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The pearl gourami is not only one of the most attractive gouramis, but also one of the hardiest and easiest to keep. It is a labyrinth fish, meaning that it is able to breathe by gulping air at the surface of the tank. Like some other labyrinth fish, the pearl gourami can actually vocalize; don't be surprised if you hear your pet "talking" with growling or croaking noises, especially when breeding or fighting.  

Species Overview

COMMON NAMES: Pearl gourami, mosaic gourami, lace gourami, diamond gourami, leeri gourami

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Trichopodus leerii


LIFE EXPECTANCY: 4 to 5 years


Family Osphronemidae
Origin Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, and Thailand
Social Peaceful but males may be territorial
Tank Level Top, mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Bubble nest builder
Care Easy
pH 5.5 to 7.5
Hardness 2 to 30 dH
Temperature 25 C to 28 C

Origin and Distribution

This species originates in Thailand, Malaysia, and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They prefer acidic water found in lowland swamps near the sea. Some pearl gouramis have been introduced to Singapore and Colombia. It's rare to find wild pearl gourami for sale as an aquarium fish as most are bred in captivity. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists the status of this species as Near Threatened due to damming and water management use, modifications of its natural ecosystems due to logging, and direct harvesting of the wild populations of this fish.1

Colours and Markings

Like others in its family, the body shape is elongated and laterally compressed. The ventral fins are long and thin, and they have the appearance of long feelers. The mouth is small and upturned. Pearl and brown flecks covering the body give it a mother of pearl appearance, from which it derives its name. A horizontal black line runs from the mouth to the tail, where it ends in a spot.


Pearl gourami are generally peaceful fish that do well in a tank community; however, avoid keeping them with overly aggressive tankmates. There are a few exceptions to this rule: The males, in particular, may be aggressive to others of the same species (or other gouramis in general). It is best to keep these fish with others of about the same size and temperament; they can also live happily with other small schooling fish. If you are keeping several pearl gouramis, a good grouping includes one male and several females. 

Pearl Gourami Habitat and Care

Accustomed to heavy vegetation in their natural habitat, pearl gouramis will thrive if given similar conditions in the aquarium. Floating plants, subdued lighting, and a dark substrate are ideal. Although they prefer soft, acidic water, they are adaptable to a range of water conditions. This adaptability and their peaceful nature make them well suited to community tanks.

Pearl Gourami Diet and Feeding

Pearl gouramis will accept many foods and are generally quite easy to feed. Flake, freeze-dried, and frozen foods are all readily taken. For optimum health, offer fresh vegetables such as lettuce, cooked peas, and spinach as part of a varied diet. Live foods such as blackworms, brine shrimp, and glass worms are a good treat and should be used when conditioning fish for breeding.

Gender Differences

Male pearl gouramis have thinner, more angular bodies than females. They also have slightly different fins, sport a red breast, and are generally more colorful than females. Adult males are easy to distinguish from the females by their deep red-orange coloration on the throat and breast. Another clue is the dorsal fin which is longer and more pointed on the male than the female. When ready to spawn, the female will have a much plumper body than the male.

Breeding the Pearl Gourami

Breeding is relatively simple. Prior to breeding, feed the pair live or frozen brine shrimp and worms for conditioning. Provide plenty of floating plants and raise the water temperature to approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduce the water in the breeding tank to a level of about six inches. When fry have easy access to surface air it promotes normal development of the labyrinth organ.

The process begins when the male builds a bubblenest of up to 25cm in diameter amid the floating plants; spawning will take place beneath it. After the nest is complete, he will begin to display to the female. As the female approaches the nest, both fish can be seen touching each other with their feelers.

During spawning, the male wraps his body around the female who will release hundreds of eggs. Several more spawnings occur and 200 to 300 eggs may be produced. The eggs float upwards into the nest and the male shepherds any strays. After the eggs have been laid, the female is chased away. It is best to remove her at this point or she may be seriously harmed by the guardian male.

The male then tends to the eggs until they hatch. After approximately four days, all of the fry (baby fish) will be free swimming and the male should then be removed to avoid him mistaking the young for food.

Feed the fry liquid food or infusoria culture several times a day. Offer freshly hatched or frozen brine shrimp at about two weeks of age. Fine-ground flake foods may be offered once they are approximately one month old. Perform water changes every two to three days. As the fry grows larger, distribute them between several tanks to reduce the lethal build-up of wastes. Poor growth or sudden loss of fry is often due to excessive waste creating poor water quality.

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