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What is a Kissing Gourami?

By J.L. Drede
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A kissing gourami is a type of freshwater fish from the Helostomatidae family that is often seen in aquariums and fished commercially for food. It is a monotypic labyrinth fish, meaning it can breath air,. It is usually found in the waters of Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia. It prefers shallow, slow moving waters that are filled with thick areas of vegetation. Gouramis are omnivores and will eat plankton, algae and insects in the wild.

The kissing gourami is a flat, round fish that usually grows to about 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild. In an aquarium the fish will usually only reach about half that length. The coloration of the fish is typically pink or greenish-gray and they are most notable for their unique mouths. Unlike many other fish, the kissing fish has lips, which are lined with fine rows of teeth. When encountering other fish the gourmai will "kiss" them, locking lips in a sparring fashion. They also tend to "kiss" other objects and animals around them, including plants and assorted aquarium surfaces and decorations.

The odd appearance and behavior of the kissing gourami has long made it a popular fish for aquarium owners. Its hardy nature making it possible for aquarium enthusiasts of varying skill to successfully keep it. The omnivorous nature of the fish ensures that it can be fed a wide variety of foods, and it can endure varying water conditions. pH levels anywhere from 6.0 to 8.8 are acceptable, and the temperature can vary from 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 28 Celsius). Since the fish can get up to five or six inches in size, it is advised that they be kept in an aquarium that is at least 30 gallons.

In the wild the gourami prefers water with plenty of vegetation and some aquarium experts advice mimicking that environment with plenty of live plants. The downside to this is that the gourami will eat the plants, so plentiful plants that are fast growing are recommended. Otherwise artificial plants will work fine, the fish will not try to eat them. Tank mates of similar size with mild temperaments can live with kissing gourami, but very small fish run the risk of turning into food for the kissers. This goes the same for their own young, so any attempts at breeding kissing gourami should involve two tanks, one for the parents and one for the eggs.

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