Blue Gourami: Expert Care Guide & Tank Set Up For Beginners

Taking care of your blue gouramis is more than just filling up a fish tank with some water and feeding them a couple of times a day with any random fish food that you cop from the supermarket.

Despite being relatively easy to care for, you need to educate yourself on how blue gouramis behave, especially if you want them to stay healthy and live a happy, long life. You have to go beyond the basics and take care of the small details that make all the difference.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about taking proper care of this interesting fish species, in addition to breeding, fish tank cycling, and preferred tank mates, so let’s cut to the chase!

Overview, Origin, & Appearance

blue gourami swimming in aquarium

Blue gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus) is also known as opaline gourami, gold gourami, and three-spot gourami. The “three-spot” naming comes from the two spots on the fish’s side that align with each of its eyes (the third spot).

Its scientific name is trichopterus, which is derived from the Greek words ‘trichiasis’ and ‘pteron.’ The former means “hairy”, while the latter translates to “wing”. 

Blue gouramis primarily inhabit Southeast Asia. They prefer to live in vegetated waters, which is why they are usually found in canals, ponds, ditches, swamps, lakes, lowland marshes, peatlands, and rivers. They can also be found in flooded forests.

Some of the areas that have the most significant blue gourami populations include the Mekong River basin in Vietnam, southern China, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Java. 

The fish has limited commercial use as food, but it’s not uncommon to find them in home aquariums. It’s actually one of the most popular aquarium fish species because it’s easy to care for, making it especially suitable for beginners. It’s also super fun to watch!

Care Stats

  • Tank size: 20 gallons (minimum)
  • Temperature: 74°F – 82°F
  • pH: 6 – 8
  • kH: 6 – 8
  • Living zone: Top/middle
  • Temperament: May get aggressive with females after breeding. Will eat smaller fish that can fit in its mouth.
  • Diet: Omnivorous 

Scientific Classification

  • Common Names: Blue gourami, opaline gourami, gold gourami, and three-spot gourami
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Anabantiformes
  • Family: Osphronemidae
  • Genus: Trichopodus
  • Species: T. trichopterus

Colors and Markings (Gender Differences)

Three-spot gouramis are found in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, blue, and platinum. 

And speaking of colors, it’s worth noting that gouramis are known to change color when they feel stressed or aren’t kept under suitable conditions. 

Keep an eye on the color of the two brownish spots on its side, as these are usually the first parts that noticeably shift colors when something is wrong.

As for size, blue gouramis can have a length of up to 5 inches. They’re quite long, and their flattened bodies are characterized by unique-shaped rounded fins. Females, in particular, tend to be larger than males. 

And before we get into the ins and outs of breeding your blue gourami fish later in this article, you need to make sure that you can fully distinguish between male and female three-spot gouramis.

One easy way to differentiate between the two genders is by looking at the fish’s dorsal fin. In male blue gourami fish, the dorsal fin is long and pointed, while it’s short and rounded in female blue gouramis. 

Blue Gourami Care & Tank Set-Up

blue gourami swimming in planted tank

Tank Size (How Many Can Live Together?)

The minimum tank size for blue gouramis is 20 gallons. This number may increase as your blue gouramis get older or increase in number. A tank size of 35 gallons is pretty common among three-spot gourami owners.

Also, keep in mind that blue gouramis have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air when needed. In other words, they can survive even if the tank isn’t filtered. 

However, this isn’t a good practice in the long term, which means that you need to keep the tank well-filtered. Another good idea is to add some air stones for extra oxygenation.

The number of gouramis that can live together is a function of the tank size. As a general rule of thumb, you can keep 2-3 gouramis in 10 gallons of water, and you’ll need an extra 5 gallons for every additional gourami. 

The Nitrogen Cycle

The Nitrogen cycle is simply mother nature’s way of handling marine ecosystems. The nitrogen cycle ensures the aquarium’s ecosystem is safe for fish to live. It’s common for beginners to miss this (known as new tank syndrome) and can often end in disaster if skipped.

When your blue gourami produces waste in the form of nitrites, they’re converted into nitrates once they reach a certain level. When the level of nitrites and ammonia in your fish tank is 0 ppm (parts per million), you can conclude that your tank is fully cycled.

The Nitrogen cycle is important because it purifies your fish tank from harmful chemicals and even converts these chemicals into useful food that your fish can consume.

The best way to kickstart a nitrogen cycle in your water-filled fish tank is to add ammonia by adding some fish food flakes until they decay. Then, you’ll have to test for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates over the next few weeks until the levels of nitrite and ammonia diminish completely, and nitrates dominate. 

Just make sure that your nitrate level is lower than 40. In case it’s more than that, you’ll need to make some water changes to lower it a bit before adding your fish.

Water Parameters

Whenever water parameters are brought up, people think that they need to hit a perfect number when it comes to temperature, pH, and kH. 

However, the key here is to maintain stable conditions instead of chasing a magical number that will fully optimize your fish tank. Swinging water conditions is why large fish communities die. The reason for that is pretty simple; variable pH levels will show signs of distress on your fish, which will slowly kill them.

The best practice here is to maintain a stable pH level. If your gouramis show signs of distress, you can safely lower the pH levels a bit by using reverse osmosis, driftwood, catappa leaves, or peat moss.

Generally speaking, blue gouramis are pretty adaptable when it comes to water values, but they won’t really like it if the water is too acidic. Most tank fish adapt to whatever pH the water they were born in and have lived in captivity.

Plants, Substrate, and Decorations

Almost all types of plants and decorations can be added to a fish tank that blue gouramis live in. Black substrates would be an excellent addition to your tank because they’ll create a nice contrast with the color of your blue gouramis.

Pro tip: Blue gouramis have a unique labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe fresh air from the surface, so don’t overcrowd your tank with floating plants.

Diet and Feeding Blue Gourami

Ensuring that your blue gourami fish get all of the essential nutrients they need to grow and flourish is essential for their development. Three-spot gouramis are omnivores and feed on meaty and algae-based foods. 

However, blue gouramis are known to be pretty flexible in their diet options. They’ll literally eat anything you give them, including flakes as well as live and freeze-dried foods.

Your best bet is to get commercially prepared food that’s rich in protein sources like shrimp and salmon while also containing a significant amount of algae. Shrimp pellets, tropical flakes, color flakes, and tropical granules are all excellent choices for your blue gouramis. 

However, make sure that you check the food ingredients carefully because not all fish food delivers the same nutritional value. In fact, many brands add filler ingredients that will make your fish produce more waste and gain fewer nutrients. 

This means that you’ll need to cycle your fish tank more often to make it habitable for your blue gouramis; not exactly something that you’d want, would you?

To further clarify, here’s a complete list of good ingredients that you need to look for:

  • Black worms
  • Whole fish
  • Spirulina (a blue-green alga)
  • Krill
  • Algae meal 
  • Squid meal 
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Earthworms

On the flip side, avoid buying fish food that contains any of these ingredients:

  • Low-quality fish meal
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Rice

On a side note, take into consideration that blue gouramis are slow-growers, so don’t expect them to grow quickly even if you feed them pretty well. 

Blue Gourami In-Tank Behavior and Temperament

Blue gouramis are usually peaceful, but the males tend to get a bit territorial after breeding (more on that later). This behavior isn’t limited to male-female three-spot gourami interactions, though. 

Blue gourami may exhibit a similar behavior towards fish of different species, especially if they’re males. They’re also fin-nippers, and they particularly hate species that have long fins, including goldfish, guppies, and bettas. 

It’s a funny story, but male gouramis hate these particular species because they think that their elongated fins may impress female gouramis. That’s right; male gouramis can get jealous!

Tank Mates (And Who to Avoid)

Blue gouramis may not like all of their neighbors from other fish species. Your best bet is to choose species that have similar sizes to your blue gouramis. 

Smaller species won’t really like living with blue gouramis because they’ll get territorial with them. Oh, and try to avoid larger species because blue gouramis may get skittish around them. 

Good Tank Mates For Blue Gourami

Bad Tank Mates For Blue Gourami

Breeding Blue Gourami

As for the breeding itself, the process starts with the male blue gourami creating a bubble nest and enticing the female. 

Throughout the spawning period, the male gouramis wrap his body around its female partner, turning her on her back to facilitate the rise of the eggs to the surface. Another benefit of such contact is that it brings the reproductive elements closer together.

A noticeable sign that spawning is coming to an end is when you see the male and female quivering. Once the female lays its eggs, which can be up to 800 eggs at times, you need to move it to a different aquarium since the male fish’s next instinct is to act aggressively towards the female. 

However, let the pair decide if they need to repeat the process and release more eggs, which usually happens over the course of a few hours. In that case, the number of eggs can reach up to 3000 eggs.

The male’s sperms can only survive in the water for a few minutes, which means that proper timing here is crucial here.

The male three-spot gourami then remains in the nest he created to protect the eggs. Note that you need to move the female to another aquarium because the male may attack her to protect the eggs from getting eaten.

After the eggs hatch, which usually happens within 30 hours, you’ll need to change the water more frequently than usual to keep the fry healthy, especially in the third week when the labyrinth organ is developing. You should also feed the fry some nauplii and infusoria to keep it healthy. 

Is The Blue Gourami Right For Your Tank?

To sum it all up, taking care of blue gouramis may require a bit of a learning curve, but once you set up the water parameters, find out the right type of food that your blue gouramis enjoy, and figure out how to let them breed smoothly, things will be much easier down the line.

Also, don’t forget the nitrogen cycle. Adding your blue gouramis to a tank full of ammonia will only make them die within a few days, so make sure to cycle it first!

Christopher Adams
Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher, and I've successfully ran freshwater aquariums for the past few decades. The mission of this site is to make it simple for anyone to run their own freshwater aquarium.

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