Breeding and Raising Kissing Fish - Helostoma temmincki
This article is a guide on keeping Kissing fish and we'll welcome your experiences with this species at the bottom of this page. You're welcome to share your tips or ask questions!
Helostoma temminki over recent years have become a very popular aquarium fish, commonly known as Kissing Gourami, the trait of locking lips has given them popularity although this same trait can be found in other species of fish, with the Kissing Gourami it has been one of the main attributes when it comes to purchasing one of these specimens.
They originate from Asia like most other members of the Gourami family, these are mainly based in the South East of Asia where they are considered as a food source for the local people and can be found on the local markets for sale as such. They transport very well so usually reach our suppliers in a good condition. Sadly it is morphs of the original fish that seem to fill the aquatic supplier stores, the original fish display a green colouration, the pink morphs and the balloon body shape seems to be selling at a higher rate, probably due to a lot of breeders meeting the supply of the demand. Other common names for the balloon morph include Dwarf Kissing Gourami and the Balloon Pink, the balloon morph will not reach a large adult size compared to the native or pink kissing gourami. The wild green version also displays stripes along its body and brown tinges to the fins where the pink morph may display silvery scales and vary from pink to a darker red.
Wild specimens can grow quite large, some specimens may reach a length of up to 12 inches (30 cm) while captive specimens will remain slightly smaller but it is not uncommon for the tank reared specimens to reach lengths of up to 10 inches (25 cm) so this should be taken into account when purchasing smaller juveniles from the stores, upgrading smaller tanks will be required to give these fish the room that they need.
All of the different varieties possess small rasping teeth that are located on the protruding mouth parts, these are used for grinding away algae from rocks etc., often giving the impression that they are kissing the tank décor.
Aquarium set up for the Kissing Gourami
As mentioned above, adult specimens require a lot of swimming space and taking the adult size into account the minimum sized tank that these fish should be housed in has to be at least 50 Imperial gallons (~230 litres, 60 US gallons), it should also be noted that the Kissing Gourami are well known for being substrate diggers on their quest for food so sand will be displaced, as they also prefer planted tanks it is better to use gravel for the substrate to keep the substrate movement as small as possible and allow the plants to root securely.
The plant choice can also be critical as delicate plants may not survive due to the grazing nature of the fish, choose hardy plants with fast growth so that they can re-generate at the same speed that they are nibbled at.
The good news is that the Kissing Gourami can tolerate a wide range of water parameters, having said this the tank should be fully cycled before adding the fish as immature water will affect them due to the parameter swings that will occur during the cycling process.
It is agreed that the accepted pH range is between 6.0-8.0, keep the dGH to a minimum of 5 but the accepted range for this is between 5 -15 giving you plenty of scope dependant on your local water conditions.
The temperature range is also quite significant giving you a greater choice of tank mates, 22-28 ° C (71.5-82.5 ° F) is acceptable so this drifts between the cold water range and the tropical range.
The planting areas should be confined to the rear and sides of the aquarium as they are quite active and do require open swimming spaces, floating plants are also required not only to provide shady areas but this will help in the breeding process which will be covered in a later section.
The water flow should be minimal as they originate from slower waters and add rocks or wood for décor, these will provide areas for algae to colonise that the Kissing Gourami will graze on. Water changes will need to be performed on a regular basis, 10% weekly is ideal but if the nitrates increase then the water changes should be adjusted accordingly to allow the nitrates to drop.
Generally they are peaceful fish towards other tank mates but as always there are exceptions to the rule, some specimens may show small signs of aggression but generally no physical injuries will occur to their tank mates during these aggressive displays. If two male Kissing Gouramis are in the aquarium together, they will lip lock as their battle for dominance occurs but after the strongest fish has taken his place at the top of the pecking order these lip locks should decrease quickly.
Kissing Gourami should not be housed with aggressive species of fish or they can become skittish and timid, they should be kept with similar sized species as they will see small species of fish as a food source. They may also peck at their tank mates as they do like the taste of the slime coat that other fish produce, this does not usually cause a great problem unless they are housed with delicate species such as Discus, these two species are definitely not compatible.
Feeding your Kissing Gourami
The Kissing Gourami like all of the gourami family have voracious appetites so make sure that you do not over feed these fish as this can lead to digestive problems and if their system gets blocked it can put pressure on the swim bladder which will in turn cause problems in that area as well. Small regular meals are better rather than one large meal so offer food in small amounts twice a day and I like to refrain from feeding one day a week to give them the chance to clear out their digestive system completely.
Kissing Gourami are omnivorous and will accept a wide variety of foods, offering a varied diet will also keep them interested in their food guaranteeing that everything is consumed quickly as it is added to the aquarium. As mentioned above they do graze on the décor and plants looking for algae, they will also rasp at the tank glass in the same manner. A quality fish flake or small pellets is ideal for the staple diet but this should be varied with fresh vegetables such as blanched peas, romaine lettuce or spinach, avoid other members of the lettuce family as some of these can be hard for the fish to digest.
Live or frozen foods will also be accepted, these are readily available from most aquatic stores and include blood worms, brine shrimp, daphnia etc., spirulina makes a good feed as this is high in vegetable content, ideal for these fish.
Breeding the Kissing Gourami
In their native waters the Kissing Gourami are excellent breeders and can soon build up a large population within a matter of months, if the correct conditions are provided in the aquarium then there is no reason why large amounts of fry cannot be produced.
The problem starts with trying to sex the fish as you obviously need males and females to produce young. As both sexes are virtually identical the first step should be to purchase a small group of juveniles, 6 will provide a good percentage for obtaining both sexes, and allow them to grow together and pair off naturally.
The breeding tank set up is also critical but not difficult to create the correct conditions. The pH of the water should range between 7.0-8.0 and the temperature should be set at the higher end of their range, 26 ° C (78.8 ° F) seems to provide the best results although they have been known to breed in cooler waters. Floating plants are a must as this provides somewhere for the eggs top attach and also cultures a food source for the fry in the form of infusoria, many breeders add a large romaine lettuce leaf purely for this purpose.
Surprisingly this species of gourami do not build bubble nests, they scatter the eggs around the tank, the eggs then float to the surface and attach to the floating plants, during spawning the male may still blow bubbles of air so this can be a sign that spawning is imminent. Up to 10,000 eggs can be laid in one spawning but this does not happen too often in the aquarium, so expect a lot of fry to grow on although there will be mortalities from the fertilisation process and weak fry.
Once the eggs have been laid it is wise to remove the parent fish to another tank as they will see the eggs as food and they naturally have no parental instinct so take no further part in the safety of the fry. The eggs should hatch within 24 hours and the fry will stay attached to the floating plants/lettuce for a further 48 hours before they become free-swimming, at this stage they should receive enough food from the infusoria so extra feeds should not be required, as they grow you will find that the juveniles will start to nibble on the plants themselves.
Keep a close eye out for deformed fry and these should be culled, larger juveniles may harass their smaller siblings so it does pay to have a couple of growing on tanks so that they can be size graded as well. In a couple of weeks they will accept crushed flake and smaller live foods such as micro worms and brine shrimp.
Will live up to 7 years in properly setup environemnt.