What to Know About Dwarf Gourami

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on December 10, 2022
4 min read

Everyone’s heard of betta fish, but no one talks about their cousin, the dwarf gourami. These relatives of the betta fish are beautiful, easy to care for, and the smallest of their kind. 

Gourami is a larger group of fish from Asia that’s split into bettas and gouramis. The many gourami species stem from the name of the giant gourami. 

Gouramis and bettas are some of the most widely kept fish. This means they're easy to find in most stores that sell fish in many colors and varieties.

The dwarf gourami is a small fish species that has grown in popularity worldwide. Since their discovery over two centuries ago, there’s been some confusion about their scientific name.

You’ll mostly see them with the scientific name Trichogaster lalius, but a few other synonymous names include:

  • Polycanthus lalius
  • Colisa lalia 
  • Colisa lalius
  • Trichopodus lalius

Dwarf gourami size. There are many types of gourami fish. The dwarf gourami are famously small, reaching 2.5 inches (6 centimeters) at most.

Colors and appearance. Male dwarf gouramis have orange and light blue vertical stripes along their sides and tail fins. Females tend to have much duller colors or be silvery gray.

Dwarf gourami are commonly bred with other similar species of gourami to create many shades of dwarf gourami. For example, some have more yellow-tinted stripes or vibrant shades of neon blue.

Males and females are similar in size, with females being negligibly smaller. The way to differentiate the sexes is that the tail fin of the male has pointed edges, whereas females have more rounded edges. 

Dwarf gourami lifespan. As a smaller fish, the dwarf gourami has a shorter lifespan than others. They tend to live a maximum of two to three years with good care.

Labyrinth organ. Gourami use their gills to pull oxygen from the water around them. When the oxygen levels in the water are low, the gourami use their labyrinth organ.  

The labyrinth organ lets the gourami breathe in air above the surface of the water and get oxygen from it. They need to breathe regularly from air using their labyrinth organ, or they may drown.

Natural habitat. Most gourami live in slow-moving streams, lakes with vegetation, rice fields, and irrigation channels. They’re widely found in areas of:

  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal

Captive habitats. Dwarf gourami need a tank with at least 5 gallons per fish. A longer, 24-inch tank is better.

Gourami also need dense aquatic plants in their aquarium. The plants give them plenty of opportunities to hide and retreat.  

Aquarium temperatures between 72°F and 82°F are fine as long as there aren’t extreme fluctuations. You should maintain the temperature with an aquarium heater.  

Since gourami occasionally surface to gulp down air, the air above the water should be around the same temperature as the water. A cover on the aquarium should help maintain the air temperature.

Tank mates. You can keep multiple gourami in a tank because they’re social fish. In the wild, dwarf gourami pair up with fish of the opposite sex and stay close to them.  

Dwarf gourami are territorial but will generally leave other fish alone. You should typically keep no more than a pair in a tank with only one male at a time.

As long as they have plenty of plants to hide in, dwarf gourami can do well with other species of fish. Make sure that the species won’t be aggressive to the gourami or small enough for the gourami to eat.

Some species that dwarf gourami get along well with are:

  • Harlequin rasboras
  • Danios
  • Mollies
  • Tetras
  • Plecos
  • Corydoras

Dwarf gourami are omnivores that are easy to please. They eat all manner of prepared fish food, including:

  • Dry food
  • Frozen food
  • Live food
  • Vegetable-based food

You’ll need to feed your dwarf gourami twice a day. You should clean out any excess food immediately to prevent water contamination.

Tank placement. Avoid placing your aquarium in direct sunlight. Sunlight can heat up the water throughout the day to dangerous temperatures for your fish.

Artificial light. To support plant growth and give you a good view of your dwarf gourami, you’ll need a fluorescent light source for your tank. The tank should get no more than 10 hours of light every day, or green algae may build up.

Water chemistry. Dwarf gourami come from areas with slightly acidic water. Keep your aquarium water’s pH at 7.0 or slightly under.

If you intend to maintain an ecosystem of dwarf gourami, breeding them is easy. Females lay eggs, and the males put the eggs in a bubble nest that they make.

It may take time for the male and female to mate, but you can take the female out and reintroduce her later to try again. Once she lays eggs, it may only take three days for the eggs to hatch.  

Once the eggs are in the bubble nest, you’ll need to remove the female and place her in another tank. The male gourami aggressively guards the eggs and may harm the female.

Don’t feed the male or baby fish (the fry) until you remove the male from the tank. Remove the male once the eggs hatch and the baby fish swim on their own, or else the male may eat the fry. 

While the fry are tiny, feed them infusoria and rotifers. Over time, sort the fry by size and remove the larger fish because they may start eating the smaller fry.

Once you’ve got all your supplies, you’re ready to bring home a dwarf gourami. Whether you want to breed or keep them on display, they’re great, low-maintenance fish.