Dwarf Gourami Ultimate Guide – Keeping, Feeding & Breeding

Dwarf Gouramis are probably one of my favorite members of the Gourami family. These colorful little characters spend all day swimming around the aquarium without bothering another fish in the tank.

Dwarf Gouramis boast the most wonderful red to orange coloration all down their bodies, which gives them one of their other common names, the Flame Gourami. In contrast, they have a vibrant blue color over much of their face as well as along the top of their dorsal fin and the bottom of their bodies.

Overview of the Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis are a very peaceful species of Gourami that originate from Northern India as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although not a true schooling fish, Dwarf Gouramis will often swim together in groups, especially if you just have 2 in a tank.

Dwarf Gouramis are members of the anabantoid or labyrinth fish family, meaning they can actually breathe out of the water thanks to a very basic lung-like organ known as the labyrinth organ.

One of the joys of keeping Dwarf Gouramis in the home aquarium is the fact you can actually breed them yourself. If you are looking for a fish to breed that will be a challenge but is possible with a bit of knowledge and effort, the Dwarf Gourami might be for you.

Dwarf Gourami Characteristics

Common Name:Dwarf Gourami, Flame Gourami
Scientific Name:Trichogaster lalius
Family:Trichogaster
Origin:Bangladesh, Northern India, and Pakistan
Tank Distribution:Upper and Mid-water
Adult Size:Males 3″ (7.5cm) – Females 2.5″ (6.3cm)
Life Expectancy:5-7 Years
Care Level:Easy
Minimum Tank Size:20-gallons (75 liters)
Breeding Method:Bubble nest builder
Temperature:72°F – 82°F (22°C – 28°C)
pH:6.0 – 7.5
Hardness:4 – 18°H

Dwarf Gourami Origins

Dwarf Gourami Origin Map

Dwarf Gourami Habitat

Dwarf Gouramis are found across a fairly wide geographical area, but they are usually found in similar waterways.

Dwarf Gouramis are nearly always found in slow-flowing to sluggish waterways which are heavily vegetated. They are found in ponds, ditches, slow-flowing streams, and swamps.

Thanks to their labyrinth organ, Dwarf Gouramis can live in waterways that have very low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.



Are Dwarf Gouramis Wild Caught or Captive Bred?

The vast majority of Dwarf Gouramis found in local fish stores are captive bred. In fact, it is very rare to find anyone selling wild-caught Dwarf Gouramis.

The downside of a fish that is so heavily bred in captivity is that many people believe the species in the trade has become genetically very weak.

I haven’t found that the Dwarf Gouramis in my fish room are any more or less susceptible to pests and diseases.



Dwarf Gourami Description

Dwarf Gouramis, as their common name suggests, are one of the smallest commonly available Gourami in the hobby. Male Dwarf Gouramis usually reach up to 3″ (7.5cm) whereas female Dwarf Gouramis reach up to 2.5″ (6.3cm).

Dwarf Gouramis boast bright orange coloration along the majority of their bodies. The orange color is far more vivid on the males than the females. Females do tend to be much more of a duller silver to grey color.

Some specimens of Dwarf Gourami have definite verticle stripes alternating between orange and blue, whereas with other fish the color tends to be solid orange.

The Dwarf Gouramis face is usually a silver-grey color, turning turquoise-blue along the back and across the dorsal fin. The lowest regions of the Dwarf Gouramis body are often blue too.

Dwarf Gouramis are very slender fish, and they almost look like they disappear when they turn face-on toward you. They also have long, modified pelvic fins that they use to ‘feel’ their way around the aquarium and to detect food in the water.

General Dwarf Gourami Care

I would describe Dwarf Gouramis as shy fish, that seem to prefer to live in smaller tanks. I keep my own Dwarf Gouramis in 20-gallon (78 liters) tanks as they didn’t seem to like being in the larger display tanks.

Dwarf Gouramis seem happiest when they are in a tank that is full of vegetation. They seem to enjoy being able to slip into the plants out of sight. I think it would be fair to describe Dwarf Gouramis as mildly skittish.

Although not a true schooling fish, they certainly seem to enjoy the company of other Dwarf Gouramis, and I find mine very much tend to stick together in the aquarium.

Dwarf Gouramis are alert, active fish that spend much of their time swimming around the aquarium and, despite their shy nature, shouldn’t spend excessive amounts of time hiding away.


Dwarf Gourami Tank Setup

In my experience of keeping Dwarf Gouramis for a number of years, I have found they certainly prefer a smaller tank to a large one. I have tried a group of Dwarf Gouramis in a 200 gallon (750 liters) tank, and I noticed they just hid the whole time.

Since moving them to a smaller tank, they have acted far more naturally.

Dwarf Gourami Tank Size

As mentioned above, unusually, when it comes to Dwarf Gouramis, smaller might actually be better than bigger, providing you don’t go too small.

I believe a 15-gallon (56 liters) tank is really about as small as you would want to go for a pair of Dwarf Gouramis, moving up to a 20-gallon (78 liters) for a trio. The table below shows how many Dwarf Gouramis I would keep depending on the tan size.

Number of Dwarf GouramisSuggested Tank Size
215-gallons (56 liters)
320-gallon (78 liters)
425-gallons (95 liters)
630-gallons (113 liters)
840-gallons (150 liters)

The numbers above are just based on my own experience of keeping Dwarf Gouramis, and they definitely depend on keeping the water cleaning with good filtration and regular water changes.

Substrate in a Dwarf Gourami Tank

Dwarf Gouramis spend much of their days in the upper levels of the aquarium and rarely venture down to the substrate. With that in mind, I don’t believe Dwarf Gouramis really have a preference for which substrate you use in their aquariums.

Personally, I have found this sand substrate that I recently ordered from Amazon to be the best because it really makes the Dwarf Gouramis colors pop and it gives a great, natural feel to the tank.

With that said, gravel will work just as well, especially if large rocks are used to compliment it.

Decorations in a Dwarf Gourmai Tank

Dwarf Gouramis certainly benefit from having places to hide. Strangely, the more places you give Dwarf Gouramis to hide, the less time they are likely to spend hiding away. That may sound counter-intuitive, but they like to feel secure.

As such, providing lots of rocks, roots, pieces of aquarium safe wood and plants will really benefit the Dwarf Gouramis, and may result in them spending more time out in the open water.

Plants for a Dwarf Gourami Tank

I would say plants are an absolute necessity for a Dwarf Gourami tank. I usually choose live aquarium plants, but these fake ones from Amazon will work just as well if you prefer to use fake plants.

I have had good success with the following plants in my Dwarf Gourami tanks;

Truth be told, I think any live plants work really well, especially if they provide the cover and hiding places a Dwarf Gourami craves.

Filtering a Dwarf Gourami tank

Dwarf Gouramis are not overly sensitive to water quality, although they don’t want to live in water with very high nitrate levels. In the wild, they are occasionally found in swamp waters.

I currently filter a lot of my aquariums, including my Dwarf Gourami tanks, using hang-on-back filters. I currently use a large number of AquaClear hang-on-back filters as I find they keep the water really clear, without blowing the fish all around the tank due to excess flow.

You can check the current price of an AquaClear hang-on-back filter HERE.

Heating a Dwarf Gourami tank

Dwarf Gouramis are tropical fish that originate in warmer waters. As such their aquariums will need heating. I try to keep my Dwarf Gourami tanks at around 78°F (25.5°C).

I have found a submersible aquarium water heater to be the best way to maintain the water temperature.

Lighting a Dwarf Gourami tank

Dwarf Gouramis look amazing under bright lights. Their colors really pop. If you are keeping live plants with your Dwarf Gopuramis, they will need good light too. I have found the Aquasky light by Fluval to be really good for both showing off fish colors and growing plants. I wrote an article about it titled ‘Does the Fluval Aquasky Grow Plants?‘.


Dwarf Gourami Feeding and Diet

Dwarf Gouramis are omnivores, meaning they want a diet that is based around both meat and vegetable matter.

In their native habitat, Dwarf Gouramis feed on a lot of waterborne crustaceans and small insects that naturally fall into the water. They also consume small amounts of algae and aufwuchs (which essentially means surface growth on rocks and wood that is made up of tiny plants, animals, and detritus)

In the aquarium, Dwarf Gouramis are very easy to feed as they eat almost all commercially available fish foods.

When selecting fish food for Dwarf Gouramis it is important to remember they prefer to eat either from the surface or as the food descends through the water column. As such, floating or slow sinking food is ideal.

What do Dwarf Gouramis eat?

My personal food of choice for my Dwarf Gouramis is either Bug Bites, which is made by Fluval, or TetraMin Tropical fish flakes. Both these foods are made from good quality ingredients and both have a proven track record in the hobby.

Bug Bites

Bug Bites are made primarily from Black Soldier Fly larvae which are high in protein making them an especially good food if you are trying to bulk up your Dwarf Gouramis or condition them to breed.

The color-enhancing formula really helps the Dwarf Gouramis colors to stand out. I have certainly noticed a difference since using it.

TetraMin Flake Food

I have been using this flake food for almost as long as I have been keeping fish.

This flake floats for ages, keeping it exactly where the Dwarf Gouramis want to eat it. TetraMin Flake is made from good quality ingredients which deliver a range of vitamins and minerals.



Live and frozen foods for Dwarf Gouramis

As well as commercially available fish foods, Dwarf Gouramis will also benefit from the addition of live or frozen foods in their diet.

I try to feed my Dwarf Gouramis either live or frozen food at least 5 times a week, and more often if I can. In my experience, the more variety we can feed our fish, the stronger and healthier they will be.

I always have a good selection of frozen fish foods in my freezer. I do prefer to feed live foods, but I don’t have a reliable source within a couple of hours from where I live, so instead, I stock up on frozen foods.

I keep a selection of the following in my freezer for my Dwarf Gouramis

  • Bloodworms
  • Daphnia
  • Mosquito Larvae
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Cyclops

I have found the best way to feed frozen foods to my Dwarf Gouramis is to defrost a cube or two in a cup of aquarium water, then pour the contents back into their aquarium once the cube has defrosted.

How often should you feed Dwarf Gouramis?

Dwarf Gouramis, like almost all fish, do better when fed several small meals a day rather than one large one. By feeding several small meals the fish actually get a chance to eat, digest, and benefit from more food over the course of a day than they would from a single large feeding.

I feed my Dwarf Gouramis at least 3 times a day, and occasionally 4 times if my schedule allows for it.

I normally feed them flake food in the morning, then in the afternoon I give them pellet food. In the evening I try to give them either live food if I have some, otherwise, I give them a cube of frozen food.

If I have some Dwarf Gouramis that are underweight, perhaps because they are new to me, or because they have been spawning, I will happily increase the number of small feedings to 5 or even 6 times a day.


Dwarf Gourami Tank Mates

As a peaceful fish, there are countless species of fish that make an excellent choice of tank mates for Dwarf Gouramis. Although, there are also a number of species that I would not put with Dwarf Gouramis.

First, let’s look at the species that make good tank mates, then we will look at the ones to avoid

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras make an excellent choice of tank mate for Dwarf Gouramis. Not only do the Neon Tetras colors totally compliment the Dwarf Gouramis, but they are also a small, peaceful species of fish that will not cause the Dwarf Gouramis any issues.

Neon Tetras are one of the most popular fish in the fishkeeping hobby, with an estimated 2,500,000 sold each month just in the US.

Bristlenose Plecos

Bristlenose Plecos

I have written many articles proclaiming the benefits of keeping a Bristlenose Pleco in our community aquariums. I genuinely believe every tank should have a Bristlenose Pleco living in it.

Bristlenose Plecos are super peaceful, help keep almost every surface in the aquarium clear of algae, and will quickly vacuum up any uneaten food that makes it to the aquarium floor.

Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras are a staple of the fishkeeping hobby. When you see them in the fish store, their orange coloration is very subtle, but once you get them home and settled and start feeding them good quality food, their colors really start to pop. The orange band that runs along their backs really compliments the colors of the Dwarf Gouramis.

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras

Unusually for a Corydoras species, Pygmy Corydoras don’t just stick to the bottom of the tank, they love to school mid-water, putting on quite a display in the tank. The Pygmy Corydoras subtle colors really contrast against the bright colors of the Dwarf Gouramis.

Pygmy Corydoras are a very peaceful species of fish that are easy to keep, easy to feed, and may well even breed in the community aquarium.

Silver Tip Tetras

Silver Tip Tetras

I am a huge fan of Silver Tip Tetras. They are one of the tightest schooling species of fish in the hobby, and if you have a large enough group, they will swim back and forth across the aquarium in unison for hours at a time. The more Silver Tip Tetras you keep in a tank, the more impressive their schooling behavior is.

The Silver Tip Tetra has a subtle coloration that is surprisingly orange when the fish are happy, settled, and fed a good quality diet.

Pearl Gouramis

Pearl Gouramis

Pearl Gouramis are one of my favorite species of fish. I have a large group of them in a 155-gallon tank with Rummy Nose Tetras and Cardinal Tetras.

Although not everyone would want two different species of Gourami in the same tank, I think the combination is really effective, with the larger Pearl Gouramis actually being more colorful, although only when the light hits than at the correct angle.

Black Mollies

Black Mollies

Black Mollies make a fantastic tank mate for Dwarf Gouramis, primarily because their deep black coloration really sets off the bright oranges and blues of the Dwarf Gouramis.

Black Mollies are fairly peaceful, will happily breed in the home aquarium, and will even eat black beard algae if it starts to form in your tank. You won’t regret setting up a tank with Dwarf Gouramis and Black Mollies together.

Dwarf Gourami Tank Mates to Avoid

As with any fish, there are tank mates to welcome and those to avoid. Below I have a look at some that should certainly be avoided. This list isn’t exhaustive but will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes fishkeepers sometimes make.

Tiger Barbs

Tiger Barbs

I write this as someone who is not only a fan of Tiger Barbs but keeps several tanks of them in his fish room.

Whilst Tiger Barbs don’t fully deserve their reputation for being aggressive, they are too aggressive to keep with a shy, skittish fish like a Dwarf Gourami. The Tiger Barbs will dominate the food, probably chase the Dwarf Gouramis, and will almost certainly nip at the Dwarf Gouramis long, trailing pelvic fins.

Goldfish

Goldfish

I saw this combination once in a pet store. I think goldfish make a terrible choice of tank mates for Dwarf Gouramis. Goldfish are fast swimmers, fairly boisterous, and will certainly eat the lion’s share of the food before the Dwarf Gouramis have a chance to eat any.

Even slowly swimming fancy goldfish such as fantails should be avoided. The two species of fish just want different setups.

Buenos Aires Tetras

Buenos Aires Tetras

I read on a forum recently a post by someone suggesting Buenos Aires Tetra would make good tank mates for Dwarf Gouramis. I have to say, I couldn’t disagree more. Anyone who has kept Buenos Aires Tetras will tell you that, even though they are a Tetra, they are far too aggressive for a Gourami tank mate.

This is definitely one to avoid.


Breeding Dwarf Gouramis

There comes a point in many a fishkeepers hobby that they decide they want the challenge of breeding something different. Dwarf Gouramis may well present that challenge.

Dwarf Gouramis are sufficiently difficult to breed that not everyone has done it, and it would certainly be a badge of honor if you managed to, but also easy enough to breed that, with a little effort, anyone can do it

Selecting a breeding pair

If you have more than 2 Dwarf Gouramis, you will need to start your breeding efforts by selecting which male and female you wish to breed.

Unlike some other fish, Angelfish for example, Dwarf Gouramis do not form pairs. If conditions are right and both fish are healthy, bringing a male and female together is usually enough to induce a spawn.

Once you have selected a breeding pair, give yourself the best chance of a successful spawn by placing the 2 fish into a dedicated breeding tank, ideally with a divider so the male is on one side and the female is on the other. Keeping the two sexes apart will increase the males’ desire to spawn.

Spending a few days feeding both Dwarf Gouramis high-quality foods, especially live or frozen foods will ensure both fish are in optimal spawning condition.

Spawning tank setup

The spawning tank itself should be set up with lots of plants, especially floating plants, and gentle filtration, ideally from a small sponge filter. Dwarf Gouramis spawn using a bubble nest that floats on the surface, meaning any filter more powerful than a sponge filter will probably cause the bubble nest to break up.

The spawning process

When you are ready for the Dwarf Gouramis to spawn, remove the divider and allow the fish to meet. Hopefully, the male Dwarf Gourami will immediately set to work building a bubble nest.

As the name suggests, a bubble nest is made up of hundreds of individual bubbles blown by the male Dwarf Gourami.

The nest will incorporate small pieces of floating plants. These pieces of plant help hold the nest together and give it some structure.

Once the male has completed his bubble nest he will try to entice the female under the nest by swimming around her, showing off his colors, and flaring his fins. If the female is receptive she will follow the male under the nest.

Once the female is under the nest she will begin swimming in circles and when ready to spawn she will touch the male on either his back or tail signaling she is ready. Upon receiving the signal the male will embrace the female, turning her upsidedown.

Once the female Dwarf Gourami is upsidedown she will release between 50 and 60 eggs. The male will instantly fertilize the eggs, most of which will float up into the bubble nest. Any eggs that don’t float up will be picked up by the male who will spit them into the nest.

This spawning process will repeat until 500 to 800 eggs have been deposited into the nest.



Once the spawning has finished, the male will take sole responsibility for the care of the eggs and the subsequent fry. The female should be removed from the spawning tank.

Dwarf Gourami eggs usually hatch within 12 to 24 hours, depending on temperature. for the next 3 days the wriggling fry will stay safely within the bubble nest, but after 3 days become free-swimming, fully developed little fish.

At this point, the fry will need feedings very small live foods such as infusoria or newly hatched brine shrimp.

Once the baby Dwarf Gouramis are free of the bubble nest, the male Dwarf Gourami should be removed from the spawning tank to prevent him from consuming the baby fish.


Dwarf Gourami Pests and Diseases

If you had asked me 10 years ago, are there were any pests or diseases that Dwarf Gouramis are especially vulnerable to, I would have said no! I recent times however a lot of fish keepers have noticed high mortality rates in Dwarf Gouramis bred on fish farms in Southeast Asia. The cause? Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIR).

What is Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIR)?

Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus causes server necrosis of the kidney and spleen in infected fish.

Symptoms of Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus seem to vary massively from fish to fish, but often include loss of coloration, loss of appetite, swelling of the abdomum, and lesions on the body. DGIR has a very high mortality rate amongst Dwarf Gouramis.

There are few if any effective treatments against DGIR. The only saving grace is the virus seems to quickly take hold and kill infect Dwarf Gouramis, spreading fish to fish with ease. As such, avoid buying newly imported Dwarf Gouramis, allowing perhaps two to three weeks between the Dwarf Gouramis arriving at the store before you purchase them.

Other likely pests or diseases to affect Dwarf Gouramis include;

  • Ich (Whitespot)
  • Fin Rot
  • Internal Tapeworms
  • Dropsy

Ich (Whitespot)

Ich, also known as Whitespot in Europe, is a parasite that affects almost all fish in the hobby but is particularly prevalent among fish that are stressed or otherwise unwell.

The white spots usually start off on the fins and tail, spreading across the body. If left untreated, Ich can be fatal in our aquariums.

The white spots are in fact cysts caused when the parasite burrows into the skin of the infected fish. The parasite stays under the skin, sucking the fish’s blood. After a few days, the parasite drops off the fish and sinks to the substrate where it sits for a few days, multiplying into several more parasites before looking for another host fish so the cycle can start all over aging.

Ich will spread through a tank of fish very quickly, often proving fatal to all inhabitants if left untreated.

Fortunately, Ich is fairly easy to treat. I have found Ich-X which is made by Hikari to be the most effective treatment for Ich (see the current price of Ich-X on Amazon). If you are based in Europe, eSHa EXIT has proven to be very good a treating Ich.



Fin Rot

Fin rot is caused when a bacterial infection gets into a Dwarf Gouramis fins or tail, usually as a result of another fish nipping at the Dwarf Gouramis fins. Fin rot is especially prevalent when water quality is below where it should be.

If left untreated, fin rot, which starts off with small pieces missing from the ends of the fins, progresses to the point where the fins look raggedy, then onwards until the whole fin or tail is missing. Fin rot can be fatal if not treated promptly.

The best treatment I have found for fin rot is Maracyn which is made by Fritz. Alternatively, for those in Europe, eSHa 2000 is my recommended treatment.

Internal Tapeworms

Internal tapeworms are a parasite that lives inside the digestive system of the Dwarf Gouramis. These parasites consume much if not all of the goodness from the Dwarf Gouramis food before the Gourami can.

Dwarf Gouramis infested with tapeworms can die of starvation even though they eat every day.

The best way to treat a fish for internal tapeworms is Paracleanse, which is made by Fritz. Paracleanse works by paralyzing the tapeworms, allowing the fish to waste them when they go to the bathroom (check the current price of Paracleanse on Amazon.com).

In my experience, the best way to prevent tapeworms from entering your aquariums is to quarantine all new fish for at least 2 weeks prior to adding them to your display aquarium. Treating them at the same time with Paracleanse as a preventative measure.



Dropsy

Fish suffering from Dropsy swell up, ultimately resembling a pinecone with their scales sticking out away from their bodies.

Dropsy is almost always caused by fluid being retained within the Dwarf Gouramis body, usually as a result of kidney failure. Sadly, there are no effective treatments against Dropsy.


My Final Thoughts on Dwarf Gouramis

I have kept multiple tanks of Dwarf Gouramis over the years, and they never cease to entertain me. Their bright colors, shy demina, and constantly moving feelers, feeling their way around the tank make them a fish you never get tired of watching.

Keep them in a fairly small tank, choose tankmates wisely and feed them good quality food and you will have a tank of fish that will look amazing for many years.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor

Article Sources:

https://www.thesprucepets.com/dwarf-gourami-1378310
https://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/features/lets-hear-it-for-the-dwarf-gourami/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabantoidei
https://www.tfhmagazine.com/articles/freshwater/viral-diseases-of-aquarium-fishes-full-article

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