The Delicate Bunch
Several of the smaller species are surrounded by myths and noted for being “difficult”. That may be so, but with a little careful planning and preparation it is possible to keep and breed them – homework again! You will, however, need a little more experience before you attempt to keep and breed any of these. They are included here as a challenge for the future!
Sphaerichthys osphronemoides (Chocolate gourami) is a fish that one of us cannot resist. They require soft, acid conditions and excellent water quality. It is the maintenance of good water quality that seems to be the key to success with these fishes and with the other small species such as Trichopsis vittatus (Croaking gourami), so pay attention to the filtration system and remember to carry out regular partial water changes.
It is best to prepare an aquarium specifically for these creatures, ensuring that it is both well planted and that the water is matured before attempting to introduce the fishes. Wood is good for decor as the tannins leaching from it are beneficial to the fishes. In real terms, an aquarium that has been up-andrunning for six to nine months is ideal. One of us tends to use a tank previously used for growing on small tetras and once they have been moved on to other accommodation, a shoal of young gouramis can be housed in the mature aquarium thus vacated.
The only adjustment made to the tank is the water temperature, which should be a little higher for the gouramis, around 26-28°C (79-82°F). The size of the shoal will depend on the size of the aquarium, for example a 5 0 x 2 5 x 2 5 cm (18 x 10 x 10 in) will accommodate 6 to 8 Trichopsis vittatus (croaking gourami), and a 60 x 30 x 30 cm (24 x 12 x 12 in) a shoal of 10 to 12 Sphaerichthys osphronemoides (Chocolate gourami). Although this may seem very few fishes for tanks of this size, it is easy to maintain water quality, and should the fishes become picky towards each other, they have enough space to get out of each other’s way. It is preferable to purchase young fishes and allow them to grow on and pair themselves, rather than trying to determine pairs of older fishes.
One of the keys to success with these creatures is in the feeding: they prefer small live foods such as Daphnia, Cyclops, mosquito larvae, whiteworm, and so on. If you cannot provide these then frozen foods are excellent substitutes. Most of the fishes will accept flake foods which can be used as well as the frozen/live foods.
Some controversy surrounds just how Sphaerichthys osphronemoides (Chocolate gourami) breeds. This may have something to do with the fact that there are possibly four different types of chocolate gourami, and that each may have a different spawning procedure. Of the two forms which have been observed, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides selatanensis is a mouthbrooder in which the male carries the eggs, while the other, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides osphromenoides, has been noted as being both a mouthbrooder, in which the female carries the eggs, and a bubblenest builder.
The chocolate gouramis we worked with were mouthbrooders, in which the female took the large yellow eggs into her mouth and incubated them and the resulting fry for about 18 days. When released, the fry were brown and yellow and took newly hatched brine shrimp. The male Trichopsis vittatus (croaking gourami) constructs a nest close to the substrate in a cave or hollow beneath a large leaf or in a tangle of plant roots. He collects the eggs after spawning and spits them into the nest. He alone cares for the nest and fry. Up to 300 fry may result and they are quite tiny, so prepare plenty of infusoria and, later, newly hatched brine shrimp.