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Gourami Breeding by ipmillichip (14/08/11)

This brief article on breeding gouramis is aimed at the smaller to medium sized bubblenest building gouramis (eg honey, pearl or lace, dwarf, giant Indian, and croaking gourami etc etc); the mouthbrooders (such as the Chocolate Gourami) are not included here.

In general, there are similar trends within the bubblenest builders.

Breeding Tank:
1. Set-up a separate tank for breeding. 
2. The tank need be no larger than a 24x12x12 inch (60x30x30 cm) tank for even the larger pearl (lace) gourami, and can be somewhat smaller for smaller species. 
3. The top should allow you to totally seal the tank (or you’ll need cling-film)
4. The water in that tank should be mature but clean (I’ll talk about water parameters later)….and preferably from the adult fish stock tank.
5. Add peat to the floor of the tank.
6. Allow the tank to settle for a few days (but a few weeks is best for breeding the small species such as croaking gourami) with some gentle aeration. That aeration may be via a small internal air-powered filter.
7. Place floating plants in the tank.
8. The water level should be 5 to 8 inches deep (5 inches for smaller species; 7 to 8 inches for larger species)

Breeding Tank Water:
1. As a general rule, the temperature should be about 80 degree F (27-28 C).
2. Ideally, soft acid mature water is required. But if the water is slightly hard then at least the added peat will help add some acidity and peat components to the water.
3. Gouramis do not live in filth. There is a difference between clean mature water and filth.
4. The added peat will also provide a substrate on which small microscopic creatures will proliferate: these will be very useful to the generally very small bubblenest gourami fry.
5. Aeration can be a problem as it will disturb the building of the bubble nest. So it may be best to not have any aeration during breeding.
6. If you have no filtration (recommended) then add some ammonia removing resins/zeolites/molecular sieves to the floor of the tank.
7. gouramis do not like sudden changes in water quality….so take care when transferring the fish to a breeding tank of differing water quality. Some species are very fussy about water quality changes.

The Adults:
1. They need to be mature enough to breed (and not have obvious deformities)
2. They should be conditioned on good quality flake food and frozen food (eg bloodworm) until the female is starting show a blumpness.
3. At some stage the adults will need to be separated for a period prior to breeding. (now, some may simply breed…but you often need to separate).

Introducing the Adults to Breeding:
1. You may need various tactics to tempt them to breed. Here are the general initial tactics for introducing male and female to each other:
a. Place Male in breeding tank on his own for a few days, and then add the female; or
b. Place Male in the breeding tank on his own for a few days, and then add the female behind a glass partition and watch for signs of interest from both fish (colour displays; body displays; head-up spinning behaviour; pointing ‘feelers’ at each other); or
c. Adding the female to the breeding tank for a few days and then adding the male directly works for many species.

Adding the female or male is best done towards the end of the morning light is an often useful trigger in spawning.

2. There should be plenty of hiding spaces for the female.
3. Do not remove the female unless she is being severely attacked by the male….breeding can be quite aggressive anyway, so you need to recognise what is normal breeding behaviour, and what is a pending dead female.

The Spawning
1. The male should start to build a bubble nest, and may drive the female away during the building. Then he may start to tempt her over only to drive her away again: that is normal.

2. Some breeding behaviour of gouramis is quite comical (I particularly like the honey gourami displays).
3. It may be a day or two before the male decides to build a nest: be patient but observant.
4. If the male doesn’t start building a nest, then try adding a piece of non-toxic floating plastic (yellow or straw coloured) or some bubble-wrap to the surface to encourage him to build (and maybe to impress the female a little more).
5. When ready to finally spawn, the pair will go through several embraces of the female releasing eggs and the male picking those up to place in the bubble nest.
6. When the male starts to drive the female away after spawning, then remove the female.

The Eggs and the Young:
1. Make sure that cling-film is sealing the top of the tank. !!
2. The male will tend the eggs for about 1 to 2 days until they hatch.
3. After the hatching, the male will look after the young for about 3 to 4 days (again, that does depend upon species).
4. After that time, or when the male obviously starts to lose interest in looking after the young, remove the male.
5. Add gentle aeration by means of a small internal air-driven sponge filter.
6. The young are very small and require small food.
7. The infusorians or rotifers in the mature water and around the peat will form a great first food for the fry. For some species of gourami, that is the maximum size of food that the fry will take.
8. For larger species, the first food can be freshly hatched brine shrimp (but if that is the only source of food then you will stand to lose most of the fry and apart from the bigger individuals).
9. Commercial Liquid Fry Feed is good for all newly hatched gourami. An additional supplement is frozen rotifers.
10. Within a week of spawning, many fry will be able to take finely powered dried food.
11. The cling-film seal must be kept in-place for at least 2 weeks after hatching (it can be removed for feeding of course).
12. Water changes: 10% every day is ideal, but you need to be careful of sucking out young fry. If the water is mature in the first place, then there is limited need to do water changes until after about 10 days. 

This is almost identical to breeding Siamese fighting fish, and so follow this for breeding them (the difference being how you introduce the male and female).

When selecting adults for breeding, be selective: 
do not just chose any crap parent just to get some fry. 

Avoid parents with thin caudal penduncle (the base of the tail); avoid parents with deformed gills or deformed backs; be careful of breeding from fish that clearly have a viral infection.

Damages done to a fish during its life (eg ripped fins) are not a particular problem to worry about. It is the deformities that may be passed down through generations that should be avoided.

The quality of gouramis has somewhat decreased over the years: this is an opportunity for selecting the best parents in order to help perpetuate the best quality traits being passed down to the next generation.

Breeding from wild-caught fish is an ideal, but not all wild-caught gourami are as easy to plonk into any old tank as you would find with their captive-bred cousins.

And as an end note (for now), if anyone thinks that I recommend a tank no bigger than a 60 litre for breeding the true giant gourami……then you’re misreading the first line !!! …plus I have no experience whatsoever of breeding giant gourami (Osphronemus goramy) and am not qualified to say what size of tank you need (if someone knows then let me know….with photos of the spawning as well, and they must be of your own spawning and not something from a zoo !!!).
Addendum 1 : Another tipIf the pair need more tempting then let the tank receive a small amount of morning light....or mimic that by having a light shining from sideways onto the top of the tank for a few hours.
Addendum 2: When do Gouramies reach sexual maturity ?
Gouramies will often breed at about half size; the smaller species need to be bigger than that though.
But, a half-sized adult may be a stunted 'full-grown' adult one as well.

If the male is starting to show signs of breeding (eg colours and behaviour) then they are ready for breeding.

Pearl (or Lace if you wish to call them that) grow to around 4 to 5 (or 6) inch body length (excluding add an extra inch to that for the tail). You tend not to find too many at that size. 
So they will breed at about half that length if they have come to sexual maturity.

I think that many people simply walk by pearl gouramis in the shop as they are small and look drab (the gouramis, not the people  ). That is a great pity as they are one of the fish that built the hobby.

What does a gourami cost? 3 to 5 euro (maybe a bit more for some)...that is nothing for a great fish (if you watch out for some pretty duff virus laden ones though). 

Maybe the Chocolate gourami breeding article is next, but I wanted to do a piece for people starting out in fish keeping to have a go at breeding fish that need a little work (as opposed to kribensis or guppies) but are pretty easy to keep. Chocolate gourami are not easy to keep, not easy to breed, and not something I'd be tempting someone starting out to try.
Article was originally published on our discussion forum.