An Introduction to Labyrinth Fish- Gouramis and Bettas
Labyrinth fish are fish from the suborder anabantoidei, which includes the families Anabantidae, Helostomatidae and Osphronemidae. These fish come from freshwater habitats in Asia and Africa.
Why Keep Labyrinth Fish?
Many labyrinth fish are small and colourful and adapt well to life in the aquarium. As the males are very territorial, they are usually best kept in pairs or trios of one male and two females. This can vary so make sure to fully research the particular species you are interested in.
Physiology of a Labyrinth Fish
Labyrinth fish are named for the labyrinth organ found in the head that allows the fish to breath oxygen from the surface of the water. This means that they can temporarily survive in water with a low oxygen content. Some of the smaller fish in this group can even survive for a while in small puddles during the dry season but this does not mean they can be kept in small bowls or tanks. They need as much space and care as any other fish their size.
A Short Guide to Keeping Labyrinth Fish
Male labyrinth fish are territorial. Some are more tolerant to similar species than others but care should be taken to ensure that each male has a large enough territory to prevent fighting. In most cases this means that you can only house one male but for more experienced fishkeepers, it is possible to keep two males of some of the smaller species if the tank is large enough and has been set up correctly.
The majority of labyrinth fish are bubble nesters and will appreciate floating plants in the aquarium to give security and to support the structure of their bubble nest.
Popular Labyrinth Fish Species
Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens)
This is a popular and easy to care for fish that has been bred in many different colours. Males are extremely territorial, giving the fish its common name. Sometimes they are kept in small, unheated bowls or vases but this is far from ideal and can kill the fish quite quickly. A heated aquarium is a much better home.
Dwarf Gourami (Colisa lalia)
Dwarf gouramis are small colourful fish that are available in both its natural blue colour and a line-bred bright red. The females are always a silvery grey colour and may be more difficult to find because they are less popular.
Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)
This is one of the smallest labyrinth fish available in the hobby, so it is suited to smaller tanks. It can be kept in groups providing there is enough space for males to have their own territory. More females than males should be kept. Males can be identified by their more pointed dorsal and anal fin.
Kissing Gourami (Helostoma temminckii)
This gourami reaches an adult size of 12 inches and so is unsuitable for most tanks. They are difficult to sex so if you are looking to breed them you would have to buy a group and let them pair off.
Pearl Gourami (Trichogaster leeri)
Pearl gouramis are beautiful yet hardy so are great for beginners. They need a medium-large tank as they can reach 5? long. The male is more reddish than the female but both have silvery white spots covering the body.
Paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis)
This was reputedly one of the first fish introduced to the hobby. It has fallen from favour in recent years as smaller and more peaceful fish have become available but it is still fairly popular as it can be kept in unheated aquaria so is an alternative to goldfish. Males are larger and more colourful than females. The males can be very aggressive so extreme care needs to be taken when choosing tank mates. These fish can jump very well so the aquarium needs a tight-fitting lid.