April 17

Paradise Fish – Feeding, Breeding and Care Guide


Paradise Fish Macropodus Opercularis

Paradise fish are vibrantly colored freshwater species that are native to Asia – from India to Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and so on. They are known to be exhibit incredible parental instinct as they are ‘bubble-nesters‘.

The paradise fish loves being in the tank alone, and its tank should be integrated with a highly efficient filtration system. They are great tank cleaners, which is one of the reasons aquarists like having them in the tank.

One will not be wrong to term them “beautiful beast“ as they often portray aggressive behavior. However, they are a hardy type of fish as they show immunity to a host of diseases that may readily down other freshwater fish.

Read more on the aggressive behavior, features, compatibility, breeding pattern, and dietary demands of this fantastic and unpretentious group of fish in this article. Also, you will find out valuable tips on the way to go about taking of them.


Among the beautiful creatures, you will likely come across in the waters of South-East Asia is the Paradise fish – which is also known as Paradise gourami while its scientific name is Macropodusopercularis. This fish is brightly colored as it bears a mix of blue and red although it seldom changes color in response to stimuli. There is however the ‘albino paradise fish‘ [with pale coloration] that is observed to be less aggressive but more prone to diseases probably due to pigmentation deficiency.

Paradise fish has a stout body and pointed fins, and like other gouramis, it also possesses a unique labyrinth structure that enables it to survive in a waterbody deprived of oxygen. Plus, it also has two thread-like pelvic fins.

This particular fish species can grow up to a length of 8 – 11cm and live for close to 10 years when kept under healthy conditions. They are generally hardy, and often reflect aggressive tendencies; this is unlike most of the other gouramis.


Paradise fish exhibit omnivorous feeding orientation as they will readily feed on flakes, pellets, vegetables, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and so on. They seem to have a strong appetite for meaty foods and will sometimes prey on small(er) fishes in the wild.

On some occasions, particularly when they are hungry, they can be effective ‘tank cleaners‘; consuming/clearing up a hydra and even algae that may be present within the tank. This should however not make you leave paradise fish in an environment loaded with these organisms.

Above all, it is advisable to provide them with a diet that is rich in protein – the right mix of the foods mentioned above will not be bad either – especially if you intend to breed them.

For the feeding frequency; it is a known fact that paradise fish could prove to be a heck of fastidious feeders so, you can provide them with foods twice – at max –every day. But their rapacious eating habit should not tempt you into pouring an excessive amount of feed into their tank.


As a rule of thumb, the very first thing for any aquarist [who is out to breed a fish species] is to differentiate between the male and female fish. Paradise fish are quite easy to breed, and you can distinguish between the two sexes by observing the size and color of the fish.

The male paradise fish are usually bigger than the female, and again, the color of the male is more striking than that of the female – although it has to be said that certain environmental elements may influence their coloration in some instances. Another aspect that should not be neglected when attempting to breed paradise fish is sexual maturity; this is often reflected by relatively large(r) fins.

To induce breeding; you should place the male and female paradise fish in separate tanks and then feed them with foods that are high in protein – this should be done for 2 – 3 days.

You can then introduce the fish (male and female) into a 38-liter breeding tank that has been equipped with an adequate supply of plants. The water level should be dropped by 18cm and the water temperature raised to 280C. You may also need to keep the lights out during the breeding process.

Let me chip this in, the lowering of the water level is not just another ‘ritual‘; it is critical to the development of the labyrinth structure in the juvenile since they will be able to get to the surface more readily. Besides, with the water level reduced, the adult male fish can easily get the eggs to the nest.

    Back to the breeding proper; paradise fish belong in the group of ‘bubble-nesters‘ which means that the male fish are used to building nests in preparation for spawning. With the nest completed, the female gets attracted to the male who, in turn, courts her. The couple then goes on to enjoy some romantic rendezvous with the male wrapping itself around the female. This act leads to the release of eggs that are eventually fertilized by the sperm from the male.

    The mating process continues until the female lays the last set of eggs. Paradise fish are capable of laying over 500 eggs in the course of one spawning season.

    The fertilized eggs are taken to the bubble-nest by the male who thereby assumes the responsibility of taking care of the eggs. The male becomes so protective that it shows its aggressive instinct towards the female or any other fish that attempt(s) to go close to the young ones. This is why it is necessary to separate the female from the brood once spawning is over.

    It takes about 1 – 2 days for the eggs to hatch, and the juveniles may remain in the nest for another 2 – 3 days, emerging after consuming the yolk sac. You can feed them with infusoria [for two weeks] after they must have broken out of the nest to start a free-swimming lifestyle. At this point, you should consider taking the adult male paradise fish from the breeding tank to prevent it from feasting on the young ones. Still on caring for the fry; you will have to make sure that the condition of the water surface is not draughty – using a good lid on the aquarium should take care of this – as such a situation could be highly detrimental to the health and/or survival of the fry.

    Do note that, under the right conditions, the labyrinth structure will develop in about 3 – 5 weeks in the fry. Hence, the conditions (i.e., reduced water level and raised temperature) initially set for breeding should be maintained during this period. Coupled with a healthy diet, this will help the juveniles to develop the characteristic (paradise fish) colors in good time.

    It is also recommended that you do a 5% water change daily to make sure that the young fish dwell in safe and clean water.


    Paradise fish are sociable to an extent but may show aggressive inclinations from time to time. The males do engage in fights with each other as well as other fish species for several reasons among which territoriality is prime. They also do compete for female (mates) so, you should avoid putting two males together with one female in the event of breeding – safe you wish to satisfy your curiosity.

    In readiness for a fight, paradise fish will open up its operculum; extend its fins, and change color – maybe like one showing his/her other side.

    Another behavioral trend you may notice in the life of paradise fish is that they are more drawn to solitary lifestyle – albeit they have no problem putting up with a host of neighbors in a community tank. The solitary lifestyle is more profound with the presence of a comparatively large(r) fish; in such a scenario, the paradise fish will most probably go into hiding.


    Though some aquarists might have been put off by the aggressiveness of paradise fish, the fact remains that this group of aquatic creatures are not very demanding to care for. Moreover, they could be quite an exciting choice for any beginner who is willing to take his/her experience [in keeping aquarium fish] up a notch.

    They may be hardy fish but this should not in your being lackadaisical about taking care of their daily needs. For instance, you should endeavor to check the status of the water and do a water change as at when due; failure to do this could predispose your pet to an array of diseases. One-quarter of the water should be changed every week.

    Food should be supplied in moderation to curtail incidences of constipation and build-up of ammonia and nitrite in the tank.

    Tank setup

    First off, the minimum tank capacity for breeding a paradise fish is about 76 liters. You should equip the tank with plants like duckweed, hornwort, java fern, and other floating plants to keep it densely vegetated. Sand should be used to make the substrate; rocks and driftwood are also useful in the tank.

    Additional features you should consider integrating into the tank include a low-powered filter – as paradise fish do not fancy strong currents – and a nice tank cover. These very fish species are always eager to jump so if you do not want to see them lying helpless on the ground after coming home, you had better have a lid on the aquarium. You may need to position the tank in an area with moderate lighting and many aquarists recommend you to read this current USA orbit marine aquarium led light review before making the decision to buy led light.

    Water parameters

    Paradise fish are hardy and will survive in extreme water conditions. They will thrive in a waterbody with a hardness level between very soft and exceedingly hard – let’s say, 5 – 30dH. The water temperature should be between 21 – 240C; they can even survive at a temperature as low as 100C. The water can be slightly acidic or slightly basic; hence a pH range of 6.0 – 8.0 will be fine for them.

    Aquarium mates

    Finding an aquarium mate for paradise fish could be somewhat challenging for aquarists; this may not be unconnected to the aggressiveness of the fish. Putting paradise fish in the same tank with other fishes of equal temperament will result in a battle royale – a fight for dominance.

    On the other hand, having fishes of smaller size could trigger their predatory [or domineering] instinct which means the ‘neighbor ‘ may not live to see another day. Hence, there is a need to find a good balance between size and temperament; bigger fishes with peaceful behavior should be fitting tank mates for paradise fish. Examples of fishes that fit this description include geophagus, cichlids, large characins, clown loaches, bristlenose, giant danios, and armored catfish.

    You should not put betta and paradise fish together [as tank mates] as the resemblance between them could lead to attacks with the former likely to gain the upper hand.


    Paradise fish, being the kind of species that they are, can weather the storm (of diseases) and may not be pinned down by some of the diseases known to affect other freshwater fishes. Notwithstanding, there are certain diseased conditions that they may be subjected to, and some of these are now discussed:

    1. Fin rot: A couple of aquarists have reported cases of fin rot in paradise fish. The disease is caused by Pseudomonas and Aeromonas, two bacterial microbes that are known to thrive under low temperatures and poor water quality. Early symptoms of this disease include the appearance of patches on the fish’s fins and gradual loss of its attractive coloration. Over time, if this disease is not treated, the fins begin to fray, and the microbes may spread to other parts of the fish where severe damages are done.

    Early detection and treatment are key to the fish surviving the onslaught of this disease. You can treat it with antibiotics such as tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, or amoxicillin, and you may have to quarantine the infected fish.

    2. Camallanus worms: Camallanus worms are a group of nematodes known to form a parasitic association with several freshwater fishes – paradise fish not excluded. These worms feed on the blood of their host; causing the fish to become lethargic. Infected fishes are observed to have swollen bellies with the worm protruding from their anus. These worms can spread like wildfire and infest a community of fishes in a couple of days. So, you have to tame their growth and/or proliferation on time by affecting the necessary treatment routine.

    You can treat this condition with a formulation called fenbendazole. This should be mixed in water – according to the prescribed dosage – in a jar and then soak the food – maybe pellets, brine shrimp, or whatever feed that will take up a sizeable amount of the medicated solution – for 30 to 60 minutes. After that, the preparation (i.e., medicated solution + soaked feed) should be turned into the quarantine tank housing the infected fish.

    One or two follow-up treatment(s) may be required to obliterate the worms from the fish’s body completely. You can get to judge the effectiveness of the therapy by watching out for improvement in your fish’s well-being; more so, the sight of greyish, lifeless worms in the hospital tank should give a hint of the efficacy of the drugs used. Do keep in mind that it is essential to provide the fish with an adequate supply of feeds, mainly algae and thawed frozen pea during treatment; this will further help the fish to expel the worms within its system.

    Apart from fenbendazole; levamisole and parasite-D are the other medications that are used in treating cases of Camallanus worm infection.

    N.B: There are claims that other worms may serve as vectors for Camallanus so, it is usually recommended that feeds such as bloodworms and the likes be kept off the diet of infected fishes. Again, without the host being present in the ‘home tank‘, the eggs/larvae (of Camallanus worm) will not have any chance of survival. You can intensify the temperature in the home tank, and have it appropriately disinfected 4 – 6 weeks after the initial discovery of the worms.

    3. Lymphocystis disease: This is another disease that is common to paradise fish [and some other freshwater and marine fishes as well]. The causative agents of this disease are viruses belonging to the Iridoviridae family. The condition is characterized by the emergence of nodules on the fins and skin of the fish. The viral growth can have detrimental effects on the immune system and other internal organs (e.g., liver, kidney, etc.) of the fish. Additionally, the onset of this condition may also result in breathing complications, impairment of the fish’s swimming capability, and loss of appetite.

    Lymphocystis can be regarded as a terminal disease for fishes as it does not have an outright cure; the best treatment form of treatment that has been proposed is the suppression of the viral load, in which case the viruses may later ravage the host’s system at a not-so-distant time again. As a result of this, it is highly beneficial to take preventative measures to ensure that your pet does not fall victim to this deadly disease. This is why it is advisable that you take care of anything – such as infectious diseases, injuries, and so on – that may jeopardize the health status of the fish’s immune system. These conditions should be treated as soon as they are discovered, and see to it that the fish is not put through so much stress.

    • Swim bladder disorder: This is a disorder that affects the functioning of the swim bladder, and it could be due to certain environmental factors, infections, or physical defects. Overeating and consumption of freeze-dried foods have sometimes been implicated in the occurrence of this disorder.

    The disorder causes the fish to lose control of its movement as affected fishes may be seen floating in an upside-down orientation or sinking to the bottom of the tank. The belly of such fishes could become rounded as pressure builds from within (its body); the fish may also experience a loss of appetite.

    Treatment of this disorder is easy: all you need do is subject the affected fish to a fast for about 2 – 3 days. While this is going on, the water temperature should be set at 26 – 290C as low temperature could cause or worsen the disorder. After this fast, you can feed the fish with thawed peas – although they should be fed sparingly. The level of the water in the aquarium should be dropped while treatment lasts.  

    5. Dropsy: Dropsy is not always regarded as a disease per se, but it is one condition that cannot be waved aside nonetheless. It is also known as Malawi Bloat. It is reported to be associated with malnutrition and bacterial infections – especially those caused by Pseudomonas and Aeromonas. And, it could be exacerbated or triggered whenever the immune system of the fish is down.

    Bloating or swelling of the abdomen is a common symptom of this condition. Furthermore, fish suffering dropsy will often lose their coloration and experience physiological impairment of internal organs. An affected fish may also portray specific behavioral changes; becoming more withdrawn and staying close to the substrate than it would typically do. Again, they do not get to eat as usual and may suffer anemia and lethargy. This disease could eventually lead to the death of the fish if left untreated.

    Dropsy can be treated with antibiotics such as Kanamycin, Maracyn-2, and Kanaplex. Treatment is usually done in a hospital tank, and the rate of success is dependent on how fast you act to put the situation in check.

    Aquarium salt may also be useful in the treatment of dropsy. To treat the fish this way; you can dispense five tablespoons of aquarium salt into 38 liters of water in a hospital tank, and introduce the affected fish into the tank. You can do a 25% water change every week, and salt should be added to sustain the concentration of the solution in the tank.

    You will have to keep the fish under close observation while doing this treatment. In case, you do not see any improvement; you may have to try other means of treatment. You should not fail to provide the fish with a healthy diet irrespective of the treatment method you may choose. When you ponder on the manifestation of the diseases discussed above, you will realize that hygiene plays a critical role. Poor water quality, which primarily caused by a spike in ammonia concentration and negligence in doing a water change, is one aspect that cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, you should not overfeed the fish, and make concerted efforts to always keep the water clean.

    A low-temperature setting may yet encourage the growth and spread of most disease-causing microbes; hence, it is pertinent to maintain water parameters at the right standard. Plus, the filter should be cleaned regularly, and you need to pay attention to the welfare of your pet; watching out for any change that may occur in their body. Furthermore on measures to take towards disease prevention; you should overcrowding the tank, and you should never keep aggressive fishes with evenly tempered ones.


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