Sparkling Gourami: Feeding, Behavior, Care and Tank Set up guide

The sparkling gourami is a wonder in south-east Asian waters; they are found dwelling in densely vegetated waterbodies. Their origin is traceable to river basins in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia. These aquatic creatures are typically solitary animals and are known to be peaceful and hardy as they can survive some of the harshest water conditions you can ever imagine. The scientific name of the sparkling gourami is Trichopsis Pumila. It is also called ‘pygmy gourami’ probably because of its small size.

Sparkling gouramis share some similarities with bettas particularly in terms of size. They possess a pelvic fin that has a thread-like appearance, an erect dorsal fin and an anal fin which is usually much broader. Their fins have a mix of blue and brown coloration.

The sparkling gourami can grow to a maximum length of 3.5-4cm and live for up to 4 years. The unique feature about this freshwater fish is the pearlescent hue of blue, red and green that it bears on the body; the eyes also reflect an iridescent bright blue color. Plus, the sparkling gourami is also known to make soft croaking sound with the aid of their pectoral fin.

Feeding

Sparkling gouramis are omnivorous feeders so, you can feed them with foods like pellet, flakes, insect, live and frozen bloodworms, daphnia, tubifex, brine shrimp. They also fancy eating algae, and would readily scrape any (algae) available in the aquarium. On the whole, feeds that are rich in protein are highly beneficial to this fish. It is essential that the food is broken into bits – probably with the aid of a grinder or any suitable crushing device – that will be fitting for the size of the sparkling gourami’s mouth.

About their feeding frequency; you can feed them two times daily. You should provide a moderate supply of feed at every point in time considering that they do not have so large a stomach to take in much food. Also, be careful not to overstock the aquarium with feeds to avoid the accumulation of ammonium and nitrite in the tank.

Even though sparkling gouramis are not known to be picky when it comes to feeding, you should avoid feeding them with beef and foods with high-fat contents as these could make them overweight and become less active; such (fatty) foods can even damage some vital organs in the fish. More importantly, poor quality feeds must be avoided like the plague so as not to impair the development of their iridescent pigmentation. In other words, a good mix of top quality feeds – from the ones suggested above – will be perfect.

Breeding

First and foremost, it is necessary to be able to tell male sparkling gourami apart from a female one. Coloration and fin sizes are two elements commonly used in distinguishing them. The males tend to have longer fins than the females, and the colors of the male are much more striking/intense than the female. You can also take a closer look [using a viable source of illumination] at the body – right beneath the swim bladder – of individual sparkling gourami to determine the presence or absence of ovaries. Additionally, with spawning imminent, the females tend to have protruding bellies wherein the eggs are stored.

Before breeding, the male sparkling gourami is known to build bubblenest in which the babies will eventually be kept. To trigger spawning, the male sparkling gourami courts the female then progresses to wrap his body around her, and this culminates in the release of eggs that are then fertilized by the male. This act [of intimacy] between the couple continues until the release of the very last set of eggs. By the way, the number of eggs the female sparkling gourami can lay is sometimes dependent on age; it increases with age. Younger females may lay between 40 – 80 pieces during a spawning period.

The fertilized eggs are collected and taken into the net where they remain for a couple of days. Breaking it down; the eggs will hatch in about 1 – 2 day(s) and stay in the nest for 2-3 days within which they absorb (i.e. eat) their yolk sac in anticipation of breaking out of the nest.

The male sparkling gouramis are known to be solely responsible for tending to the eggs/fry until they can swim on their own. In doing so, he prevents the bubblenest in which the juveniles occupy from drifting afar off with the aid of a sticky substance secreted from the oral cavity. Furthermore, he watches out for any juvenile that may fall out [of the nest] so as return them as quickly as possible. In the course of all these, the male sparkling gouramis are often territorial towards their kind particularly, the female that has laid the eggs. Therefore, it is essential to keep them worlds apart – in separate tanks.

It is yet important to note the fry of sparkling gourami can only be fed with infusoria – this refers to varying minute aquatic creatures like paramecia, ciliates, Volvox, etc. that are known to be very nutritious.   

You can prepare a culture of infusoria by putting potatoes or lettuce in a jar containing water from the aquarium in which the fish is housed. The setup should then be in an area with good sunlight penetration for about 3 – 4 days. It is logical that the culture is prepared in readiness for the moment the fry would have exhausted their yolk sac. In feeding the fry with the infusoria, you only need to add a few drops of water – say 2-3 drops from the culture to the aquarium where the babies are kept; you can do this twice every day. The juveniles can be fed with microworm once they start getting bigger with their mouth more pronounced.

N.B: You can induce breeding in the tank by altering the conditions therein. You should lower the water level by 15cm and raise the temperature to 28°C. More importantly, a separate tank should be made available for breeding, and you should ensure that the tank has a tight lid that can preserve or generate warm air within the tank. This is important for the development of the labyrinth – more on this later – in the juvenile sparkling gourami.

Care

Aquarists will have no issue taking care of the sparkling gourami as they are not so demanding. However, in keeping them, it is expedient to simulate the conditions visible in their natural environment. Hence you will need to maintain the water at a slow flow with the aid of a simple low-powered filter.

For the water parameters, the temperature should be maintained at 22°C- 26°C and the pH can range from 6.0 – 7.5. Sparkling gourami will thrive in moderately soft to very hard water so, the degree of hardness can be between 5 – 19 dH. The availability of dissolved oxygen in the water is not a problem for this amazing creature, and this is basically due to a unique structure [known as ‘labyrinth‘] they possess; this enables them to draw oxygen from the surface. This labyrinth structure together with the gills – which they use for processing dissolved oxygen – serve commensurate respiratory purposes.

Notwithstanding, ammonia and nitrite are highly detrimental to their well-being. This is why you should not put in too much feeds, or infusoria – than the group of sparkling gourami can readily consume – into the tank. Furthermore, the change of water should be done as at when due.

Tank setup

One thing you should bear in mind when setting up the aquarium of a sparkling gourami is that they tend to go into hiding. Owing to this, you should provide a lot of hiding places in the tank and furnish it with driftwood and plants. The idea is to make sure that the tank is adequately supplied with plant similitude of their natural environment. More so, broad leaves are great to have in the aquarium of sparkling gouramis. This sort of leaves will be beneficial particularly during spawning season.

Another important aspect is to create a substrate that will form a good contrast with the coloration of the fish; this is why dark-colored substrates are usually recommended when it comes to this set of fish. Walnut gravel is an excellent example of the item you can use to actualize the needed kind of substrate.

A lot of aquarists that are into breeding the sparkling gouramis might not have come to terms with the fact that having the right kind of substrate could be a matter of life and death, but this is somewhat the case. A contrasting substrate will make it very easy for the adult male gourami to spot any baby that might have accidentally fallen out of the bubblenest and return it thereunto.

The tank’s lighting should be dim, and it may be necessary to place the tank in a shaded area. Bright light can subject the fish to undue stress the fish or disturbed specific processes – for instance, breeding. As an aside; the whole setup could add some aesthetic thrill to a home setting.

For their size and not-so-intensive activity level – though they love to jump above the water surface from time to time – a medium-sized tank which can take up to 20 litres of water should be fitting for a single sparkling gourami. But you will certainly need a bigger one if you have the intention of keeping it in a community of aquatic creatures.

Behaviour

Besides the male sparkling gourami which seldom gets aggressive around the time of breeding, these freshwater species are generally peaceful. They are easy going and do not even compete well for food when kept together with other fishes that are voracious eaters. This (calm) mien, coupled with their hardy nature, is one of the significant reasons sparkling gourami is often recommended for beginners.

Another behavioral trend that sparkling gourami exhibit is that they cherish being alone; they are not always counted among the schooling type of fish. Notwithstanding, they can be kept in a community [of fishes] – or with their kind – without any issue. Plus, sparkling gouramis are quite timid.

Aquarium mates

As a rule of thumb; the sparkling gourami should not be kept with aggressive fishes or aquatic organisms that are relatively larger. Again, you should not be tempted to put sparkling gouramis in the same tank with hyperactive swimmers or voracious feeders. So, for the choice of tank mate for your sparkling gourami, you can go for guppy, pygmy corydoras, opaline, honey gourami, red cherry shrimp, tetra or rainbowfish.

A note of warning: Sparkling gourami’s semblance with betta does not mean that they will make wonderful ‘co-inhabitants’. Keeping these two fishes together will open the sparkling gourami to attacks especially from the adult male betta. So, the pairing is a no-no.

Diseases

You should not get carried away by the fact that sparkling gouramis are often regarded as being  ‘rugged’ and deprive them of the care they need. Their hardy nature is used [most times] to describe their survivability in a wide range of water conditions – including poorly oxygenated water. Failure to give them adequate care is what often leads to the onset of various diseases which could shorten the life span of this amazing creature. Therefore, we shall henceforth take a look at some of these diseases:

1. Fin rot: Fin rot is a common bacterial infection known to affect sparkling gourami as well as some other freshwater fishes. It can be transmitted by Pseudomonas fluorescens or Aeromonas, and the action of these pathogens lead to the destruction of the fin – as though something being eaten away. This rottenness does have grave consequences if it is allowed to increase beyond the fin; this happens when fin rot is left untreated over a long period.

Besides the nipping of the fin; other symptoms that evolve with this disease include loss of appetite, weakness, loss of the fish’s attractive coloration, and abdominal swelling. The good news however is, that fin rot – if discovered on time – can be treated with antibiotics such as tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, amoxicillin, etc. Aquarium salt is also useful – either in combination with other medications or otherwise. You ensure that the water pH is set within the normal range for the fish.

2. Costiasis: Generally known as costia infection, costiasis is caused by Ichtyobodonecatrix, a protozoan that attaches itself to the body of freshwater fishes thereby establishing a parasitic association. This protozoan can only survive at a temperature under 28°C. At the onset of this disease, an affected fish develops patches on its body; the skin gets cloudy, and mucus begin to emerge from the gills thus indicating respiratory complications. Additionally, there is the fraying of fins and weakness manifest. You will also notice that they do not eat as they would normally do.

Costiasis can be treated with Praziquantel, a medication that is effective for eliminating parasitic microorganisms. You can also use formalin (10cm in 20 litres of water) to get rid of the causative pathogen. Optionally, you can clean up the fish with 3% hydrogen peroxide and have it put into a temporary or makeshift tank why you raise the water temperature in the aquarium to 34°C for about 1 hour and have the water changed before reintroducing the fish.

3. White spot disease: White spot disease is another protozoan infection that is common to many freshwater fish – sparkling gourami inclusive. It is popularly known as  ‘freshwater ich’ and is caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This disease is characterized by the formation of white noodles on the body of infected fishes. Furthermore, it makes the fish sluggish, loses appetite, breathes at a faster rate, and even become more withdrawn. The fish’s eyes may become cloudy, and the fish shows signs of flashing – a condition whereby the fish rubs its body against objects available in the tank.

You can use drugs like quinine sulphate or quinine hydrochloride to treat white spot disease. Alternatively, this disease can be cured using salt solution: one tablespoon of aquarium salt in 8 liters of water. With regards to treating the sparkling gourami; however, you will have to put in in 2.5 tablespoons of aquarium salt into 20 litres of water. The fish should be kept in this solution for ten straight days while the water temperature is maintained at 28°C for the duration of treatment. You may need to change ¼ of the water in a tank every three days. As such, you have to add one teaspoon of aquarium salt upon completing each water change; this will help to sustain the concentration of the solution.

4. Cotton wool disease: Here is another infectious disease that the sparkling gourami may be susceptible to. It is caused by a fungus or bacterium which could infest injured or sick freshwater fishes. It is also known as  ‘columnaris’.  The microbes, responsible for this disease, are known to take advantage of a weak immune system. Healthy fishes are usually protected from this infection by a mucus layer which they secrete. Hence, it is advisable to take care good of your fish and see to its well-being always. The primary sign of this disease is the formation of grey or white cotton-like growth on the body, fins and mouth of the fish.

Additionally, affected fishes may have their fins frayed, lose appetite and develop ulcers on the body. The cotton wool disease could also affect fish coordination; this can cause the fish to shake uncontrollably.

A salt bath is appropriate for treating cotton wool disease: all you need to do is dispense five tablespoons of aquarium salt into 20 litres of water in a separate tank – a hospital tank, most preferably. Anti-fungal medications can also be used in treating this very disease.

5.Fish fluke disease: Flukes are parasitic worms that attach themselves to the body of fishes with the aid of their hooks. They feed particles present on the body of their host, and also suck blood thus leading to a diseased condition which usually makes the fish lethargic.

Furthermore, the infected fish experience discoloration and respiratory organ dysfunction which causes it to breathe at an alarmingly rapid rate. Again, mucus is formed over the gills, and the skin becomes ulcerated. The fish also shows some behavioral changes as it embraces reclusiveness. Plus, the affected fish is sometimes seen flashing, i.e. scratching the body against objects as irritation is imminent.

Medications such as Praziquantel, fluketabs, potassium permanganate, and formalin can be used in the treatment of fish fluke disease. And, you may need to run treatment consistently or repeatedly to ensure the best result – a fluke-free fish in a clean tank.

If there is one thing that is common with most of the diseases discussed above, it is the fact that they are aided by poor water quality. Such kind of water serves as breeding ground for most of the pathogens that have been implicated in the occurrence/emergence of these diseases. This is why it is necessary for you to check the levels of ammonia and nitrite regularly and also see to it that water change is consistent.

From all indications, it is evident that these diseases are infectious; hence you will have to be very careful before introducing sparkling gourami into a new tank to join other fishes. More importantly, watch out for any sign of infection on the body of the sparkling gourami you wish to obtain for your aquarium, and even quarantine the fish before putting it in. It is fitting to state here that there are other diseases – apart from the ones discussed here – that can affect the sparkling gourami.

Over and above all, sparkling gouramis remain a fascinating option of aquarium freshwater fish that will make a pleasurable site in the home, and it is crucial that you pay attention to its well-being. Here is an aquarium fish that is worth investing in.

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