The Labyrinth fish are unique fish species, perfect for beginner aquarists. They tend to prefer habitats with slightly acidic waters and slow-moving currents.

Throw in a few floating plants, caves, and rocks, and you’d be halfway through creating the perfect habitat for your Labyrinth fish.

Learn about these fascinating fish species in this article.

What Is a Labyrinth Fish?

The Labyrinth fish belongs to a group of Perch-like fishes known as the Perciformes, the largest order of vertebrates. They contain at least 18 suborders of fishes with all sorts of characteristics.

The Labyrinth fish, also called Anabantoids, is a unique kind of fish with special respiratory organs. This special respiratory organ is called the Labyrinth organ, which allows them to breathe in oxygen directly.

Let’s put it in perspective, shall we? All other fish species cannot take in oxygen directly; they have to pass it through their gills first, but the Labyrinth fish have a way around this.

Labyrinth fish also have gills in addition to this respiratory organ. It allows them to breathe in atmospheric oxygen in any event of the tank’s water system becoming contaminated. The labyrinth organ is located on their heads just behind their gills and looks like a maze.

As long as Labyrinth fish remains moist, they can survive in shallow waters and sometimes, even dried out ponds. Thanks to their pectoral fins, they can go on in search of new water bodies, walking and even climbing trees in their quest.

– Where Are They Found?

The majority of the Labyrinth fish species are found in Asia throughout the eastern, southeast, and south continents, in warm, slow-moving waters. They can also be found inhabiting tropical rainforests of the African continent. One thing is clear amongst their species: they all enjoy waters with low oxygen concentrations.

With the Labyrinthine organs, they can survive in the harshest of waters for days. As long as they can manage to keep their bodies most, they will adapt to their environment and thrive.

– The Labyrinth Organ

The Labyrinth fish was dubbed after the labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe in oxygen directly from the atmosphere. This organ is located behind the gills of the fish and is composed of several compartments and cavities. A layer of ultrathin membrane covers its surface, guaranteeing its permeability to oxygen.

They travel up to gulp in the air from time to time, and this air travels into the labyrinth organ and moves through the mazes, allowing them to absorb the oxygen properly. Once the oxygen passes through the maze, it is carried in the bloodstream to where it is utilized.

It is important to note that these fishes are not born with a fully formed labyrinth organ; it only becomes fully formed when the fish reaches maturity. Once fully matured, the fish begins to rely more and more on this organ and less on its gills. The actual size of the labyrinth organ depends on the oxygen concentration of the water in the fish tank.

– Lifespan

Labyrinth fishes can live a long, fulfilling life of up to six years with the proper feeding and care. But, of course, without the right care or diet, they will not live for half that long.

– Breeding

The Labyrinth fish has a unique breeding and reproduction process. They can either choose to build their nest in underwater plants, tank substrate, or even their mouth. Yes, Labyrinth fishes are mouthbrooders. The mature Labyrinth pair may also choose to build bubble nests on the surface of the water.

U.nlike other fish species, the male Labyrinth fish guards and raises the young fry; the female, on the other hand, only lays the eggs. In preparation for the hatching of the eggs, the male Labyrinth fish makes a bubble in the tank then deposits the eggs there to hatch.

The bubble nest also serves as some protection for the fry. The male creates the bubble in parts of the tank with low water current to protect them further. Once the eggs hatch, the males’ job is to raise them, preventing them from straying too far from the nest.

Tank Setup

Setting up a Labyrinth aquarium is an easy task even for a beginner aquarist seeing as Labyrinth fishes are a hardy bunch capable of surviving in even the harshest habitats. They favor aquariums with low currents and slightly acidic waters.

– Water Parameters

Labyrinth fish are quite undemanding; they do not need pristine water conditions like other fish species. Flooded rice fields, irrigation canals, polluted water, it doesn’t matter. Be sure to maintain a fairly acidic pH and medium to hard water, and they’ll be fine. As far as temperature goes, Labyrinth fish thrive better in warmer temperatures of about 20-27 C.

– Lighting

It is best to keep Labyrinth fishes in well-lit but not overly bright tanks. Dark tanks will not cut it for this fish species. We suggest you use blue or green light to light up their tank.

– Tank Decoration

You can add plants and a few well-placed rocks to decorate your tank. The rocks will serve as hiding spots for your fish; alternatively, you can use driftwoods to create more hiding places.

– Filtration

You don’t need a filtration system to raise this fish. In fact, we advise that you don’t use any, seeing as Labyrinths favor slightly acidic conditions.

– Water Changes

Although Labyrinth fish can handle the extreme ends of water quality, it is still nice to change about 25 percent of their tank water once a week. It will help keep the tank all nice and comfortable for the fish.

– Behavior

Generally, male labyrinth fishes are territorial; of course, some species are more tolerant than others. However, the key to managing the aggression is to raise them in a tank with enough space for swimming and lots of hiding spots.

Labyrinth fishes do not do so well independently; rather, they thrive in small groups of at least six fish.

Tank Mates

The Labyrinth fish are not overly aggressive, and they only seek to protect what is theirs. The males get into quarrels trying to protect the fry and their territory.

The best tank mates for this fish are peaceful schooling fish like Tetras, barbs, and Catfish. Large, aggressive fish species make terrible tank mates for these fish as they only stress them even more.


Thanks to their hardy nature, the Labyrinths are not picky about what they eat; they can eat just about anything. In the wild, Labyrinths feed on small insects and plants. However, in captivity, you can feed them just about anything without them rejecting it.

But it is important to balance out their dietary requirements. Feed them high-quality protein, mosquito larvae, brine shrimps, blackworms, and small flies, for example.

Another option is to give them vegetables and plants. Commercial foods also work just fine; you can get them from any pet shop.

Labyrinth Fish Species

As stated, Labyrinth fish belong to the rather large order, Perciformes. They can be grouped into three families of fish breathing air.

– Osphronemidae

The Osphronemidae family is one of the largest anabantoid families. Fish in this group are found in Asia, Pakistan, Malay Archipelago, and India.

The family is made up of four subfamilies, 96 species as well as 15 genera. Popular fish in the Osphronemidae family include the famous gourami, Betta spledens, Trichopodus (Snakeskin gourami), and Trichogaster (the Blue Gourami) different paradise fish.

– Anabantidae

The Anabantidae family is the second-largest Anabantoid family. They are common to the rivers of the Indian region, mainly Pakistan and India. They are composed of four genera and 31 species.

The Anabantidae family are also known as the Climbing Gourami and the Walking fish, thanks to their pectoral fin. By extending their gill plates and using them to support their pectoral fin, the fishes in the Anabantidae family can propel their body forward in a walking fashion.

– Helostomatidae

The Helostomatidae family is the third-largest family of the Perciformes; it comprises one genus and one described species. They have been dubbed Kissing or Kisser fish by many aquarists thanks to their classification as the Kissing Gourami.

This fish comes in two beautiful color forms – green and orangish pink. The green-colored form is common in Thailand, while the orangish pink fish is commonly found in Java. Among this subfamily is the Balloon Pink Kissing Gourami or the Dwarf Kissing Gourami.

Labyrinth Fish Disease

Like all fish, the labyrinth fish are prone to common freshwater diseases.

– Ammonia Poisoning

Ammonia poisoning is one of the diseases that you can easily prevent. Try limiting the number of fish you add to your established tank at a time. Another way to prevent this poisoning is to avoid overfeeding the fish and changing the water frequently.

  • Symptoms

Common symptoms of ammonia poisoning include purple or reddish fins, breathlessness, and strange swimming patterns.

  • Treatment

You can treat ammonia poisoning by using a neutralizer and carrying out a 50 percent water change.

– Ich

Ich is another common fish disease caused by a parasite. Infected fish bear telltale white spots all over its body. In a fish suffering from stress, this skin infection can prove even more deadly.

  • Symptom

Reddish streaks and white spots all over the body

  • Treatment

The good news is that a simple antibiotic administration will help take care of Ich.

– Velvet

Velvet is a fish disease caused by Oodinium, a parasite.

  • Symptoms

The skin of the fish takes on a velvety film that resembles rust-colored dust. It is also common to find the affected fish exhibiting strange swimming patterns to rub off the parasite.

  • Treatment

Copper sulfate makes for an effective treatment for Velvet disease. Administer the treatment for 10 days to make sure the disease is completely eradicated.

– Ways To Prevent Labyrinth Fish Disease

You can prevent them from falling prey to these diseases by following these tips:

  • Ensure that all equipment is thoroughly sterilized before using them in your tank.
  • Pay adequate attention to your fish diet, making sure to give them high-quality, balanced meals.
  • Buy only high-quality fish and isolate them for at least a week before adding them to the established tank.
  • Quarantine sick fish once you see the signs.


  • Labyrinth fish have fantastic survival tricks that help them thrive in polluted water with low oxygen concentrations.
  • They are spectacular to watch and have a unique organ that allows them to breathe in oxygen directly from the atmosphere.
  • With proper care and the right diet, they can live for up to six years.

With the labyrinth organ, Labyrinth fish can survive just about any condition. Thanks to their hardiness and ease of care, they are suited for beginner aquarists.

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