Pearl gouramis are a fun and unique freshwater fish that we recommend quite often.

Here’s why:

Not only do they look amazing, but caring for them is pretty darn easy. They’re hardy fish who won’t cause trouble in your tank. You can also keep them in reasonably-sized tanks which is a necessity for many aquarists.

But there are some things you’ll need to know if you want to help them live long, happy lives. This guide lays out all the essential elements of pearl gourami care to make sure owning one is a piece of cake.

Let’s get started.

Species Summary

The pearl gourami (scientific name: trichopodus leerii) is a freshwater labyrinth fish that hails from Southeast Asia. It’s also referred to as the lace gourami and mosaic gourami by some.

The main countries of origin are Malaysia, Thailand, and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. They’ve also been found in northern South America on occasion as well (although this is due to human intervention and not a natural migration).

In their natural habitat, the pearl gourami spends most of their time in the top half of whatever body of water they’re in. This is typically in acidic waters such as swamps but they have been known to find their way out to more stagnant tributaries, low rivers, and lakes from time to time.

This fish has been a staple freshwater inclusion for quite some time, with breeding continuing to be a priority within the aquarist community. At this point, it’s hard to find a country where they aren’t a commonly included choice!

Lifespan

The average pearl gourami lifespan is around 4-5 years. There have been reported instances where this fish has made it past 6 years of age, but that’s quite uncommon.

Providing the right pearl gourami care is essential if you want your fish to hit the upper-end of that lifespan range. While they’re generally easy to care for, you can shorten their lifespan significantly if you don’t provide them with the habitat condition they need.

The “hardy fish” label can sometimes bait owners into thinking they don’t need to sweat the small stuff. But think of it this way: if your fish lives to 4 with subpar care, it probably would have hit 5 in optimal conditions! 

Appearance

Pearl gouramis are unique and beautiful, there’s no denying that. It’s probably the main reason why you find them in so many freshwater aquariums! A lot of fish are hardy and easy to care for, but their look really makes them stand out.

Pearl gourami side profile

Their name comes from the fact that this fish is marked with little white dots that stretch over the vast majority of their bodies including their caudal and dorsal fins. The only place where you won’t be able to find these dots is on a small patch underneath their mouth that extends slightly down to their belly.

These pearl-like dots create a very entrancing visual especially when they’re swimming. From the right angle they almost glitter!

Another trademark feature of the pearl gourami is the black line that runs down the middle of their body, starting from their mouth and ending at the beginning of their caudal fin. The darkness of this light can vary slightly depending on the coloration of the rest of the fish, but it’s always quite noticeable.

Their bodies are thin and flat but they’re rather tall and long (similar to the dwarf gourami). This gives them a little bit of a “sideways pancake” look while somehow still looking long and fast!

Another distinct characteristic of pearl gourami is their long and thin ventral fins. These dangle while they swim and can extend past the end of their caudal fins in some cases. They look kind of funny but we think it’s a cute look.

Size

The average pearl gourami size is somewhere between 4-5 inches. This measurement applies to their body and doesn’t count any bonus length they might get from their ventral fins.

The size of this fish can be impacted by a number of factors like :

  • Genetics
  • Care
  • Age
  • Gender

Pearl Gourami Care

As we mentioned earlier, pearl gourami care isn’t exactly rocket science. These fish are fairly low-maintenance and don’t require a ton of extra attention, unlike some other species.

However, you absolutely must know the essentials if you want them to live happy and healthy lives. We always encourage fish owners to learn as much about their fish as possible, because you never know when it will come in handy in the future.

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for pearl gourami is 30 gallons. Some care guides might tell you that you can get away with 20, but that’s too small in our opinion.

Using 30 gallons as the starting point will provide your fish with plenty of room to explore and investigate any of the plants and rocks that you’ve included. 

If you plan on keeping more than one pearl gourami you should add roughly 5-10 extra gallons per fish.

Water Parameters

The recommended water parameters for pearl gourami is something that a lot of people misunderstand. Hopefully this sets the record straight.

  • Water temperature: 77°F to 82°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 8
  • Water hardness: 5-25 dH

Author Note: If that pH range looks funky after reading about their natural habitat, let us clear it up. Even though pearl gouramis in the wild are typically found in acidic bodies of water, their hardy nature gives them the ability to handle less acidic water conditions as well.

What To Put In Their Tank

In order for you to replicate their natural habitat as much as possible, there are a few things you’ll want to add to their tank.

The first is plants. Pearl gourami come from bodies of water that are very rich in vegetation, so it’s something they expect makes them feel comfortable. It’s just natural for them to interact with plants.

A pearl gourami swimming through vegetation in its tank

They’re not known to be big plant-eaters so you have a lot of options when it comes to the kind of plants you want to include. Hornwort is a common choice as well as Brazilian waterweed, but feel free to experiment with anything!

Rocks are another great item to include in their tank. The low waters and swamps where pearl gouramis come from are full of them, so this is another easy way to make things feel like home.

Logs and driftwood are also a good idea if you have space. All of these should rest on a sandy substrate as well. We know some aquarists who get away with rougher substrates, but it’s not recommended.

Author Note: Don’t go overboard in your efforts to make their tank feel like home. Adding too many things can take up valuable space and make your fish feel cramped, raising their stress levels.

Common Diseases

The pearl gourami is a pretty durable species that isn’t prone to a range of diseases like some other kinds of fish. However, there is one disease that seems to plague this fish more than any others, and that disease is fin rot.

Fin rot is a bacterial disease that results in damaged or rotting tissue on the fins of your fish (duh). It will almost always start at the very edges of the fin before working its way inward. If left untreated, it can progress all the way down to the bottom of the affected fin.

While it is possible to treat fin rot in pearl gourami, it’s far easier to prevent it from happening altogether. You see, the main cause of this disease is poor water quality.

As long as you’re diligent about checking levels, performing water changes, and monitoring your fish, it’s very unlikely that this will affect your pearl gourami.

Author Note: You should also make sure that you don’t have any instances where fish are nipping at the fins of others. This is another way that fin rot can start, and if this behavior is persistent you might need to separate aggressing fish.

Food & Diet

Pearl gouramis are omnivores which gives you a lot of options when it comes to their diet. The main thing to focus on is balance and an understanding of their recommended nutritional intake since they’ll eat pretty much anything.

In their natural habitat, these fish will snack on a lot of insects and other protein-rich food sources like eggs and algae. They’re also completely fine with nibbling on plants if it strikes their fancy.

When it comes to their diet in captivity you’ll want to make sure they have a good base of fish food from pelles or flake food. Any trusted food is fine.

It’s also smart to mix in some live food. This will not only give them a high-quality source of protein but it will provide enrichment for them as well. Live food is a great way to trigger hunting instincts which reduces stress levels (it’s also fun to watch).

Some good live food options are:

You should make sure not to overfeed your pearl gourami since they’ll continue to scarf down anything you put in the tank. Aim for two or three feedings per day.

Also, watch them while they eat (especially early on) and if you see a lot of food getting missed, dial back the amount. Uneaten food will become organic waste which can have a seriously negative impact on the quality of your water, and raise ammonia levels as well.

Behavior & Temperament

One of the best things about pearl gourami is their mellow temperament. These are very peaceful fish in general and can get along with a wide range of other aquatic critters.

The one time that this fish can be prone to aggression is during the breeding or mating process. This occurs primarily with the males, but you’ll see that the female pearl gourami will act more on-edge as well.

Like other gouramis, these fish have a labyrinth organ which they use to breathe. It functions pretty much like a lung, which means they need to visit the surface periodically in order to get air.

A pearl gourami getting air from the surface

Because of this, you’ll often see your pearl gourami spending most of their time in the upper half of your tank. Keep this in mind if you plan on adding floating plants to your aquarium. You don’t want to block their path to oxygen!

Pearl Gourami Tank Mates

Due to their peaceful temperament, the list of compatible pearl gourami tank mates is rather long. They can share a tank with small fish or large fish as long as their tank mates aren’t known to be aggressive.

Pearl gourami won’t pick fights (unless it’s spawning time) so you’ll pretty much never have to worry about them getting into trouble in your tank.

Instead of listing out every possible tank mate that’s compatible with pearl gourami, it makes more sense for us to list some of the common choices. This will give you a good starting point, and if you have a fish that isn’t on the list you can use the general guidelines to inform your decision.

Here’s the list:

This is just scratching the surface of viable tank mates for your pearl gourami, but it’s a good place to start.

If you’re considering fish outside of this list there are two main things to keep in mind to determine potential compatibility.

The first is size. Even if they’re peaceful, fish that are significantly larger than your pearl gourami can cause them to feel unsafe and spend a lot of their time in hiding. This will lead to an increase in stress levels and a lack of enrichment. Since they have to head up to the surface to breath, they’re going to be scared each time!

The second is aggression. Any fish that has a tendency to be aggressive will not make a good tank mate for pearl gourami.

Same Species Tanks

Pearl gourami are a species that prefers to be shoaling than on their own. We always recommend that you get a few of these fish if possible for the following reasons:

  • They’ll be happier and more enriched
  • It looks amazing when a bunch of them swim around the tank!

Author Note: You should always limit the number of male pearl gourami in a tank for the sake of managing aggression. Just like a lot of other species, cramming too many males in one tank can lead to scraps.

Keep your tank full of mostly females and you’ll be able to avoid this problem.

Breeding

Breeding pearl gourami is a bit different than other species of fish because of how they make their nests and mate.

The process looks a little something like this:

The males blow bubbles that are mixed with saliva that float to the surface. These will typically find themselves lodged into various plant life which keeps them in place.

Then the male will try to coax a female to the water beneath his bubble nest. Once they’re below the two will spawn and the female pearl gourami will release her eggs which float up into the bubble nest.

Once the eggs are in place the male will guard his nest quite seriously. They are exceptionally prone to aggression in this stage.

It only takes one or two days for the eggs to hatch, and they will be actively moving around a few days later. At this point, you’ll need to transition them to a grow tank where you can continue feeding them and maintain the ideal water quality.

Putting It All Together

Pearl gourami care is fun, rewarding, and not much of a hassle. These fish are some of our favorite freshwater species and we plan on always keeping some of our own for the foreseeable future.

The beauty that this fish can add to your tank is something you have to see to believe. While they look great in pictures, the photos don’t do them justice!

We hope that you learned a lot from this care guide and feel confident about your ability to keep these fish in your aquarium. If you have any lingering questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask us!

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