The Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami is a gorgeous color morph of the standard Dwarf Gourami. These active, intelligent fish are perfect for community tanks but the first thing to do is learn how to manage the quirks of their care, so let’s dive in!
Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami Quick Care Sheet
- Common Name: Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami
- Alternate Common Name(s): Blue Dwarf Gourami
- Latin Name: Trichogaster lalius
- Care Level: Beginner
- Tank Size: 10+ Gallons
- Size: 3-3 ½”
- Diet: Omnivorous
- Behavior: Peaceful Topswimmer
- Lifespan: 4-7 years
- Reproduction Type: Bubblenesting
- Water Temperature: 72° -80°F (22°-27°C)
- pH: 6.5-7.5
- Water Hardness: 4–10 dGH
Origins of the Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami
The Dwarf Gourami has been a staple in aquaria for a long time. The wild type are red and blue striped, with alternating stripes showing different dominant colors. The majority seen in aquariums have bolder red stripes but the reverse is also seen.
The Powder Blue variation of the species was selectively bred in captivity. In this case, the fish is mostly blue. Sometimes small bits of red are seen on fish sold as Powder Blues. They’re one of three main color morphs of the fish, the other being the mostly-red Red Flame Gourami.
All three are the same species and have the same care requirements.
These fish are Anabantoids, like Betta splendens, which means they have a labyrinth organ. This special organ absorbs air slowly over time, allowing the Gourami to breathe easily in low oxygen environments.
They also possess modified ventral fins. These fins are long and spine-like, and you’ll notice your fish using them to poke and prod things in the tank. These “feelers” are a huge part of the Gourami’s behavior, and they can even have preferred ventral fins like humans prefer one hand.
Their natural environment is in slow-moving streams and tributaries in India and Pakistan. These waters have dense vegetation, low oxygen, and are often quite muddy. Unlike Betta, they’re rarely found in stagnant ponds that only flow for part of the year.
Most will have been captive-bred for generations, making them much easier to keep than wild-caught fish.
Choosing Your Dwarf Gourami
There is one place I’ve seen even seasoned aquarists make mistakes with their Dwarf Gourami, no matter the color. Their mixed reputation among experienced keepers is a testament to the fact.
The main complaint you’ll hear is that they’re susceptible to mystery diseases.
Initial selection matters a lot when you’re picking a Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami.
As an experienced aquarist, I’m guilty of not paying much attention during a purchase. If the tank looks clean enough to buy from it’s good enough. The fish can get its color back and regrow fins in a healthy environment.
That’s not necessarily true here.
The problem is simple: Dwarf Gourami can suffer from a virus called Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus (DGIV) which is untreatable and fatal. This is the cause of most of the mystery disease deaths seen in these fish.
It’s not rare. Estimates go up to 22% of fish in the trade suffering from the disease.
Evaluate both the tank and the fish.
Any dead Dwarf Gouramis in the tank are a bad sign. Even if the rest of the fish look healthy you should give that batch a pass.
That’s a good general rule for fish selection, but it’s essential here. I’ve certainly bought from tanks with dead fish when I know the LFS and staff well. Not an option in this case, if the Gouramis are dying there’s a good chance it’s DGIV.
Next, you’re looking for a healthy specimen. The following are good indicators:
- Vibrant color
- Round but not bloated
- Active and investigating the tank
If you follow those rules you should end up with a healthy, long-lived fish. Just make sure you spend more time than normal inspecting the tank and your Dwarf Gourami.
Alternatively, you can usually sidestep the issue by buying from someone who breeds their fish stateside. The iridovirus-bearing specimens come mainly from breeding operations in Singapore.
Ideal Tank Setup
Dwarf Gouramis are undemanding and easy to care for once you’ve got a healthy specimen. They’ll eat most fish foods with no problems, they’re small in size, and they tend to be peaceful. The occasional aggressive specimen is found, but they’re rare.
Mimicking their native environment is easy: you just set up a tropical planted tank.
From there, you’ll have a wide range of stocking options.
But first, let’s make sure you have things dialed in.
There’s nothing special about Dwarf Gourami equipment, except you may want to avoid exceptionally high flow rates.
You’ll just need the following:
- 10+ Gallon Aquarium
- HOB or Canister Filter
- Aquarium Heater
- Nutritious Substrate
- Aquatic Fertilizers
- Aquarium Light
- (Optional) CO2 Generator
Gouramis thrive in a heavily planted environment, and the plants can help you push the limit a bit with livestock at a normal filtration rate. I recommend going down the CO2 route if you have experience with planted tanks.
These fish thrive with a little bit more space. They’re inquisitive fish when they feel secure in their environment and may become depressed if they have nothing to do. Tanks 20 gallons and larger are much better for them, but a single Dwarf Gourami can live a decent life in a 10 gallon tank.
Ideas for Plants
Dwarf Gourami love plants and most plants can survive in the same conditions as these fish. If you’re an experienced aquascaper you can use whichever plants you prefer, but the following are forgiving and newbie-friendly:
- Elodea densa- Anacharis is common and easy to keep alive in any water condition. It’s a good indicator of your plants in general, but remember to leave it floating. The stem will rot under the substrate if you try to root it like a stem plant.
- Anubias sp.– Anubias are low-maintenance, hardy plants. Tie them to driftwood and rocks for effect, but keep them on the lower level of the tank. Otherwise, they’re prone to green spot algae.
- Vallisneria sp.– Vals are a great option for background plants, and Gouramis love to play in them. They’re easily planted and flourish in almost all water conditions.
- Echinodorus sp.– Especially the Amazon Sword. With a few exceptions, they’re hardy plants. The main benefit for a newbie is their large size, which makes them easy to diagnose and manicure.
The only thing to watch for is too many floating plants. Greater Duckweed, for instance, has a tendency to get out of hand. Too much surface cover limits oxygen transfer and makes it harder for your Gourami to get a breath.
Other than that, go wild.
Likewise for the hardscape. While Dwarf Gourami will poke around whatever you stick in the tank, they really just need cover. Setting up small caves is a good idea for most fish, but they’re not a requirement if you have enough plants.
Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami Behavior
Dwarf Gouramis are surprisingly intelligent fish. In a healthy environment, their behavior is lively and curious. They spend a lot of time poking various things with their modified ventral fins and usually swim somewhere near the top.
In tanks with nippy fish or larger challengers, they’ll become quite shy. With rare exceptions, Dwarf Gourami doesn’t fight back against bullying. They’ll just do their best to avoid the offending fish.
You can tell a lot about your fish’s health through their attitude. Give the fish a few weeks to settle into the new tank then keep an eye on them. They’ve all got their own personality, some even develop odd habits.
Bubblenesting and Aggression
The one time where Dwarf Gouramis become aggressive is in defending their bubble nests. Breeding Dwarf Gourami in a tank with smaller fish isn’t a great idea, the Dwarf will attack relentlessly in smaller tanks.
Most aggressive Dwarf Gouramis are just males defending their bubble nests. Like Betta, even a single male will sometimes create bubble nests. Some even do so constantly.
If you’ve noticed your Dwarf Gourami is harassing tankmates, then look for the nest at the top of the tank. The fish will usually calm down in a couple of days, but if you have a consistently nesting male they may need to be moved to protect the other fish.
Dwarf Gouramis do have their own personality, and the occasional Dwarf Gourami will be outgoing and aggressive. In my experience they’re quite rare, having made up only 2 or 3 specimens in the hundreds of fish I’ve seen in home enclosures.
Use of Modified Ventral Fins
One of the best parts of keeping Dwarf Gourami is watching them investigate things.
They tend to float around objects, then poke at them gingerly with the fins. They’re actually gathering a lot of information this way. The fins gather both touch and taste information for the Gourami.
Dwarf Gouramis tend to use these fins a lot when they’re secure in their environment. If they’re not regularly poking things, and other fish, then chances are their tankmate selection could use some improvement.
These fish also “touch feelers” with other Dwarf Gourami, which appears to be a method of communication.
Regardless, the takeaway is that if your Dwarf Gourami isn’t poking things… they’re not happy.
In the wild-type Dwarf Gourami, the female lacks color, but this isn’t a reliable indicator in captive-bred lines. Instead, you’ll have to look a bit closer.
There are two tell-tale signs for sexing a Dwarf Gourami:
- Females tend to have a deeper, fuller body shape. Unless you’re very familiar with the fish, however, it’s not the best way to tell.
- The dorsal fin of the female Dwarf Gourami has a rounded dorsal fin, on both the leading and trailing edge. The male dorsal fin comes to a sharp point in the back and has a sleeker profile.
The fins are the best way to tell, and if you plan on keeping more than one Dwarf Gourami in a tank you’ll need to know for sure.
Dwarf Gouramis are best kept in pairs or in a 2:1 female to male ratio. Otherwise, the normally docile males will become shockingly violent with each other. Even with a balanced ratio you should observe their behavior and have a backup plan to separate them.
Dwarf Gouramis are suitable for beginners, but you should have some experience under your belt if you’re planning to keep more than one male in the same tank.
Dwarf Gouramis are awesome community fish, with a few major exceptions.
As the centerpiece in a small community tank, or a large tank focused on small fish, you’re usually good to go.
The biggest exceptions are Betta. For whatever reason, these fish will clash like crazy until one of them ends up dead. Just avoid mixing them.
An ideal Dwarf Gourami Tankmate should have the following qualities:
- Under 4” of length
- Peaceful overall temperament
- Prefers tropical water
- Not known as fin nippers
That leaves the vast majority of tropical aquarium fish as suitable tankmates!
Some of the better combinations with your Dwarf Gourami are:
- Neon Tetra
- Chili Rasbora
- Cardinal Tetra
- Zebra Danios
- Fancy Guppies
- Cherry Barb
Of course, that’s just a basic overview of the possible combinations. Gourami are frequently the centerpiece of smaller community tanks, they’re among the larger small community fish.
Under no circumstances should you place a Dwarf Gourami in a tank with cichlids, even smaller ones. The only exception is Bolivian Blue Rams… which really shouldn’t go in a tank with other cichlids either.
Dwarf Gouramis tend to do well with smaller oddballs, such as freshwater eels, as long as they’re not too predatory. Be careful when picking oddball selections, they should be bottom-dwelling and not get large enough to eat the Dwarf Gourami.
But the takeaway is that Gouramis are an ideal fish for peaceful community tanks. From water parameters to temperament, everything about them makes them good fish in tanks with multiple species.
Invertebrates for a Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami Tank
Invertebrates are essential to any aquatic setup.
That said, you may be stuck with only snails in the tank. Any snail species will be fine, and Malaysian Trumpet Snails are my recommendation for planted tanks.
The problem arises with shrimp. If you have a sustained, breeding population of shrimp in a very heavily planted tank you’re in luck. If not, the Dwarf Gourami is going to eat as many of them as they can catch.
If you add shrimp to a tank with Dwarf Gourami add a lot of them. I’d recommend at least one per gallon, and to only add them after the tank’s plants are thriving and well-established.
Breeding Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami
The Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami won’t breed as easily as Fancy Guppies, but their setup is doable for someone learning.
Their breeding cycle is simple to trigger as well.
Preparation and Triggering Breeding
Any fish being bred will need some prep time. In this case, you should begin feeding high protein foods a few weeks before you plan on moving the mated pair in together.
You’ll want to move the fish into another tank to prevent the nesting male from hurting any fish. Ideally, this tank will be well-established and heavily planted.
In practice, you’re usually looking at a bare bottom, lots of floating plants, and a tank cycled by pulling media from another filter. The key here is to prep a cycled tank with lots of plants.
Leave the pair to mate in the tank for a few days and observe them. If they begin to spawn, then you’re free to move on to taking care of the fry.
If not, try raising the temperature to 82-84F and dropping the tank’s water level 6”. It simulates the conditions of the breeding season in the wild.
The male should form a bubble nest before spawning. This consists of bubbles at the surface of the water stacked together, and it’s a crucial part of the breeding process. The male will chase the female until she comes to take a look.
If suitably impressed by the aquatic architecture, the female will allow the male to mate. They’ll place the eggs in the bubbles during spawning, and the male will chase down any eggs that miss to place them in the nest.
Hatching Eggs and Raising Fry
The female Dwarf Gourami doesn’t take care of the fry, she should be removed once the eggs have been laid.
The male, on the other hand, will aggressively defend the nest. From everything, including the female Gourami. In a small tank, this will result in her death.
The eggs usually hatch within 24 hours, but the fry will remain in the bubble nest for another 3-5 days.
The first few days are crucial, as the baby fish will be very vulnerable to bad water conditions. If the tank is cycled and at least 10 gallons, you shouldn’t have a problem. Test for ammonia and nitrates daily anyways. If either rises perform a 25-30% water change.
Fortunately, you don’t need to culture daphnia or brine shrimp to feed Gourami fry. Just make sure that you grind flake food very fine for them. Infusoria is healthier, but it also takes a lot more effort.
You can switch them to another tank once they’ve become large enough. Make sure you have room. While they won’t infight until sexually mature, Dwarf Gourami lay a shocking 300-800 eggs.
If even 25% of them make it to adulthood… well, you have a lot of fish to take care of!
Little Fish, Big Personality
The Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami is a favorite for casual aquarists. Their shocking blue colors and interesting behavior are offset by the ease of care and breeding. The only real issue in their care is maintaining the right sex ratio.
And always remember that they’re smarter than you think!