Chocolate Gourami Breeding
The Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichthys osphromenoi) is a maternal mouthbrooder belonging to the subfamily Trichogastrinae in the family Osphronemidae. Just like all the other members of this family the Chocolate Gourami have filiform ventral fins and a labyrinth organ that makes is possible to breathe oxygen directly from the atmosphere above the surface. It can be hard to notice the filiform fins since they remain folded over the body for most of the time.
The name Chocolate Gourami is derived from its brown main color, which is decorated with several cream colored stripes that will change according to the mood of the fish. There is also an alternating pattern of cream, brown and black shades on the anal fin and on parts of the tail fin. The Chocolate Gourami rarely exceeds 5 cm in length and its body is flat.
It can be hard to sex Chocolate Gouramis outside the breeding period. During the breeding period, the male will develop an unusually intense reddish body color and display creamy or whitish edging of his dorsal fin. The female has less dramatic colors but will develop a black spot on her tail fin. Females are usually plumper than males, at least during the breeding period.
Chocolate Gourami Breeding aquarium
If you want to breed Chocolate Gourami, you can either let a couple spawn in their normal aquarium among other fish or place them in a separate breeding aquarium. If you decide to let them breed among other fish, you still need to set up separate fry raising aquarium to protect the fry from being devoured by adult fish.
The water should be soft and acidic, with a pH-value in the 5.0-6.5 range. Keep the kH below 4 and the GH below 5. The levels of nitrogenous waste must be kept as low as possible. Combine vigorous filtration with frequent water changes. Avoid adding salts to the aquarium since this will reduce the chance of successful spawnings.
An aquarium where you house Chocolate Gourami cichlids should always contain a lot of plants that form great hiding spots and sheltered areas. Mixing planted or anchored plants with floating plants is recommended. Roots and logs will also be highly appreciated and will make the fish feel more at home.
The aquarium must be covered since the air must be of the same temperature as the water if you want your Chocolate Gouramis to breed and the fry to survive. Since the recommended water temperature is 27-28º C, the room temperature must be really high if you want to keep an open aquarium. Most aquarists prefer to use a lid or plastic wrapper.
When all the water parameters are ideal, it is time to start feeding your fish plenty of live food, e.g. brine shrimp, grindal worms and water fleas.
Courting, spawning and brooding
As the breeding period commences, the Chocolate Gouramis will change into their breeding colors and the males will fight each other and display in front of the females. This is when you must decide whether you wish to let them spawn in this aquarium or move a couple to a separate breeding aquarium.
As courtship proceeds, the male will try to convince the female to spawn in an open space. Since this is a mouth-brooding species, the female will guard the fertilized eggs inside her mouth until the fry is big enough.
You know that spawning has taken place when the female hides and refrains form eating. She will often move her mouth in a fashion similar to chewing. Sometimes it will be possible to see a swelling of the throat. If your couple has spawned in a separate breeding aquarium, all you have to do is to remove the male and let the female raise the offspring on her own.
If the couple has spawned among other adult fish, the female should be left in that aquarium during most of the brooding period. Chocolate Gouramis usually brood for 8 days and it is therefore best to move her to the fry raising aquarium during day 7. Do not move her earlier than this, because the stress of being moved can cause her to spit her fry prematurely. Fry released during day 7 will usually be big enough to survive. The water in the fry raising aquarium must have the same parameters as the other aquarium and it an equal water temperature is especially important. The fry raising aquarium should be covered to keep out cold air.
Chocolate Gourami fry
Around day 8, the female Chocolate Gourami will start releasing her fry. At this age, the fry are around 7 mm long and completely formed. Just like their parents, they display a reddish to brown coloration and are decorated with a cream colored stripe. When all the fry has been released, you can remove the female from the breeding aquarium / fry raising aquarium.
If the fry do not commence eating within a few hours of being released, they will starve to death since they have no remaining yolk sac to feed on. Newly released Chocolate Gourami fry will feed on rotifers and Cyclops and it is therefore important to set up the breeding aquarium / fry aquarium well in advance and include plenty of live plants and dry leaves. Java moss and Riccia fluitans are two examples of hardy plant species that will have a lot of rotifers and Cyclops living among their leaves. Chocolate Gourami fry will also eat newly hatched brine shrimp. After roughly one month the fry will be around 1.5-2.0 cm in length and big enough to eat somewhat bigger brine shrimps and small mosquito larvae.
Provide your Chocolate Gourami fry with frequent servings of small amounts of food instead of giving them a lot of food 1-3 times a day. The food can easily foul the water and daily water changes are therefore necessary. Using water colder than that of the fry raising aquarium can injure and potentially kill the fry.
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