Keeping Unusual Labyrinths

  • #1
Never really done one of these journal-style threads before but scattering photos everywhere is kind of chaotic. Time for a specific gushing thread!

Other keepers and enthusiasts, feel free to tack on and make this your home.

I'm currently keeping five species of Labyrinths less commonly seen:
- Eyespot or Burmese Chocolate Gourami (Parasphaerichtys ocellatus)
Brown Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (Pseudosphromenus dayi)
- Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (Pseudosphromenus cupanus)
- Banded Gourami (Trichogaster fasciata)
- Ornate Bushfish or Ornate Climbing Perch (Microctenopoma ansorgii)

The last two aren't super uncommon in the trade as a whole, but particularly the ansorgiI I never see in regular pet stores and few people on here seem to talk about them or keep them. So I stuffed them in here anyhow. All these listed above were sold to me as wildcaught.

Species I've tried to keep unsuccessfully in the past:
- SamuraI or Vaillanti's Chocolate Gourami (Sphaerichtys Vaillanti). I bought two very young specimens that were kept in high TDS water at the store. They didn't acclimate well to the softer, more suitable water I had prepared for them and both passed within days of entering my house. I may try these again in the future, they were very attractive looking fish with interesting behaviour and colouring.

At the time of starting this thread, the Burmese Chocolates and both species of Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish are new. The Banded Gourami and Ornate Bushfish have been with me since December 2019.
I originally had a small group of DayI at that time as well, but unfortunately after about two weeks they managed to pop out a wad of tissue that I'd used to plug a hole in the lid and all three jumped to their deaths.

I'll try to regularly post some photos and updates in this thread. At some point I may get to add some others to this list even.
But first. Introduction time!

Banded Gourami (Trichogaster fasciata)
A very, very close cousin of the much better known and commonly sold Thick-lipped Gourami (Trichogaster labiosa). The wildcolour T. labiosa looks so much alike to T. fasciata that there exists some doubt over whether they are two genuinely distinct species, as local variations in appearance seem to be more extensive within either species than the overall differences between them, making the identification of some wildcaught fish difficult. It occurs in almost all countries between Pakistan and Myanmar. (labiosa has a much smaller spread, occurring only in southern Myanmar)
Banded Gourami have a very noticeable cyan streak in the analfin that reflects strongly from certain angles and lights up in darker water. This stripe is also present in at least the domestic wildcolour form of T. labiosa, but tends to be navy and is present in the dorsal fin as well.

Most T. fasciata can however be told apart readily from the domestic strain of wildcolour T. labiosa that is sold in the trade and is pretty uniform.
Having the same spread as their cousin, the share the same water preferences. Temperate to mildly warm temperatures (about 72 to 80 seems right), neutral to acidic water, low hardness. They tend to be a bit more shy than many of the commonly traded Gourami but are more outgoing and present than Honey Gourami. They are also similar to T. labiosa in terms of social behaviour, being more easily peacefully kept in a group than most other commonly traded Gourami and seemingly preferring some social interactions with congeners. They are a bit more shy than Thick-lipped Gourami however. They tend to congregate in the aquarium and stray some distance but generally stay within sight of their conspecifics. They may circle and chase rivals but generally do not instigate genuine fights.
They appear to enjoy primarily meaty foods, though greenery and algae are also pecked at. They have no trouble accepting dried foods, whether flakes or pellets or powder.

Sexing is done by looking at the anal and dorsal fins. The rear ends are extended and pointier in mature male specimens.
This species is a bubble nester in the same fashion as the other Trichogaster species. I have not found bred specimens for sale, so it seems like they are not being commercially bred where I live.

Burmese Chocolate Gourami (Parasphaerichtys ocellatus)
This diminutive Gourami, with a slightly smaller adult size as the commonly traded sparkling Gourami, is closely related to the Chocolate Gourami and resembles them in looks as well, but does not have the same stringent water requirements. It occurs in a single lake and river in northern Myanmar (Burma). They thrive in mildly acidic to neutral to even slightly alkaline water, though preferring a TDS on the lower side. They also appreciate tannin-stained water but not need to be kept in blackwater conditions to remain in good health.
They are relatively shy and stick to the bottom of the tank unless scavenging for food, when they may travel to the mid and even upper regions. Though they possess a labyrinth organ like all Gourami, they seem to rarely use it and do not tend to go to the surface for a gulp of air as may me observed in many other Gourami species. In general, even when travelling to upper regions of the tank they keep a good distance from the surface, possibly because they are preyed upon by above-the-water-level predators in their natural environment. They greatly appreciate heaps of leaf litter, rocks and caves and other items at the floor of the tank that they may hide in and between. When the fish are spooked or resting they will retreat in their hide-outs and disappear from view. When the fish feel comfortable and safe in their environments they re-appear and hover inches above the floor where they interact and look for food. Needless to say, they do not appreciate bright light and do appreciate floating plants and other cover in the upper levels of the water column.
They are a highly social species and I rarely observe them breaking away from each other for a significant distance for more than a minute or two. Unlike some other smaller Gourami species they appear to be very peaceful to conspecifics and exhibit little territorial instinct towards each other, even sharing the same hiding spaces under the leaves. This may change if they come into breeding mood, however.
They may be territorial towards other, similar sized and similar looking species occupying the bottom level of the tank. I made this observation when I housed a group of Sparkling Gourami in a tank adjoining theirs. The two groups could observe each other through the glass tank walls and the Burmese Chocolates immediately came out of cover to inspect and then parade and hover in front of this group of 'intruders'.

They reportedly appreciate temperate environments, with temperatures ranging from the low 60s to the mid/upper 70s. It is advised to expose them to seasonal fluctuations (so cooler winter temps and higher summer temps) to mimic their environment. I currently keep them at 71F, they appear to be comfortable at that temperature. So far they have accepted frozen foods without issue, I cannot attest yet whether they will eat dried foods.

Though very small, they look strikingly similar in body shape and markings to three-spot Gourami: the eyespot that gave them one of their common names is present both on the middle of the body as well as at the caudal base. The have the same shape of longer, rounded analfin with elaborate markings on the body just above the analfin, although the colours are subtle and make it hard to see.
Some of the Burmese are a lighter, cream base colour with the dark eye spots very prominent. Others are a much darker, chocolate base colour (they were also pale when introduced, but coloured up like this in a few days) with a broad light cream lateral band running over the side. I am currently under the impression that the dark chocolate fish with the cream band are the males and the paler fish the females. However I am not entirely sure about this, it could simply be social or mood pigmentation. The only guide on sexing them I could find suggested that females grow to a much larger mature size. If anyone has ever kept or bred these, I would love to hear your opinion!
This species is a secretive bubble nester. It has not been bred often in captivity and as far as I know, there are no public accounts of anyone raising fry successfully.

Brown Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (Dayi) (Pseudosphromenus dayi)
A surprisingly distant cousin of the Paradise fish given their similarity in looks, this smallish fish is part of a trio of related species of remarkably similar looking fish, the others being its congener Pseudosphromenus cupanus and another genus, Malpulatta which contains one, two or three species depending on who you ask. All three (or five, you get the idea) hail from Southern India and SrI Lanka, quite a bit removed from where the Paradise Fish Macropodus are found. As such the mistake that they are similar fish that require similar care should not be made.

The DayI grows to about 2.5 inches in size and is a relatively shy fish, though it may be surprisingly feisty to its conspecifics - males can be territorial and also harass females, especially in the presence of rivals - and other similar sized, non-mellow fish that inhabit its territory. It is - in my experience - not as skittish as its congener P. cupanus and does not appear to be as bothered by brighter light or the sudden movement in their environment and so on. They occupy all levels of the tank though in a more open tank with less cover they may choose to stay near the lower levels. Its behaviour may be best described as hummingbird like. Short, fast, fluttering, abrupt bursts of movement, with a constant rapid movement of the pectorals, they shoot about the tank to then hang in space between every change in direction.

They are a temperate fish also tolerant of tropical temperatures, ranging from the low to high 70s to reportedly temperatures just over 80. They are significantly more active if temperatures exceed 78F, to the point where it seems to make them a little hyperactive and may contribute to incessant chasing of females by males (likely they associate this with breeding temperatures). They are surprisingly unfussy eaters for wildcaught fish and are usually easy to convince to take dry foods.

They can be easily recognised by the fluorescent sky blue rims on the caudal, anal and dorsal fins. The caudal itself is coloured orange, with the middle rays extending and protruding from the otherwise rounded shape of the tail fin, hence their name 'Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish'. The ventral fins are bright orange with sky blue tips.
Sexual dimorphism is clear enough to be evident at a relatively young age. The extended middle rays in the caudal are much longer and give the tail fin a 'trailing' appearance. Moreover the males have two very distinct dark lateral bands on the body, whereas females are an almost uniform muddy brown. The males seem to grow slightly faster than the females and may end up being larger in their adult size as well.
The species is a secretive bubble nester.

Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (Cupanus) (Pseudosphromenus cupanus)
Of the same genus as the DayI above, the species are still noticably different in both looks and behaviour. Despite looking like the big bad bully version of their more colourful cousins, they are actually much shyer and softer-tempered as well as more social and gregarious. The group I have tend to stick together and huddle in a cover space all at once, whether it fits or not. Their bodies are often touching and the three females are constantly looking for the sole male, who they seem to look at as their protector. They appear to be very sensitive to light. They also use all levels of the tank, hiding near the bottom behind or under objects when feeling stressed - when no one is looking and there is no movement in the room, they happily rise and explore the mid-levels and even the tank glass, but as soon as I appear they descend and despite exploring all four corners of the tank, tend to stick to within an inch of the floor. Perhaps this behaviour is temporary though, and they may come around in the coming week. Like the DayI their movements tend to be sudden and burst-like, with rapid fanning of the pectorals.

As they are from the same region as their congener, they have the same care requirements.

Cupanus grows to the same 2.5 inch size but has a bulkier, rounded body and a shorter, more rounded caudal fin (the name 'spike-tailed' does not actually suit them all that well). Though they have a similar colouration in the fins - reddish or in the case of my specimens, blueish fin colour with sky blue rims, these colours are less bright and visible than on the Dayi.
Rather unique to them is their highly changeable base colour pigments. They go from dark to pale in seconds, and form banded, half-banded and even spotted patterns depending on their moods.
Though not as easy to sex as the Dayi, the males grow faster and appear to also be larger at mature size. Like the Dayi, there is some degree of extension in the middle caudal rays but to a much lesser degree.
This species is also a secretive bubble nester.

Ornate Climbing Perch (Microctenopoma ansorgii)
A part of the Climbing Perch or Bushfish family that is - for whatever reason - significantly less popular in the hobby than the Gourami family, this species is often not known to those who are not deeply involved in the hobby. As opposed to the other Asian members of the Labyrinthfish order, Bushfish hail from the African continent. They look rather different as well, possessing more bulky and rounded, often more 'rough' looking bodies as opposed to the more frail and delicate looking Gourami. Also unlike most Gourami, they have large gaping mouths and most share a stalking-type of predative behaviour that they employ to catch and swallow hole relatively large prey, often focusing their attention on the floor. With the exception of Betta, most Gourami have small, pincet-like mouths and feed on much smaller prey, focusing either on the surface or the floor. They are, however, just as spectacular and varied in patterns and colouration.
Ornate Climbing Perches hail from Congo and - apparently - also accidentally ended up in Madagascar where they have an established population. They are clearly bottom dwellers though individuals feeling comfortable may hang out at and patrol the mid and even higher levels of the tank as well, as long as there is surface cover or longer, nearby plants, wood, stones and other structures. They strongly prevent to have a shelter they can go in or under, like a cave or a piece of wood with a burrow underneath, or even a dense mass of java moss. They are territorial and may chase away rivals, though I have observed that they can be kept in groups of mixed gender without issue as long as the subdominant male accepts the dominance of his rival and shows him the cheek on approach. I have seen chasing and occasional nipping but never outright violence.
Do pay attention as while this species turned out to be surprisingly mellow themselves when confronted with another territorial species, they seem to provoke territorial instincts in other fish without openly looking for a fight. As a result they may get chased and harassed by even similar sized fish that see them as rivals or as a threat.

This is a tropical species that should be kept at higher temperatures ranging from 75 to 80F. Some sources list lower temperatures included in their range but I have observed them to be quite miserable when the temperature drops below about 73-74F. They prefer more acidic, low TDS water and can have trouble acclimating to standard aquarium water though there is no reason they couldn't thrive once used to it. Tannins are very beneficial as is loads of cover - they do not appreciate open water. It may be hard to wean this species onto dry foods, and some may even be picky with frozen foods, consistently spitting out certain frozen foods while swallowing others.

As their nomiker implies, they stay pretty small at some 2 - 2.5 inches. The Ornate Climbing Perch has spectacular colouration. The fish have a very elongated body with short height and a rounded, short tail. They are brown with vertical red or orange bands that run over seamlessly from their bodies to their anal and dorsal fins. The anal and dorsal fins are very large and when fully extended each is about the same height as the body of the fish itself.
When in breeding mood, the stripes on the male become strongly pronounced. When not in breeding mood and in good condition, however, I have found that they will display the stripes more prominently as well as an intimidation tactic, such as when they spot 'intruders', rivals, want to express their dominance at feeding time, etc. The stripes fade and become more prominent in seconds, clearly the pigments can be easily influenced.
The males have a white rI'm on their dorsal and analfins. They are extremely colourful when in breeding dress and are reportedly the larger sex when mature.
The species is a bubble nester. Reportedly they are not easy to successfully breed and raise.


Let me know if I've missed anything or made any mistakes! I'd love to be corrected and improve my knowledge
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  • #2
I took like 250+ pictures today to finally get some high quality snapshots! I'll sift through them tomorrow to present some good pictures of each of the five but for now here is an interesting one showing the P. ocellatus hidey-hole behaviour.

(There's 3 in the picture)

  • #3
Love it

Curious on your thoughts on the Trichogaster Genus and the differences in “boldness”?
Obviously I’ve not kept Fasciata but out of the other three, Chuna has always been quite upfront compared with the other two with Labiosa being fairly shy.
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Love it

Curious on your thoughts on the Trichogaster Genus and the differences in “boldness”?
Obviously I’ve not kept Fasciata but out of the other three, Chuna has always been quite upfront compared with the other two with Labiosa being fairly shy.
Hmm, interesting. I'd say Chuna is initially often really shy but tends to adapt and then has more of a non-confrontational curious attitude. Personally though from what I've seen of the wildcolour Labiosa they are way more bold. I don't find them shy at all, especially when I stir the tank or feed them, they are front and center compared to the wildcolour honeys they share their tank with.

Fasciata is .. a bit of a mixed bag. I find them hard to define. They require quite a bit of time to settle in, mind were extremely shy and uncomfortable for a month or so. But then it seems they have a really hard time adapting (being wildcaught and all) so that may be a part of it. Not sure if I told you that I saw a new shipment in my LFS that usually knows how to care of fish well and again they looked miserable and a good portion of them was on their way out.
Once they've settled in they are .. well they aren't confrontational, but they don't exactly allow themselves to be bullied either. They are a bit sluggish (though they can be fast if they want to) and don't swim in the same style as Labiosa. They also appear to be very social, perhaps even more so than Honeys, constantly looking for each others company even though they circle sometimes.
But then I popped in that paradise male and he looked at them (they do look quite similar in terms of markings and colours), swam up to them and started flashing and my largest female would have none of it. They circled and flared at each other every time they passed one another on the first day. I kept very close watch but no confrontation. Eventually the hierarchy was settled in Zhou's favour - but he did not manage to push them into reverent submission like the Honeys, who took one look at him and did their nose-dives and cheek-turns and avoiding-at-all-costs at the first sign of a fin flare.
I'd say they are socially robust. They avoid confrontation when possible and certainly wouldn't actively go looking for trouble but they aren't pushovers either. Honeys definitely are pushovers.
I don't have enough experience with Labiosa yet to compare them.

As for Dwarfs, well, I've never kept them but by all accounts they seem to be the most aggressive and the most forward.
  • #5
Fascinating, this is why I love Gourami so much, they differ from one another to such a degree. I suppose people who keep other species may say the same thing.

The “curious attitude” you mentioned certainly shines through in Chuna. It’s like everything is fascinating to them.

With Labiosa they often bolt if I approach the tank then steadily come around but it’s not something Chuna does very often if at all. I can still feed them by hand but they usually have that initial reflex.

Interesting you’ve never kept Lalius, I’ve had 15 over 1.5 years, sounds a lot but I currently have 9 and 1 was rehomed. I find they’re quite a mixed bag. Males definitely have that arrogance almost but also shy away at times. Females are definitely more spooky but again show themselves to be bold at times.

For fun the Gourami that comes of as most skittish that I keep is Snakeskins, always the first to flee in that tank
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  • #6
Selected photos of ocellatus. They seem to be mostly nocturnal as they disappear when the bright lights come on and only 3 of them (I think the same 3) hover around just outside of leaf cover the rest of the day. They do go scavenging for food at full light when there hasn't been any movement near the tank for a while. Mostly when they notice me they either hide or go all the way to the other side of the tank, so taking pictures has been challenging.

They are definitely either curious or territorial, as they seem still very focused on their now week-long neighbours, the sparkling Gourami in the 10 gallon adjacent to theirs. No real flaring or pacing, just attentively keeping an eye on one another.

I will try feeding them a bit of fine dried food tomorrow, so far it's only been live and frozen still. They are properly fattened up though. It's a bit surprising that they are not mouthbrooders as their bodyline includes a deep, almost saggy throat, very much like the common Chocolate Gourami.



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  • #7
Today, some pictures of Pseudosphromenus dayI or the Brown Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (or just Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish). My DayI who came here pretty small are already noticeably growing. Some of the males are developing ruddy cheeks, probably the first prelude to the orange throats the males are supposed to show in breeding dress.

I am very confused as to whether I have two species accidentally mixed or whether the strain of DayI I have has females that look very different from males and also subdominant males with underdeveloped traits, or whether I have females of two different strains, or maybe even some females that are dominant and assert breeding dress whereas others don't.
In any case I have three distinct looks among the fish and I can't quite figure out why. Which ones are definitely males is obvious. They are the largest, the most colourful, and have extensions in the middle rays of the caudal and the second-to-last ray of the dorsal fin.

Here is an example of a clear male. The extended middle ray on the caudal is the easily visible as it jumps out even when the fins are clamped, which is something paradise fish in general seem pretty prone to even when they are feeling relatively fine.

Here is an example of the most obvious females, but the ones where I have doubts if they are DayI at all and not just Cupanus as they look virtually identical to the Seriouslyfish pictures of what those look like. On the other hand I have my doubts as one I isolated reverted to the pigments where the two lateral lines are visible, which is the distinguishing feature of the Dayi, plus I have read that the darker, even colour is the breeding dress of a female DayI (males are supposed to get very pale).


And here is a picture of the ones that might be either subdominant males or females that are not in breeding dress, or females that are of a different strain than the ones shown above. I should add it seems unlikely DayI has very different looking strains as unlike Cupanus they have a rather narrow geographical spread.

As you can see this fish does not have extended dorsal and middle caudal fin rays despite having the characteristic spiked fin shape. However everything else considered they are carbon copies of the males. This is also what I have seen suggested most in images from suppliers as to what the females should look like (AquariumGlaser for instance).

I hope the mystery will resolve itself in due time as the fish get older.

They have no problems eating dry food btw, they were willing to eat flakes just as eagerly as frozen grub the very first day I tried feeding it to them. The group (I have split my 8 specimens over two groups) that share their tank with bottom dwellers has shown that these fish have quite a dominant streak, pestering their tank mates a little, especially during feeding time, to establish that they are the boss of that tank. Even the female Pearl housed with them seems intimidated by the much, much smaller fish.
  • #8
Hey PascalKrypt, you probably won't see this for a bit I was directed here by jinjerJOSH and i've took the time to read through this thread a couple of times and I have a few questions- regarding the burmese chocolate gouramis

  • Have you found them to be curious or territorial towards sparkling gouramis?
  • What frozen foods are/were they taking?
  • Were they reluctant to eat at first?
  • Any special precautions to introducing them to a new tank?
  • #9
Hey there! I kept banded bushfish, Microctenopoma fasciolatum, in the past (you may have seen this already, but just in case... ) and even managed to spawn them, though the fry died of an ammonia spike at the 2 month mark. I am thinking of trying this species would be interesting to compare them to the more common M. ansorgii (which seems to be much harder to spawn than fasciolatum, but also less aggressive to each other).

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