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Honey gourami situation


Anomalocaris
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Hi everyone! I could use some advice about my honey gourami and the gender ratio/breeding situation. *If you don't want to read all my background info, I added a TLDR in bold right above my actual questions below.*

A few months ago I bought 4 honey gourami for my planted 29 gallon.

When I bought the honey gourami, I was hoping for 1 male and 3 females (to avoid basically the situation I'm in now lol), but they were too young to really tell for sure. At the time, the person in the store thought I might have 2 male and 2 female, but wasn't really confident.

What I ended up with were: 1 female, 1 male, 1 that was the smallest for a long time, and therefore of indeterminate gender until the last week or so, when he's developed the brighter colouring and black-ish throat that Male 1 has (and is actually slightly bigger than Male 1 now, but not quite as brightly coloured); and 1 that has stayed kind of small (a runt I guess) - I assume he's male because he's got the slimmer body type but he's pretty small and pale compared to all the others, has a bent ventral fin and doesn't really bother anybody.

Male 1 has had some established territory near the top right of the tank for a while now, and would do a little bit of chasing of the others, but nothing too aggressive.

About 4 days ago, I saw some mating behaviour between him and the female. After that the chasing got more aggressive. Any time one of the other three gourami gets to the center of the tank, Male 1 will basically dive bomb them, and chase them around the tank before returning to his nest. There are sight blockers and places to hide, but I see this happen basically any time I look at the tank for more than a minute or two.

(Yesterday I was able to see tiny baby fry under the floating plants. I'm not really trying to breed them at this point, even though I'd like to try raising fry in the future, so I imagine those fry will probably get eaten)

What I'm more concerned about is that today I noticed Male 2 has a small tear on his dorsal fin, I assume from being chased around the tank. This is the first injury I've noticed. I'd like to take him out for now, but the problem is that I have 1 quarantine/hospital tank, and it's currently being occupied by a school of cardinal tetras that I was planning to add to the 29 gallon at the end of this week, so hopefully he doesn't get infected or more injured in the next few days (though I can always use a bucket for him if I absolutely have to)

TLDR: I ended up with 3 male honey gourami and 1 female, and one of the males has recently become a tank bully due to nesting. Male 2 has a small fin tear from the chasing. Male 3 is a runt that I'm not too concerned about besides him also getting chased by Male 1.

My questions/concerns:

1. Will Male 1 chill out in a few days when the fry are older, or can I expect this level of aggression to continue for longer? I'm worried not only about the levels of stress this is putting on the other gourami, but also that Male 1 will bully the cardinal tetras when I add them once they're out of quarantine.

2. If Male 1 doesn't chill out, I'm obviously going to have to rearrange this configuration of fish. What's my best course of action? Should I remove Male 1, Male 2 or the female? I don't really want to get rid of the female, since I'm kind of attached to her (and like I said, also I'd like to try actually raising fry at some point), but I will if it's the best course of action for the health of the fish.

a) If I remove the female, will the males settle down with her gone, or are the issues established now?

b) If I remove Male 1, will Male 2 just take up the role of tank bully instead? If I remove Male 2, will Male 1 chill out more?

c) If I keep the female, it seems like I need to get 1 or two more females, but how do I go about doing that, since they seem to be sold at too young of an age to tell? Would it be an unreasonable request to make of my LFS to order specifically female honey gourami?

3. Is there another solution to this problem I'm not seeing. I've seen people mention to up the flow to prevent breeding, but I already have a sponge filter and a HOB, and I don't want to blow the little guys around too much. I also know they supposedly breed at higher temperatures- my tank temperature is about 77F - I don't want to put it much lower since I also have kuhli loaches, but I guess I could turn it down to 75/76F if that might help?

 

Sorry for all the questions, I really appreciate you folks taking the time to read it and offering any advice you might have. 🙂

 

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I have heard that increasing a group of honey gourami to 6 (more females) will help your situation, but you'd have to probably rethink your overall stocking if you went this route. It's unfortunate that you ended up with 1 female out of the entire group. If you're still not sure about your smallest honey, if they're a gold-type honey gourami, females have orange 'rims' on their anal and dorsal fins, while males have a yellow "mohawk." Some pictures can help us verify sex if you'd like!

In any case, sadly, I don't think your alpha male will calm down long term. If breeding and bubble nesting keeps happening, the nesting aggression will continue cyclically. So your options are, as follows:

Give the pair their own tank.

Remove two of the males and let the pair nest in the 29 gallon.

Remove the female and pray the three males make their own territories.

Remove two of the males and find two verified females to replace them.

As far as fin tears, is there any greater damage to Male 2 aside from a bit of torn fin? It COULD be reasonably normal (in terms of figuring out an heirarchy/pecking order) if you're willing to stand for it, because honeys are mostly docile and aren't likely to do serious damage to one another beyond the fin tears. However this would require some close monitoring to ensure that the situation doesn't escalate further.

@Hobbit might have more to add since she keeps a breeding pair of gouramis and just added some of their babies to her group.

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Hello! Welcome to the forum!

In my experience, male honeys will be aggressive with any other fish, including female honeys, when they have eggs or fry in their nest. When they don’t have eggs or fry, they’re peaceful little angels. When they do have eggs or fry, they become hormonal raging monsters!

Honestly, if you want to stop the aggression right now, the easiest way to do that would be to remove the fry from the nest. It would be kind of heartbreaking but depending on your goals, it may be the best course of action. You can take a cup or small bowl and scoop them out. Your male will be furious and distraught of course, but once there are no fry to defend, he’ll calm down and stop chasing everyone. (You can feed the fry to your tetras in quarantine.) If it’s any “comfort,” there’s pretty much 0 chance the fry will survive in the tank. They need a lot of microorganisms to grow, so they’ll either starve or get eaten by a different gourami.

(Wow, this is a depressing post so far! Usually my advice isn’t nearly this sad, I promise!!)

I wouldn’t be too worried about the fin tear. Fish’s fins heal quickly in clean water. In all likelihood it will be back to normal in a few days.

Long term, I think the first two of @laritheloud’s suggestions are best. If you remove the female, there won’t be any more fry, and the three males will probably get along fine. You can always put the male and female back together in a separate tank or tub just for breeding. @Fish Folk breeds gouramis this way—by keeping them separate most of the time, then introducing them to each other when he’s ready to raise fry. Conversely, if you take out the two extra males, the breeding male will have less gouramis to chase. He’ll still chase the female, but she should have an easier time hiding without two other gouramis to work around.

Personally, I’d be worried about one male + three females in a 29. I think you’d have the same problems you’re having now. I could be wrong though!

As far as the tetras: I have cardinal tetras in my 55 gallon with my honeys, and they dart out of Dad Fish’s way no problem when he goes after them them. I think your tetras will be fine, though there is a concern that your male will wear himself out trying to chase them. Just keep an eye on things. My Dad Fish is always exhausted once he’s finished a breeding cycle. He’ll sleep on the substrate and scare me by looking dead. 😬😅

Once you work out a good living situation, honeys are super fun, sweet fish! Raising their fry is challenging but really rewarding!

 

 

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Lol @Hobbit when I got over getting scared half to death about gouramis going to rest/sleep on the substrate, I felt so much better. Now I think it's just adorable when they rest near the top or the bottom at night, usually in a group. Though... In my tank, currently, it's the lady gouramis in one corner and male gourami all by himself in the opposite corner...

(That's a different story. Don't keep two species of gouramis in one tank, friends. It might work at first but there's no guarantee long term!)

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I just sold all my Gouramis. I had 1x male Dwarf, 4x mature females, 1x young female fry that survived (after eating _All_ of her siblings), and 1x male Honey Gourami all enjoying life together peacefully in a 30 gal. long aquarium.

Here’s the Honey male…

56482F0A-70B7-4D87-83A2-013746CC73BB.jpeg.60b13cc9a1d62f7e9e9f9d45f549b424.jpeg

Here he is with the male Dwarf…

43A5551F-80B1-4966-AACB-72EFC355ED60.jpeg.21ed4d06af00bf5a5cf3c9a85e6d9244.jpeg

Heres the gang…

6EBAB2CD-0C80-4A7D-A380-C282F91242FE.jpeg.0c04dc01c4f058c44ddc876f4ce75607.jpeg

And here’s the baby girl, just about all grown up…

5E8863F7-6DC2-4D41-A7E2-4CF253FF6940.jpeg.93d5b2a3f906a003a72940309b06633e.jpeg

Kept them in a 20 long…

88D49BBE-9AB0-40D3-B245-684E88DC6574.jpeg.c7a1a31f1f28a44620d13d599c2f4b89.jpeg

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@Fish Folk Your 'honey gourami' male is actually a thicklipped gourami! They're often sold as Sunset Gouramis, or even "red robin" gouramis -- but they always end up the size of a thick lipped. Both species are peaceful, thicklips are just a little more outgoing and can sometimes get a little bossier.

I absolutely love my thicklip female.

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On 9/20/2021 at 9:57 PM, laritheloud said:

@Fish Folk Your 'honey gourami' male is actually a thicklipped gourami! They're often sold as Sunset Gouramis, or even "red robin" gouramis -- but they always end up the size of a thick lipped. Both species are peaceful, thicklips are just a little more outgoing and can sometimes get a little bossier.

I absolutely love my thicklip female.

Oh wow! I was unaware of that distinction. Someone just gave him to me, and I never bothered to really look up any distinctions. He got along fine with the Dwarf Gouramis, and even built a bubble nest in there. 

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On 9/20/2021 at 10:16 PM, Fish Folk said:

Oh wow! I was unaware of that distinction. Someone just gave him to me, and I never bothered to really look up any distinctions. He got along fine with the Dwarf Gouramis, and even built a bubble nest in there. 

Adorable! I really want to get a male and a few more females. They are such lively and friendly little fish.

It's actually really confusing to learn the difference, though, and I got real deep in the weeds about it. The only reason I learned to hammer it out was because I was sold a thicklip gourami as a honey gourami by mistake. I spent weeks questioning it until I finally compared pictures from seriously fish and figured it out.

Basically, true honey gouramis are always a colorway of trichogaster chuna, which only grow to a max of 2 inches. A "Sunset Gourami" is sometimes a sunset thicklip gourami. A "Sunset Honey Gourami" could actually be a honey gourami, but sometimes the shop is mislabeling a thick-lipped. A "red robin honey gourami" or a "red honey gourami" is hypothesized to be a thicklip and honey hybrid, but they look an awful lot like straight-up darker-colored thick lips. I also believe they grow a bit larger.

In any case, my thicklip female is approaching twice the size of my honeys at this point -- thick lips can reach 3.5 to 4 inches. Honeys are quite small in person!

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On 9/20/2021 at 10:34 PM, laritheloud said:

Adorable! I really want to get a male and a few more females. They are such lively and friendly little fish.

It's actually really confusing to learn the difference, though, and I got real deep in the weeds about it. The only reason I learned to hammer it out was because I was sold a thicklip gourami as a honey gourami by mistake. I spent weeks questioning it until I finally compared pictures from seriously fish and figured it out.

Basically, true honey gouramis are always a colorway of trichogaster chuna, which only grow to a max of 2 inches. A "Sunset Gourami" is sometimes a sunset thicklip gourami. A "Sunset Honey Gourami" could actually be a honey gourami, but sometimes the shop is mislabeling a thick-lipped. A "red robin honey gourami" or a "red honey gourami" is hypothesized to be a thicklip and honey hybrid, but they look an awful lot like straight-up darker-colored thick lips. I also believe they grow a bit larger.

In any case, my thicklip female is approaching twice the size of my honeys at this point -- thick lips can reach 3.5 to 4 inches. Honeys are quite small in person!

That's fascinating. I've probably mixed these up for awhile. I always thought his body looked odd -- a bit too long -- and that his face looked different than Honey Gourami I've kept before. 

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On 9/21/2021 at 4:15 AM, Okesa said:

@laritheloud the tank I just set up at school has a male gourami that my LFS had labeled as a "sunset dwarf gourami." Is he also a thick lipped?

gourami.jpg.c4e2ec1b11bfe3c05669f8bb958cd760.jpg

That is a Flame Dwarf Gourami and not a thicklip. It gets really, really confusing with all the different fancy phrases vendors use to label their stock.

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Oh, I missed a whole conversation haha! I'll be keeping an eye out for that other post!

Thanks for the replies and great info @laritheloud and  @Hobbit !

I took your advice and removed the nest/fry. They were so small that I don't feel too bad about it. Male 1 seems to have calmed down a little bit at least.

Ah! I'm so torn about what to do! I don't have space for an extra tank to keep the female separate, so it's looking like I'll have to go with either just the male/female pair, or the group of males. I guess keeping them in pairs works out ok? The stuff I read suggested keeping a m/f pair wasn't a good idea, hence why I went the group of 3 or more route.

The double-edged sword with honey gourami is that they're so personable and cute, so it's so easy to get attached. I've been loving watching them interact and explore the tank up until now.

 

I got some pictures of each of them, in case I am misreading the genders of these fish. Sorry the image quality isn't the greatest, I had a hard time getting clear side views of them all.

Male 1 aka overprotective dad

male1gourami.jpg.d2a9c35671275b60291d04ded4d30c22.jpg

 

Male 2 (was the tiniest child when I got them, is now bigger than Male 1) - you can see he's not quite as bright, but he seems to have the white belly with black throat and anal fin that Male 1 has - that's not a thing females get, right?

male2gourami.jpg.91129f4719b98f94a3b4d509d0747a76.jpg

 

Male 3 - basically hasn't grown or changed colour since I got them (I suppose he could be female, but it seems like he's not going to develop further, so it doesn't super matter either way)

male3gourami.jpg.962555acedc7d346f4fc597861bcf91c.jpg

 

And the female (aka the tank boss until Male 1 got hormonal) (also featuring Male 2 below her)

femalegouramiandmale2.jpg.0ec63a4627c79e6f49dc5f5785581a25.jpg

 

 

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On 9/21/2021 at 1:44 PM, laritheloud said:

Would it be useful to start a new topic on dwarf and honey gourami distinction so I don't take this topic further off the rails? 😅

Not just distinction - also sexual dimorphism please! 😂

I'm having trouble sexing my two honey gouramis! Keep looking up the differences and none of the explanations seem to make sense for my two! You've already mentioned a few bits that I've not even seen mentioned elsewhere and it doesn't help that mine are gold ones I think and most 'guides' don't seem to make the distinction between the different colour morphs as far as sexing them goes. 

If you don't mind I will send you a picture of mine tomorrow (in my mind you are now our resident honey gourami expert 😅) when I get home from work but for now I'll try to describe - I have one which I'm pretty sure is male and looks like the males pictured above, and one smaller one that seems to be the same fin and body shape and is almost as brightly coloured (not quite) but with a dark stripe down the length and almost a faint shade in places. From some guides the smaller one could be female but I've also read the female should be bigger and different shape body/fins so I'm at a loss! Either of them could be either. Also the big one seems to have developed a dark stripe on his/her ventral (?) fin. 

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On 9/22/2021 at 9:15 PM, KentFishFanUK said:

Not just distinction - also sexual dimorphism please! 😂

I'm having trouble sexing my two honey gouramis! Keep looking up the differences and none of the explanations seem to make sense for my two! You've already mentioned a few bits that I've not even seen mentioned elsewhere and it doesn't help that mine are gold ones I think and most 'guides' don't seem to make the distinction between the different colour morphs as far as sexing them goes. 

If you don't mind I will send you a picture of mine tomorrow (in my mind you are now our resident honey gourami expert 😅) when I get home from work but for now I'll try to describe - I have one which I'm pretty sure is male and looks like the males pictured above, and one smaller one that seems to be the same fin and body shape and is almost as brightly coloured (not quite) but with a dark stripe down the length and almost a faint shade in places. From some guides the smaller one could be female but I've also read the female should be bigger and different shape body/fins so I'm at a loss! Either of them could be either. Also the big one seems to have developed a dark stripe on his/her ventral (?) fin. 

I'll give it a shot! Honeys are just so, so hard to sex, sometimes. The most dependable sexing tell is the fin color. Ladies will have mostly ORANGE fins, boys will have yellow mohawks.

Now. Caveat. I'm still not totally convinced by my so-called "sunset" honey gourami. I'm reasonably sure she's a female, but she seems to be a wild type... sort of. She has more color than most wild type females I've seen. She has the stripe 90% of the time, she has a lemon yellow top fin that's pretty faded, she has a black-to-blue spot on her anal fin that will turn black and tint her throat a darker color without crossing all the way into male breeding dress. She drives me insane. She behaves like a female and has the body shape of a female, but has a lot of the male "tells." I found only one other photographer who captured a photo of a fish that looks exactly like my female:

spacer.png


If you have gold honeys, then the female will be yellow in the body (but a paler shade). This is my (still young) gold female:
1E1E0D17-C6C7-4773-B73C-4E74941416F8.jpeg.e86282ae7af5a3d39eb26e71dd0536fe.jpeg

and this is my wild-type (?) female:1662674468_ImagefromiOS.jpg.c6240d05c4946d7677d09f8a4530b2d9.jpg9D00A7B5-F08D-4AC0-A923-84B49F546CB6.jpeg.34c29ecbdcc42f2cb2abbe0567860246.jpeg 
 

Edited by laritheloud
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On 9/23/2021 at 3:12 AM, laritheloud said:

I'll give it a shot! Honeys are just so, so hard to sex, sometimes. The most dependable sexing tell is the fin color. Ladies will have mostly ORANGE fins, boys will have yellow mohawks.

Now. Caveat. I'm still not totally convinced by my so-called "sunset" honey gourami. I'm reasonably sure she's a female, but she seems to be a wild type... sort of. She has more color than most wild type females I've seen. She has the stripe 90% of the time, she has a lemon yellow top fin that's pretty faded, she has a black-to-blue spot on her anal fin that will turn black and tint her throat a darker color without crossing all the way into male breeding dress. She drives me insane. She behaves like a female and has the body shape of a female, but has a lot of the male "tells." I found only one other photographer who captured a photo of a fish that looks exactly like my female:

spacer.png


If you have gold honeys, then the female will be yellow in the body (but a paler shade). This is my (still young) gold female:
1E1E0D17-C6C7-4773-B73C-4E74941416F8.jpeg.e86282ae7af5a3d39eb26e71dd0536fe.jpeg

and this is my wild-type (?) female:1662674468_ImagefromiOS.jpg.c6240d05c4946d7677d09f8a4530b2d9.jpg9D00A7B5-F08D-4AC0-A923-84B49F546CB6.jpeg.34c29ecbdcc42f2cb2abbe0567860246.jpeg 
 

Thanks!

Ok so my small one definitely looks like your wild type female but more yellow, or your gold female but less orange on the fins (I think). So still not conclusive haha! Will be better to show you the pics when I can maybe. 

Do male gold honeys get that stripe along their side? 

Is it right that females should be bigger? 

 

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On 9/23/2021 at 5:12 AM, laritheloud said:

Male gold honeys can have the stripe if they're very young, but they will lose it. Females will be plumper if they're full-grown. My wild-type female is only slightly larger than my gold male. My gold female is smallest of the three.

Well as far as I can tell it's getting darker not lighter but then it could be younger than the other given the size difference. Fingers crossed I have one male one female! 

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@laritheloud 

Ok so home now and checking your instructions I'm now pretty sure that one is male and the other female (fingers crossed!) but expert confirmation would be greatly appreciated ☺️ 

Here is the one I think is male: 

1258881242_PXL_20210923_084028448_MP2.jpg.b2e2e5d7534cfb92fd3d1c3158e368fc.jpg

And here is the one I think is female:

PXL_20210923_084208332.jpg.6e4f40f837cee2ecba2a074eba6452ed.jpg

 

The pics don't show it but the first one is bigger

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On 9/23/2021 at 5:20 AM, KentFishFanUK said:

@laritheloud 

Ok so home now and checking your instructions I'm now pretty sure that one is male and the other female (fingers crossed!) but expert confirmation would be greatly appreciated ☺️ 

Here is the one I think is male: 

1258881242_PXL_20210923_084028448_MP2.jpg.b2e2e5d7534cfb92fd3d1c3158e368fc.jpg

And here is the one I think is female:

PXL_20210923_084208332.jpg.6e4f40f837cee2ecba2a074eba6452ed.jpg

 

The pics don't show it but the first one is bigger

Gosh, I'm far from an expert! I just got deep in the weeds about gouramis! 😅

In any case, you have a pair for sure! The female looks quite a bit younger than the male. Her color looks a bit weak, too. Did you add the pair to the tank recently? How is she eating and how is her behavior? She might just need some time to settle and plump up to show her colors better (mine took a few weeks to really settle and show her bright orange fins), but if you suspect anything is off, I'd try a round of general cure or another mild anti-parasite. 

As she settles and gets happier/grows, you'll notice her fins will gain a more intense, brighter orange. My young goldie will also 'turn off' her stripe at night when she is resting, but I haven't seen her turn it 'off' turning the day yet.

EDIT: I want to add that I'm fairly certain both of your fish are still quite young. You'll notice as the male grows older the orange in his caudal fin will intensify. Gouramis grow very slowly, so this might take longer than you think!

Edited by laritheloud
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