minimum Tank Size

You should ensure your paradise fish have a minimum of 20 gallons per fish.

That’s a significantly larger number than certain other tropical fish. But the reason is that paradise fish are territorial and combative.

So, ensuring they have enough space to swim around without encountering a plethora of tankmates is vital.

Paradise Fish with Dark Blue Background

Water Parameters

Paradise fish are notorious for being hardy. Nevertheless, ensuring you follow the water parameters below will help them maximize their lifespan.


Paradise fish can tolerate water temperatures between 61 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, their ideal water temperature is 72 to 75 degrees.

Raising the temperature too high will cause paradise fish to accelerate their aging.


Paradise fish can thrive in a pH ranging from 5.8 to 8.0.

That means they tolerate acidic, neutral, and alkaline water.


Paradise fish are freshwater creatures, so you should never put them in a saltwater tank.

You should only consider putting salt in their tank if they’re suffering from a disease or parasite. Small amounts of timely aquarium salt can help boost your paradise fish’s immune system.

Tank Setup

We’re moving on to the fun part of arranging your paradise fish tank. Read on to learn about the decor, plants, substrate, and more you should use to make your fish feel comfy in their new home.


Paradise fish live most of their lives towards the top of a tank. So, feel free to use whatever substrate strikes your fancy.

But if you want to mimic their habitat, sand is best.


Adorning your tank with decor is helpful to give paradise fish—and any other species that might be living in the tank with them—hiding spaces.

Since paradise fish live toward the top of the tank, select decorations that float, such as driftwood, or jut high into the water column from the bottom of the aquarium.

It’s best to offer your paradise fish decor with holes and spaces large enough for them to swim through.


Setting up your tank with plants is crucial to keep your paradise fish happy, given that they live in areas with dense vegetation in the wild.

Some great types of plants to include in your paradise fish’s aquarium include java moss and Ceratophyllum. The goal is to buy plants that grow tall and cover a portion of the water’s surface.

As a bonus, dense plant vegetation will give your paradise and other fish more hiding spaces.


Paradise fish don’t need lots of lighting. That’s because in the wild, the dense vegetation they live in blocks a lot of sunlight.

Nevertheless, fish have circadian rhythms, causing them to use sunlight to know when they should be awake and when they should sleep.

So, keeping a timed lamp in their tank set on a low light is helpful for their sleep schedule.

Paradise Fish with Plants in Aquarium


A filter is crucial for paradise fish, given that they’re in an artificial environment that can’t remove toxins on its own.

There are three primary types of filtration systems:

  • Mechanical
  • Biological
  • Chemical

At a minimum, you should ensure your tank has a mechanical and biological filter. But a chemical filter is helpful for proactively removing organic waste before it has time to turn into toxins.


Although paradise fish have a high tolerance for fluctuating water temperatures, keeping a heater in their tank is still a good idea.

That way, you can keep their water temperature within their preferred 72 to 75-degree range.

Placing a thermometer in the aquarium is a must to ensure your heater is functioning correctly.


Paradise fish are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and small animals.

Some of a paradise fish’s favorite foods include:

  • Algae wafers
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Mosquito larvae

We know you might not always have time to prepare fresh or frozen food for your paradise fish. So, storebought pellets or flakes are also okay, although you should always supplement your fish’s diet with real food.

Feeding your paradise fish twice per day is ideal.

Let them eat as much as they want within a 2-minute period. Then, remove the remaining food to prevent them from becoming overweight and leftover food from turning into toxins in your tank.


Breeding paradise fish is easy if you’re a beginner aquarium owner. Select the male and female fish you want to breed, choosing those with the brightest colors and fin patterns you like most.

Then, keep these fish in separate tanks, feeding them a diet high in algae and high-quality protein.

Once the female’s stomach becomes plump with eggs, place her in a tank with the male and six to eight inches of water, ensuring there’s lots of vegetation for her to hide. The male will create a bubble nest, like betta fish, in preparation for spawning.

Move the male and female from the tank once they spawn, as they may eat the fry (baby fish). It usually only takes 30 to 50 hours for fry to hatch.

Paradise fry fish require a higher water temperature than adults, so you should ensure their aquarium remains between 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

A-kun–a~commonswiki [Public domain]

Common Diseases

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are about maintaining your paradise fish’s ideal water parameters, they can still fall ill with diseases. Such situations are most common with poor water conditions, but they can also happen by introducing infected species into the tank.

Below are some of the most diseases your paradise fish may develop.

Hole in the Head Disease

Hole in the head disease looks how you might be picturing it—paradise fish develop pit-like holes around their head and lateral line.

You may notice these “holes” taking on a white, brown, or grey color. They usually start as small as a pin mark but expand outward over time.

Several situations can cause hole in the head disease, including stress and the parasite Hexamitid spp.

The treatment for hole in the head disease varies according to the cause. For example, you might need to treat your paradise fish’s water for parasites or remove fish to create a less stressful environment.

Ammonia Poisoning

Ammonia poisoning most commonly happens in paradise fish when you don’t remove their unwanted food or have too many fish and not enough water.

Signs that your paradise fish are suffering from ammonia poisoning include gasping for air at the top of the tank, red or purple gills, and bloody patches on their body.

Performing a 50% water change is crucial to reverse ammonia poisoning. You should also check that your filters are in good working order.

Fin Rot

Fin rot is a bacterial infection that’s common in paradise fish, given that they’re fin nippers. It can happen from a fin nipping injury or other fish with a contagious disease.

You’ll know that your paradise fish has fin rot if they develop frayed fins and have white edges on their fins.

Luckily, it’s easy to stop the progression of fin rot by treating your tank with antibacterial medication. You should also perform frequent water changes and ensure your tank parameters are suitable for your paradise fish.

Potential Tank Mates

Paradise fish don’t need tank mates. They’re territorial fish that enjoy having lots of space to themselves.

But if you’d like to infuse your tank with more diversity, it’s essential to choose docile species that are significantly larger than paradise fish and without long fins.

Some examples of suitable tank mates for paradise fish include:

  • Pearl gouramis
  • Dwarf gouramis
  • Geophagus cichlids
  • Large species of goldfish

Choosing large, bottom-dwelling fish is also wise, given that your paradise fish won’t likely encounter them. Some examples include catfish and clown loaches.