The Giant Gourami, native to Southeast Asia, is a fascinating freshwater species known for its substantial size, growing up to 70 cm in the wild. A truly distinctive feature is their labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air directly, making them remarkably adaptable to varied water conditions.
They are intelligent fish, often recognising their caretakers, and can display a range of vibrant colours. Despite their size, they are generally peaceful and exhibit intriguing behaviours, especially during breeding. Given their size and unique needs, they represent a rewarding challenge for the experienced aquarist, adding a touch of the extraordinary to large home aquariums.
Table of Contents
Giant Gourami Facts & Overview
|Giant Gourami Fact
|Up to 20 years
|30–40 inches in captivity, up to 70 cm in the wild
|Minimum Tank Size:
|400 litres (approximately 105 gallons)
|Compatible with a variety of peaceful, similarly-sized species
Understanding Giant Gourami
The Giant Gourami (Osphronemus goramy) exhibits a unique and striking appearance that makes it stand out in an aquarium setting. Its defining features include:
- A large, robust body that can grow up to 70 cm in the wild, although aquarium specimens typically reach between 30-40 cm.
- A vibrant colour palette ranging from silver-grey to darker shades, often with a blue or green tint.
- A distinctively flat, wide head and a rounded, arched back.
- Long, threadlike pelvic fins which they use to sense their surroundings.
- They have small, thick lips that help them forage for food.
- Younger Giant Gouramis feature a pattern of dark, irregular stripes or bands, but these tend to fade as the fish matures.
The colour variation in Giant Gouramis is primarily due to two factors: genetics and environmental conditions.
- Genetics: Different genetic strains can produce Giant Gouramis with various colour patterns. These can range from a silvery-blue hue to more vibrant shades of orange or gold. There are also albino versions of Giant Gouramis.
- Environmental Conditions: The specific conditions in which a Giant Gourami lives can influence its colour. Factors such as diet, water quality, lighting, and overall health can all affect a Giant Gourami’s colour. For instance, a well-balanced diet can enhance their natural hues, while stress or poor health can cause their colours to fade.
In the wild, their colouration may also serve to help them camouflage in their natural environment or signal certain behaviours, such as readiness to breed.
Behaviour and Compatibility
Giant Gouramis are generally peaceful and sociable fish, but their behaviour can change based on various factors such as their environment, diet, and interaction with other species. Behaviour:
- They are known for their intelligence and curiosity. They have been observed to recognize their caretakers and even respond to feeding routines.
- They are active swimmers and require plenty of space to move around.
- They can also breathe air directly due to a unique organ called the labyrinth, allowing them to survive in diverse water conditions.
- Male Giant Gouramis can become territorial, especially during breeding season.
- Giant Gouramis get along with most fish species that match their size and peaceful nature. They should not be kept with very small species that they could perceive as food, or with overly aggressive fish that could stress or injure them.
- While they can coexist with other Giant Gouramis, be mindful of space. If the aquarium is too crowded, territorial disputes could occur, especially among males.
- They’re compatible with other large, peaceful freshwater species like Goldfish, Angelfish, or Bala Sharks.
Each fish is an individual and may not strictly adhere to ‘typical’ species behaviour. Always monitor new additions to your tank for signs of stress or aggression.
Sexual Dimorphism (Determining Gender)
Sexual dimorphism in Giant Gouramis, as in many fish species, involves certain physical differences between males and females. These differences are not very pronounced in young fish but become more noticeable as theyreach maturity. Here are the key differences that can help determine the gender of a Giant Gourami:
- Size: Males typically grow larger than females. However, this is not a definitive indicator as size can vary depending on diet and living conditions.
- Colour: Males often develop a darker, more vibrant colouration during breeding season, whereas females maintain a lighter, more uniform colour.
- Dorsal and Anal Fins: The dorsal and anal fins of males are generally more pointed, whereas those of females tend to be more rounded.
- Body Shape: Mature males have a more angular, pointed head shape, while females have a rounder, more curved forehead.
- Throat Lappet: Male Giant Gouramis develop a large, thick throat lappet (a skin fold hanging from the neck area) as they mature, which is less pronounced in females.
Bear in mind that these are general guidelines and there can be exceptions. If accurate gender determination is essential for breeding purposes, it may be best to consult with a fish expert or a reputable breeder.
Natural and Artificial Habitat
Giant Gouramis are native to the freshwater habitats of Southeast Asia. Their natural range extends across parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and several other countries in the region. They thrive in diverse environments, including slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes, and even flooded rice paddies.
These bodies of water are often teeming with vegetation and offer a soft, muddy substrate, making them ideal. In the wild, Giant Gouramis prefer warmer temperatures, typically found in tropical regions. They are adaptable and resilient, capable of surviving in varying water conditions, including slightly brackish water.
This adaptability comes in part from their labyrinth organ, a unique feature that allows them to breathe atmospheric air directly. This enables them to thrive in oxygen-depleted environments that many other fish species would struggle to inhabit.
Tank Sep up
- Tank Volume: Giant Gouramis grow large, up to 70 cm in the wild and around 30-40 cm in captivity. They need a spacious tank, with a minimum volume of 400 litres for a single Giant Gourami.
- Tank Dimensions: Given their size and active nature, they require plenty of swimming space. A long tank is more suitable than a tall one. The minimum recommended dimensions are 180 cm in length, 60 cm in width, and 60 cm in height.
- Additional Fish: If you plan on having more than one Giant Gourami or other large fish in the same tank, you’ll need to increase the tank size accordingly to prevent overcrowding and territorial disputes.
- Future Growth: Always consider the full grown size of the fish when choosing a tank. Giant Gouramis grow quickly, and moving them to a larger tank later on can be stressful for both you and the fish.
Water Parameters and Conditions
Temperature: Giant Gouramis thrive in warm, tropical water temperatures. Maintain the aquarium water between 22°C and 28°C.
- pH Level: The water should be slightly acidic to neutral, with a pH range between 6.0 and 8.0.
- Hardness: Giant Gouramis are quite adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of water hardness levels, from 5 to 20 dH.
- Filtration: A high-quality filter is necessary to keep the water clean and free from toxins. Giant Gouramis produce a significant amount of waste due to their size and diet.
- Water Changes: Regular water changes, about 20-30% every week, are essential to prevent the buildup of nitrates and other harmful chemicals.
- Oxygen Levels: Despite their ability to breathe air directly due to their labyrinth organ, it’s still important to ensure good oxygenation of the water. This can be achieved with a good filter and air stones.
- Tank Cover: As Giant Gouramis can breathe air, it’s crucial to leave some space between the water surface and the tank cover.
Decoration (Artificial Habitat) and compatible plants
When decorating your Giant Gourami’s aquarium, it’s important to strike a balance between aesthetics, the fish’s natural habitat, and their needs for shelter and privacy. Here are some considerations:
- Substrate: Choose a soft, fine-grained substrate to mimic the muddy river bottoms Giant Gouramis are used to. Sand or fine-grained gravel works well.
- Hiding Places: Use decorations such as rocks, caves, driftwood, or even PVC pipes to create hiding spots and provide your fish with a sense of security.
- Open Swimming Space: While decorations are important, remember to leave plenty of open swimming space for your Giant Gourami, as they are active swimmers.
As for plants, Giant Gouramis enjoy a bit of vegetation in their surroundings. Here are some compatible options:
- Java Fern: This hardy plant can tolerate a variety of conditions and is difficult for the fish to uproot.
- Anubias: This is another robust plant that can be attached to rocks or driftwood in your aquarium.
- Amazon Sword: These large, leafy plants can provide great cover for your Gourami.
- Vallisneria: They grow tall and can create a forest-like effect in the background, giving your fish plenty of hiding places.
Bear in mind that Giant Gouramis are known to nibble on plants, so opt for species that are fast-growing and can withstand a bit of grazing.
Giant Gourami care
Diet and Nutrition
Giant Gouramis are omnivores with a wide-ranging diet that encompasses both plant-based and protein-rich foods. Their dietary habits mirror their diverse and adaptable nature. Here’s what you need to know about their nutrition:
- Balanced Diet: A combination of commercial foods, fresh produce, and live or frozen foods provides a balanced diet. Commercial pellets or flakes designed for large, tropical freshwater fish form a good base diet.
- Plant Matter: Giant Gouramis enjoy nibbling on soft aquatic plants and should be offered vegetables like lettuce, spinach, peas, and zucchini. These can be blanched to make them softer and easier to eat.
- Proteins: Supplement their diet with protein sources such as earthworms, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and small pieces of seafood like fish or prawns.
- Variety: Rotate their foods to ensure they get a range of nutrients. This also prevents them from becoming picky eaters.
- Feeding Schedule: Feed your Giant Gouramis once or twice a day, only as much as they can consume in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to health issues and pollute the tank water.
- Watch Their Weight: Giant Gouramis are prone to obesity, so be careful not to overfeed them, and keep high-fat foods to a minimum.
Giant Gouramis are generally peaceful and can get along well with a variety of other fish species. However, due to their size, they should not be kept with very small fish that they may perceive as food. They’re also not suitable tankmates for overly aggressive fish that could stress them. Here are some suitable tankmates for Giant Gouramis:
- Other Large, Peaceful Fish: Giant Gouramis can cohabitate well with other large, non-aggressive species. Examples include Goldfish, Angelfish, and Bala Sharks.
- Other Giant Gouramis: They can live with their own kind, but make sure to provide enough space to prevent territorial disputes, especially if you’re keeping multiple males.
- Smaller, Peaceful Fish: While smaller fish can coexist with Giant Gouramis, ensure they are not small enough to be considered prey. Tetras, Barbs, and Rasboras can usually share a tank without issues.
- Bottom Dwellers: Species like Plecos and Loaches can make good tankmates since they occupy different levels of the tank.
Breeding the Giant Gourami
Breeding Giant Gouramis is a challenging task due to their large size and specific requirements, but it can be accomplished with proper preparation. Here are the basic steps:
First, ensure that you have both a male and a female. Males are typically larger with more pointed dorsal and anal fins, and they develop a darker coloration and a thicker throat lappet during breeding season.
Prepare the Breeding Tank:
Set up a separate breeding tank with a lower water level (about 30 cm deep) and a warm temperature (around 28°C). The tank should be spacious and contain vegetation for the male to build his nest.
Condition the Breeders:
Feed the breeding pair a high-quality, varied diet to get them into top condition for breeding. This could include live foods, high-quality pellets, and fresh vegetables.
Introduce the Breeders:
Place the pair into the breeding tank. The male will begin to construct a bubble nest among the plants using plant debris and bubbles.
Once the nest is built, the male will court the female by swimming around her and showing off his colours. If the female is receptive, she will allow the male to wrap around her in a ‘mating embrace’. The female will release her eggs, and the male will fertilize them.
After fertilisation, the male will collect the eggs in his mouth and place them in the bubble nest. At this stage, it’s advisable to remove the female from the tank as the male may become aggressive in his efforts to protect the eggs.
The eggs will typically hatch within 24-48 hours. The male will continue to guard the nest and retrieve any fry that fall out.
Rearing the Fry:
Once the fry become free-swimming, typically within 3-5 days, it’s safe to remove the male. The fry can be fed infusoria or commercially available fry food until they are large enough to eat brine shrimp or micro worms.
Health and Disease
Giant Gouramis, like any other fish species, can suffer from a variety of diseases. The best prevention is maintaining optimal water conditions, feeding a balanced diet, and minimizing stress. However, should illness arise, here are some common diseases they can contract:
- Ichthyophthirius (Ich): Also known as white spot disease, this parasite causes white spots on the fish’s skin, fins, and gills. Infected fish may also exhibit erratic swimming, loss of appetite, and may try to rub against objects.
- Fin and Tail Rot: This bacterial infection causes fins and tails to appear frayed or discoloured. It is usually a secondary infection that sets in when a fish’s health is already compromised.
- Dropsy: This condition, characterized by a swollen abdomen and protruding scales, is usually caused by a bacterial infection but can be triggered by various factors. It is often a sign of kidney failure.
- Swim Bladder Disease: Affected fish have difficulty maintaining their buoyancy and may float upside down or at an angle. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor diet, abrupt changes in water conditions, or bacterial infections.
- Parasitic Infections: Giant Gouramis can suffer from various parasites, which can lead to a range of symptoms, from loss of appetite to visible spots or worms on the body.
If you observe unusual behaviour or changes in appearance, consider seeking advice from a fish health professional or an experienced aquarist. Always quarantine new fish before adding them to your existing tank to prevent the spread of diseases.
Disease prevention in Giant Gouramis, and indeed all aquarium fish, revolves around maintaining a healthy environment and reducing stress. Here are some important preventive measures:
- Water Quality: Regularly test the water for parameters like temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Keep these within the optimal range for Giant Gouramis to avoid stress and disease.
- Regular Cleaning: Conduct regular cleaning of the tank and partial water changes (20-30% weekly) to prevent the buildup of waste and harmful bacteria.
- Quarantine New Fish: Always quarantine new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to the main tank. This can prevent the spread of diseases and parasites.
- Healthy Diet: Provide a balanced, varied diet to ensure your fish get all the nutrients they need. A well-nourished fish has a stronger immune system to fight off diseases.
- Appropriate Stocking: Overcrowding can lead to increased stress and higher levels of waste, both of which can contribute to disease. Ensure your tank is large enough for the number and size of the fish you keep.
- Stress Reduction: Minimize stress by providing plenty of hiding spaces, maintaining a stable environment, and avoiding sudden changes in water parameters or loud noises.
- Regular Observation: Monitor your fish regularly for changes in behaviour or appearance, which could indicate the onset of disease.
If you suspect your fish is sick, consult a fish health professional for guidance. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the prognosis for many common fish diseases.
Should You Get a Giant Gourami for Your Aquarium?
Deciding whether to add a Giant Gourami to your aquarium requires careful consideration. These magnificent fish, the largest in the gourami family, can reach up to 70 cm and thus require a sizeable aquarium – typically, at least 400 litres. Their size and active nature necessitate ample space to swim and explore.
Giant Gouramis are generally peaceful and can coexist with other fish of similar size, but they may be territorial, especially if space is limited. They are also relatively hardy and adaptable to different water conditions, which can simplify their care. One of the most rewarding aspects of keeping Giant Gouramis is their intelligence.
They’re known to recognise their caretakers and respond to feeding routines. However, their diet is diverse and includes both plant matter and protein, so a varied diet is crucial for their health.
In summary, if you have ample space, can provide a suitable diet, and are up for a long-term commitment (these fish can live up to 20 years!), a Giant Gourami could be an exciting and rewarding addition to your aquarium. However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Every fish deserves a proper home that meets its specific needs.
Is the Giant Gourami aggressive?
Giant Gouramis are generally peaceful, but can exhibit territorial behaviours, especially during breeding season. Males can also become aggressive towards each other if they feel their space is threatened.
Can you keep Giant Gouramis together?
Yes, Giant Gouramis can be kept together, but given their potential size and territorial nature, especially among males, a sufficiently large aquarium is crucial. Ensuring ample space and hiding spots can mitigate territorial disputes and promote peaceful cohabitation.
What size tank do Giant Gouramis need?
Given their potential size, Giant Gouramis require a spacious tank. A single Giant Gourami needs a minimum of 400 litres, with recommended tank dimensions of 180 cm in length, 60 cm in width, and 60 cm in height.
Do Giant Gouramis eat Guppies?
Yes, Giant Gouramis can eat guppies due to their size difference. Guppies may be seen as prey by a Giant Gourami, especially if the Gourami is fully grown. Therefore, it’s generally not recommended to keep these species together in the same tank.
How big do Giant Gourami get?
In the wild, Giant Gouramis can grow up to 70 cm. However, in aquarium conditions, they typically reach sizes between 30 and 40 cm, depending on their diet and the size of their tank.
Why is my Giant Gourami not eating?
A Giant Gourami might not be eating due to various reasons such as illness, stress, poor water conditions, or an inappropriate diet. It’s essential to monitor water parameters, observe your fish for signs of illness, and ensure a varied, balanced diet.