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Fish of the Month
Issue: November 2004

Trichogaster lalius

HAMILTON, 1822


Andrzej Zabawski

Common Names: Dwarf gourami

Range: Pakistan, India, Bangladesh

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Trichopodus lalius. Several species have been swapped back and forth between Colisa and Trichogaster, with this one currently being the only one in the former genus. Even the honey dwarf gourami is now properly Trichogaster chuna,

Size: Maximum 8.8 cm (3.5 inches), usually smaller

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical freshwater. Temperature 25 to 28 degrees Celsius (77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit), pH 6.0 to 8.0, soft to hard 100 to 300 ppm

Difficulty: Hardy and adaptable. Good community fish.

Tank Setup: Planted tanks are perfect. Floating plants are especially important in a breeding tank. Tankmates should match the gentle nature of this fish.

Feeding: Will take any aquarium fare. Small live invertebrates are their natural (and favorite) foods.

Breeding: Easy to spawn. A typical bubblenest-building labyrinth fish. Males are typically less aggressive toward their mates than most belontiids; still, it is best to remove her after spawning. The male incorporates bits of plant material into the bubblenest; the female may assist.

Description: Marked sexual dichromatism.  Females greenish silver, males have narrow vertical alternating red and blue bars, with blue and black striations in the fins and an iridescent blue throat.  Though the natural fish is beautiful, various strains selected for color (such as solid red and solid blue) have been developed and are commercially available--though typically only as males--and they are also sometimes sold dyed.

Notes: This fish has been popular for decades and for good reason. It's pretty, stays small, is easy to breed, and gets along well with other fish. There can be som eintraspecific aggression, especially between males, but it generally is all bluster and show. As community fish they are ideal, ignoring all but tiny fry, which they will of course eat. THey are placid and deliberate in their movements, and they prefer a nearby plant thicket into which they can retreat if they feel threatened. Like many anabantoids, they can be found in the wild in shallow, swampy areas, and they prefer temperatures a bit higher than many other tropicals. They are well adapted to such an environment, gliding gracefully among the tangles of plants, using their antenna-like pelvic fins to feel their way through the jungle. Since they are able to utilize atmospheric oxygen, their gills will burn just as readily from dissolved ammonia. Nevertheless, a heated and nicely planted desktop aquarium of at least 5 gallons would suit a pair well and would make a fine display. This is a perfect choice for a hobbyist wanting to try breeding a bubblenester--much better than bettas, since the male fry do not have to be raised in individual containers.

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