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The Ultimate Licorice Gourami Care Guide: Tank Mates, Behavior, and FAQs

Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri)
Photo Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/petermaguire/8593131839/in/photolist-e6m3Hv">Peter Maguire</a>

In the fascinating world of aquatic life, the Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri) emerges as a captivating species that has captured the hearts of aquarists worldwide. This diminutive fish, hailing from the Osphronemidae family, is a close relative of the well-known Bettas and Gouramis. Its scientific name pays homage to the German ichthyologist, Alfred Deissner, who first described the species in the late 19th century.

    The Licorice Gourami’s allure lies not only in its striking appearance but also in its intriguing behavior and unique habitat preferences. As a mid-dweller, this fish can often be found navigating the middle layers of the aquarium, adding a dynamic presence to any well-crafted underwater landscape. With a diet that primarily consists of small invertebrates and algae, the Licorice Gourami is a relatively easy species to cater to in captivity.

    Interestingly, the Licorice Gourami has been graced with various monikers in the aquarium trade. Some may recognize it as the “Liquorice Gourami” or the “Deissner’s Licorice Gourami,” all paying homage to its distinctive coloration reminiscent of the beloved confectionery. These alternative names have only added to the fish’s popularity among enthusiasts seeking a touch of sweetness in their aquatic setups.

    Hailing from the peat swamps and slow-moving streams of Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, the Licorice Gourami has adapted to thrive in specific water conditions. With a preference for slightly acidic and soft water, replicating its natural habitat is key to ensuring the fish’s well-being in captivity. Aquarists who go the extra mile to create a biotope-style aquarium, complete with a sandy substrate, driftwood, and dense vegetation, are often rewarded with a thriving community of these enchanting creatures.

    One fun fact about the Licorice Gourami is its remarkable ability to breathe atmospheric air. Like many of its Labyrinth fish cousins, this species possesses a unique organ that allows it to extract oxygen directly from the air above the water’s surface. This adaptation has enabled the Licorice Gourami to survive in environments where dissolved oxygen levels may be low, showcasing the incredible resilience of nature.

    When considering tank mates for the Licorice Gourami, it is essential to keep in mind its peaceful temperament and relatively small size. Ideal companions include other small, non-aggressive species such as Rasboras, Tetras, and shrimp. By carefully selecting compatible tank mates and providing ample hiding spots and territories, aquarists can create a harmonious and visually stunning underwater community.

    Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri)
    Photo Credit: Peter Maguire

    Key Information

    The Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri) is a captivating fish that showcases a mesmerizing array of colors. Its body is primarily deep brown to black, reminiscent of the rich hues of licorice candy. This dark background is adorned with a series of thin, iridescent blue horizontal lines that run along the fish’s sides, creating a striking contrast. The fins are also highlighted with delicate blue edges, adding to the fish’s overall visual appeal.

    Common NamesLicorice Gourami, Liquorice Gourami, Deissner’s Licorice Gourami
    OriginSoutheast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia)
    PriceModerate to high, depending on availability
    VariantsNone known
    Ideal Tank Size10 gallons (38 liters) or larger
    Water ParametersTemperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C), pH: 4.0-6.5, Hardness: 0-5 dGH
    Lifespan3-5 years
    Full Size1.2-1.6 inches (3-4 cm)
    Natural EnvironmentPeat swamps and slow-moving streams
    BehaviorPeaceful, shy, and reclusive
    Habitat PreferenceMid-level dweller, prefers densely planted areas and hiding spots
    Aquarium DecorationSoft, sandy substrate, driftwood, and dense vegetation
    Ideal Tank MatesSmall, peaceful fish like Rasboras, Tetras, and shrimp
    Fish to AvoidLarge, aggressive fish or fast swimmers that may outcompete for food
    Best Foods/DietSmall live or frozen foods like daphnia, cyclops, and brine shrimp; high-quality dry foods
    DiseaseSusceptible to common fish diseases if water quality is poor
    Sex-SwitchNot known to exhibit sex-switching behavior
    Gender DifferencesMales are more colorful and have slightly larger fins than females
    Care LevelModerate – requires specific water parameters and a well-maintained aquarium
    Breeding LevelDifficult – requires specific conditions and setup for successful breeding, not recommended for beginners

    Ideal Tank Mates

    When selecting tank mates for the Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri), it is essential to consider the fish’s peaceful temperament, small size, and specific habitat requirements. Ideal tank mates should share similar water parameters, exhibit non-aggressive behavior, and not outcompete the Licorice Gourami for food or space.

    Compatibility is key to creating a harmonious and thriving aquatic environment. The Licorice Gourami’s shy and reclusive nature means that it should be housed with species that will not intimidate or harass it. Furthermore, its slow-moving, deliberate swimming style makes it unsuitable for tank mates that are overly active or boisterous.

    Here are 15 ideal tank mates for the Licorice Gourami, along with explanations of why they are compatible:

    1. Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

    Harlequin Rasboras
    Mariusz Dabrowski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Harlequin Rasbora is a peaceful, schooling fish that shares similar water parameters with the Licorice Gourami. Its small size and gentle demeanor make it an excellent companion, as it will not compete for territory or harass the Gourami.

    2. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

    Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, and FAQs

    Neon Tetras are another small, peaceful schooling fish that can coexist harmoniously with Licorice Gouramis. Their vibrant colors add visual interest to the aquarium without disrupting the Gourami’s tranquil lifestyle.

    3. Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

    Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, and FAQs

    Like Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras are small, peaceful, and colorful. They occupy the mid-level of the aquarium, providing a visually appealing contrast to the Licorice Gourami’s more subdued colors.

    4. Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

    Hyphessobrycon amandae
    Klaus Rudloff, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Ember Tetras are tiny, peaceful fish that thrive in similar water conditions as the Licorice Gourami. Their warm, reddish-orange coloration complements the Gourami’s dark hues, creating a visually stunning aquarium.

    5. Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)

    Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

    Pygmy Corydoras are small, peaceful bottom-dwellers that can help keep the substrate clean. They are unobtrusive and will not disturb the Licorice Gourami as it goes about its daily activities.

    6. Otocinclus Catfish (Otocinclus spp.)

    Otocinclus Catfish

    Otocinclus Catfish are small, algae-eating fish that are peaceful and compatible with Licorice Gouramis. They help maintain a clean aquarium by consuming algae growth on plants and decorations.

    7. Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)

    Cherry Shrimp are small, peaceful invertebrates that can add a pop of color to the aquarium. They are compatible with Licorice Gouramis and help keep the tank clean by scavenging for leftover food and debris.

    8. Amano Shrimp (Caridina multidentata)

    Amano Shrimp are larger than Cherry Shrimp but equally peaceful. They are excellent algae eaters and can help maintain a balanced ecosystem in the Licorice Gourami’s aquarium.

    9. Lambchop Rasbora (Trigonostigma espei)

    Lambchop Rasboras are another small, peaceful schooling fish that can coexist peacefully with Licorice Gouramis. Their unique shape and coloration add visual interest to the aquarium.

    10. Chili Rasbora (Boraras brigittae)

    Chili Rasbora
    JoKrimmel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Chili Rasboras are tiny, colorful fish that thrive in the same water conditions as Licorice Gouramis. Their small size and peaceful nature make them ideal tank mates, as they will not compete for space or food.

    11. Phoenix Rasbora (Boraras merah)

    Phoenix Rasboras are another small, peaceful species that can live harmoniously with Licorice Gouramis. Their striking red coloration adds a beautiful contrast to the Gourami’s darker hues.

    12. Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)

    Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

    Kuhli Loaches are peaceful, eel-like fish that occupy the bottom of the aquarium. They are nocturnal and will not compete with the Licorice Gourami for food or space during the day.

    13. Dwarf Corydoras (Corydoras hastatus)

    Dwarf Corydoras are small, peaceful bottom-dwellers that can coexist peacefully with Licorice Gouramis. They help keep the substrate clean and are unobtrusive in their behavior.

    14. Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

    Sparkling Gouramis are small, peaceful labyrinth fish that share similar water parameters and habitat preferences with the Licorice Gourami. They are gentle and will not harass or outcompete their tank mates.

    15. Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus)

    Celestial Pearl Danios (Danio margaritatus): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs
    Gedanken.welten, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Celestial Pearl Danios are small, peaceful fish that thrive in the same water conditions as Licorice Gouramis. Their unique, spotted appearance adds visual interest to the aquarium without disrupting the Gourami’s peaceful existence.


    How often should I feed my Licorice Gourami?

    It’s best to feed your Licorice Gourami small amounts of food 2-3 times a day. This feeding schedule mimics their natural eating habits and helps maintain good water quality by reducing the amount of uneaten food that can decay in the aquarium.

    Are Licorice Gouramis sensitive to changes in water parameters?

    Yes, Licorice Gouramis are quite sensitive to fluctuations in water parameters. They require stable conditions, particularly in terms of pH and temperature. It’s essential to perform regular water tests and make any necessary adjustments gradually to avoid stressing your fish.

    Can I keep multiple Licorice Gouramis in the same aquarium?

    While it is possible to keep multiple Licorice Gouramis together, it’s important to ensure that the aquarium is spacious enough to provide each fish with its own territory. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least 5 gallons (19 liters) of water per Gourami. It’s also crucial to maintain a balanced male-to-female ratio to minimize aggression.

    How can I encourage my Licorice Gouramis to breed?

    To encourage breeding, provide your Licorice Gouramis with a well-maintained, heavily planted aquarium with soft, acidic water. Gradually increase the temperature to around 80°F (27°C) and feed them a diet rich in live or frozen foods. Provide a shallow spawning dish or a flat surface with broad leaves for the female to lay her eggs on.

    Are Licorice Gouramis prone to any specific diseases?

    Like most fish, Licorice Gouramis can be susceptible to common aquarium diseases such as ich, velvet, and bacterial infections if water quality is poor or if they are stressed. Maintaining stable water parameters, performing regular water changes, and quarantining new fish can help prevent the spread of disease.

    How can I tell if my Licorice Gourami is stressed?

    Signs of stress in Licorice Gouramis include loss of appetite, lethargy, hiding for extended periods, rapid breathing, and a loss of color intensity. If you notice any of these symptoms, check your water parameters and consider potential sources of stress, such as incompatible tank mates or inadequate hiding spots.

    Can I keep Licorice Gouramis in a community aquarium with larger fish?

    It’s not recommended to keep Licorice Gouramis with much larger fish, as they may become intimidated or even preyed upon. Stick to small, peaceful tank mates that share similar water requirements and temperaments to ensure the well-being of your Licorice Gouramis.

    How often should I perform water changes in my Licorice Gourami aquarium?

    Regular water changes are essential to maintain good water quality and keep your Licorice Gouramis healthy. Aim to perform a 10-20% water change once a week, using a gravel vacuum to remove debris and waste from the substrate. Be sure to replace the removed water with dechlorinated water that matches the aquarium’s temperature and parameters.

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    Total posts created: 116
    A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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