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Male gourami attacking female... what to do?


andieb
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Hi guys, 

I'm so sad. I have a male and female pair of honey gouramis. The male has always chased the female around but he's never hurt her before and he'd usually stop once she got over to "her side of the tank". I was having to feed them on opposite sides of the tank though because they can get territorial over food and the male started to "patrol" the place where I was feeding them before. However, most the time they co-existed together peacefully and they were doing spawning behaviour almost every day. I don't think they ever actually spawned though since they're still growing up. 

I went to my cottage this past weekend from Thursday night - Sunday night and had my sister come feed the fish on Saturday afternoon. When I got home, right away I noticed that everyone in the tank was very pail, even the male gourami, and the female gourami had injuries. 

I tried to include the best pictures I could take to show you the injuries. They don't appear to be life threatening, but a second opinion would be good cause I'm inexperienced. She has what looks like bruising or missing scales around her eye and missing scales on her back. 

Now that I've fed them 3 times since getting back, everyone is back to their normal colours. The female seems ok, but she's been hiding a lot. 

Because the male was never violent before, could it just be that maybe the stress of going hungry might have caused him to be more aggressive? I checked carefully and he doesn't have a bubble nest that I can see. 

Should I wait and see if things calm down or should I remove the female as soon as possible? I can move her to a 10 gal tank that just contains apple snails and plecos right now, but I'd rather do that only as a last resort because the gouramis bite the apple snail's antenna and the tank has higher current than is ideal for gouramis. 

Thanks for you input! 

 198222997_556131679103806_7444048150586591571_n.jpg.c14f1cb34dd5d593f2dfe99b3bc466a5.jpg197873585_998934407614645_1609787422251006987_n.jpg.81f217ac148c61758680eac002c1226f.jpg194769484_530606907976798_1511333285238158936_n.jpg.c1f7425d2d1c8979cc76ca127c4847c3.jpg

 

 

 

 

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I think it would be best to remove the female as things will probably not cool down. This seems to be breeding aggression as you always want to make sure there are more females than males to avoid this situation. Thankfully I agree that these injuries are not life threatening and you should not have to worry about that part. There are situations where males can become suddenly aggressive even if showing no breeding/nesting signs

Edited by Savannah
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15 minutes ago, andieb said:

Hm I have a 20 gal long, could I fit another female honey gourami and would the tank still be nice and spacious for them? Do you think that would decrease the aggression? Why/how does adding another female decreases the aggression?  Sorry so many questions, just a little a lot worried for her! 

Is there anything else in the tank? I think 3 in a 20 long could definitely work. If you don't have floating plants, add some.

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Thanks for your reply. There are a lot of floating plants, red root floaters and water lettuce. Maybe I'll try to find some other plants, like purple camboba that might break up the line of sight in the tank a bit better.

The only other thing in the tank is 4 corydoras habrosus (I will get more, just Covid-19 is causing stock from South American to be limited at least there I live). 

Would adding a third gourami be a bad idea? 

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18 minutes ago, andieb said:

Thanks for your reply. There are a lot of floating plants, red root floaters and water lettuce. Maybe I'll try to find some other plants, like purple camboba that might break up the line of sight in the tank a bit better.

The only other thing in the tank is 4 corydoras habrosus (I will get more, just Covid-19 is causing stock from South American to be limited at least there I live). 

Would adding a third gourami be a bad idea? 

I have consistently heard that honey gouramis do better in groups! I hope someone with more extensive experience with honey gouramis chimes in, though. I don't want to steer you into getting a third gourami when I'm not sure it'll alleviate the behavior. It's likely the male will always chase around females and get a little territorial when he's in a breeding mood and nesting, but I've also heard that honey gourami aggression tends to be very mild overall.

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Yes, I'd love to get a second opinion... obviously would be thrilled if the solution was to get another female... but gotta be responsible. 

This is just a thought I had about honey gourami aggression... 

Wild-Type females are pail yellow/silver to grey/brown, with a fairly solid brown stripe down their side. According to wikipedia the two colour varieties "sunset" and "gold" are selectively bred, not occurring in nature. I was sold the "gold" variety. Here are pics of my female and male, and a pic of a wild-type female honey grouami. 

194348718_499690894487874_6741479001887903780_n.jpg.2789a4c50e74cf24e583af82a3a2ba10.jpg194056532_394793335064703_7742523009310114753_n.jpg.265d9372cd21abf190116f11cdea0a6d.jpgdownload.jpg.bcfc2482815a1957e87ca64170d1243f.jpg

 

The biggest difference between the wild-type and "gold" variety is in the female in my opinion. She's way more bright yellow/gold then the wild-type female and brown stripe is faint, and usually completely disappears when she's not stressed or interacting with the male.

Anyways, I specialized in animal behaviour in my undergrad and one of the studies we read about was in sticklebacks, where mature males develop bright red underparts. Anyways, a behaviourist was keeping sticklebacks and noticed that every morning they'd all go nuts at the side of the tank facing the window. He realized that the fish were seeing the mail truck outside, which was red. He tested them with other red objects and found that the colour red triggered aggression in the male sticklebacks. The theory is that male sticklebacks evolved to associate red with rival males. 

When I first got my fish, I found it really hard to sex them. As they've gotten older the male developed black underparts, but the female looks largely the same and kind of looks like a juvenile male wild-type honey grouami. Maybe male honey gouramis use the brown line and lack of yellow to distinguish females from rival males. At least to me, she looks more like a male than the females he's evolved to recognize. He might be mistaking her for a male and her manish good looks are making him angry? 

Has anyone observed more male->female aggression in gold honey gouramis compared to wild-types? 

Sorry for the long post... I just find this stuff cool. 

Edited by andieb
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Ah! The honey gourami aggression question! Hopefully my experience can be helpful here.

I’m intrigued by your theory about gold female honeys vs the wild type, but I can’t speak to it since I also only have a very gold female. Here’s my pair resting in the middle of flirting time:

2159E5B0-2812-4205-9F03-030362C4103C.jpeg.b1627daa17152bad20bbed27e6e0ae16.jpeg

I have my gouramis in a 55 gallon community tank. My male (Dad Fish) is only super aggressive to the female (Mom Fish) when he’s guarding eggs or very young fry. When he has eggs to guard, he’ll see her from one side of the tank and cross the entire tank to chase after her. He basically chases her behind the driftwood into a corner, and when she’s out of his sight line, he lets her be.

Otherwise, the two of them are buddies. They flirt, they poke each other, and Mom Fish chases Dad Fish away at feeding time. But everything changes when there’s a nest to guard.

My guess is that your male did indeed have eggs he was guarding. Either you missed the nest among the floating plants, or someone in the tank ate the eggs. It’s possible the female was really hungry and decided to eat the eggs even though the male was trying to defend them. Maybe that’s why she got so beat up—I’ve never seen my female get injuries, though she can give Dad Fish a lot of space since the tank’s so big.

My recommendation would be to wait and see what happens at the next spawn. If everyone’s getting enough to eat, maybe everything will be fine. If you’re still having aggression issues, try adding tall plants or rocks/wood in the tank’s center so she can get out of his line of sight.

I control my gouramis’ spawns by adding or removing floating plants, and increasing or decreasing the flow. With increased flow and no floaters, there’s nowhere for Dad Fish to build a nest and he goes out of breeding mode. I’m not sure that’s an option for you though since you have a lot of floaters.

At this point I would not get another female. In livebearers, adding another female gives the male someone else to flirt with. In the case of nest guarding though, I think you’d need a lot more than two gouramis to have any effect on the male’s aggression.

The good news is fish tend to heal from injuries pretty well. As long as she’s not still getting attacked, she’ll probably be just fine.

I also love animal behavior. I’m convinced gouramis are smarter than other similar fish since their brains have evolved to use and process info from their feelers. But maybe I just like gouramis. 😄 

You have a beautiful pair, by the way!

Edited by Hobbit
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6 hours ago, andieb said:

Yes, I'd love to get a second opinion... obviously would be thrilled if the solution was to get another female... but gotta be responsible. 

This is just a thought I had about honey gourami aggression... 

Wild-Type females are pail yellow/silver to grey/brown, with a fairly solid brown stripe down their side. According to wikipedia the two colour varieties "sunset" and "gold" are selectively bred, not occurring in nature. I was sold the "gold" variety. Here are pics of my female and male, and a pic of a wild-type female honey grouami. 

194348718_499690894487874_6741479001887903780_n.jpg.2789a4c50e74cf24e583af82a3a2ba10.jpg194056532_394793335064703_7742523009310114753_n.jpg.265d9372cd21abf190116f11cdea0a6d.jpgdownload.jpg.bcfc2482815a1957e87ca64170d1243f.jpg

 

The biggest difference between the wild-type and "gold" variety is in the female in my opinion. She's way more bright yellow/gold then the wild-type female and brown stripe is faint, and usually completely disappears when she's not stressed or interacting with the male.

Anyways, I specialized in animal behaviour in my undergrad and one of the studies we read about was in sticklebacks, where mature males develop bright red underparts. Anyways, a behaviourist was keeping sticklebacks and noticed that every morning they'd all go nuts at the side of the tank facing the window. He realized that the fish were seeing the mail truck outside, which was red. He tested them with other red objects and found that the colour red triggered aggression in the male sticklebacks. The theory is that male sticklebacks evolved to associate red with rival males. 

When I first got my fish, I found it really hard to sex them. As they've gotten older the male developed black underparts, but the female looks largely the same and kind of looks like a juvenile male wild-type honey grouami. Maybe male honey gouramis use the brown line and lack of yellow to distinguish females from rival males. At least to me, she looks more like a male than the females he's evolved to recognize. He might be mistaking her for a male and her manish good looks are making him angry? 

Has anyone observed more male->female aggression in gold honey gouramis compared to wild-types? 

Sorry for the long post... I just find this stuff cool. 

I have a gold female and a wild type female, and I find my gold female incredibly docile and my wild type female a touch food-aggressive but nothing major. I don’t have a male yet but my LFS typically carries wild types!

C39EB27C-627B-48D8-9945-C0171E594CD0.jpeg

9BB92021-5D14-452D-80D7-1E7187F77292.jpeg

83CC5192-7540-4D9C-BE0F-AF71E94332B5.jpeg

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Thanks for your replies and for all the pics of your honey gouramis, they are the absolute cutest. It's so nice to meet some of the other honey gourami people on here!

@Hobbit Literally everything you described your fish doing, down to the female being the one who's aggressive over food, is the same as my fish. 

MAJOR UPDATE. 

I think you were correct, that she possibly ate the nest. Because today: 

198512476_189105313216283_781733632578115233_n.jpg.47ef10b7e904f1c76460a93ac97df191.jpg

He built a new bubble nest!!! This was not here yesterday when I fed dinner. 

He's trying to coax her towards it right now, but she's very cautious to follow him into his side of the tank and keeps turning back. 

7 hours ago, Hobbit said:

My recommendation would be to wait and see what happens at the next spawn. If everyone’s getting enough to eat, maybe everything will be fine. If you’re still having aggression issues, try adding tall plants or rocks/wood in the tank’s center so she can get out of his line of sight.

 

Thanks for your recommendation, I'll follow your advice and do a bit of rescapement before the next spawn 😎 I also will ask my sister to come every day next time I'm away so the fish don't get so hungry. 

55 gal is my dream set up, I'd have all the same tiny fish as now but just with so much more room. 

And I agree 100% that honey gouramis are insanely smart. That's actually why I chose them. In videos, you can see them inspecting things and thinking. Plus where my other fish are skittish around me, the gouramis learned super quickly that I feed them and I'm no harm. They're not scared at all, even when I'm gravel vaccing they chase the bits of debris going up the vac tube. I adore them. 

Here they are back in the day when they *mostly* got along: 

197774390_787078238848489_237210573918213746_n.jpg.c4b305eb153d87ce297b74f90eedc299.jpg

 

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They are such a cute couple!! Mine are very friendly with me as well. Mom Fish is always greeting me at the glass. She’s not comfortable with the phone camera though—I think the two lenses look like giant eyes to her.

3 hours ago, andieb said:

He's trying to coax her towards it right now, but she's very cautious to follow him into his side of the tank and keeps turning back.

My female does this too! After several days of the male murder-chasing her across the tank, all of a sudden he’s like “come heeeere!” And she’s like “uhhh seriously??” The mixed messages are real.

Your tank looks like gourami paradise. Keep us updated with how the next spawn goes!

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