Three Spot Gourami (T. Trichopterus) Keeping, Feeding & Breeding

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Gouramis are some of the most graceful fish you can keep in the freshwater fishkeeping hobby. The way they effortlessly glide through the water, constantly feeling their way with their modified ventral fins.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

Gouramis come in a wide range of sizes. From the commonly available Dwarf Gourami to the massive Giant Gourami, there is a Gourami to fit every tank and every budget. You can even get super geeky and try the very demanding Licorice Gourami or Chocolate Gourami.

Overview of the Three Spot Gourami

The Three Spot Gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) was first described by Peter Simon Pallas in 1770. Pallas was a Prussian zoologist and botanist.

The Three Spot Gourami is native to much of the Mekong River Basin however it is now considered an invasive species which, according to the CABI Invasive Species Compendium, can now be found in at least 17 countries worldwide.

The Three Spot Gourami is bred in massive numbers on fish farms around the world and has been selectively bred into a number of different color morphs including gold, opaline, cosby, marbled and silver.

Three Spot Gourami Characteristics

Common Name:Three Spot Gourami, Opaline Gourami, Blue Gourami, and Gold Gourami
Scientific Name:Trichopodus trichopterus
Family:Osphronemidae
Origin:Mekong River Basin, East Asia
Tank Distribution:Mid-water to upper regions of the aquarium
Adult Size:5″ – 6″ (12.5cm – 15cm)
Life Expectancy:5 to 7 years
Care Level:Beginner to Moderate
Minimum Tank Size:40-gallons (150 liters)
Breeding Method:Bubble nest
Temperature:75°F – 86°F (24°C – 30°C)
pH: 5.5 – 8.5
Hardness:3-35 dH

Three Spot Gourami Origins

Three Spot Gourami Origins Map

Three Spot Gourami Habitat

The Three Spot Gouramis’ natural habitat tends to be heavily vegetated, slow-moving waterways including ditches, swaps, ponds, and marshlands.

There are many reports from researchers that Three Spot Gouramis will find their way into flooded grassland or forests during the rainy season, then make their way back to their usual waterways when the floodwaters subside.

The Three Spot Gourami is an anabantoid or labyrinth fish meaning they are able to survive in water that has a low level of dissolved oxygen, such as swamps, thanks to a special organ called the labyrinth organ which acts like a very basic lung.



Are Three Spot Gouramis Wild Caught or Captive Bred?

Almost every single Three Spot Gourami offered for sale in local fish stores is captive-bred. It is said that the Three Spot Gourami is one of the most commercially important tropical fish in the hobby, with many, many thousands of them being bred each year on fish farms both in the Far East and the US.

Three Spot Gourami General Description

The Three Spot Gourami gets its name from the three black spots on its body (which are in fact 2 black spots, plus the gourami’s eye making 3 spots).

The Three Spot Gourami is a silvery blue color over most of its body, with a slightly darker, mottled blue color over much of the upper sections of its body.

Selective breeding by some very talented and dedicated breeders over the years has led to a number of different color morphs of the Three Spot Gourami including a blue form, and a gold form, both with varying degrees of the mottled pattern, a marbled form, and an opaline form.

Three Spot Gourami Aggrression

When small, the Three Spot Gourami does tend to be a fairly placid fish that fits well into the community aquarium. However, as the fish grows and males become sexually mature they definitely become more aggressive.

Male Three Spot Gouramis are well known for fin nipping, and I have seen the males in my own Three Spot Gourami tank become much more aggressive over the past year, both to one another and other fish in the tank.

I have had to move two of my males to their own aquariums, whilst the third male seems a lot calmer, but he has a group of females all to himself.

In my experience, male Three Spot Gouramis are more aggressive toward other fish that have long-flowing fins or are colorful, and I believe this is because the fish color and fin lengths are important when male Three Spot Gouramis show off to the females.


Three Spot Gourami Tank Setup

Three Spot Gouramis come from slow-moving, heavily vegetated waterways where there would naturally be lots of hiding places, line of sight blocks, and places where the fish can escape from one another. It is important we try to recreate that setting as much as possible to get the best from our Three Spot Gouramis.

Three Spot Gourami tank size

At up to 6″ (15cm) in length, Three Spot Gouramis are a decent-sized fish. As such, if you are planning to keep a small group of them, a 40-gallon (150 liters) tank that measures around 3′ (90cm) long is probably the smallest size tank you want to go for.

As with all fish, bigger is better, and your Gouramis certainly won’t object if you give them more space rather than less.

I currently keep a group of Three Spot Gouramis in a 55-gallon (210 liters) tank which is about 4′ (120cm) long. It works really well.

Three Spot Gourami tank substrate

Three Spot Gouramis spend the vast majority of their day either in the middle of the water column or very close to the surface. They very rarely interact with the substrate, and as such, I don’t think they really care what substrate you use in their tank.

I have been using this sand substrate which I ordered from Amazon. It works really well and I find it looks natural. I would certainly recommend using it with your Three Spot Gouramis.

If you are planning to grow lots of live plants in your Three Spot Gourami tank, have a look at this article I wrote about Fluval Stratum. Stratum is a little more expensive than sand, but it is great in a planted aquarium.



Decorations in a Three Spot Gourami tank

In their natural habitat, Three Spot Gouramis live with lots of obstacles in the water including rocks, roots, and fallen branches to name a few.

In my experience, Three Spot Gouramis do best when they have things in their aquariums to provide line of sight blocks, allowing an individual Gourami to get away from the rest of the fish if they want to. Line of sight block helps reduce aggression in an aquarium.

I don’t think they care what those decorations are. Personally, I use a lot of rocks, plants, and aquarium-safe wood. If you are not keen on live plants, fake plants like these ones I ordered recently from Amazon.com work just as well.

Best live plants in a Three Spot Gourami tank

Three Spot Gouramis originate from waterways that are teeming with vegetation, and I believe they are most at ease when kept in an aquarium that reflects their natural habitat.

In my own Three Spot Gourami tanks I have used most of the following plants;

All of the plants above are readily available, look superb, and are ideal plants even if you are a beginner at growing aquarium plants.

Filtering a Three Spot Gourami tank

Three Spot Gouramis naturally inhabit slow-flowing to stationary waterways.

As such, Three Spot Gouramis don’t want to live in an aquarium that has a torrent of water swirling around thanks to an overly powerful filter.

I have found a hang-on-back filter works best in all of my Gourami tanks. Hang-on-back filters have enough power to keep the water clean and clear without turning the tank over so fast it creates a whirlwind of water.

Heating a Three Spot Gourami tank

Three Spot Gouramis need their tank water to be between 75°F – 86°F (24°C – 30°C) which means for most of us they will require a heater.

In my experience, the best way to heat an aquarium is with a submersible aquarium heater such as the FreeSea Aquarium Heater, which cost me less than $20 on Amazon (check current price).

Lights for a Three Spot Gourami tank

I have found my Three Spot Gouramis seem to prefer subdued lighting over very bright lighting. I tried using a Fluval Plant 3.0, but it was too bright for them. Instead, I replaced it with a Fluval Aquasky, which made the plants grow well and the fish colors stand out.

Essentially, it doesn’t matter to the Gouramis which light you use, providing it isn’t too bright, otherwise, they may well just hide away all the time.



Three Spot Gourami Water Parameters

In their natural habitat, Three Spot Gouramis come from waters that tend to be sluggish and slow-flowing. Oxygen levels are often lower than other fish would like, and the water is seldom crystal clear.

These are not usually the type of setup we like to keep in our homes. In fact, this is about as far from what a home aquarium should look like.

Fortunately, Three Spot Gouramis are fairly hardy and very adaptable. Providing we set their water up close to how they like it, they will quickly adapt.

  • Temperature: 75°F – 86°F (24°C – 30°C)
  • pH: 5.5 – 8.5
  • Hardness: 3-35dH
  • Waterflow: Low

If you are unsure of your aquarium water parameters, invest in a good quality water test kit. I currently use the API Master Test Kit as it measures pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. I have found it to be the most accurate test kit for the money. You can check the current price of the API Master Test Kit on Amazon.com here.


What Do Three Spot Gouramis Eat?

Three Spot Gouramis are omnivores, meaning they need a diet that is made up of both meat and vegetable matter. I have read research papers that describe Three Spot Gouramis as ‘unfussy general omnivores’, and in my experience, this description is spot on.

Three Spot Gouramis will eat just about anything you put in their tanks. They prefer to eat either from the surface, or as the food descends through the water column, so floating or slow sinking food works best.

I have had success feeding my Three Spot Gouramis a wide selection of foods, but the four foods I am currently feeding their tanks are;

  • Bug Bites by Fluval
  • Vibra Bites from Hikari
  • TetraMin Tropical Flake Food
  • Xtreme Krill Flake

Whilst these are the foods I have right now, Three Spot Gouramis will thrive on any good quality commercial dry food.

As well as feeding my Three Spot Gouramis flakes and pellets, I also try and feed them live or frozen foods as often as I can. I believe live and frozen meaty foods bring in additional vitamins and minerals that commercial foods just can’t deliver.

I feed a lot of the following live and frozen foods;

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


How Often Should You Feed Three Spot Gouramis?

I have spent over 30 years feeding fish. That experience tells me feeding almost all my fish little and often is better than feeding one large meal once a day.

With the exception of some large predators, fish have evolved to eat almost constantly, and so if we can recreate that in our tanks it is better for their digestive systems. Incidentally, feeding little and often is also better for our tanks as the fish waste is spread out across a whole day, making it easier for the filters to deal with.

My Feeding schedule looks something like this;

  • First thing in the morning – Feed pellet food
  • Late afternoon – Feed flake food
  • Early evening – Feed live or frozen food (depending what I have available)
  • Late evening – Feed either flake or pellet if my schedule allows

I have found there is an added advantage to feeding more than once a day. Every time we feed our fish we interact with them and the tank, meaning the more times we feed the more opportunities we have to check the fish’s health and whether or not a piece of equipment is working.


How to Breed Three Spot Gouramis?

Three Spot Gouramis are considered fairly easy fish to breed. Not as easy as a livebearer, but if you have tried all the usual fish and you fancy turning your hand to something new, the Three Spot Gourami isn’t a bad place to start.

They might even be the sort of fish you decide to try to breed for profit.

Three Spot Gouamris are bubble nest spawners, meaning the male will blow a bubble nest and the female will deposit her eggs into it.

Three Spot Gouramis are best bred in a dedicated spawning tank. Whilst they may spawn in a community set up with other fish, I think you are asking for trouble in the long run.

Sexing Three Spot Gouramis

Three Spot Gouramis are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell the males from the females just by looking at them. They are not as easy to sex as a guppy, but nevertheless, with a little experience, you can tell the males from the females.

Male Three Spot Gouramis tend to be larger than females and they develop a pointed dorsal fin. Female Three Spot Gouramis are normally smaller and are usually plumper, especially around spawning time when they fill with eggs.

Three Spot Gourami spawning tank set up

I have found a 20-gallon (75 liters) tank to be the best tank to use as a Three Spot Gourami spawning tank. The tank doesn’t need need to have any substrate although a few rocks and pieces of wood will provide some line of sight blocks if the females need to get away from the male. I would usually only fill this tank with 6″ to 8″ (15cm to 20cm) of water.

One crucial element a Three Spot Gourami tank needs is floating plants. When the male builds his bubble nest he will use some vegetation from the floating plats to give the nest structure.

The spawning tank should only have a small sponge filter in it as anything more powerful will cause excess surface movement, potentially breaking up the bubble nest.

Conditioning Three Spot Gouramis to spawn

Spawning takes a toll on a fish’s body, so we need to make sure they are in the best possible health prior to spawning, this is called conditioning. The best way to condition Three Spot Gouramis is to feed them lots of really high-quality foods, especially foods high in protein.

I condition my Three Spot Gouramis by feeding them bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp for about 2 weeks prior to putting them in the spawning tank together.

The higher the protein levels of the food, the more eggs the female will produce.

Three Spot Gourami Spawning

Once the Three Spot Gouramis have been conditioned to breed, 1 male and 2 or 3 females should be placed into the spawning tank.

I have found it is better to place 2 or 3 females into the spawning tank as the male can be quite aggressive towards the females who are not yet ready to spawn, and if that aggression can be spread out between multiple fish, there is less chance he will kill the female.

The male will initially start by chasing the females around the tank. After a day or so he will start to build a nest, repeatedly blowing small bubbles that stick to one another until he has built a surprisingly impressive structure.

Male Three Spot Gouramis will try to incorporate as much floating matter as they can to help give their bubble nest structure. A floating plant is an ideal choice, but small pieces of styrofoam cups do the same job.

Three Spot Gourami Bubble Nest

Once the bubble nest is completed, the male will start to dance around the females whilst trying to entice one of them under his bubble nest. If a female is receptive and joins him under the nest, he will gently touch her with his ventral fins before the two fish embrace.

Whilst embraced, the male will turn the female upside down where she will release some eggs. The male will fertilize the eggs which naturally float up into the bubble nest. Any eggs that don’t float or don’t stay in the nest will be picked up by the male who will spit them into the nest. Anywhere between 500 and 1,000 eggs may be deposited into the nest.

Once spawning is complete all females should be removed from the spawning tank.

The male Three Spot Gourami will carefully tend the bubble nest until the baby fish (fry) hatch which takes between 20 and 30 hours depending on the water temperature. 4 or 5 days after hatching the fry become free-swimming fish.

In my experience, the male should be removed from the spawning tank too once the fry are out of the nest as he may well eat his new offspring.



Raising Three Spot Gourami babies

When Three Spot Gourami babies are ready to leave the bubble nest they are tiny, and they require very tiny food. For the first 7 to 10 days they will need to be fed either infusoria or liquid fry food. After the first 10 days, they can move on to newly hatched brine shrimp.

As the fry grow, some will naturally grow faster than others. Caution should be exercised as the larger fry can cannibalize the smaller fry.



Three Spot Gourami Color Morphs

As mentioned previously, the Three Spot Gourami has been selectively bred into a number of different color forms. Below I take a look at the most popular forms available on the market.

Golden Gourami

Golden Gourami

As the name suggests, the Gold Gourami lacks any of the usual silver-blue color and is predominantly gold. Often the Gold Gourami will also lack spots or stripes. Gold Gouramis can be so pale they are almost albino, but without the red eyes.

Gold Opaline Gourami

Gold Opaline Gourami

The Gold Opaline Gourami shares the same basic body color as the Gold Gourami, however, they have almost tiger-like markings across their body. These markings can range from barely visible to completely covering the fish’s body.

Opaline Gourami

Opaline Gourami

The Opaline Gourami combines the traditional silver-blue color with the distinctive tiger-like marking across the body. As with the Gold Opaline Gourami, the tiger marking can range from almost non-existent to covering the whole of the body.

Cosy Gourami

Cosby Gourami


Three Spot Gourami Tank Mates

Three Spot Gouramis can be on the aggressive side, especially full-grown males. As such, care should be taken when selecting suitable tank mates.

In my experience, tank mates for the Three Spot Gourami should include more robust fish such as Barbs, larger members of the Tetra family, other Gouramis, and some of the catfish family, including Corydoras.

Some of the tank mates I have had luck with include;

  • Tiger Barbs
  • Buenos Aires Tetras
  • Silver Tip Tetras
  • Bristlenose Plecos
  • Bronze Corydoras
  • Pictus Catfish
  • Serpea Tetras

Tiger Barbs

Tiger Barbs

I know what you are thinking, Tiger Barbs with a Gourami, this guy is an idiot! Well, you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Providing Tiger Barbs are kept in a large enough group (certainly 6 or more, but 10 plus is better) then they don’t bother any other fish in the tank.

Tiger Barbs have a reputation for being aggressive and fin nippers, but they work surprisingly well with Three Spot Gouramis providing the tank is set up correctly. I kept about 40 Tiger Barbs with 6 Three Spot Gouramis and I never witnessed any fin nipping or aggression from any of the fish.

Buenos Aires Tetras

Buenos Aires Tetras

Buenos Aires Tetras are a slightly larger, more robust member of the Tetra family. My Buenos Aires Tetras don’t stop still long enough for another fish to be aggressive towards them, so they make excellent tank mates for Three Spot Gouramis.

Buenos Aires Tetras are schooling fish and should be kept in a group of at least 10. The more of them you keep together the more impressive their schooling behavior is.

Silver Tip Tetras

Silver Tip Tetras

Silver Tip Tetras are one of the tightest school fish in the hobby. They swim back and forth all day long, moving around the tank as one. They are a sight to impress even the most experienced fish keeper.

Silver Tip Tetras are very hardy and fast swimmers meaning they won’t be phased even if the Three Spot Gouramis become a little aggressive towards the other tank mates.

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco

If I had a dollar for every time I had sung the praises of Bristlenose Plecos, I wouldn’t have to go to work on Monday morning. I genuinely believe every community aquarium on the planet should have a Bristlenose Pleco in it.

Bristlenose Plecos are peaceful, they keep the tank almost completely clear of algae, and they eat any uneaten food that makes its way behind a rock or under pieces of wood. They are a must for every aquarium.

Bronze Corydoras

Bronze Corydoras

I have chosen the Bronze Corydoras for this list of tank mates, but to be honest, you could choose almost any members of the Corydoras family and they would be happy living with a group of Three Spot Gouramis.

Corydoras usually spend the majority of their days swimming along the bottom of the tank looking for bits of food to eat. The more Bronze Corydoras you keep in a tank, the more amazing the effect of them swimming around as a group is.

Pictus Catfish

Pictus Catfish

I am a massive fan of Pictus Catfish. I keep them in a number of my tanks, and whilst you certainly can’t trust them with small fish like Neon Tetras, they are a perfect fit for a Gourami tank.

Pictus Catfish swim along the substrate looking for food with their long whiskers. They never stop moving and their colors will really compliment the Three Spot Gouramis.

Serpea Tetras

Serpea Tetras

Serpea Tetras are another, larger body Tetra that can hold its own in the face of minor aggression. Like so many members of the Tetra family, Serpea Tetras do best when kept in groups, so consider keeping a group of 6 or more together.



Common Three Spot Gourami Pests and Diseases

In my experience, these guys have always proved to be fairly hardy. I haven’t noticed they are any more or less susceptible to pests or diseases than any of the other fish in my fish room.

Below I have listed some of the most commonly seen pests and diseases, what their symptoms are, and how they should be treated.

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

Ich (Whitespot)

Ich, which is commonly referred to as Whitespot in Europe, is a disease that is especially prevalent in the fishkeeping hobby.

Ich presents itself as small white spots which usually start on the tail or fins, but if left untreated quickly spreads to the rest of the fish’s body. Ich can eventually take over and kill a Three Spot Gourami.

The white spots of Ich are in fact not actually spots, rather they are cysts caused when the parasite burrows under the fish’s scales.

The parasite will remain under the fish’s scales for a few days, feeding on the fish’s blood. Once the parasite has consumed enough it will fall off the fish and sink to the aquarium substrate where it will sit for a few days whilst it multiplies into countless new parasites, each of which will go looking for a new host fish.

Fortunately, there are a number of very good treatments for Ich. I have had great success using Ich-X which is made by Hikari (check the current price of Ich-X on Amazon.com). If you are based in Europe, eSHa EXIT is an excellent treatment for Ich.



Fin Rot

Fin rot is caused by a bacterial infection that usually starts after a fish has been fin nipped by one of its tank mates. The fin rot starts off as small pieces missing from the fins or tail. Left untreated the fins become raggedy, then eventually the fins and tail will completely rot away, leaving the fish to ultimately die.

Fin rot is another disease that is completely treatable if treatment starts early. I have had good success treating fin rot, and in fact, a number of other bacterial infections, using Maracyn (see more about Maracyn on the Aquarium Coop website).

If you are in Europe, eSHa 2000 is a really effective treatment for bacterial infections.

Dropsy

Dropsy is the name given when fish swell up, usually as a result of fluids building up inside the fish’s body. Dropsy is usually the result of kidney failure. There is little that can be done for Tiger Barbs suffering from Dropsy. Euthanasia is the kindest thing for the infected fish.



Internal Tapeworms

Tapeworms live inside the Gouramis digestive system where they consume the goodness from the food the Three Spot Gourami eats before the Gourami has a chance to.

Internal Tapeworms are extremely prevalent in the hobby and many fish coming from wholesalers and even from some local fish stores already have internal tapeworms.

Early treatment for tapeworms is essential. I like to place all new fish into a quarantine tank for at least 2 weeks prior to adding them to my display aquariums. During that two weeks, I treat for tapeworms, reducing the chance the worms will get into my display tanks.

I have found the most effective treatment for internal tapeworms is Paracleanse which is made by Fritz.



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.seriouslyfish.com/species/trichopodus-trichopterus/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_spot_gourami

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Simon_Pallas

https://www.thesprucepets.com/blue-gourami-1381023

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/121020#tosummaryOfInvasiveness

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabantoidei