Licorice Gourami Care Guide

Licorice Gourami


The Licorice Gourami is a fascinating fish species native to Southeast Asia, specifically found in peat swamps and blackwater streams in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Known scientifically as Parosphromenus deissneri, it belongs to the family Osphronemidae. Licorice Gouramis have gained popularity among fish enthusiasts due to their distinctive appearance and intriguing behavior.

Unique Characteristics or Features

The Licorice Gourami is characterized by its slender body and striking coloration, which resembles the dark brown to black hue of licorice candy. The males often exhibit vibrant hues, with red or orange accents adorning their fins. These unique colors make them an eye-catching addition to any aquarium.

Apart from their striking appearance, Licorice Gouramis possess several interesting features. They are bubble nest builders, constructing floating bubble nests using plant matter and fine bubbles. This behavior is notable during their breeding period, where males carefully guard the nests. The females deposit eggs, and the male fertilizes them, ensuring their safety until they hatch.

Licorice Gouramis also possess a peaceful temperament, making them suitable for community aquariums. However, they can exhibit territorial behavior, especially during breeding. It is recommended to keep them in pairs or small groups, with multiple females, to prevent aggression among the males.

The Licorice Gourami’s unique combination of appearance, breeding behavior, and peaceful nature makes it a captivating species for fish enthusiasts seeking an intriguing and visually appealing addition to their aquariums.

Summary Table

Common NameLicorice Gourami
Scientific NameParosphromenus deissneri
Origin / DistributionSoutheast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand)
Size2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 cm)
Aquarium SizeMinimum 10 gallons
Water ParametersTemperature: 77°F to 84°F (25°C to 29°C) pH: 6.0 to 6.5 Hardness: very soft to soft (2 to 5 dGH)
Feeding FrequencyOnce or twice a day
TemperamentPeaceful with some territorial behavior
TankmatesSmall, peaceful fish
BreedingBubble nest builder
Lifespan3 to 4 years
Care LevelIntermediate to advanced
Unique FeaturesDark brown to black coloration, slender body
Conservation StatusEndangered (EN)
Additional NotesRequires specific water conditions and care


  • Common Name: Licorice Gourami
  • Scientific Name: Parosphromenus deissneri
  • Family: Osphronemidae
  • Order: Perciformes

The Licorice Gourami, scientifically known as Parosphromenus deissneri, belongs to the family Osphronemidae. This family is a part of the order Perciformes, which encompasses a diverse group of fish species. The Licorice Gourami’s classification highlights its taxonomic relationships and provides insight into its evolutionary history and biological characteristics.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

Geographical Range

The Licorice Gourami, or Parosphromenus deissneri, is naturally found in Southeast Asia. It is primarily distributed in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Types of Environments

Licorice Gouramis are adapted to thrive in specific aquatic environments within their natural habitat. They are commonly found in peat swamps and blackwater streams. These habitats are characterized by slow-moving or stagnant water and are typically rich in tannins and organic matter.

Peat swamps provide Licorice Gouramis with sheltered and shaded areas, often with dense vegetation, fallen leaves, and submerged roots. The fish can navigate through the complex network of plant matter, finding refuge and suitable microhabitats within the swampy environment.

Blackwater streams, on the other hand, have water that is stained dark brown due to the decomposition of organic matter. Licorice Gouramis inhabit these streams, which often have a slow current and a sandy or leaf-littered substrate. The fish have adapted to the slightly acidic and soft water conditions commonly found in these habitats.

The Licorice Gourami’s natural environments play a crucial role in their overall well-being and reproduction. Replicating these conditions as closely as possible in captivity is essential for their successful care and breeding.

Physical Appearance


As adult fish, Licorice Gouramis typically reach a size of about 2 to 2.5 inches (5 to 6.5 cm) in length. They are considered small-sized fish, making them suitable for smaller aquarium setups.

Coloration and Patterns

Licorice Gouramis exhibit a stunning and distinct coloration. Their body color ranges from a dark brown to black, resembling the color of licorice candy, hence their common name. The males often showcase more vibrant hues, with red or orange accents adorning their fins.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

Licorice Gouramis have a slender body shape, typical of gourami species. Their bodies are elongated and streamlined, allowing them to navigate through the dense vegetation found in their natural habitats. The dorsal fin, located on the back, is relatively long and extends backward. Their ventral fins, located on the belly, are typically shorter.

Sexual Dimorphism

There are visible differences between male and female Licorice Gouramis. Males often display brighter colors and more intricate fin patterns compared to females. They may have longer and more elaborate fins, especially the dorsal fin. Females, on the other hand, tend to have shorter fins and less vibrant coloration.

These sexual dimorphisms in coloration and fin structures are most pronounced during the breeding period when males display their vibrant colors to attract females and establish territories.

The physical appearance of Licorice Gouramis is captivating, with their unique coloration and notable sexual dimorphism. These characteristics make them a visually appealing addition to aquariums.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

Licorice Gouramis are known for their generally peaceful behavior. They are not considered aggressive fish, making them suitable for community aquariums. However, it’s important to note that they can exhibit territorial behavior, especially during the breeding period. Males may become more protective of their nesting area and display aggression towards other males.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

Licorice Gouramis are social fish that can be kept in small groups. It is recommended to keep them in pairs or small groups with multiple females to distribute aggression and minimize stress. When kept in appropriate numbers, they tend to establish a social hierarchy within their group and interact peacefully with each other.

Suitable Tankmates

Licorice Gouramis are compatible with a variety of small, peaceful fish species that can tolerate similar water conditions. Some suitable tankmates include small tetras, rasboras, danios, and other non-aggressive gourami species. It is important to avoid keeping them with larger or aggressive fish that may intimidate or harass them.

When selecting tankmates, it is also essential to consider the size of the aquarium and provide ample hiding spots and vegetation to create territories and provide refuge for the Licorice Gouramis and their tankmates.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

For Licorice Gouramis, it is recommended to provide a minimum tank size of 10 gallons (37 liters) to accommodate their needs. However, larger tanks can offer more swimming space and allow for a greater variety of tankmates.

Water Parameters

Licorice Gouramis thrive in specific water conditions that mimic their natural habitat. The ideal water temperature for them ranges from 77°F to 84°F (25°C to 29°C). They prefer slightly acidic to acidic water, with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. In terms of water hardness, they prefer very soft to soft water, with a range of 2 to 5 dGH.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

A reliable filtration system is crucial to maintain water quality in the aquarium. Licorice Gouramis benefit from a gentle water flow, so it is recommended to use a filter that provides adequate circulation without causing excessive currents. Additionally, ensuring proper aeration, such as using an air pump and air stone, helps oxygenate the water and create a more comfortable environment for the fish.

Substrate Preferences

Licorice Gouramis prefer a dark-colored substrate, such as fine gravel or sand. This substrate mimics their natural environment, particularly the peat swamps they inhabit. Additionally, using a substrate that allows for the growth of live plants can provide added benefits, as it creates a more natural and stimulating environment for the fish.

Lighting Requirements

Licorice Gouramis do not have specific lighting requirements beyond what is necessary for maintaining a healthy planted aquarium. Providing a suitable lighting setup that supports the growth of live plants will enhance the overall aesthetics and ecological balance of the tank.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Creating a well-decorated aquarium with plenty of hiding places is essential for the well-being of Licorice Gouramis. They appreciate the presence of plants, especially floating plants that provide cover and mimic their natural environment. Adding driftwood, rock formations, and other suitable decorations will create additional hiding spots and territories for the fish. Providing a variety of hiding places helps alleviate any potential aggression and allows the Gouramis to feel secure in their environment.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

Licorice Gouramis are primarily carnivorous fish. In their natural habitat, they feed on small invertebrates and insect larvae. In captivity, it is essential to provide them with a diet that replicates their natural food sources. They can be considered insectivores or micro-predators.

Feeding Frequency

Licorice Gouramis should be fed once or twice a day, offering an amount of food they can consume within a few minutes. It is important to avoid overfeeding, as it can lead to water quality issues and health problems. Monitoring their feeding behavior and adjusting the amount accordingly will help maintain their overall health.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To ensure optimal nutrition and health, it is recommended to offer a balanced and varied diet to Licorice Gouramis. Here are some tips:

  1. High-quality Dry Foods: You can provide high-quality dry foods specifically formulated for small carnivorous fish. Look for pellets or flakes that contain a good mix of protein from sources like fish or shrimp.
  2. Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods to mimic their natural prey. Offer them small live foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. These can be purchased frozen and thawed before feeding.
  3. Freeze-Dried Foods: Another option is freeze-dried foods like daphnia or tubifex worms. These provide a convenient and nutritious alternative to live or frozen foods.
  4. Variety is Key: Rotate their diet to provide a variety of food sources. This helps prevent nutritional deficiencies and ensures they receive a wide range of nutrients.
  5. Vegetable Matter: While Licorice Gouramis are primarily carnivorous, they may also nibble on vegetable matter. Offering blanched and finely chopped vegetables like spinach, zucchini, or peas can provide additional dietary variety.
  6. Supplements: Consider using a high-quality fish vitamin or mineral supplement to ensure they receive essential nutrients that may be lacking in their diet.

Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for Licorice Gouramis, it is important to consider their peaceful temperament and specific water requirements. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Compatible Species

Licorice Gouramis can coexist with various small, peaceful fish species that can tolerate similar water conditions. Some suitable tank mates include:

  • Small Tetras (e.g., Neon Tetras, Ember Tetras)
  • Rasboras (e.g., Harlequin Rasboras, Chili Rasboras)
  • Danios (e.g., Zebra Danios, Pearl Danios)
  • Other Non-aggressive Gourami Species (e.g., Dwarf Gouramis, Honey Gouramis)

These species have peaceful temperaments and thrive in similar water parameters, creating a harmonious community tank environment.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

It is important to avoid keeping Licorice Gouramis with larger or aggressive fish that may intimidate or harass them. Some incompatible species include:

  • Large Cichlids (e.g., Oscars, Jack Dempseys)
  • Aggressive Barbs (e.g., Tiger Barbs, Rosy Barbs)
  • Aggressive Gourami Species (e.g., Pearl Gouramis, Giant Gouramis)

These aggressive or larger fish may stress or attack the Licorice Gouramis, leading to potential injury or even death.

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank for Licorice Gouramis, consider the following tips:

  1. Similar Water Requirements: Choose tank mates that share similar water temperature, pH, and hardness preferences to ensure compatibility and reduce stress.
  2. Peaceful and Non-Territorial Species: Opt for peaceful fish that are not prone to aggression or territorial behavior. This reduces the likelihood of conflicts and promotes a calm environment.
  3. Schooling Fish: Consider adding schooling fish species. These fish naturally form tight-knit groups and can provide a sense of security for the Licorice Gouramis.
  4. Adequate Space and Hiding Places: Provide ample swimming space and hiding places with plants, rocks, and driftwood. This allows fish to establish territories and retreat when needed, reducing aggression and stress.
  5. Monitor Behavior: Observe the interactions between tank mates closely. If any signs of aggression or stress are observed, be prepared to make adjustments, such as rearranging decorations or removing problematic fish.


Breeding Licorice Gouramis can be a rewarding experience. Here’s some information on their breeding behavior, ideal breeding conditions, and the care requirements for raising fry (offspring).

Breeding Behavior

Licorice Gouramis are bubble nest builders. During the breeding process, males construct floating bubble nests using plant matter and fine bubbles. The males are responsible for nest construction and maintenance.

When a male is ready to breed, he will display vibrant colors to attract females. The male will court the female by performing elaborate courtship displays, including flaring his fins and circling around her. Once the female is receptive, she will approach the male, and they will embrace in a process known as a “nuptial embrace.” During this embrace, the female releases her eggs, and the male fertilizes them externally.

After fertilization, the male carefully collects the eggs in his mouth and transfers them to the bubble nest, where he will guard and tend to them until they hatch.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

Creating the ideal breeding conditions for Licorice Gouramis can help encourage successful breeding. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Water Parameters: Maintain stable water conditions within their preferred range: temperature of 77°F to 84°F (25°C to 29°C), pH around 6.0 to 6.5, and very soft to soft water with a range of 2 to 5 dGH.
  • Separate Breeding Tank: Provide a separate breeding tank with suitable dimensions and adequate hiding places. This tank should have similar water parameters to the main tank.
  • Nesting Materials: Offer suitable materials for bubble nest construction, such as floating plants or a breeding cone. These provide a surface for the male to anchor the bubble nest.
  • Condition the Breeding Pair: Ensure the male and female are in good health and well-conditioned. Feed them a varied and nutritious diet to promote reproductive readiness.

Raising Fry and Specific Care Requirements

Once the eggs are laid and fertilized, the male will diligently guard the bubble nest until the fry hatch, which typically takes around 24 to 48 hours. After hatching, the fry will remain in the nest for several more days until they are free-swimming.

At this stage, it’s essential to remove the male from the breeding tank to prevent aggression towards the fry. The fry should be provided with suitable live food options, such as infusoria or baby brine shrimp, as their initial diet. As they grow, their diet can transition to finely crushed or powdered dry foods formulated for fry.

Maintain pristine water conditions, perform regular water changes, and provide adequate filtration to keep the fry healthy. It may be necessary to separate the fry into a separate rearing tank as they grow to prevent overcrowding and competition for food.

Regular observation and monitoring of the fry’s development are crucial. Provide appropriate-sized food and gradually transition them to larger-sized foods as they grow.

With proper care and attention, Licorice Gourami fry can develop into healthy juveniles, eventually reaching adulthood.

Health & Disease

Maintaining the health of Licorice Gouramis is essential for their well-being. Here are some common diseases to be aware of, along with prevention and treatment strategies:

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

  1. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): This parasitic disease presents as small white spots resembling grains of salt on the fish’s body and fins. Infected fish may also exhibit scratching or rubbing against surfaces.
  2. Fin Rot: Fin rot is caused by bacterial infection and is characterized by fraying or deterioration of the fins. Affected fins may appear ragged, discolored, or have a fuzzy appearance.
  3. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections can manifest as cotton-like growth on the fish’s body or fins. Affected areas may appear fuzzy or have a white or grayish coloration.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

  1. Maintain Water Quality: Regularly monitor and maintain water parameters within the appropriate range. Perform routine water changes to keep the water clean and free from toxins.
  2. Quarantine New Fish: Before introducing new fish to the tank, quarantine them in a separate tank to observe for any signs of disease. This helps prevent the introduction of pathogens to the main tank.
  3. Provide a Balanced Diet: Ensure Licorice Gouramis receive a balanced and nutritious diet to promote a strong immune system. A well-fed fish is more resistant to diseases.
  4. Avoid Overcrowding: Overcrowding can lead to stress and weakened immune systems. Provide ample space for the fish to swim and establish territories.
  5. Disease Treatment: If diseases are detected, promptly move affected fish to a quarantine tank to prevent the spread of the disease. Follow appropriate treatment methods, such as medication for parasites or antibiotics for bacterial infections. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided with the medication.
  6. Seek Professional Advice: If unsure about the diagnosis or treatment, consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper for guidance and assistance.

Regular observation, proactive care, and a healthy environment can greatly reduce the risk of diseases in Licorice Gouramis. By implementing preventive measures and promptly addressing any health concerns, you can help ensure the long-term well-being of these beautiful fish.

Care Level

Licorice Gouramis have specific care requirements that place them at an intermediate care level. While they are not considered overly challenging to care for, they do require some special considerations and attention to ensure their well-being.

Difficulty of Care

Licorice Gouramis are suitable for fishkeepers with some experience in maintaining aquariums. Their care requirements include providing suitable water parameters, offering a varied and balanced diet, and creating a harmonious tank environment. Intermediate-level fishkeeping skills, such as monitoring water conditions and maintaining a healthy environment, are necessary to meet their needs.

Special Considerations or Requirements

When caring for Licorice Gouramis, it is important to consider the following:

  1. Water Parameters: Licorice Gouramis require specific water parameters, including a temperature range of 77°F to 84°F (25°C to 29°C), a slightly acidic to acidic pH of 6.0 to 6.5, and very soft to soft water with a range of 2 to 5 dGH. Maintaining stable water conditions within these parameters is crucial for their health.
  2. Tank Mates: Careful consideration should be given to selecting compatible tank mates. Licorice Gouramis thrive when kept with small, peaceful fish that share similar water requirements. Avoid pairing them with larger or aggressive species that may cause stress or harm.
  3. Hiding Places: Providing ample hiding places, such as plants, rocks, or driftwood, is important for Licorice Gouramis. They appreciate having retreats and territories within the aquarium.
  4. Breeding Considerations: Breeding Licorice Gouramis may require additional care and attention, including providing suitable nesting materials and a separate breeding tank. Monitoring the breeding process and providing appropriate care for the fry are also considerations for more experienced fishkeepers.

Conservation Status

The Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri) is a species of concern in terms of conservation. Here’s information regarding its conservation status and any legal restrictions on keeping the species in captivity.

  • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Licorice Gourami is listed as Endangered (EN). This categorization indicates that the species faces a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
  • Licorice Gouramis are affected by habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. These threats primarily arise from deforestation, drainage of peat swamps, and water pollution. The destruction of their natural habitat significantly impacts the population and survival of this species.
  • Due to its endangered status, there may be legal restrictions on capturing, trading, or keeping Licorice Gouramis in captivity. These restrictions are implemented to protect the remaining wild populations and conserve the species. Such regulations aim to prevent further depletion of their numbers and promote their recovery in their natural habitats.
  • It is crucial to thoroughly research and adhere to the legal requirements and regulations specific to your jurisdiction before considering keeping Licorice Gouramis or any endangered species in captivity. Complying with these regulations helps support conservation efforts and prevents the illegal trade and exploitation of endangered species.
  • In some cases, licensed breeding programs and sustainable aquaculture practices may be permitted to ensure the availability of Licorice Gouramis in captivity while maintaining their conservation status. Responsible captive breeding programs can help reduce the demand for wild-caught individuals and contribute to the conservation of the species.
  • It is essential to promote awareness about the conservation needs of the Licorice Gourami and advocate for the protection of their natural habitats. Supporting organizations engaged in conservation efforts and participating in initiatives focused on preserving their populations can make a significant impact on their long-term survival.

Respecting the conservation status of endangered species like the Licorice Gourami is vital for their preservation. By understanding and adhering to legal restrictions, promoting conservation efforts, and fostering responsible practices in captivity, we can contribute to safeguarding these unique fish for future generations.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts and additional information about the Licorice Gourami:

  • Licorice Gouramis are known for their labyrinth organ, a specialized breathing apparatus. This organ allows them to take in atmospheric air, enabling them to survive in oxygen-deprived waters, such as the blackwater streams and peat swamps of their natural habitat.
  • Licorice Gouramis are sometimes referred to as “Chocolate Gouramis” due to their dark brown to black coloration, reminiscent of rich chocolate.
  • In the wild, Licorice Gouramis are known to be secretive and can be challenging to spot due to their preference for dense vegetation and hiding among submerged roots and fallen leaves.
  • The Licorice Gourami is highly sought after by dedicated fishkeeping enthusiasts for its unique coloration, intriguing behavior, and the challenge it presents in terms of their care and breeding requirements.
  • Due to their endangered status and declining wild populations, Licorice Gouramis are considered a species of conservation priority. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their natural habitats, promoting captive breeding programs, and raising awareness about their conservation needs.
  • Hobbyists and fishkeepers who have successfully bred and raised Licorice Gouramis often describe the experience as rewarding and fulfilling. Witnessing the male construct bubble nests, care for the eggs, and observe the fry develop from tiny larvae to fully-formed fish can be a truly remarkable and educational journey.
  • Licorice Gouramis are known to exhibit interesting courtship behaviors, such as the male displaying vibrant colors and performing elaborate displays to attract females. These courtship rituals add to the fascination and allure of these fish.
  • Licorice Gouramis are appreciated not only for their visual appeal but also for their contribution to the overall ecosystem. In their natural habitat, they play a role in controlling populations of small invertebrates and contribute to the balance of their aquatic environment.

Leave a Comment