- Species Name: Trichopsis pumila
- Common Names: Sparking gourami, pygmy gourami
- Size: 1.6 inches
- Lifespan: 4-5 years
- Native Distribution: Southeast Asia
Also known as the pygmy gourami, the sparkling gourami (Trichopsis pumila) is one of the smallest labyrinth fishes. Growing to a maximum size under two inches, this diminutive fish would easily be mistaken for a juvenile or female betta if not for its unique coloration.
The name sparkling gourami comes from the fish’s iridescent appearance under proper lighting. Though somewhat shy by nature, these small gouramis can make a big impression in your tank when kept in sufficient numbers. Here’s what you need to know about this unique freshwater nano fish.
Anatomy and Appearance
Sparkling gouramis are similar in body shape to betta fish (Betta splendens) but lack the extravagant fins seen in many selectively bred specimens. Nicknamed the pygmy gourami, this species grows to a maximum length of around 1.6 inches (about 4 cm).
Like betta fish and other related species, the sparkling gourami possesses a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe oxygen directly from the air at the water’s surface. This enables them to live in slow-moving rivers and ponds where dissolved oxygen levels are low.
The body of this species is brown and covered in light blue spots. Under the right lighting, however, its scales become highly reflective and take on an iridescent quality. The sparkling gourami shimmers in hues of blue, green, and red, its patterns changing with the light as it swims. These fish have blue eyes rimmed with a thin red border.
Ideal Aquarium Setup
While sparkling gouramis are not schooling fish, they prefer to be kept in small groups. Because they’re so small, they can make good additions to a nano tank, but they prefer heavily planted aquariums that give them plenty of places to hide.
A small group of five or six sparkling gouramis could be kept in a tank as small as 10 or 15 gallons. Extra space is never a bad thing, however, and larger tanks are less likely to experience drastic changes in temperature or water parameters. If you plan to keep a group of sparkling gouramis, an established planted aquarium with a water volume of 20 gallons or more is ideal.
The sparkling gourami is generally a hardy species, but they prefer clean and stable conditions. They’re best added to an established tank with plenty of live plants and a low to moderate level of water flow.
The ideal tank parameters for sparkling gouramis are:
- Water Temperature: 77-83°F
- pH Level: 6.0-7.5
- General Hardness: 5-19 dGH
- Carbonate Hardness: 4-8 dKH
While sparkling gouramis don’t have the same needs for highly oxygenated water as other species, they are most likely to thrive in clean water. Perform water changes as needed to keep ammonia and nitrite levels as close to zero as possible.
Due to their unique coloration, sparkling gouramis look best against dark substrate. If you’re keeping your fish in a planted tank, consider a nutrient-rich substrate like aqua soil. Choose your lighting according to the type and number of plants you’re cultivating and don’t forget to include other decorations like driftwood and rockwork to provide hiding places.
While sparkling gouramis are generally easygoing, they can be aggressive toward other males. Providing plenty of hiding places and adequate tank space is important when keeping these fish in groups. Use driftwood and rockwork to break up sightlines, creating “territories” in your tank.
Diet and Feeding
In the wild, sparkling gouramis feed on small insects that live in the water or that fall onto the surface. In the home aquarium, however, these fish will accept a wide variety of live, frozen, and dried foods. Some may accept flakes, though they tend to spend most of their time in the lower level of the tank.
Be sure to offer your gouramis a variety of foods. Offering live or frozen foods several times a week may help your fish achieve their most attractive appearance—it may also be beneficial for conditioning fish for breeding purposes.
Temperament and Tank Mates
Due to their size and gentle temperaments, sparkling gouramis should only be kept with non-aggressive tankmates of similar size. Other small gouramis like dwarf or pearl gouramis make good tankmates, as do rainbowfish, smaller tetras, and rasboras. They may also do well with peaceful bottom dwellers like Corydoras catfish or invertebrates like snails and shrimp.
Avoid keeping sparkling gouramis with aggressive, carnivorous, or even fast-swimming fish. Active species like black tetras and tiger barbs, for example, may nip at your gouramis’ fins or cause them stress with their high levels of activity. Male bettas are also not recommended as tank mates due to their similar appearance.
Breeding Sparkling Gouramis
Sexing sparkling gouramis can be tricky. Both species can be quite striking in color and pattern, though females tend to be a little duller in coloration than males. Males may also exhibit red spots running horizontally along the top of their bodies.
If you plan to breed sparkling gouramis, it’s best to keep a ratio of one male to every three to four females. With time and a rich diet, the fish should pair off naturally. To stimulate breeding behavior, lower the water level in the tank to about 6 inches and increase the temperature by 3-5°F. You’ll know the fish are ready to spawn when the females develop round abdomens.
Like betta fish, breeding behavior begins with the male building a bubble nest using foam and saliva. Be sure to provide broad-leafed plants near the water surface where the males can build their bubble nests. During spawning, the male will fertilize and collect the eggs, transporting them to the nest.
A breeding pair of sparkling gouramis may spawn several times, with the female releasing about 12-15 eggs at a time. Once spawning has concluded, remove the female from the tank and allow the male to care for the eggs until they hatch. The newly hatched fry will spend a few days in the bubble nest before they start to venture away from it. At this point, you can remove the male and care for the fry separately.
With their stunning coloration and unique behavior, sparkling gourami makes entertaining additions to the home aquarium. When they’re happy, you may even hear them making a croaking noise at the water’s surface!
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