There are currently around 133 species of gouramis, so you have plenty of choices when it comes to keeping them in your home aquarium!
You might have heard that gouramis are aggressive. But is that true? Can gouramis be peaceful community tank fish, or are these creatures just troublemakers that are best avoided?
Read this guide to learn more about the gourami’s temperament and suitability for life in a mixed species tank.
Are Gouramis Aggressive?
Gouramis belong to the same Anabantid family as bettas, or Siamese fighting fish, so it’s not surprising to learn that this type of fish can be aggressive under certain circumstances.
Like male betta fish, male gouramis can be territorial, especially if kept in a small tank with tank mates.
Sparring between gouramis is a completely normal behavior in groups with more than one male and is merely a way of sorting out the pecking order.
I had one male Dwarf gourami that grew bigger and more brightly colored than all the rest. He would face off against the other males, twitching his head and then backing off. That behavior would go on for ages until one fish backed down.
Can I Keep a Group of Gouramis?
Most gouramis are happiest when kept in small groups of up to five individuals. However, trouble can break out if you have too many males and not enough females.
I once kept a mixed group of Dwarf gouramis in a large community tank. As mentioned earlier, one male grew larger than the others, and he did become quite feisty, especially around feeding times and when exhibiting spawning behavior.
Some hobbyists like to keep a group of three female gouramis together with just one male, which can work well.
That said, it’s not unheard of for a male gourami to pick on a single female and bully her, which is why it’s not generally recommended to keep these fish in pairs.
A viable alternative is to keep a sorority of female gouramis without the potential problem of a male.
Generally, male gouramis are larger and more brightly colored than their female counterparts. However, in some species, including Powder Blue gouramis, the males and females look pretty similar, so a group of girls can be just as attractive as a gang of rowdy boys.
Are Gouramis Aggressive Toward Guppies?
Sometimes, male gouramis become aggressive toward guppies, nipping their fins and chasing them around the tank.
However, provided you have a large tank, each species has plenty of swimming space, and the guppies have places to hide when they want to, the arrangement can work pretty well.
Are Gouramis Aggressive When Spawning?
Male gouramis can become aggressive toward other males when in spawning condition. Females can also become victims of the males’ belligerence during mating.
After the eggs are laid, and the fry has hatched, gouramis of both sexes can get bad-tempered with their tank mates. However, that’s got nothing to do with being protective parents, as gouramis have no parental bond with their babies once they’re born.
It’s simply that fry and eggs are regarded as a food resource, and that needs to be guarded against raiders!
How Can I Prevent Aggression in Gouramis?
So, male gouramis of many species can be aggressive toward each other, but there are ways to reduce the belligerence between individuals.
Generally, a large tank is the best option for reducing aggression between your fish.
If the fish are naturally territorial, they will feel less threatened and insecure if they have plenty of space to patrol and can get away from their tank mates.
Overcrowding is a major cause of stress in aquarium fish, so you should always ensure that your tank is large enough to accommodate the fish species you’ve chosen comfortably.
You can use decoration, such as driftwood, tangled roots, and rockwork, to define natural boundaries within the tank.
In that environment, a territorial male gourami will adopt a territory to guard, leaving his tank mates in peace, provided they keep away from his patch.
Living plants look great in any fish tank, and they’re good for the aquatic environment, too. Plants take up nitrates from the water, give off oxygen during photosynthesis, and remove CO2 during that process.
Many small, timid fish use dense planting as a place to take shelter and hide when they feel threatened by larger, territorial, or aggressive tank mates. So, filling your tank with lots of plants can also be a good way of keeping the peace.
Hunger can trigger aggression in many fish species, and fights amongst fish occur if food is scarce, so you must ensure that all your fish get plenty to eat.
Observe your fish carefully at feeding times to ensure everyone gets a fair share of what’s on offer. You might need to use a feeding ring to separate groups of hungry fish at either end of the tank, feeding shy fish at one location and more aggressive ones at another.
When To Add Your Gouramis
Since gouramis like to have a hierarchy within their groups, it’s best to add all the fish at the same time, ideally when they are still juveniles.
Adding new gouramis in fish tanks with an already established group is asking for trouble, as that will upset the established pecking order.
What Are the Most Peaceful Types of Gourami Fish?
Some popular species get pretty bad press when it comes to gourami fish aggression levels. The most aggressive gouramis include the Three Spot, Blue, and Pearl gouramis.
The most peaceful types of fish with a calm temperament are reputedly Dwarf, Sparkling, Chocolate, and Honey gouramis.
What Tank Mates Are Best for Gouramis?
It’s possible to keep gouramis in a community tank, provided you choose suitable tank mates for them.
Compatible fish that do well with gouramis can include smaller tetras, such as Neons and Cardinals, rasboras, and Corydoras catfish. However, you should avoid other territorial species and those that are known to be semi-aggressive, such as bettas.
I had a small shoal of bronze Corys in my tank with Dwarf gouramis, and that worked very well.
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Male gouramis are territorial and can become aggressive if kept together, so we recommend you keep one male and several females or a female-only group.
Feeding times and the addition of new fish to the community can also sometimes spark aggressive behavior in male gouramis.
Finally, be aware that providing perfect conditions for the gouramis will encourage them to spawn, potentially causing more belligerence.
Do you keep gouramis? What species do you have, and how do they get along? Tell us in the comments box below!