When it comes to curious names, the Climbing Gourami has not one but quite a few. It’s part of a family of perciform fish called the Anabantidae, is a type of Labyrinth Fish and its close relatives include the Climbing Perches.
Labyrinth Fish are freshwater fish, and there are 36 species in the family. These are classified into four genera (or sometimes three, according to the source). The climbing gouramies originated in Africa, India and the Philippines.
Climbing Gourami have a few interesting quirks. They are distinguished by a special organ called a labyrinth organ. It’s situated in the Gourami’s head and functions by allowing the fish to breathe air from the surface of the water. You’ll often see Climbing Gourami gulping at air at the water’s surface in order to obtain oxygen, which then passes out of the gills or mouth as they return beneath the surface. The Labyrinth Organ is made up of small compartments of thin bony material, called lamellae. These are covered with very thin membranes which allow oxygen to enter. Blood within the membranes absorbs the oxygen and carries it throughout the body. And why do they need it? Well, in the areas of Africa and Southeast Asia where these fish traditionally reside, the high temperatures and low water depth result in water that is low in oxygen. These fish then require an extra amount of oxygen in order to survive.
Labyrinth fish have been known to exist for short periods outside of water as long as they stay moist. On very rare occasions they have even able to crawl across land to find a new body of water. Other Gourami species include the Kissing Gourami, Talking Gourami and Moonlight Gourami, which also all sound like interesting characters.
Most Gouramis enjoy similar living conditions, which generally mean water temperatures at around 24 to 26 degrees C, and with pH-values neutral or slightly acidic. It’s advisable to include lots of plants in the aquarium and preferably some sturdy types such as Java Fern, Cryptocoryne or Vallisneria. The bottom of the aquarium can be covered with a fine or medium sized substrate in a neutral colour.
Ensure your Climbing Gourami is given a healthy diet, and that is varied from time to time to ensure it is receiving all the required nutrients. Although they are quite sturdy fish, they can become ill if their diet is lacking. A good start would be a combination of dry and frozen prepared foods, and these can then be supplemented with live foods. Even fresh vegetables can be of benefit, with greens such peas and lettuce being good options. Many Climbing Gourami fish are also big fans of worms.
Climbing Gouramies are colourful freshwater fish that make a great splash in an aquarium. They are hardy, easy to care for, and peaceful fish, all of which also make them very popular as pets.