The Paradise fish, also known as Paradise gourami, is one of the prettiest wet pets you can get, but their popularity has dwindled in recent decades. Why has this species discouraged aquarists so much?
In this article, we will cover the basics of Paradise fish care and what you can expect if you decide to keep one.
Paradise Fish Stats
|Scientific Name||Macropodus opercularis|
|Max. Size of Fish||3 inches|
|Colors and Patterns||Blue, reddish-orange|
|Min. Tank Size||10 gallons|
|Temperature||68 – 82 °F|
|pH||5.8 – 8|
|Hardness||5 – 30 dGH|
|Lifespan||6 – 8 years|
Macropodus Opercularis: Background
The Paradise fish, scientifically known as Macropodus opercularis, is a species of freshwater fish belonging to the Osphronemidae family under the sub-order Anabantoidei. That said, you can use Paradise fish and Paradise gourami interchangeably.
- Labrus opercularis Linnaeus, 1758
- Chaetodon chinensis Bloch, 1790
- Macropodus chinensis (Bloch, 1790)
- Macropodus viridiauratus Lacépède, 1801
- Macropodus venustus Cuvier, 1831
- Macropodus ctenopsoides Brind, 1915
- Macropodus filamentosus Oshima, 1919
This marvelous species can be found throughout Southeast Asia, ranging across Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The Paradise gourami has also been introduced in the United States and other areas outside its native range.
But according to hobby journals, the Paradise gourami was first discovered in China, particularly in the Yangtze River basin, the Pearl River basin, in Hong Kong and the waters of Hainan Island. Some aquarists call them the Chinese Fighting fish as they have similar behavior and appearance to the Siamese Fighting fish.
– The Paradise Fish: The OG of the Fishkeeping Hobby
The Paradise gourami is essentially an ornamental fish, and specifically one of the first that gained the attention of aquarists in Western countries. These glamorous-looking fish were popular in public aquariums in France since 1869 and made their appearance in the United States in 1876. But — as more species from the Amazon gained popularity — the Paradise fish became less popular.
Despite their undeniable beauty, many hobbyists are put off by the Paradise fish because of its combative nature. This species can be quite challenging to handle, especially if you still have little experience in the hobby. Paradise gouramis, on the other hand, make an excellent fish for a hobbyist more advanced in the art of breeding fish.
– Macropodus Opercularis vs. Chinensis vs. Cupanus
There are two other species of gouramis that are always mistaken for the Paradise fish and these are the Macropodus Chinensis and Macropodus Cupamus.
All three species embody the name “paradise” due to their brilliant bands of blue or green alternating with orange or red. Their ventral fins are always a vivid orange. You will also spot numerous small black or blue dots scattered across the body of all three species. These dots are metallic, thus catching the light and shine.
While these three gourami species may look identical to each other, they are discernable by the shapes of their tails:
- Macropodus opercularis: forked tail
- Macropodus chinensis: rounded tail
- Macropodus cupanus: pointed tail with several rays extending from the middle
There are also two genetically engineered strains of Paradise fish. First, we have the albino Paradise fish, which is characterized by pink eyes and white, pink, and blue stripes. The other strain is called “concolor,” better known as the Black Paradise fish.
Paradise Gourami Appearance
The Paradise fish boasts of vibrant jewel colors and their form is just as captivating.
– How Big Do Paradise Fish Get?
When it comes to gouramis, the Paradise fish is definitely on the smaller side. Some specimens are roughly three inches in length, but some individuals may grow larger, especially when kept in exemplary conditions.
– Distinct Features
As with other gouramis, the Paradise fish features a pointy head and a torpedo-like body.
The dorsal and anal fins resemble each other and both dangle past the caudal peduncle. Reminiscent of a long chiffon gown, the trailing fins would sway with each movement. This makes these vibrant gouramis look even more elegant as they swim.
The caudal peduncle has a large surface area and the caudal fin is forked, which is an indication that these fish spend much of their time cruising. A quick flick of their tails would also give them a burst of speed!
– Colors and Markings
The Paradise fish often comes in blue and reddish-orange color combinations, with minor differences. Their dorsal and anal fins are blue with some lighter stripes thrown in, while their caudal fin is orange with white edges.
A blue paradise fish also exists, which stands out from the classic blue and orange combinations. These fish are primarily blue with a faint orange hue instead of having two bright colors. The tail of the blue paradise fish is a highly saturated orange.
– How Can You Tell a Male Fish from a Female Fish?
Sexing Paradise gouramis isn’t a difficult task. Males are often bigger and they flaunt more vibrant colors. Females, on the other hand, are smaller in size and their colors are less saturated. When a female Paradise fish is ready to spawn, their bellies would appear rounded due to the eggs they store.
Paradise Fish Behavior and Temperament
Paradise fish are a colorful choice for a home aquarium, but do their personality equal their killer looks?
– Are Paradise Fish Aggressive?
The Paradise fish is one of the most aggressive members of the entire genus. While they are only half the size of their cousin species, their attitude is equivalent, if not more belligerent. Both males and females are hostile and combative, but males are the most combative.
During a fight, the males have the ability to change their colors. They will show dark blue lateral lines on both flanks, extend their fins, and spread out their operculum. Fighting can lead to stress and physical damage, while some cases could be fatal.
Paradise fish are more likely to focus their aggression on individuals of the same species other than on fish of a different genus. Still, other fishes may get caught in the crossfire.
– Do Paradise Fish Breathe Air?
The Paradise fish is a labyrinth fish. This means that it has a suprabranchial accessory breathing organ similar to bettas and mudskippers. These vicious beauties can take in atmospheric air through their lung-like organs as effortlessly as they would breathe in oxygen from the water through their gills.
This supplemental breathing structure has proven quite advantageous in the wild. Paradise fish live in stagnant bodies of water, such as ponds and rice paddies. If the water becomes poorly oxygenated, the Paradise gourami would simply take gulps of air from the surface to survive.
This unique habit of swimming toward the surface of the water to take in oxygen has given them a method of breeding called “bubble nest building”.
Paradise Fish Tank Mates
A Paradise fish in a bowl can make a good companion, much like a goldfish. Consider adding these fish to garden ponds. Their propensity to eat mosquito larvae and other water pests makes them not only beautiful, but also useful!
– Keep One Male Only
When keeping this species, you will want to keep one single male. Some people believe it’s okay to keep two males in an extra-large tank, but you don’t want to take the risk.
The males will still likely meet. And when they do, there will be a high chance of them locking jaws and doing harsh damage. The encounter will not necessarily end in their death, but it will surely cause some stress. Your best option is to keep a harem: one male with several females.
– Bigger Fish Are Preferable
Paradise fish, particularly males, don’t get along well with others as they tend to be dominant. These vicious beauties will compete with other similar-sized aggressive fishes for control and supremacy. The types of fish you want to add are bigger fishes that are peaceful to semi-aggressive.
An excellent example is the Comet goldfish and Geophagus cichlid, which can grow between 11 and 12 inches. Cyprinids and large characins are also suitable tankmates as they can look after themselves.
– Bottom Dwellers Are Likely to Be Ignored
Territory can be a problem, but only if your Paradise fish perceives that intruders are too close. Since Paradise fish will be cruising around the middle and upper levels of the tank, they will likely ignore fish that live in the bottom of the tank.
– Don’t Add Other Similar-Looking Fish
You don’t want to keep your male Paradise fish with other gourami fish or any species that have a similar appearance. Because if you do, your fish will more than likely try to challenge them as well. A male Paradise fish may also attempt to court other female gourami species.
– Don’t Add Slow Swimmers
Another mistake is putting them with slow-moving fish and species with long fins that can easily get nipped. Paradise fish will go after Angelfish and Fancy goldfish.
Adding snails and shrimps can be risky, as well. Some Paradise fish may eat them and others might not. Regardless, it is best to avoid any circumstance that could harm your fish. If you are looking to add other species of fish, choose Giant danios and large species of Tetras.
Paradise Fish Care
– Paradise Fish Diet
In the wild, Paradise fish feed on small fish and invertebrates. While they are voracious eaters, they are not obligate carnivores. Rather, they have an omnivorous diet.
As typical of omnivores, the Paradise fish will accept different types of foods, which makes it a cinch to feed. While store-bought fish foods are readily available and cheap to buy, you will want to supplement live and frozen foods to ensure the best coloration. Your fish will happily accept bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp.
As for the frequency, you will want to feed your fish twice a day within five minutes. Break flake food to make it easier on their digestive system. Remove leftovers to prevent them from rotting in the tank and degrade the water quality.
– Water Parameters
The Paradise fish are a hardy species. Not only do they survive in oxygen-depleted environments, but they can also handle a wide variety of water parameters.
Regardless, you will still want to aim for optimal water parameters, especially if you are managing a community aquarium. Stay in tune with the recommended levels:
- Temperature: 68 to 82 °F
- pH Levels: 5.8 to 8
- Hardness: 5 to 30 dKH
As you can see, these gouramis are not truly tropical fish, nor are they coldwater fish. Their temperature preference can range from 68 to 82 °F. That said, you may not need a heater unless your area experiences brutal winters and your house gets shivering cold. Still, you will want to make sure that the temperature doesn’t get as low as 60 °F.
– Health Risks
Paradise fish can fend off disease better than most aquarium fish. While there aren’t species-specific diseases to look out for, these hardy gouramis may still fall ill when stressed. Bacterial diseases, such as fin rot and dropsy, can also become a problem.
Committing yourself to maintain the water quality and parameters should be a priority; it is the best way to prevent disease brought by excessive algae growth as well as critical ammonia levels.
Paradise Fish Tank Setup
Recreating the tropical habitat of the Paradise fish is a surefire way to make them feel at home in their new aquarium. Equally important, it helps keep stress levels low.
– Tank Size
Many people have had success in keeping several males in a pond, but achieving this level of peace is hardly possible in a home aquarium.
While you can keep females together, you should only keep one male in the group. The minimum tank size should be 20 gallons for a harem. Add another 10 gallons or more if you wish to keep a few compatible species. More room is always better and it provides more places for fish to call their own.
Paradise fish spend most of their time swimming in the upper levels of the tank. For this reason, the choice of the substrate should solely be based on the needs of the plants that you’ll decide to keep.
– Plants and Decorations
Paradise fish are found in slow-moving, shallow waters with a wide range of pH and temperature. While the parameters can vary, there is something more consistent about their habitat: abundant vegetation. That said, Paradise fish will feel more comfortable in a densely planted tank.
– So, what do gouramis like in their tank?
We could provide you with a long list, but if you are a beginner, you will want to start with plants that require less maintenance to survive. Hornwort is a great option and its bushy look offers just the right amount of coverage for your fish.
Best of all, you can plant hornwort in many ways. You can bury it in the substrate or skip the hassle of rooting it down by having it as a floating plant.
Crypts are also an excellent option as they can survive in both hard and soft water. Likewise, you may also want to try anacharis, cabomba, and ludwigia. Paradise fish also like tall plants like the Amazon Sword.
Special equipment is unnecessary. Paradise fish will thrive in a low-tech tank with just a filter and heater. Some aquarists use air pumps, albeit indispensable. Paradise fish aren’t used to strong currents. If there is one thing you need not forget, it’s a good gravel vacuum.
Paradise Fish Breeding
The Paradise fish build bubble nests much like other labyrinth fish, but they can be more meticulous in their construction. Other species would merely blow some bubbles and leave fertilized eggs floating off in the current.
– Paradise Fish Courting Behavior
As is typical of labyrinth fish, males blow out bubbles of air and mucus that rise to the surface. When the cluster of foamy bubbles is formed, he then performs an elaborate mating ritual to attract a female. At the same time, the colors of the male will become more vivid during this phase. Surprisingly, females are lackluster as the mating time draws near.
When a female is ripe with eggs and accepts the male’s advances, the two will embrace underneath the bubble nest. There, they release both eggs and sperm into the water. The eggs are simultaneously fertilized by the male as the two remain embraced.
The eggs float up naturally, but if some of the eggs sink, the male will release the female to gather the eggs in his mouth. He will then blow them into the bubble nest above them. The male then wraps himself around the female again and the two resume the process all over again until they lay several hundred eggs more.
When the eggs are completely laid, the male would blow more bubbles to seal them in. The male may repeat this again and again within 48 hours. Unlike other labyrinth fish, a female Paradise fish is not in danger from the male, but it is still wise to remove her. The female should be put in an isolation area where she can be fed high-quality protein fish foods to recover.
– Why Do Paradise Fish Build Bubble Nest?
Paradise gouramis build bubble nests to keep the eggs together in one place, making it more convenient for the male to guard fry against the danger of predators.
– Steps to Efficient Paradise Fish Breeding
A male Paradise fish might be a protective dad to its offspring, but there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the little ones remain healthy and alive.
- Keep the temperature at a steady 80 °F for breeding to commence and for eggs to hatch in the best condition.
- For the next 48 hours, you will start seeing the newly hatched fry. They will appear like tiny black hair strands jutting out from the bubble nest. The male will catch any fry that falls from the nest and blows them back. This should not worry you, it is normal and does not hurt the fry.
- You will want to remove the male on the fifth day. Paradise fish aren’t known for eating their young, but it is still best to remove the adult at this point. Once fry are free-swimming, they can be on their own.
- The baby fish require no food until they are free-swimming. They can feed on their yolk sac to survive. You can feed them infusoria a week after they become free-swimming. These excellent little worms can be fed instead of — or as well as — newly hatched brine shrimp.
- Fry age three to four weeks can eat most fish foods, such as crumbled flake food. Feed them several times a day for the next four to six months.
Paradise fish are hardy gouramis that can tolerate a generous range of water parameters and they will accept most foods. But despite their beauty and ease of care, their aggression makes them a challenge to keep in a community tank.
- The Paradise fish can live happily alone. You don’t need to keep them in a group unless you exclude males. While you may add them to a community tank, your options for tankmates are limited.
- The Paradise fish can handle a wide range of water parameters, but ideally, you will want to maintain a temperature of 68 to 82 F, a pH level of 5.8 to 8, and a water hardness of 5 to 30 dGH.
- While these gouramis will consume both plant and animal matter, you should give your pets high-protein food items to keep them in tip-top shape and make them look their best.
- Paradise fish are a hardy species, but frequent bouts of stress can make them fall ill.
These attractive fish are covered in bright colors and striking designs, so it comes as no surprise as to why you might be coveting them now. Unfortunately, their aggressive nature has added a significant element of difficulty. Would you dare to raise them?
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