The honey gourami (trichogaster chuna) is an easy and enjoyable addition to a freshwater aquarium community. In the wild, honey gouramis are native to rivers, ponds, basins, and lakes in India and Bangladesh in heavily planted areas where they feed on insects, larvae, and zooplankton, breathing at the surface so that they can survive even in poorly oxygenated water.
The honey gourami can thrive in captivity also. Its hardiness, passive personality, and ease of care make the honey gourami an excellent choice for aquarists of any skill level, and its color and activity level make it rewarding to keep.
If you’re new to keeping gouramis, here is everything you need to know to help them thrive and enjoy all that they can bring to your aquarium.
Honey gouramis (sometimes also called sunset gouramis) are named for their color. They have yellowish orange bodies with their fins moving from that color to a deeper reddish-orange at the ends.
There are actually three distinct varieties of honey gouramis that vary in their shade: wild type which is more silvery to yellow on their fins, gold/yellow which is yellow to orange, and sunset red which has more red.
Males tend to be more brightly colored than their female, paler counterparts, and males are blueish-silver in their throat area. Females may also develop a lateral stripe down their sides. The two look very similar until they reach maturity at about 3 months old.
Expert Tip: You can also identify their sex by the shape of their dorsal and anal fins: males have a sharper shape to their fins whereas females’ are rounded.
In captivity, the honey gourami grows to about 1.5-2 inches long, with females being slightly larger.
Gouramis are thin fish with flat sides and an upward tilt to their faces shaped to allow surface breathing. They have long, dangling ventral fins and very small pectoral fins that are hardly noticeable. With their color being their most attractive quality, it’s good to know what you can do to care for and enhance it.
A varied diet and healthy tank will keep your honey gouramis bright and beautiful.
Behavior and Temperament
Honey gouramis are very peaceful, non-aggressive fish, so they do well in community tanks. They can also be timid, and so they may hide upon arriving in a new aquarium or when new tank-mates are introduced but will be very active during the day when they’re comfortable with their new or altered surroundings, swimming in the middle to upper layers of the water during the day.
Gouramis are shoaling fish, meaning that they stay in social groups even if they don’t swim coordinated together like a school, and so honey gouramis do well with other honey gouramis.
Males can get aggressive toward each other over territory or with other fish including the female when protecting their nests, but as long as there is enough space to go around there shouldn’t be any problems.
As hardy fish, honey gouramis are a great fish for even beginning hobbyists. They just have a few special needs to keep in mind. They need at least 10 gallons of water and will need more space the more fish are present. A good rule of thumb would be 10 gallons for 1 gourami, 20 for 2, and then adding 5 gallons for each fish after that.
Adaptable to a wide range of water parameters, honey gouramis can thrive in water 71-82 degrees Fahrenheit 6.0-7.5 pH, and a hardness of 4-18 dGH. Regular testing of water parameters such as ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and hardness is important for maintaining safe water conditions for the health of any aquarium.
Gouramis like bettas and paradise fish have what is called a labyrinth organ: it works like a lung and allows them to breathe air from the surface so that they can survive even in poorly oxygenated water. Because of this, there needs to be space between the surface of the water and the top of the tank to allow them to access the air.
They will prefer calmer, less agitated water movement. With Gouramis, you have to pay attention not only to the water temperature but the temperature of the room where your aquarium is.
Expert Tip: If the gourami comes to the surface and breathes air that is drastically warmer or colder than the water in which they live, it can cause problems with their labyrinth organ.
In the wild, honey gouramis are omnivores. In captivity, they can thrive on flake foods (especially algae-based flakes) supplemented with more protein-rich items such as live, frozen, or freeze-dried blood worms, brine shrimp, or tubifex worms.
When spawning, they will eat their own eggs or freshly hatched fry, so if you are deliberately breeding them in order to raise fry, the parents will have to be separated to give the fry their best chance to survive. We’ll cover that a little later.
Gouramis will also enjoy vegetable treats such as broccoli, peas, blanched zucchini, spinach, or lettuce. Feeding seaweed is also a great way to enhance your fish’s color.
You don’t want to over-feed gouramis, as they will engorge themselves, and uneaten food will decompose in the tank.
Extra waste means extra ammonia, which is not good for your fish. If it takes them more than a minute or two to eat at feeding time, you are probably giving them a little too much. Gourami can be fed twice a day.
What to Put in Their Tank
Because of their timid temperament, honey gouramis appreciate caves or other hiding places in their tank when they need to seek a safe place from tank mates or while they are acclimating to a new home or changes in their existing one. You can do this with cave-like ornaments or more naturally with rocks and driftwood.
Because gouramis keep to the upper half of the tank, they don’t necessarily have a preference of substrate and can thrive whether you have finer sand or more coarse gravel.
In the wild, they live in heavily planted ecosystems, and so will also thrive best in a tank with plants growing both in the water and on the surface. It is important to remember however those gouramis still need access to the surface to breathe, so the water surface should not be completely covered in plant life.
Hornwort, Java ferns, water lettuce, amazon swords, and water wisteria are great plant choices to keep with gouramis.
As peaceful fish, honey gouramis are great for community tanks with other peaceful fish: guppies, mollies, swordtails, cory catfish, tetras, small barbs, bristle nose plecos, loaches, rasboras, and zebra danios are all excellent options.
Dwarf gouramis, tiger barbs, or bettas tend to be aggressive toward other gouramis, and because honey gourami is non-aggressive, they will not defend themselves, and so would not be suitable tank mates for honey gouramis.
Larger types of gouramis could also cause problems with your honey gouramis, but others of similar size should get along as long as there is enough space to accommodate them.
Because honey gouramis are omnivores, dwarf shrimp such as cherry shrimp will be more like a snack than a tank mate, but Amano shrimp or ghost shrimp are large enough to be safe from your gouramis.
Same Species Compatibility
As stated above, honey gouramis are shoaling fish, and so will be happy in a group of four or more, as long as two or more males are accommodated with adequate space to avoid territorial disputes.
An easy shoal to begin keeping would consist of one male and two or three females to meet their social needs while avoiding fights over space or spawning males harassing the females.
Common Possible Diseases
Honey gourami can live 5-8 years with proper care and barring any disease. As with any fish though, you should watch them for signs of illness or disease like lethargy, change in appetite, odd swimming, or any other unusual behavior as well as the appearance of any spots or wounds so that they can be treated early. This is easy to do of course with such colorful fish that are so fun to watch!
Gouramis are specifically prone to hole in the head disease (HITH), named for the distinct pitted lesions that appear on and around their head. While there isn’t a clear, singular cause of the disease.
HITH may be caused by poor water quality, parasites, stress, or improper nutrition and is more common in older fish, giving rise to the belief that a suppressed or failing immune system increases a fish’s risk for the disease.
Possible treatments include dosing a hospital tank with the infected fish with the antibiotic metronidazole, carefully monitoring and correcting water conditions, and feeding higher protein foods or the vegetables listed above.
A common disease seen in any tropical fish tank is ich, which is caused by a parasite in the skin and characterized by tiny white dots on the body, fins, and gills. An infected fish will actually scrape itself against things in the aquarium and lose its appetite.
If gourami is infected with ich, it should be removed to a hospital tank where the parasite cannot infect other fish in the aquarium. The hospital tank can be warmed by about 4 degrees Fahrenheit and dosed with aquarium salt and medication that can be purchased at a local fish store.
Expert Tip: If the fish has stopped eating, their appetite may be restored by adding garlic to their diet.
Breeding honey gouramis is a fairly simple process. Like with other fish with labyrinth organs, breeding is initiated by the male, who will create a bubble nest at the surface of the water typically under plant cover, and will then swim around and bump against the female to let her know he’s ready to spawn and guide her to the nest.
When he is ready to mate, the coloring of his throat and underside will become darker. If the female accepts, she will then lay her eggs in the bubble nest for him to fertilize there. This process can take several hours, but they will lay and fertilize hundreds of eggs.
When trying to breed honey gouramis, it’s easiest to do so in a separate breeding tank. They will need plants to offer the new fry safe hiding places, and also for the adults, as they will not breed if they do not feel safe.
After you place the parents in the breeding tank, spawning can be encouraged by warming the water to 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate breeding season in the wild. Feeding extra vegetables can also help promote your gouramis to spawn.
Once the adults have spawned, you will want to remove the female. Not only is she likely to eat the eggs, but the male will also aggressively protect the nest from her, so it’s best to just return her to the community tank for the well-being of both her and the eggs.
The male on the other hand will actually tend to the nest, guarding the eggs and even retrieving eggs that fall out. The eggs will hatch about 24-36 hours after spawning. Once this happens and the juvenile gouramis are swimming on their own, the male should also be removed, leaving the fry to grow in the breeding tank.
The fry will need high protein food that is small enough for them to handle such as drip-fed infusoria, brine shrimp eggs, or hard-boiled egg yoke until they are big enough to eat a mature gourami diet.
Male and female offspring will look similar at first, but the color and size differences will appear as they get bigger, reaching full maturity around 3 months.
Honey gourami is a unique and rewarding addition to a freshwater community tank. Their colors and personalities are fun to see in the aquarium, their care is simple and even the breeding process is an easy one to facilitate and watch.
Are you ready for a shoal of your own? Leave any questions or observations you have in the comments below!