Sparkling Gourami


The Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila), are one of the smallest member of the labyrinth fish. Trichopsis comes from the Greek, thrix (hair) and opsis (appearance). This is due to the single hair-like pelvic fins. They’re also known as the Pygmy Gourami because they’re so small. The fish have beautiful iridescent scales that seem to sparkle as they swim through the water. They’re sometimes confused with Trichopsis vittata, the Croaking Gourami.

Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling gourami

Sparkling Gourami grow to 1.6 -inches (4 cm) in length. The fish has an arrow-shaped body. The dorsal fin sits back behind the pectoral fins. The iridescent chromatophores produce red, blue and green colors on the body and even the fins. The fish have a single dark line along the side of the body. A row of dark blotches sits above this line. Their eyes can appear bright blue.

Natural habitat

Sparkling Gourami are native to Southeast Asia, specifically the lower Mekong River basin in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Saigon, southern Vietnam. Their found in quiet waters with heavy vegetation. Typical habitats include canals, swamps, rice fields, small river tributaries, and water-filled ditches. These aquatic environments are warm and stagnant.

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Being air-breathers (labyrinth fish), the fish are able to thrive in these conditions. The peat swamps have a very low pH (5.5) and very low water hardness. The fish enjoy the protection of dense plant growth, especially floating plants. Trichopsis pumila are slow swimmers. They sit below floating plants, waiting for insects. They’ll also hunt for worms and plankton.

Aquarium requirements

Pygmy gourami

Sparkling Gourami are can be kept in a peaceful community tank, but you’ll probably be disappointed. The beauty and mystique of the Sparkling Gourami can only be enjoyed in the proper aquarium setting. The fish’s colors are most intense when the fish is stress-free and happy.

A 10-gallon or larger aquarium is recommended for novice aquarists keeping Trichopsis pumila. Experienced aquarists can keep several fish in a 5-gallon nano aquarium. Black substrate with lots of live plants is the idea aquascape. A few rocks, cave or driftwood completes the aquarium layout.

Live plants are not just for decoration. They adsorb nutrients, produce oxygen and release algae-inhibiting substances. Plankton, worms and other tiny organisms live among the plants, creating a constant source of live foods. Floating Salvia and water lettuce can be grown in aquariums, providing surface cover for the fish. Sword plants and Vallisneria are recommended.

Water conditions

Even though Sparkling Gourami can survive in stagnant water, it’s not a good idea to neglect your aquarium’s water quality. In captivity, tropical fish need clean water free of toxic ammonia and nitrite. The aquarium should have water flow to move water across the plant leaves. This helps diffuse oxygen into the water.

Sparkling Gourami can be kept in a wide pH range, but ideally around 6.5 to 7.0. The fish fare best with a lower water hardness and alkalinity (carbonate hardness). A range of 2 to 5 degrees general hardness (GH) is ideal, especially if you’re keeping a planted aquarium. Carbonates (KH) will need to be about 1-2 degrees to maintain a slightly acidic tank.

If your using distilled or reverse osmosis water to create a soft water aquarium, keep a close watch of the carbonate hardness. When the carbonates are low (1-2 degrees), the pH can become very acidic. The fish have been found in pH 5.5 waters but for most soft, acidic aquariums you’ll want to keep the pH around 6.0 as the lower limit. Monitor the pH and carbonate hardness ever seven to ten days. Partial water changes made with distilled or RO water will dilute KH. You may need to blend a little tap water back into the aquarium to maintain a stable pH.

Sparkling Gourami and water chemistry parameters

pH:6.0 – 7.0
General or Total hardness:2 – 5 degrees
Alkalinity or carbonate hardness:1 – 2 degrees
Water temperature:74 – 82°F (22 – 28°C)
Ammonia & Nitrite:0.0

Sparkling Gourami and water temperature

Tropical fish thrive under stable water conditions. Room temperature can vary due to heating and air conditioning cycles. Chilled aquarium water is especially stressful to tropical fish. Use an aquarium heater to prevent temperature drops. Set the heater thermostat to 74 – 82°F (22-28°C).

Tap water safety

Distilled and reverse osmosis water will be chlorine-free. But chlorinated tap water is toxic to tropical fish. Chlorine disinfectants are oxidizing chemicals deigned to destroy microbes in the water. Even trace amount of chlorine will react with delicate gill tissue, harming the fish. Use a water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and chloramine. Copper pipes inside the home often releases copper into the water. While trace amounts are necessary in the fish’s diet, too much can poison the fish. Most water conditioners will detoxify a small amount of copper, but some water sources have high levels. Before using the tap water, flush the faucet for a minute or two. This drains the pipes of water and reduces the level of copper coming out of the faucet.

Water filtration

Dwarf Sparkling Gourami

The fish like slow-moving water. Another benefit of a heavily planted tank is that the plants slow the water movement caused by a powerful aquarium filter. This means you can use a high-volume filter and have gentle flow throughout the aquarium. If you’re using driftwood, the slight yellow tint caused by tannins can actually stimulate brighter colors in Sparkling Gourami. Activated carbon will remove dissolved organics, which is desirable.

If you want to experiment with driftwood and tannins, use activated carbon filtration for a couple of days each month. This will allow the tannins to build up but get out of control. If you’ve got a larger aquarium with a canister filter, create a stream-like current in the aquarium. Some canister filters have adjustable nozzles, so you can create a river-like water flow pattern in the tank.

Aquarium lighting

Sparkling Gourami like subdued lighting. But they also like live plants. No problem! Give the plants proper lighting and they’ll grow and provide shade for the fish. If you’re using plastic plants, just make sure the tank has a few hiding places and plant cover for the fish. Darker gravel will also hep to reduce the “brightness” in the aquarium.

Aquascaping for Sparkling Gourami

As we’ve discussed, the fish love a densely-planted aquarium with a dark substrate. The colors on the fish are more intense and beautiful when the Gourami is happy. Since the fish like soft water, it’s the perfect match for live plants.
Experienced fish-keeps recommend a fine, dark gravel. It works well with rooted plants and gives a balanced appearance with the smaller size of the fish. Even if you’re using plastic plants, the dark substrate will help bring out the fish’s colors. Remember us to provide a few rocks or a piece of driftwood, to mimic the right biotope.

Aquascaping essentials for Southeast Asian aquarium:

  • Fine, dark gravel
  • Driftwood for cover
  • Smooth rocks
  • Live or plastic plants

Feeding requirements of Sparkling Gourami

pygmy gourami

Gourami will peck at stringy algae, but they not the best as “algae control” fish. They’ll hunt for live foods but in most aquariums, you’ll have to feed them. You can offer them live and frozen daphnia, brine shrimp and other small-sized foods. They’ll eat small particles of flake food. Staple and plant-based are recommended.

Sparkling Gourami compatibility

The following recommendations apply when keeping Trichopsis.

  • Sparkling Gourami are shy and gentle
  • They get along with their own kind
  • They must be kept with very small, peaceful fish
  • A lid may be necessary if the fish are jumpy.

Good tank-mates include small species of tetras, corydoras catfish, white clouds and rasboras. You can also mix them with small loaches, swordtails and celestial pearl danios.

Sparkling Gourami and dwarf shrimp

The Sparkling Gourami is a gentle fish. But there have been a number or reported conflicts with small shrimp like cherry and Amano. A few aquarists say Gourami have pecked and chased their shrimp. This behavior is probably related to the tank’s layout, hiding places and personality of the fish. If you plan on mixing shrimp and T. pumila, keep a close watch on the fish’s behavior.

Breeding Sparkling Gourami

sparkling gourami breeding

The Sparkling Gourami is a bubble nest builder. The male builds a bubble next on the surface of the water. The favorite spot is under a floating plant. When the nest is ready, the male will allow the female to approach. Similar to bettas, the male and female “embrace” during spawning. The eggs, released in a cluster, and fertilized. The male carries the eggs to the bubble nest. He’ll guard the nest while the fry hatch (24-48 hours).

The fry remain in the nest until their yolk sac is used up (2-3 days). Once this happens, the fry become free-swimming. Other fish will eat the fry, so it’s best to breed the fish in their own aquarium. Spawning is easy, but raining the fry takes some special care. The little fish require extra-small food like infusoria for the first week. Later they will eat newly hatched brine shrimp and microworms. They’ll also east prepared fry foods.

Final thoughts

The Sparkling Gourami is a true beauty and idea for the nano and small aquarium enthusiast. If you can’t find them in your local fish store, they’re available from online suppliers. The good news is Sparkling Gourami are inexpensive, easy to care for and bring friendly, interesting behavior to the aquarium.