Pearl Gourami (Trichogaster leeri) originate from the jungle streams and tributaries of the southeastern Asian countries of Borneo, Malaysia and Sumatra. Their natural habitat is one of densely vegetated slow moving streams beneath the subdued lighting of the jungle canopy. The elongated body of the Pearl Gourami and their upturned mouths make them excellent predators of small worms and crustaceans that they locate within the dense vegetation or near the waters surface. Their body shape also allows the Pearl Gourami to deftly maneuver in thick vegetation which is useful not only in catching prey, but also in avoiding larger predatory fish species. Pearl Gourami are considered an easy species to keep in the home aquarium as they are both easy to feed and tolerant of a variety of water conditions.
Ideally Pearl Gourami should be housed in aquariums that replicate their natural habitat. Thus the aquarium should contain plenty of vegetation, low to moderate water movement and areas of subdued lighting. Darker substrates are ideal as they more closely mimic the peat covered river bottoms of their native rivers. Darker substrates and heavy vegetation will also bring out the brilliant coloration of the Pearl Gourami. Tank mates should range from peaceful to semi-aggressive in temperament, and should not be excessively large in size or overly boisterous. Pearl Gourami are at home in the standard tropical community or planted aquariums with other community species like Angelfish, Tetra, Barbs, Danio and other similar species.
Pearl Gourami tolerate a wide range of temperatures and are not demanding in terms of water conditions, but they prefer soft, slightly acidic water when in breeding season. Males have a long, pointed dorsal fin, while the females dorsal fin is shorter and more rounded. Because the male can be rather aggressive during spawning, the aquarium habitat should provide plenty of places for the female to take refuge, this is important as the female will need to seek refuge from an overanxious male in order to avoid fin damage and stress.
Just before the sperm are released, the pair may be observed quivering, which is a sure sign that spawning is near completion. The eggs are released immediately thereafter, and are fertilized by the time they reach the bubble nest created earlier by the male fish. The pair may repeat the process a number of times over the course of several hours. It is not unusual for the number of eggs produced to reach into the thousands.
Once spawning is complete, the females involvement is over, and she should be removed to prevent her from being attacked by the male. From this point forward until they hatch, the male will tend the eggs, carefully rearranging them and returning any errant eggs back to the nest. The eggs hatch in approximately 30 hours. The fry should be moved to a grow out tank with a sponge covered bubble filter, so that the young fish are not sucked into the filtration and killed. It is important that the fry be fed small foodstuffs, such as baby brine shrimp, infusoria or nauplii. The aquarium housing the fry should have frequent water changes during their growth as the water can become fouled quickly.
Pearl Gourami will accept a wide variety of prepared foods ranging from staple flake and crisp foods to freeze-dried and frozen varieties. They should be fed a varied diet that includes both meaty and plant based foods from a variety of sources. Daily feedings should consist of a mix of flakes, crisps, freeze-dried or live blood worms or black worms, brine shrimp and frozen foods designed for freshwater omnivores. Hobbyists looking to provide an optimal diet or those looking to breed should also offer blanched vegetable matter comprised of lettuce, spinach, peas or similar blanched fresh vegetables.