Paradise Gourami

Popularly known as Paradise fish – Macropodus opercularis, this species is notably gorgeous, but their popularity among aquatic hobbyists has seen a significant decline over the years.

The Paradise fish is a freshwater species whose family is Osphronemidae and exists under the sub-order Anabantoidei. The terms Paradise fish and Paradise gourami are synonymous, referring to the same species. This species inhabits Southeast Asia, predominantly in Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. It has also been introduced in the United States and other regions outside its indigenous habitat.

The Aggressive Paradise Gourami
  • Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Hardiness: Hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (40 L)
  • Maximum Size: 3 inches (7.6 cm)
  • Temperament: Agressive
  • Temperature: 68 – 82° F (20 – 28° C)
  • pH Range: 5.8 – 8
  • Water Hardness: 5 – 30 dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore

Table of Contents




Size and Appearance


Care Guide


Tank Mates


Diet and Feeding



If hobbyist journals are to be believed, the original discovery of the Paradise gourami occurred in China, specifically in the basin of the Yangtze River and the Pearl River, in addition to the waters of Hong Kong and Hainan Island. Parallel in a few aspects to the Siamese Fighting fish, it’s sometimes called the Chinese Fighting fish.

The Paradise gourami emerged as an ornamental fish and was one of the earliest to spark intrigue among Western aquarists. The fish, known for their stunning appearance, gained popularity in French public aquariums beginning in 1869 and entered the U.S. market in 1876. However, newer species from the Amazon soon overshadowed the Paradise fish.

Despite their mesmerizing beauty, the Paradise fish tends to deter hobbyists due to its aggressive behavior. The challenging management of this species often discourages novice enthusiasts. However, for aquarists with more experience, especially in breeding, Paradise gouramis can make a fascinating addition.

Size and Appearance

Paradise fish are often confused with two other gourami species: the Macropodus Chinensis and Macropodus Cupamus.

These three species justify their “paradise” moniker through their vibrant blue or green bands alternating with bold orange or red tones. Their ventral fins always blaze in a striking shade of orange. Additionally, numerous tiny black or blue dots, which are metallic and hence glisten under light, are scattered across the body of all these species. Despite the glaring similarities, the species can be distinguished based on the shapes of their tails:

Macropodus opercularis: tail that forks
Macropodus chinensis: tail with a round shape
Macropodus cupanus: tail that points with additional rays extending from its middle

Furthermore, there are two additional strains of Paradise fish developed through genetic engineering. The first, an albino Paradise fish, features white, blue, and pink stripes alongside pink eyes. The second strain, known as “concolor” or the Black Paradise fish, is more common.

The Paradise fish usually sits on the smaller end of the gourami spectrum, averaging around three inches in length. However, under optimal conditions, some might surpass this typical size.

The Paradise fish is distinguished by a sharp head and a torpedo-like body, similar to other gouramis. Its dorsal and anal fins mirror each other in shape, hanging past the caudal peduncle. The fins sway elegantly with the fish’s movement, emphasizing their graceful swimming style.The caudal peduncle exhibits a large surface area, and the forked caudal fin signals that these fish prefer to cruise through the water, with short bursts of speed provided by a flick of their tails.

Paradise fish characteristically display color combinations of blue and reddish-orange, with slight variations. Their caudal fin is orange with white edges, and their dorsal and anal fins are blue, light stripes included.

The categories of Paradise fish also include a Blue paradise fish that is primarily blue with just a hint of orange as opposed to the standard vibrant blue-orange combination.

Being a labyrinth fish, the Paradise fish have a distinct suprabranchial accessory breathing organ akin to bettas and mudskippers. These fish can acquire air from the atmosphere as seamlessly as collecting oxygen from the water via their gills. 

These specialized supplemental breathing organs provide an advantage in their natural habitats. Paradise fish thrive in stagnant water bodies, including ponds and rice paddies. If faced with oxygen-depleted water, Paradise gouramis can gulp down air from the surface to survive. 

This peculiar method of acquiring oxygen from the water’s surface has led to their unique breeding ritual involving “bubble nest building”.

Identifying Gender Among Paradise Gouramis

Sex differentiation in Paradise gouramis is relatively straightforward. Usually, male fish are larger and display brighter colors while their female counterparts are smaller and are less vibrantly colored. During spawning periods, the bellies of female Paradise fish become rounded due to accommodating eggs.

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Care Guide

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (40 L)
  • pH Range: 5.8 – 8
  • Water Hardness: 5 – 30 dGH
  • Temperature: 68 – 82° F (20 – 28° C)
  • Lighting: Moderate, diffused lighting
  • Substrate: Fine sand/gravel
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Flow: Weak/Low
  • Tank Region: All areas

The Paradise fish is a resilient species that can survive well in oxygen-scarce conditions and can sustain a vast range of water parameters. 

Nevertheless, one should strive to maintain ideal water parameters, particularly in the case of a community aquarium.

The Paradise gouramis are neither truly tropical fish nor coldwater ones, and hence, their preferred temperature range lies between 68 to 82 °F. Therefore, a heater may not be required except for cases of extreme winter conditions where indoor temperatures may drop significantly. An important factor to consider would be that the temperature should not drop below 60 °F.

The key to making the Paradise fish feel comfortable in their new tank is to replicate their tropical habitat. This can also aid in mitigating their stress levels.

Keeping multiple male Paradise fish in a pond has been achieved successfully by many, but it might be challenging to maintain such harmony in a home aquarium. You can keep female Paradise fish together, but it is recommended to limit to one male. A tank size of at least 20 gallons is advised for a harem. If you plan on housing a few compatible species, an additional 10 gallons or more would be needed. A larger tank allows more space for the fish to claim their territories. 

Given that the Paradise fish spend most of their time towards the top levels of the tank, the substrate choice should be based purely on the type of plants you plan to grow in the tank. 

In their natural habitats, Paradise fish inhabit slow-moving shallow waters, thriving in a wide range of pH levels and temperatures. Geography may change, but vegetation in their habitat remains abundant. Hence, Paradise fish prefer densely planted tanks.

Even though a long list of suitable plants could be provided, beginners should start with low maintenance plants. Hornwort is an excellent beginning choice, and its bushy structure provides ample cover for your fish. 

The versatility of hornwort allows you to plant it in various ways, either by embedding it in the substrate or allowing it to float. 

Plants like crypts also fare well as they can meet soft and hard water conditions. As an option, you could also consider anacharis, cabomba, and ludwigia. For tall plants, try the Amazon Sword.


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A Paradise Gourami outside of an aquarium

The stunning colors of the Paradise Gourami

Tank Mates

Like a goldfish, a well-contained Paradise fish could be an admirable pet, hence could be a fitting addition to garden ponds. They can also help control mosquito larvae and other aquatic pests enhancing their appeal beyond just their stunning looks.

When rearing this species, it’s recommended to keep only a single male. The probability of conflict is greater if two males are kept together, even in a considerably large tank.

The males are bound to cross paths, leading to potential fights that can cause severe damage. Even though such fights might not lead to fatalities, they can severely stress the fish. The advisable setting would be a harem, comprising one male and several females.

Paradise fish, particularly males, usually don’t socialize well as they tend to assert dominance. They compete with other fish of similar sizes for territory, making larger, peaceful to semi-aggressive fishes ideal tankmates

Worthy contenders could be the Comet goldfish and Geophagus cichlid, attaining sizes between 11 and 12 inches. Cyprinids and large-sized characins who can hold their own are also compatible companions.

Territorial disputes might escalate if the Paradise fish feel encroached upon. However, as their natural inclination is towards the middle and upper levels of the tank, they are likely to ignore bottom-dwelling fishes. Still, these bottom dwellers should be large enough. They could include loaches and plecos, such as the Bristlenose pleco and Clown loach.

Housing male Paradise fish with other gourami species or fish bearing similar looks isn’t recommended. Under such circumstances, your fish might feel threatened or might even court female gouramis of different species.

Fish species blessed with slow swimming speeds or having long fins that can be easily bitten are not a good mix with Paradise fish. They might turn aggressive with Angelfish and Fancy goldfish. Similarly, the addition of snails and shrimps can be a gamble as some Paradise fish might consume them. The best approach, hence, is to avoid any potential conflict or harm. Other suitable species that could be paired with them would be Giant danios and large sized Tetras.

Feeding Guide

  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Frequency: Several small feedings per day
  • Pellet Foods: Yes
  • Flake Foods: Yes
  • Live Foods: Yes
  • Meat Foods: Yes
  • Vegetable Foods: Yes, will often take partly cooked, dark leafy greens

In their natural environments, Paradise fish primarily feed on smaller fish and invertebrates. Although they are robust eaters, they are not strict carnivores, and they follow an omnivorous diet.

Being omnivores, the Paradise fish will readily accept multiple kinds of food items, which makes feeding them quite simple. Though easy availability and affordability make store-bought fish food a common choice, it’s beneficial to supplement it with live and frozen food variety to ensure optimal coloration. They will gladly accept treats like bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp.

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Like other labyrinth fish, Paradise fish build bubble nests. That said, they are more meticulous in nest building compared to other species.

Typically, the male generates air and mucus bubbles that rise to the surface. Once the collection of foamy bubbles is formed, he engages in an elaborate mating dance to tempt a female fish. During this phase, the male’s coloration intensifies, contrasting the female, which appears more dulled.

When a female fish is filled with eggs and receptive to the male’s invitation, they unite under the bubble nest. Simultaneously, the couple releases eggs and sperm into the water, leading to immediate fertilization.

Any eggs that may sink are collected by the male fish using his mouth and then blown into the bubble nest. The two lovebirds resume spawning till several hundred eggs are deposited. Once all the eggs are laid, the male fish seals the eggs into the nest using additional bubbles. This tends to continue over 48 hours. While females may not be at risk from the males, as with some labyrinth fish, it is advisable to revive the female in an isolation enclosure, where she can be fed protein-rich fish foods to recover.

A male Paradise fish might be protective of their offspring, but to ensure the healthy survival of the young ones, several points must be remembered.

For successful breeding and optimal egg hatchings, maintain a stable temperature of 80 °F. Over the next 48 hours, you should observe the appearance of hatchling fry that will look like tiny black hair strands protruding from the bubble nest. If any of the fry fall from the nest, the male will collect them and blow them back into the safety of the nest—an entirely normal phenomenon that doesn’t harm fry.

Likewise, it’s advisable to remove the male fish on the fifth day. Although Paradise fish aren’t notorious for eating their younglings, the parent fish should still be removed once the fry are free swimming, to be on the safer side.

Until they become free swimmers, the newborns do not require feeding as they feed on their yolk sac for sustenance. A week after they start free swimming, you can feed them Infusoria. Newly hatched brine shrimp can also serve as a substitute or be given along with the worms.

Fry between three to four weeks can generally eat most kinds of fish food like crumbled flake food. They should be fed several times daily for the next four to six months.

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