The Sparkling Gourami unfortunately gets overlooked often in pet stores. Small, seemingly a dull brown, and shy, they are far less interesting looking than Neon Tetras, Guppies, and other common favorites.
However, if you decide to take one home and place it in a well planted, peaceful aquarium, you’ll discover something extraordinary. Your new fish will brighten up, with blue scales and iridescent eyes ascending delicate chocolate and red tones. You will begin to understand just how the Sparkling Gourami gets its name!
Sparkling Gouramis are the smallest of the family Osphoronemidae. A few, including the Giant Gourami (Osphronemus goramy) can reach massive sizes in excess of two feet! Sparkling Gourami, on the other hand, rarely grow much beyond 1 inch in length.
This places them solidly within the category of “nano fish:” fish well suited to freshwater aquariums 3 to 5 gallons in size. They do well in species only set ups or alongside other fish.
- Common Name: Sparkling Gourami, Pygmy Gourami
- Scientific Name: Trichopsis pumila
- Origin: Southeast Asia
- Length: 1-1½ inches
- Aquarium Size: 5 gallons
- Temperament: Peaceful; Territorial
- Ease of Care: Easy
Sparkling Gourami Care
Sparkling Gouramis are true nano fish, meaning they can live comfortably in aquariums as small as 3-5 gallons! You will likely not have room for much else. Maybe 1 male, 2 females, and a few dwarf shrimp for friends.
However a warm, heavily planted nano tank is a perfect home for them. You can keep them in larger aquariums, of course. Just make sure that it’s well planted and stocked with appropriate tank mates (see below).
If you intend on keeping multiple males, I recommend at least 10 gallons of space per male. They are quite territorial and will fight constantly if you keep more than one in a small tank.
Sparkling Gouramis rarely kill one another. However, it’s very stressful for a male to not be able to escape a stronger rival. He will get chased every time he’s spotted, which is constantly in a nano aquarium.
Like most Southeast Asian natives, Sparkling Gouramis prefer soft, acidic to neutral water conditions (pH 5.5-7.0). They may do well in alkaline environments (pH 7.0+) but their color is lessened and they are very unlikely to breed. The live plants they love also tend to prefer acidic water conditions.
You should also keep them in tropical temperatures (75-80°F) – the warmer, the better! And if you’re looking to spawn them, increase the temperatures even higher to simulate the hot summers of the region!
While not super-sensitive to poor water quality, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate should be kept as close to 0ppm as possible. Fortunately, live plants also help with this by consuming these chemicals as fertilizer!
Plants and Substrate
Live plants are very important to Sparkling Gourami care. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you will have a much harder time keeping them without some plants in the aquarium.
Live plants thrive in the same conditions as Sparkling Gouramis. They create shelter to help them feel secure, provide habitats for tiny invertebrates to eat, and give your Gouramis a place to breed.
Choose at least a few floating and/or thickly growing plants like Red Root Floater, Vallisneria, and Hornwort. The weedier and overgrown the tank becomes, the happier your Gouramis will be!
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If you want to grow thick beds of live plants you’ll need some full-spectrum aquarium lighting as well. Standard incandescent or fluorescent fixtures don’t provide enough PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) for plants to thrive.
Fortunately, plant LED lights are incredibly affordable nowadays. Modern fixtures are also very energy efficient and help boost plant growth substantially!
Tank Mates for Sparkling Gourami
So long as you stick to fish as tiny as they are, finding tank mates is an easy part of Sparkling Gourami care. They tend to squabble with each other. However they will ignore just about any other fish.
In fact, Sparkling Gouramis are quite shy. So don’t house them with “large,” active fish like Tiger Barbs. They will intimidate them simply by dashing about constantly. Choose Guppies, small Tetras, and other peaceful similarly sized fish.
Your Sparkling Gouramis may eat a baby shrimp or two. But Cherry Shrimp have so many young and they grow so quickly that they won’t be able to eat them all in a well planted tank!
Good Tank Mates for Sparkling Gouramis
- Tetras, Livebearers, and other Small Community Fish
- Other Nano Fish
- Kuhli Loaches
- Dwarf Shrimp and Snails
Poor Tank Mates for Sparkling Gouramis
- Large Catfish
- Larger Tetras and Barbs
Feeding Sparkling Gouramis
Sparkling Gouramis are what you call micro predators. This means that while tiny, they feed purely on animal protein. Daphnia, blood worms, mosquito larvae, and other small invertebrates are what they mostly eat in nature.
Fortunately, all of these are easily available from your local pet store. Live or frozen, invertebrates are the best way to get good color and breeding behavior from your Gouramis!
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However, Sparkling Gouramis will also eat micro pellets, flake food, and other prepared items. Just be sure to choose a food that’s high in animal protein rather than vegetable-based fillers, like most brands.
Sexing and Breeding Sparkling Gouramis
Most members of the Gourami family are territorial and aggressive towards one another, and Sparkling Gouramis are no exception. They flare their fins and gills at rivals and maintain strict territories.
Males may occasionally kill each other if things can’t be settled through displays but this is rare even in nano aquariums. In fact, they and their fellow members of the genus Trichopsis have a unique way of settling their disputes.
Rather than biting, Sparkling Gouramis use their pelvic fins to create sound. They talk to one another! They drum their fins in a fashion similar to a guitar string being plucked, rapid-fire.
Another of their relatives goes by the name Croaking Gourami (Trichopsis vittata) as a result. However, Sparkling Gouramis create this sound just as often! Many new aquarists spend hours trying to figure out where the source of these mysterious sounds lie without realizing that their new fish can talk!
Typically they croak when interacting with one another. Females also produce a lower “purr” to initiate spawning.
Sexing Sparkling Gouramis
Once sexually mature it’s fairly easy to tell the difference between male and female Sparkling Gouramis. The males have more vivid coloration, are typically larger, and have points to their anal and caudal (tail) fins.
Males also spend much more time displaying and fighting with one another. Females are much more amicable and spend most of their time foraging for food among the plants and avoiding amorous males.
Breeding Sparkling Gouramis
Sparkling Gouramis are very easy to breed! All you need to do is provide them with the right conditions: very warm, still waters, thick beds of live plants, and the right foods.
While temperatures are always warm in Southeast Asia, it’s the hot summer months that Sparkling Gouramis wait for. The water level will often drop due to evaporation and temperatures skyrocket to 78-86℉. Most fish can’t tolerate these conditions but Sparkling Gouramis thrive thanks to their ability to breathe air.
By gorging themselves on mosquito larvae and other tiny invertebrates the females begin to swell with eggs. Meanwhile the males are busily fighting one another for prime real estate among thickets of Cabomba and other weedy pond plants.
Once a good space has been secured he begins constructing a bubble best just like Bettas do. He weaves these bubbles among plants to keep it from floating away. That’s why providing plants encourages your Sparkling Gouramis to spawn.
After he’s finished, he brings trying to entice a female to come under his nest and mate. Once she begins to purr in the affirmative, they embrace several times, releasing eggs and sperm into the water.
He collects the eggs and spits them into the nest, where they develop over the course of 24-48 hours. The fry are extremely tiny and too small to eat brine shrimp nauplii.
Instead, they will eat infusoria in the water column for about a week after they absorb their yolk sac. Eventually, they graduate to powdered flake, micro worms, brine shrimp nauplii and other tiny items until the male releases them from the nest!