Sparkling Gourami Care Guide & Species Profile

The Sparkling Gourami is a fascinating little fish.

Their colorful fins and iridescent scales will be the first thing you notice in any freshwater tank. Although they are rare they will add so much life and color to your aquarium!

They are actually very similar to their cousin the Betta fish however they are much easier to manage.

Do you think that a Sparkling Gourami is the right addition for your tank?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to keep a group of these dazzling fish…

Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling Gourami Overview

The Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila) is a miniature Gourami from Southeast Asia.

They are commonly known as the Pygmy Gourami and live in pools and swamps along the Mekong River basin.

Sparkling Gourami come from the Osphronemidae family which includes all Gouramis and the Betta. These little guys make great alternatives to the Betta if you are not quite ready for one. Unlike Bettas they are best kept in small groups.

This fish is best known for their dazzling appearance and their ability to speak.

They are also known as labyrinth fish because they have a labyrinth organ which lets them take in oxygen from the air. The labyrinth organ lets them survive in poorly oxygenated waters for a short time, so they can endure less than optimal water quality.

This species is quite uncommon so you will most likely have to look online to find one.

Fortunately, they are very affordable in spite of their rarity.

Expect to pay around $4 per fish.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Nano fish.
  • Nicknames: Pygmy Gourami.
  • Color Forms: Brown with iridescent blue spots.
  • Size: 1-1.5 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 15+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 75°F-82°F.

Sparkling Gourami Croaking

The Sparkling Gourami is a real life talking fish!

If you listen closely then you will hear them making a croaking sound.

These fish use croaking to communicate within the group.

For example, males will chatter to each other when a conflict is about to break out. The fish will also chatter to entice potential mates, alert others to potential predators, or even beg for food. Your Gouramis will not chatter to the other fish in your community. It is a secret language that is shared between their own kind.

Interestingly the sound is not produced by the throat but by the pectoral muscles rubbing together in a way that is similar to plucking a guitar string.

Other Gouramis in the Trichopsis genus can also make a croaking sound. It is what the Croaking Gourami (Trichopsis vittata) was named for!

Pros

  • Less aggressive than others Gouramis.
  • Attractive appearance.
  • Small enough for Nano tanks.
  • Makes unique croaking sound.
Cons

  • Males are aggressive.
  • Susceptible to fin rot.
  • Difficult to find compatible tank mates.
  • Scared by loud noises or sudden movements.

Sparkling Gourami Appearance

Sparkling Gourami Close Up

This fish is called the Sparkling Gourami for a reason.

Their scales are dazzling!

They have a drab brown base color that is highlighted by iridescent blue spots which are all over their body and fins. These blue spots can appears in different shades, from aqua to sea green.

You will also notice that they have a very distinct body shape. It is thin at both ends and wide around the middle. Their snout is sharply pointed which makes them resembles an arrowhead.

In total this fish has 7 fins.

The dorsal fin is set far back on the body, right at the start of the head hump. The caudal fin is wide and shaped like a paddle. There is a very long, wide anal fin that takes up most of the fish’s ventral side. It is preceded by a pair of filamentous pelvic fins. Finally there is a pair of very tiny, colorless pectoral fins that you will need to look closely to see.

New specimens that you buy at the store are usually around 1 inch long. They will only grow an extra half inch before they reach their full length.

Their size makes it difficult to tell the difference between the males and females. Generally though the males have a smaller body but much larger fins. Whereas the females have a larger body but their fins are shorter and slightly rounded.

Sparkling Gourami Tank Mates

Sparkling Gouramis are found alongside other Trichopsis in the wild, but this does not mean that they should all live together in captivity.

Finding the right tank mates can be difficult because these fish are both skittish and somewhat aggressive.

A single species setup is much easier to manage.

However if you do want a community tank then selecting suitable tank mates is possible. You will need to focus on slow swimming species that do not closely resemble Sparkling Gouramis.

They can be kept with other small sized Gouramis such as the Dwarf Gourami, the Pearl and the Three-Spot Gourami.

Bottom dwellers are typically safe because of their sluggishness and their tendency to keep out of the way. Suitable bottom dwellers must be small, non-predatory, and free of fin nipping and other annoying behaviors. Emerald, Panda and Cory Catfish make great companions. Oto Catfish are also excellent and can help with algae cleaning.

If you want to include Tetras then be careful which species you pick.

You cannot include Black Tetras or other species known for fin nipping. Ember and Neon Tetras are perfectly safe.

Invertebrates are safe for this community if they are not small enough to be eaten. Dwarf Shrimp and Nerite Snails are far too risky.

However, you can include a few grown adult Mystery Snails and some large Amano and Bamboo Shrimp.

You should avoid keeping them with larger fish.

This includes many Loaches, including the Clown and Yoyo Loach.

Avoid Bettas, Paradise Gouramis, and other large species that are likely to pick a fight. Algae Eaters, Barbs, and other fin nipping fish are also a no.

Keeping Sparkling Gouramis Together

Although these fish will not shoal together they must still be kept among their own kind to feel secure.

The ideal group size is 5-7.

Males are aggressive to one another so your group should always have at least 3 females for every male. Smaller groups should be entirely female.

If there is some food nearby then your Gouramis will follow each other to the source. Otherwise, they tend to go their own way.

Natural Habitat and Tank Conditions

In their natural habitat these fish live in stagnant pools that are full with vegetation. Just like their cousin the Betta, they can be found in rice gardens and other man made bodies of water too. They are able to withstand a variety of different water conditions.

If the temperature is right and there are enough plants and enough food then this fish can live just about anywhere.

The substrate is often enriched with decayed plants and peat moss.

You would find them in lowland swamps and jungles along the Mekong River basin.

Sparkling Gourami Aquarium

Ideal Aquarium Set Up

You will need at least a 15 gallon aquarium to keep Sparkling Gourami.

This tank would be suitable for a group of 3. After this, you will need to add 10 gallons for each addition fish.

The water temperature should range from 75-82°F.

You need a tropical heater and a quiet low power filter – a sponge or hang on back filter is ideal.

The pH should be between 6.0-8.0 and the water hardness from 5-18 dGH.

Because these fish often come to the surface you will need a hood to keep them from escaping the tank. Also make sure not to fill the tank up all the way to the lid or they will not be able to gulp for air.

The light intensity is based on what your plants will need. Generally, a fully planted setup needs at least 8 hours of moderate to high light exposure per day.

Your fish will feel safe in a heavily planted aquarium. Just make sure there is also plenty of open space for swimming. Place logs, driftwood, flowerpots and other decorations along the sides of the tank so that the fish have access to open space in the center.

The most important decorations are plants and this fish is compatible with just about every one of them.

Use your favorite edge and background pieces such as Water Wisteria, Dwarf Hairgrass and Sword Plants. Hornwort can be grown either rooted or floating and you can include floating Duckweed or Frogbit.

Fertilizers will be needed for your plants but they can also introduce harmful nitrates to the water column. To combat this problem you can use continuous release fertilizer.

Use dark colored sand or mud that is fertilized for optimal plant growth.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 15 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater Planted
Temperature 75-82°F
pH 6.0-8.0
Hardness 5-18 dGH
Flow None
Substrate Sand or mud

Sparkling Gourami Care Guide

Sparkling Gourami Swimming

For such a small fish the Sparkling Gourami is surprisingly resilient.

They make a wonderful introduction to the Gourami family and are beginner friendly.

The biggest problem with this fish is their anxiety. They are easily scared by loud noises, sudden movements or boisterous behavior from other fish. You should keep the noise levels down in your tank by using a sponge or a hang on back filter. Also make sure there are plenty of hiding spots.

You must monitor your water quality carefully to make sure there are no excess nitrates.

Fin rot is something to be on the lookout for.

This bacterial infection starts out as a series of small lesions on the edge of their fins. Over time the lesions will grow larger and the fins will start to erode. Eventually, the lesions will spread to the rest of the body. Fin rot is fatal if left untreated but it can be treated with general antibiotics.

The best way to prevent fin rot and other bacterial infections is to keep the tank clean. You will need to perform a bi-weekly water change and remove anything that has begun to decay.

Diet and Feeding

This tiny fish is a micro-predator.

This means in the wild they will hunts down zooplankton, larvae and tiny worms.

In an aquarium you can offer them live or frozen micro-prey.

As a treat you can share a bit of your frozen seafood – they will love a few tiny cuts of frozen shrimp.

They will not munch on plants or algae but they still need some vegetables in their diet. There are supplementary sources that you can use to make sure they get their veggies. Algae wafers or spirulina tablets can be chopped into a powder and offered alongside powdered fish flakes.

One thing to keep in mind is that they are very picky eaters.

They will not settle for a low quality food item just because it is there.

If your Sparkling Gourami refuses to eat then there is probably something nutritionally wrong with the food you are giving them. Switch your brand of fish flakes if your fish will not eat them. If they turn their snouts up at frozen prey then switch to live feeding.

You can feed them once in the morning and once in the evening.

They are picky eaters with a rather specific palette. The foods that they will eat are:

  • Fish flakes (powdered)
  • Algae wafers (powdered)
  • Spirulina (powdered)
  • Daphnia
  • Brine shrimp
  • Insect larvaev
  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex worms
  • Frozen shrimp

Behavior

These fish have very different group dynamics than most other small fish.

Sparkling Gourami do not particularly enjoy each other’s company and tend to pick fights with the others in their group. They actually prefer to go off on their own unless they are feeding or courting. When a fight breaks out they will charge, chase and nip at each another.

Although they are aggressive with each other they still need to be kept in a group in order to feel safe.

While they may act tough around their own kind they are very timid around other and will spend a lot of time hiding.

You can find them at every level of the tank (but especially the middle). When they need to come up for air you will spot them swimming near the surface.

Although Gouramis tend to be some of the most aggressive freshwater fish, this species is on the more docile side.

They are not likely to go looking for a fight with other species.

Most problems with aggression can be prevented by selecting compatible tank mates.

Breeding Sparkling Gouramis

If you have ever bred Betta fish then it will be easy for you to breed Sparkling Gouramis too.

Just like Bettas these fish raise their eggs in bubble nests at the surface of the water.

To get your Gourami into breeding condition you should raise the water temperature by about 3°F and feed them on a diet of exclusively live prey.

When the male is ready to select a mate he will construct a bubble nest for the eggs. He will then begin the courtship ritual. Pairing them off is easy as the male will eventually single out a specific female for courting. This involves circling around the female and flashing his spectacular fins in her direction. He will also wrap her in an embrace to stimulate egg laying.

The female will lay the eggs in the water and the male will place them in the bubble nest using his mouth. Up to 80 eggs may be laid at a time.

For the next 2 days the male will guard the bubble nest until the eggs hatch. He will then look after the larvae until they lose their yolk sacs and leave the nest.

Once the fry are free swimming it is time to feed them. During this stage the fry will only be able to eat infusoria.

After about 7 days they can be given microworms and larval brine shrimp to eat.

When they reach about an inch in length, you can place them in the main tank.

History and First Sighting

When this first was first discovered in 1936 by JP Arnold, it was classified as Ctenops pumilus. The Ctenops genus is very similar to Trichopsis but these fish have a different skeletal anatomy and body shape.

Ctenops fish also lack the ability to make croaking sounds with their pectoral muscles.

Because of these differences the Sparkling Gourami was reclassified under Trichopsis in 1953.

This fish started out as a special interest to Southeast Asian fish researchers before moving into the pet trade sometime after their reclassification. It is unknown exactly when they became an aquarium pet.

We do know that they were originally sold as Pygmy Gourami and at some point in the 2000s they were rebranded as the Sparkling Gourami.

Although they have not become as popular as Bettas and other Gouramis they have developed a small fan base among nano fish keepers and aquascapers.

They still remain a rather uncommon find but they are building somewhat of a cult following among Gourami fans!

Species Summary Table

Sparkling Gourami
Other Common Names: Pygmy Gourami
Scientific Name: Trichopsis pumila
Family Name: Osphronemidae
Distribution: Southeast Asia
Size: 1-1.5 inches
Color: Brown with blue spots
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Lifespan: 4-5 years
Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Slow moving Nano fish

Should You Keep The Sparkling Gourami? (Summary)

The Sparkling Gourami has certainly earned their own fans.

They have a bit of a cult following among aquascapers as they are compatible with most freshwater plants.

This little fish shines in any aquascape, but you do not need to be an aquascaper to appreciate their charm. A clean tank, tropical water temperature, and well-furnished aquarium is really all that this fish needs to be happy.

We recommend that beginners start with a single species tank. Keeping them in a community can be a little difficult but it is possible to pair them with other docile fish.

The Sparkling Gourami has many wonderful qualities that make them worth considering for your freshwater aquarium.

What makes this fish special for you? Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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