Sparkling Gourami Care, Breeding, & Tankmates

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Sparkling gourami

Sparkling gouramis are one of the few fish that make an audible noise. While you might be tempted to think of fishy vocal cords as the culprit, their “croaking” sound actually comes from modified pectoral-fin tendons and muscles. Once these tendons and muscles are stretched, they can be “plucked” to produce a croaking sound… not unlike tendinitis.

They’re also, as you may have already guessed, super “sparkly” if you give them the right environment.

ooh, a sparkly gif

If you’re a fan of bettas, but sick of the aggression and want an equally rewarding breeding project or community tank, give sparkling gouramis a go. (Or paradise fish if you don’t want them too docile!)

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Table of contents


Trichopsis pumila Classification

IUCN Status: Least Concern – Last assessed 3/13/11

Class: Actinopterygii are ray-finned fishes, which is a subcategory of boney fishes. These fish are characterized by the bony structures that support their webbed fins. This group makes up nearly half of all living vertebrates.

Order: Anabantiformes are fish characterized by teeth on the parasphenoi (a bone found in the cranium of some ray-finned fishes.) Snakeheads and anabantoids (a sub-order of Anabantiformes) both have a labyrinth organ; this enables them to breathe atmospheric oxygen.

Family: Osphronemidae, commonly referred to as simply “gouramis.”

Genus: Trichopsis is a genus of gouramis native to Southeast Asia, only housing three recognized (and easily confused) species; T. pumila, T. schalleri, and T. vittata.

Species: Trichopsis pumila

What does Trichopsis pumila mean?

Trichopsis comes from two Ancient Greek words. Trich comes from θρίξ (thriks), meaning ‘hair.’ Opis comes from ὄψις (opsis), meaning ‘aspect, appearance’.

The “hair appearance” refers to their ventral fins since, unlike most gouramis, they don’t have “feelers.”

Pumila comes from the Latin pumilus, meaning ‘dwarf’, so it’s kind of odd that they weren’t called the dwarf gourami. Meanwhile, dwarf gouramis were given a name that denotes that they make sound…

what gif

But whatever, science.

Find Other Fish

Looking for something specific? You can discover other fish with similar characteristics! They open in a new tab so you can keep reading too!

Distribution & Natural Habitat

They’re predominantly located in the Mekong River basin in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, and in watersheds across central and southern Thailand. We’re not completely sure about seasonality for the regions, but we’re fairly certain they’re extant year-round in these areas.

sparkling gourami natural habitat

These habitats are usually still to slow-moving, including swamp forest, peat swamps, floodplains, river tributaries, irrigation canals, paddy fields, and roadside ditches. They have a strong preference for barely moving water and dense vegetation.

They can be found alongside species such as both other Trichopsis species (vittata and schalleri,) three-spot gourami (Trichopodus trichopterus), Betta siamorientalis, climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), Lepidocephalichthys hasselti, silver kuhli loach (Pangio anguillaris), peacock eel (Macrognathus siamensis), and the Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus.)

Aquarium Care

Difficulty: Easy
Size: 1.5″ (4 cm)
Lifespan: 3 – 4 years
Tank Size: 10 gallons (40 liters)
Diet: Omnivore (micro predator)
Temperature: 72 – 81 F (22 – 27 C)

pH6.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 5 – 18 dKH
Temperament: Peaceful, can be aggressive when spawning
Breeding: Easy
Swimming: Everywhere they can
Availability: Common

The sparkling gourami is one of the few fish species that make an audible sound, so they’re sometimes mistakenly referred to as the croaking gourami (which is T. vittata, not T. pumila.) Though, more commonly, they’re called pygmy gouramis – which is equally fitting given they only reach 1.5″ (4 cm.)

Thankfully care for all of the Trichopsis genus is about the same, so if you happen to have a croaking gourami or a three-lined gourami, you can take care of them the exact same way. All three also make some sort of audible croaking noise if you listen closely.

Tank Specs

A 10-gallon should be sufficient if you’re planning on keeping just sparkling gouramis. Though, of course, this comes with a few caveats that I cover in stocking. Fortunately, this species isn’t super-aggressive, so you can safely keep two males together provided they’re not both spawning.

You’ll also want a tight-fitting lid with a little air above the waterline so they can breathe when they feel like it. And, like bettas, they’re great jumpers, so you’ll want to make sure your lid is secure.

sparkling gourami tank

These guys can make do without a heater, but you’ll likely want to grab one even if you keep it on low. They prefer warmer temperatures most of the time, so they’d appreciate the additional source of heat. It’s also a great precaution for winters in cold climates if you struggle to keep your house warm!

If you’re looking for a detailed review of the best aquarium heaters alarms, and safeguards, you can check out the whole article. If you’re in the mood for a quick pick, the best heater is below!


Sparkling gouramis are super social creatures and they prefer to be kept in groups of four or more. If you want to keep more than four, I suggest getting a 20 long, so you can keep about eight or so depending on your male to female ratio. It’s worth noting that though the males aren’t super aggressive, they will throw down if they have fry or if they’re spawning.

It’s safest to keep them in male/female pairs, only one male per tank, or just females. You definitely don’t want to keep them solo though, they really do like each other’s company!

sparkling gourami stocking

Though some people report having no issues even when they’re spawning. Like most anabantoids, their personalities seem to contribute quite a bit to what you can and can’t get away with.


If you want to keep these guys, plants are a must. They really don’t do well without plants, which is why most of the time they look “meh” in the store. They appreciate roots, driftwood, and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and hide in. Somewhat paradoxically, the more spaces you give them to hide in, the more you’ll see them because they’ll feel safer knowing they can easily hide if they want to!

Additionally, their colors really pop in blackwater, against a black background, and with some dark substrate. Though you don’t need to do any of that for them to thrive for you. They also appreciate a good deal of leaf litter if you can.

Tannin Aquatics is, of course, where I get all of mine. Mostly because they have some super cool finds that you can’t buy anywhere else. If you’re in the mood for some South Asian inspired litter (weird thing to say), you can spot some cool finds in their betta collection, including some roots and lotus seed pods.

Lotus seed pod

Since you’re going to want live plants, I’ve included the best substrates for the job below if you need recommendations.

Best Plants For Sparkling Gouramis

Since these guys love plants, you’re going to have a hard time finding plants they don’t like. With that in mind though, I would focus on plants that are dense and provide a good deal of cover as well as floating species of plants. If you can find some plants with good root structures (included below also!) that would work great!

Keep in mind that they do appreciate open space for swimming and need access to the surface to breathe as well, so try to be conscious of how much space your plants are using. Other than that, looking for low-light plants that do well in soft water would probably be the only other suggestion I have.

This isn’t a complete list, but I hope it’ll give you some ideas to start with:

Red Root Floaters

red root floaters

Red root floaters add a fun pop of color to an otherwise green landscape. They grow similarly to Salvinia and provide excellent cover for skittish fish and fry.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Fast
Temperature:  64 – 86F (18 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness:  2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Floating

Guppy Grass

guppy grass

Guppy grass is a great floating plant that adds depth, structure, and cover to any tank. It’s a super easy plant to grow and takes up tons of ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites, but – beware – it grows fast and can easily overrun your tank. Overall, it’s an amazing plant to have if water quality is your top concern.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Rapid
Temperature: 50 – 86F (10 – 30C)

pH: 6.0 – 7.0
Hardness: 2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Floating, planted, weighted

Java Moss

Java moss

Java moss is an almost bulletproof plant that requires almost no care. It doesn’t grow nearly as slowly as it’s java fern cousin, and can create lush moss beds that blow and billow in the current. They’re a great option for grazers, fry, or those of you with the blackest of thumbs.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 59 – 86F (15 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 3 – 12 dKH
Placement: Floating or attached



Salvinia is a fast-growing plant good for keeping ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites under control. It’s great for providing shelter for scared fish and fry, keeping the lighting intensity down. and making skittish fish feel more secure.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Fast
Temperature:  64 – 86F (18 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness:  2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Floating

Water Wisteria

Water wisteria is a fast-growing plant good for keeping ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites under control. It’s great for providing shelter for scared fish and fry, keeping cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae) at bay, and has anti-microbial properties.

Difficulty: Bulletproof
Growth: Slow
Temperature:  64 – 86F (18 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness:  2 – 25 dKH
Placement: Anywhere, basically

Bacopa sp.


Bacopa comes in a variety of species and variants – some more demanding than others – but the least demanding is Bacopa carolinia. It is banned in a few states because of its invasive species status, but it makes a wonderful addition to most aquariums if you can get it.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 59 – 86F (15 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 3 – 12 dKH
Placement: Planted in substrate

Pennywort sp.

There are quite a few species of pennywort, but most have similar care requirements and grow quickly. Because they can be grown in or out of the water, in a variety of ways, and in a wide range of conditions, this makes them a super adaptable aquarium plant. They also make exceptional plants for summer tubs!

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Rapid
Temperature: 68 – 82 F (20 – 27 C)

pH: 6.0 – 7.8
Hardness: 3 – 25 dKH
Placement: Attached, planted, weighed down, or immersed

Sweet Potato

Sweet potato aquarium

It’s hard to describe just how magnificent these root structures look once they get going, but you really can’t ask for a better or cheaper aquarium plant for keeping the water clean. Especially since you can pick it up on your next grocery shopping trip.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 59 – 86F (15 – 30C)

pH: 5.0 – 8.0
Hardness: 3 – 12 dKH
Placement: Floating or attached

Cabomba sp.


There are several species of cabomba, the green is the easiest. It’s difficult to get in certain states because in some places it’s considered invasive. Somewhat ironically, we seem to struggle growing it in aquariums. If you can get your lighting high enough, it’s worth it.

Difficulty: Moderate
Growth: Moderate
Temperature:  72 – 82 F (22 – 27 C)

pH: 6.5 – 7.5
Hardness: 3 – 12 dKH
Placement: Floating or planted



Vals come in a ton of varieties, but most of them are about the same to grow. They can grow rapidly, and quickly cover your tank with lush, kelp-like forests for your fish. Some species, however, do grow much shorter than others.

Difficulty: Easy
Growth: Moderate
Temperature: 63 – 82 F (17 – 28 C)

pH: 6.5 – 8.5
Hardness: 3 – 30 dKH
Placement: Planted

Lighting & Filtration

Sparkling gouramis do best if you keep them in low light conditions. You can do this buy buying a good light with some adjustment settings (suggestions below!), turning your tank blackwater, or including floating plants. They also don’t like a ton of water movement and are almost exclusively found in stagnant pools or ponds. Though, occasionally, you’ll find one in a slow-moving body of water.

You’ll want to avoid hang on backs, canister filters, or anything that creates more than a ripple of water movement. I suggest a sponge filter for this job, bubbling just enough to prevent surface scum from forming (since they need to breathe air from the surface.) My favorites are below!

Water Care

If you plant your tank heavily enough and cycle your tank correctly, you could probably get away with bi-weekly water changes on a lightly stocked tank. In most cases though, expect to do a 20% weekly water change just to keep things tip-top.

Sparkling gourami care

Fortunately, you’re not going to need a huge medical cabinet to keep these guys. Having a few of the basics stocked would be well worth the investment though. Here’s what I’d suggest:

Feeding Sparkling Gouramis

Sparkling gouramis will love you if you’re willing to feed them live food like scuds, daphnia, white worms, grindal worms, baby brine shrimp, or bloodworms. If you’re feeling a little squeamish at the thought, you can grab most of these in frozen or freeze-dried forms, frozen being better.

They’ll also accept pellets with a little coaxing… once they’re recognized as food.

I had no idea food could be this delicious gif

If you want to start with dried foods, I would suggest going for Vibra Bites and moving onto soft pellets as most fish will take to them better. If you can’t find a soft pellet they like, you can try dried pellets like Bug Bites or Repashy as well, but expect a little bit of a learning curve with those.

Stuck on what to try? I have a fishy grocery list for you below.

Common Sparkling Gourami Diseases

Sparkling gouramis aren’t super popular so, fortunately for you, they don’t usually have as many issues as other popular fish. They are, however, anabantoids – so expect them to be little piggies and totally willing to overeat. Aside from that, nothing notable or out of the ordinary here.


fish bloat

Bloat certainly doesn’t have to be as severe as the picture, but you get the idea. Bloating is an accumulation of gas, fluids, or unpassed food present in the fish. Although I have no proof, I suspect this is why most people search “how to tell if [insert fish species] is pregnant” even if they can’t get pregnant. There is a difference between a bloated fish and a fish that’s eaten too much – the fish that ate too much will act normal whereas the other usually won’t.


  • Your fish’s stomach is distended without raised scales
  • Fish may appear to be in some sort of discomfort and avoid swimming or other usual activities
  • May not be pooping


  • Intestinal blockage
  • Constipation
  • Internal bacterial infection
  • Internal growths/tumors

Ich (White Spot Disease)

ich fish disease

Ich is caused by a parasite that, to many, looks like tiny white pimples across the fish. It can attach to the mouth, fins, body, and gills. You can usually see fish scraping themselves against objects (likely because parasites are itchy!) before white spots even appear.


  • White spots
  • Scratching
  • Redness or bloody streaks


  • Ichthyophthirius multifilis (parasite)

Fin Rot & Tail Rot

fin and tail rot

Fin rot and tail rot are the same thing and are caused by gram-negative bacteria that eat away at your fish’s fins, leaving them ragged and choppy looking. Depending on the severity, this bacteria could open the door for fungal infections or eventually turn into body rot (where the bacteria starts eating the body of the fish.)


  • Fins look like they’ve been chomped on
  • Fins are slowly shrinking
  • Faded coloration on the fins (not to be confused with new growth)


  • Poor water quality
  • Stress
  • Prior untreated injury in combination with poor water quality

Columnaris (Cotton Mouth Disease)

columnaris disease

Occasionally called false neon tetra disease or cottonmouth, this is caused by a gram-negative bacterium. it can also, quite understandable, be confused with fungal infections. 


  • Discolored scales
  • Scales appear to be popping off (not “pineconing”)
  • Grey spots
  • Lesions on the back
  • Legions around the mouth
  • May result in fuzzy patches due to secondary infections


  •  Flavbacterium columnare (bacteria)

Sparkling Gourami Tank Mates

Some keepers report that their sparkling gouramis play nicely with their smaller shrimp, but I think – like most predators – it’s a matter of time until they realize how tasty their roommates are. I would suggest, if you want to keep them with shrimp, to keep them with something large and harmless like amanos and give them a few places to hide. Additionally, I would keep them away from other gouramis because they could be viewed as a threat.

Aside from that, sparkling gouramis play well with almost everything else that enjoys a peaceful life with lots of plants, soft water, and a slow current.

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Ember Tetra

Ember tetras are bright, fun, tiny, shoaling fish that occur in South American black waters. They’re hardy, peaceful fish that are often described as active, bold, and playful. They also enjoy a planted tank, but be mindful that they do like to swim in open space, so be sure to include that in your layout. They enjoy their numbers a little higher than most shoaling species, 8 is recommended.

pH: 5.5 – 7
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 82 F (20 – 27 C)

Size: 3/4″ (2 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Bolivian Ram (Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)

Bolivian Ram

The underrated cousin to the German Blue Ram are often nearly colorless and shy in the store tanks. But provided with the right tank and dither fish, they’ll color up and exhibit fascinating behavior in your home aquarium!

Keep in mind these rams will also become territorial while spawning. However, there are some sparse reports of other tankmates going unnoticed during spawning.

pH: 6.0 – 7.5
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 83 F (20 – 28 C)

Size: 3″ (8 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Bottom to mid-water

Amano Shrimp (Caridina Multidentata)

amano shrimp

Most amano shrimp are wild-caught, so you’ll want to make sure you quarantine them properly before adding them to your tank, but they make peaceful and entertaining algae control crew. They’ll be at their best if they’re kept in groups of six or more.

pH: 6.5 – 7.9
dKH: 1 – 6
Temp: 65 – 76 F (18 – 24 C)

Size: 3″+ (7.5+ cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Bottom & structured surfaces

Lambchop Rasbora (Trigonostigma espei)

You can think of the lambchop as a smaller cousin to the harlequin rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) they look and act similarly and their care requirements are about the same. These guys are just a bit smaller with slightly different coloring.

pH: 5.5 – 7.5
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 74 – 83F (24 – 28C)

Size: 1.2″ (1 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Mid to top

Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

harlequin rasbora

Harlequins are a shoaling species that prefer friend groups of six or more. They’re not known to be nippy fish and are quite peaceful as long as they’re provided plants, space to swim, and the company of their own kind.

pH: 5 – 7.5
dKH: 1 – 12
Temp: 70 to 83 F (21 to 28 C)

Size: 2″ (5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful
Swimming: Mid to top-water shoaling

Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras Pygmaeus)

The pygmy cory (corydoras pygmaeus) is the smallest of all the corydoras species and – possibly – the smallest catfish in the world. It’s a peaceful shoaler that appreciates sandbeds and at least six of their own kind.

pH: 6.2 – 7.4
dKH: 2 – 15
Temp: 60– 78F (15 – 25C)

Size: 1.3″ (3.5 cm) max
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Everywhere

Otocinculus (Otocinclus sp.)


Otocinclus, like most peaceful fish, enjoy the company of their own kind – four or more is a good start. They enjoy cleaning algae and debris off glass, decor, and plants – but will always clean plants first if they have the choice. It’s important to add these guys to a well-established tank not only because it needs to have enough food for them to munch, but also because they’re highly sensitive fish.

pH: 6.0 – 7.5
dKH: 6 – 15
Temp: 72 – 82F (22 – 28C)

Size: 1 – 2″ (3 – 5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful, social fish, usually shy
Swimming: On surfaces

Scarlet Badis (Dario dario)

Dario dario

Scarlet badis are tiny micro predators that are easily intimidated by large, boisterous species, so they rarely make good tank mates. In a few cases, however, it can be done well with care and planning.

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 1 – 15
Temp: 65 – 79 F (18 – 26C)

Size: .75″ (2 cm) max
Temperament: Timid
Swimming: Bottom of tank

Green Rasboras (Microdevario kubotai)

Green rasboras may look dyed, but they’re not. They naturally occur in shoals ranging in the 20 – 30 specimen range, so it’s best to house them in groups of 8 or more. They make a great addition to a peaceful community tank, but since they’re so small they’ll need appropriately sized tankmates.

pH: 6.0 – 7.0
dKH: 1 – 10
Temp: 68 – 81 F (20 – 27 C)

Size: .75″ (2 cm) max
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Everywhere, but usually mid to top

Dwarf Scissortail Rasboras (Rasbosoma spilocerca)

scissortail rasbora

Because scissortails and dwarf scissortails look so similar, it’s important to get these from a vendor that you trust. If you buy regular scissortails (Rasbora trilineata,) you’ll end up with a bunch of 6″ fish! It’s a shoaling species that should be kept in groups of 8 – 10.

pH: 6.0 – 7.0
dKH: 2 – 10
Temp: 73 – 79F (22 – 26 C)

Size: 1.2″ (3 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful shoaling fish
Swimming: Everywhere

Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

cherry barb

Cherry barbs are small and peaceful. They’re undemanding and pack a colorful punch when cared for correctly, making them an ideal community inhabitant. They’re shoalers, so they need to be kept in groups of 6 or more to bring out their best behavior.

pH: 6.0 – 8.0
dKH: 2 – 20
Temp: 68 – 81 F (20 – 26 C)

Size: 1.5 – 2″ (4 – 5 cm)
Temperament: Peaceful and active
Swimming: Top to midwater shoaling

Breeding Sparkling Gouramis

It’s best to set a pair aside in a tank by themselves. A densely planted bare bottom tank with a tight-fitting lid (or cling wrap) is the best way to go. They’re a little easier to spawn than bettas because they’re less aggressive and you can leave them in-situ for as long as it takes, but they’re a little more difficult because there seems to be no way to induce spawning.

Sexing can also be a bit of an issue, but with a flashlight, it becomes easier to identify males from females by looking for ovaries. Without this method, there’s really no good or reliable way to tell the difference.


The male will construct a bubblenest wherever he feels is safest, which may or may not be at the surface. He will often chase the female off until he’s satisfied that it’s complete, but he’s not super aggressive about it. Similarly, the female isn’t as picky about it as female bettas are.

Once they both decide that they’re ready, they will embrace (maybe under the nest, maybe not) and the male will retrieve the eggs and place them in the nest until there are no more eggs left. Spawns range from 30 – 200 eggs, but 180 is the most commonly reported.

The male won’t have any interest in the female, and the female won’t have any interest in the nest so they can be left as is. She may be chased away from the nest from time to time, but not aggressively.

Egg & Fry Care

The eggs typically hatch somewhere in the 24 – 72-hour range, depending on the water temperature. Once they’ve hatched, the male will try to keep the fry in the bubblenest until they’re free-swimming (another 48 – 72 hours.)

Once they’re free-swimming, the father will slowly lose interest and they’ll need infusoria-sized food. By the end of week one, they should be large enough to accept microworms and vinegar eels. By the end of week two, they should be large enough to accept baby brine shrimp.

As long as the parents aren’t spawning again, you can leave the fry with their parents, they’re usually no threat. Once spawning activity seems to be starting up again, you’ll probably notice the parents attempting to push their fry out of the area and if you don’t get them out quickly enough, they may be eaten at this point.

Within a few months, they should look like small adults and be ready to find their new homes.

Sparkling Gourami Types

Okay, so maybe they’re not sparkling gourami types, more Trichopsis species. If you really want to know how to tell the difference between them, it’s easy! Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

Sparkling gourami
Sparkling gourami

Trichopsis pumila (Sparkling/Pygmy)

The upper stripe (above the lateral line) is always spotted.

Trichopsis schalleri (Threeline)

The upper stripe (above the lateral line) can be solid, spotted, or completely invisible depending on their mood.

Trichopsis vittata (Croaking)

Their anal fin is extended and pointed, whereas the other two species don’t have a point. Additionally, they tend to have three lines on the body (which I find ironic, but whatever) and longer ventral fins.

Further Reading & Resources

5 Responses

  1. Hey Ashley!

    I just wanted to say that I love the site and I’ve been following your posts since you started on Quora. I’m so happy to see you posting regularly on the site again. I was starting to wonder what happened! Your posts are so well researched and thought out.


    1. Hey, David!
      Awe, thank you! It warms my poikilothermic little heart to hear that! (I don’t know if that joke will play the way I hope it does?) And the short answer is life happened, but I’m glad I found made the time to start posting regularly again too!

      1. Hahah it played! I was wondering if you were going to move all your posts over to the new format you’re using now? It looks much better, btw.

        1. Eventually… maybe. That task I still haven’t made the time for yet. But glad to hear you like it, I thought the new format looked much better too!

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