Honey Gourami: All You Need To Know About Sunset Honey Gouramis

The Honey Gourami is a freshwater fish found in northern India and Bangladesh, and occasionally in Nepal.

It is an ideal fish for inexperienced fishkeepers who are starting for the first time.

They are also known as the Sunset Honey Gourami, the Red Honey Gourami, The Red Flame Gourami and any combination of the above.

Keep reading to learn all you need to know about caring for this wonderful fish.

Category Rating
Care Level: Beginner
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Silvery gray for females; honey-orange and black for males
Lifespan: 4-8 Years
Size: 3 Inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Osphronemidae
Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Tank Set-Up: Lots of vegetation and hiding spaces with very low current
Compatibility: Same species or other peaceful small fish

Overview of the Honey Gourami

Honey Gourami

The Honey Gourami, Trichogaster chuna, was first described by Hamilton and Buchanan in 1822 where they actually mistook males and females for two different species. Males were known as Trichopodus chuna and females as Trichopodus sota.

Now they all sit under the name Trichogaster.

Trichogaster comes from the Ancient Greek, ‘thriks’ meaning ‘hair’, and ‘gaster’ meaning ‘stomach’, which describes their long narrow ventral fins.

The fish available for the aquarium trade are all commercially produced. It is very unlikely to find a wild specimen in your tanks.

In recent years there have been a number of selectively-bred ornamental strains to improve the coloration between Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia) and Honey Gourami. These two species have often been confused as they look similar.

Typical Behavior

This species is ideal for inexperienced aquarists due to their peaceful nature and hardiness.

Even though, they are classified as a benthopelagic fish (meaning that they will swim from the sediment to the surface) it prefers the middle and the surface areas of the tank. They are a timid and shy specimen, and may take a while to get comfortable in your tank. Only once they are relax will the male start to show its typical coloring.

Whilst they are not outgoing, they do enjoy some company of their own kind (4 to 6 individuals).

It is likely that some kind of hierarchy will be establish within a group, with the dominant individual chasing away the other fish during meal time and males becoming aggressive towards females.

Make sure to provide dense vegetation for hiding spaces to prevent bullying.

Its feeding behavior is also very peculiar. This behavior is also observed in the Archer Fish (Toxotes spp.) along with the Trichopodus and Trichogaster species.

It catches prey by squirting water at them. They position themselves diagonally to the water surface to watch for prey. Then, it will squirt water at the prey, so it drops into the water, where it is quickly eaten by the fish.

Interestingly, this species has a labyrinth organ allowing the fish to adopt peculiar behaviors. For example it allows it to breath in poorly oxygenated waters.

Appearance

Honey Gourami Appearance

They are often confused with the Dwarf Gourami as they have similarities in their shape and size. When buying and selecting these fish, knowing their scientific Latin names (mentioned above) can help distinguish between the different varieties.

The body of the Honey Gourami is narrower with smaller dorsal and anal fins. The ventral fins are narrow and thread like.

As most fish, males and females are different colors. Initially they all display a silvery gray to light yellow coloration with a light brown horizontal stripe in mid body extending from behind the eye to the caudal peduncle.

While females stay this color for life, males will develop bright honey-yellow or reddish-orange coloration. The ventral side of the fish (face, throat and belly) will become dark blue/black, while the main body they will display a more honey orange coloration.

The Honey Gourami is the smallest size fish of the Trichogaster genus, usually reaching 1.5″ for males and 2″ the females. In rare occasions they have been recorded as growing up to 3″.

Dwarf Gourami Confusion

Remember not to confuse this fish with the dwarf gourami, even though the word ‘dwarf’ is sometimes included in their name, they are closely related but are not the same species.

Dwarf gouramis typically come in red and blue colors, honey’s eyes are usually closer to their mouth than dwarf species too.

You also shouldn’t confuse this species with the sunset thicklip gourami – they are typically larger (grow to 4 inches), and are more orange.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

They are native to the freshwaters of South Asia.

It can be found in river, lake, ponds, ditches and occasionally in flooded fields of India and Bangladesh. These areas are thick in vegetation with poorly mineralized and slow moving waters.

Replicating a good natural habitat is important for the well-being of the fish. It is easier to keep fish stress levels down and to promote full color development if natural conditions are met.

River and lake beds in this area have sandy substrate with occasional rocks and other debris.

However, Gourami’s tend to swim in the mid or upper part of the water column making vegetation the most important thing to consider. This species uses the densely planted environment for both a hideout and for food.

This fish spreads out in low altitude areas, often affected by a high seasonal variation due to monsoons between June and October.

Tank Conditions

Honey Gourami are a small, hardy fish. They prefer warm waters and can tolerate small changes in water chemistry.

Their labyrinth organ is fairly sensitive to changes in temperature. Therefore it’s best to keep the tank in a room with a temperature similar to tank water. If you can’t do this, you can use a heater to keep the temperature of the water consistent.

It prefers slow moving, acidic and hard waters, with water parameters set at:

  • Hardiness: 4-15 dGH
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Lighting: Moderate
  • Temperature:71-82°F

They are shy and like to feel safe and secure within the tank. Try to provide plenty of hiding spaces when setting up the tank with thick vegetation and floating plants.

Try to leave some surface areas uncovered so that the fish can breathe air. They will often try to reach the surface to breath.

It is very important to have regular water changes with at least 25% of the tank waters changed weekly. A good filtration system and the regular water changes will prevent toxins from building up.

What Size Aquarium do they need?

Honey Gouramis need at least a 10 gallon tank. A 20 gallon tank is recommended if you are keeping a pair.

How Many Can Be Kept Per Gallon?

For each Gourami added, allow 5 to 10 gallons of tank space.

Honey Gourami Tank Mates

Sunset Honey Gourami

The Honey Gourami is a peaceful shy fish. Therefore, picking the right tank mates is very important for the wellbeing of your Gourami. For example, other active and aggressive fish such as cichlids are to be avoided as they will intimidate the Gourami and out-compete them for food.

Fish to avoid include Oscars, Silver Dollars, Pacus and large catfish.

The ideal tank mates are other peaceful fish such as cyprinids (Harlequin Rasbora and Danios), and smaller Pethia and Puntius species.

Peaceful barbs could also get along well but avoid fin nippers such as Tiger and Clown Barbs.

Other good tank mates could be smaller loaches such as the Coolie Loach and relatives, smaller catfish such as Corydoras and Otocinclus, and smaller rainbowfish.

Snails are also good tank mates, but avoid keeping shrimps with them as they may get eaten.

Always keep in mind that weaker individuals can be bullied, so provide plenty of hiding places.

Keeping Honey Gouramis Together

Honey Gouramis are very easy-going fish which can be kept as a single, pair or a group. They are not a schooling species however they enjoy each other’s company and will display better in groups of 4-6 individuals.

Generally, a formed pair will swim together.

What To Feed Them

The Honey Gourami is an omnivore in the wild, feeding on everything that they can find from small invertebrate and insects to zooplankton. Occasionally, they will also graze on the surrounding vegetation and plants.

Keep this in mind when choosing the type of plants for your aquarium; you need a resilient species!

This fish is not a fussy eater. In the aquarium they will love, fresh or flake foods. Try to keep a good balanced diet with flakes or pellets as their core diet and then add live food such as bloodworms or brine shrimps.

Vegetable tablets are also a good way to vary their diet. Make sure you add both vegetables and meat sources to given them a good variety.

You should feed them once or twice a day, and only feed them enough food so that they will have finished it in 2-3 minutes of you putting it in the tank.

Caring For Honey Gouramis

Honey Gourami Care

Even though these are quite resilient fish, weekly water changes of at least 25% are recommended to avoid tissue damage.

Usually, fish diseases are not a problem provided you keep a well-maintained aquarium.

However, they are prone to Velvet disease if kept in a poorly maintained tank. This is a parasite, Oodinium pilularis, which lives in the fish gills, skin and mouth making a golden or brownish dust over the fins and body.

Other diseases that can occur with poor water quality are bacterial infections, constipation and Hole in the Head.

Ich disease or White Spot disease has been recognized as one of the most common infections caused by the parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, due to poor water conditions and inadequate tank settings.

Nobody wants to see their fish developing the Hole in the Head disease or Hexamitiasis. This is caused by parasitic protozoans known as Hexamita, affecting both freshwater and marine fish.

Maintaining good water quality and a balanced diet is the key to preventing any kind of disease outbreak in your aquarium.

When selecting a new addition to your tank keep always in mind that any new substrate is a potential risk of introducing a disease.

Lately, many gouramis commercially bred in the Far East have exhibited health problems in relation to dyed, hormone-treated and virus carrying specimens. Therefore quarantine is advisable before adding the fish or the substrate to a well-established community.

How To Breed

Breeding is quite straightforward if you can provide the right conditions. They are bubble nest builder, nesting under a leaf if available. Pairs will form a temporary bond.

We suggest using a breeding tank of between 10-20 gallons. Keep the water at about 6-8 inches in height with the temperature between 79-84°F, pH 7.0 and 8°dGH. Also try to add a gentle air-powered filtration such as a sponge filter.

Including lots of vegetation helps. The leaves help to keep the nest stable as it tends to break if built on the bare water surface.

Remember to keep the air above the water warm and humid to avoid damaging the labyrinth organ.

Once well fed, the females will start filling out with eggs.

The male will build the bubble nest, and once it is built, he will show his courting colors by swimming toward a female and flashing his blue-black. Then he will swim back to the nest to encourage her to follow. He will repeat these courting rituals of displaying and swimming until the nest is reached and they begin spawning.

The female releases about 20 eggs per spawn and the male will immediately fertilize them. The male picks up the eggs in it’s mouth and puts them in the bubble nest. The same pair will keep spawning again until about 300 eggs are fertilized.

Here, again, water spitting comes in handy. The male keeps the eggs in place by spitting water droplets above the nest forcing them down where they can be rearranged back in the nest.

After spawning, the female should be removed as the male tends to become aggressive chasing her away. The eggs and nest are therefore guarded and cared for by the males.

The eggs hatch after 24-36 hours depending on water temperature. All adults must be removed at this stage. The fry will take 3 days to leave the nest and free swim. Liquid fry food or infusoria can be fed to the free-swimming fry until they grow large enough to eat baby brine shrimp.

Are Honey Gouramis Suitable For Your Aquarium? (Summary)

The Honey Gourami is a peaceful and colorful addition to your aquarium. This species is ideal for inexperienced keepers as they can withstand many typical beginner mistakes.

They prefer tanks with dense vegetation and plenty of hiding places where they can feel safe and secure.

The Honey Gourami adopts peculiar behaviors in the wild while spawning and feeding such as bubble nesting, and water spitting when catching a prey.

Do you think you will be lucky enough to see either of these behaviors in your aquarium? Let us know what you think in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

10 Comments

  1. If your fish have babys then what do you do with them? Keep buying aquariums? Sell them on eBay, lol? Wouldn’t want to kill them.

    • Hi Ari, many local pet stores will take your babies if you end up with too many. The responsible thing to do is not to have a breeding couple if you’re worried about what to do with the babies. If you just want to keep Honey Gouramis because they’re beautiful fish, rather than to breed them, then most people choose to keep males because of their brighter coloration. Thanks, Robert

    • Hi Aviella, whilst I’ve never heard of this being done, they do both like tank with lots of plants and require the same water parameters. Turtles are omnivores though, so they are very likely to try and eat your gourami. You’ll need to consider the size of both of them but personally I wouldn’t. Thanks, Robert

  2. I’m fixing to get a ten year old red slider. I have a twenty gallon aquarium and I need to know the best way to set it up. Could you please help me. I have I have never had a turtle before.

    • Hi Anthony, Cory’s and Gourami’s usually make ideal tank mates and should be fine. Thanks, Robert

  3. I was planning on adding one to a tall 15g tank with a few pygmy Gouramies, they both seem to have the same temperament so should that be okay?

    • Hi Arthur, yes they should be fine. Just made sure you have plenty of plants in your tank. Thanks, Robert

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