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Aggressive honey gourami


Jaesthetic
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Hello, I added 3 honey gourami to my first tank almost exactly 1 month ago with 2 females and 1 male. From the beginning I noticed that 1 female was more dominant and would chase and sometimes nip at the other female and male for a bit, but this was primarily during feeding and the other fish did not seem stressed or bothered by the small amount of chasing because she would leave them alone after a few seconds. Then on Christmas the dominant female and male spawned and laid eggs into a tiny bubblenest. I scooped the eggs into a small mesh fry box and they hatched on the 27th 36 hours later. The gouramis seemed to go back to normal after I removed the eggs/nest.

Then I noticed 3 days ago that overnight the male had made a massive bubble nest over the middle half of the tank and was fiercely chasing and nipping at both the females, but I did not see any spawning happening. Nevertheless, the next day I saw the females furiously gobbling fry and the male attacking them. Yesterday I removed the bubble nest, which I thought was empty because I had seen the now free swimming fry being eaten the day before, into a small tubberware to try to eliminate the male's guarding behavior. I moved around some of the scape to try to break up the tank more and I moved all floating plants into one end of the tank for whatever remaining fry may have survived.

This afternoon I found that the bubblenest and eggs I had thought were empty in the tupperware have developed into fry balls and the male rebuilt the bubblenest and more new baby fry balls in addition to newly hatched fry in his corner despite the females eating them. The male goes out of his way to chases the females (but the less dominant one especially) all around the tank and nips at them. The dominant female also chases and nips at the other female. Today I noticed that her tail has bites in it for the first time. 

I reduced temperatures again and yesterday and today I fed them less. I have not even bothered trying to save the endless supply of newly hatching fry. I do not know why they have decided my tank is the place to spawn infinite babies, but it is a warzone and it's driving me mad. I purposely researched and got honey gouramis because they were supposedly peaceful, gentle interesting little fish, but I am so stressed at how much they are constantly fighting. 

Before there were any eggs and fry it was not nearly so bad so I assume that it was that that is making them so so aggressive, but I do not know how to make them stop their apparent continuous and constant breeding even with the lowered temp from 80 to 75 and decreased food frequency. I have been putting stress guard in daily to try to help the poor female that's both constantly getting chased and nipped.

Has anyone had this problem? How do I stop the breeding? Are honey gouramis always such prolific breeders (it seriously has been like 3-4 batches of hatching fry since the first batch on Christmas)? How do I stop the fighting? Would adding a third female gourami or other community fish help? I eventually want to get CPDs, otos, and pygmy cory cats as well as snails and shrimp, but my tank is so new that I wanted to get my gouramis and plants established first before starting to add others, plus even if I get others quarantining them will take another 1-2 months before I could add them to the tank anyways, right? I did not anticipate the fish would breed so quickly as I only got them just under a month ago and this is my first time having an aquarium since I was a kid, nor did I realize the extent and duration of this aggressive behavior and the at first exciting, soon dreadful infinite baby-making.

I only have 1 tank for the 3 fish, it is a 20 long with wood and rock hardscape, half gravel/half sand, newly planted plants, 2 large fake plants and 2 fake floating grass so I can't place the fish into a separate tank.

Edited by Jaesthetic
grammar clarification
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When I first set up my 36 bow front a year or so ago I got 3 honey's from the coop...they were supposed to be 1 male and 2 females.  Turned out to be 1 female and 2 males.  They all got along pretty good, some short distance quick chasing once in a while.  I had them in with a few guppies, neocardinias, 2 half beaks, cory's,  and some snails. 

I went back to the coop a couple months later (que curbside delivery thanks to covid) and got 2 more honeys that were supposed to be female.  Those turned out to be male as well.  Only reason I know this is because all 4 males had the black throat and none of them were aggressive accept for the female and she just ruled the roost.  All the guppies got out of her way as did the half beaks.

The female and one male chose each other...the other 3 males took a corner of the tank and hid.  So I gave 1 male to my mom (he now lives in harmony with a ram) and put the other 2 males in another 20 long with the furcatas and hillstream loaches.  They got along fine, small amounts of short distance chasing but mostly stayed on each side of the tank.

The female and male I left in the 36 gallon have spawned several times...there is a bubble nest about once every 2 weeks.  I now am the proud mom of about 30 nickel size honey babies (they grow SO slow).  So healthy mainly because of aquarium coop baby brine shrimp, lol.  I had to take those out when they were JUST a bubble nest.  None of the eggs or wigglers have ever survived the community tank...either one of the other fish eat em, or dad does about 4 days in.  Which is fine, I don't have room or the buyers to raise 30 honey fry every 2 weeks 🙂 

The male does chase the female away from the nest for a few days but she doesn't run far, she doesn't back down.

Moral of the story...I have none. 

The honey Gourami are one of the most interesting and fun fish that I have to watch. We call them doll hands, they are constantly touching everything in the tank...other fish...and each other.  The 2 males that are in the other tank have sword fights every once in a while but that is as far as their aggression goes.  I have no experience with other Gouramis so I could not compare them.  But these guys seem like a nice community fish...but I wonder if yours have a dominant personality, like an individual betta has. 

Maybe one needs to be rehomed for it's safety?

IMG_20200603_192024124.jpg

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Thank you for your reply, I always like hearing other people's experiences! For the month I had them before the spawning madness I absolutely loved them, they were so cute and mostly seemed to get along fine just doing their thing looking for food and exploring. I had read that they can be shy, but in my experience with them they have been anything but! They always came up to the glass for food and swam around the whole tank all day touching things and each other with their feelers and they were quite social! Then, like yours, they paired off with the male and the dominant female the first round with both sort of picking on the other female, and now either one or both of the females spawned again in the last few days, and the male still mainly goes after the less dominant female despite having spawned with her even when she is on the other side of the tank just minding her business. 

I thought that with 2 females and 1 male there would be less of a risk for any aggression and territorial behavior especially because everything I read had said they were very gentle, peaceful fish, especially females. I wonder now if it would have been better to get 3 females and 1 male initially to diffuse the competition between females.

I also did not expect them to breed so prolifically especially without effort into making their habitat suitable (e.g. raising the temp. frequent high protein meals, decreasing the water level, etc) or this soon into being added to the tank. The first batch of fry I had saved I put into a mesh fry box inside the aquarium and have been feeding them infusoria for the last week and bought brine shrimp eggs/hatchery, Hikari first bites, the whole shebang from Aquarium Coop online for when they are bigger if they make it. I wouldn't mind the spawning so much if they weren't becoming so aggressive and hurting/stressing each other because of it, even if it is a bit sad to watch them gobbling up their babies (I'm not even trying to save these newer batches of eggs/fry).

As it is though, I want to prevent or at least greatly decrease their spawning rate for their own safety. Unfortunately, though the 20 long gives them plenty of space theoretically, because of the holidays my plant shipment came a month later than my fish. I just planted them and they will probably take a while to grow and really fill out the tank with enough vegetation to make it safer for them to hide besides the two leafy fake plants, wood, and rocks. Even so, they were happy and fine with just those before I added the real plants until the spawning.

I would prefer not to rehome of course and I worry that if I did rehome the less dominant female then the male might just go after the more dominant one instead, if I got rid of the male the dominant female would still be there, or if I got rid of the dominant female the male might still go after the other. 😪

Essentially, I was hoping if anyone has insight into whether addition an additional female or perhaps other fish to the tank might disrupt this behavior and diffuse the fish from targeting one or being so aggressive with each other.

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Your posts are very interesting, as I just added 6 honeys to our community tank. I believe they are still juveniles & I think 4 or 5 may be males. So I haven't seen any of the breeding or nesting behavior yet

I'm wondering about surface agitation. How much would it take to discourage the nest building? Is that a possible solution to slowing things down? Adding an air stone or bubbler might hinder the male a bit. What do you think?

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@Jaesthetic what a saga! I breed honeys so your story doesn’t surprise me—in fact it’s exactly what I would expect. They seem to breed nonstop without any special conditions or help. 😆 

In terms of what to do to stop the aggression, you’re correct that the way to do this is to keep the male from building nests. In terms of how to accomplish that, @Alesha has hit the nail on the head. The key is surface agitation.

I have a power head in my 55 gallon that circulates air near the top of the tank. It’s attached to the short end and pointed slightly in one direction, which creates a lazy river type effect. With that water flow—it’s not much, just enough to cause the plants in the back to gently wave—any bubbles the male puts up get swept away.

When I want them to breed again I’ll let some plants grow long enough that they reach the surface and shelter a corner of the water.

Unfortunately I’m not sure how to incorporate floating plants into a setup like this. So you may have to get rid of the floaters, or do something creative so they all circulate and don’t stop in any one place.

It also may take a few days for the male to calm down after he’s lost his nest. You may see him put up bubbles here and there as tests, but when none of them stay put, he’ll eventually give up, the hormones will subside, and he’ll become the happy peaceful fish you had when you first got him!

One note of caution: if you get a power head or wave maker or whatever sort of circulator makes sense for you, make sure you cover up any openings with a thin piece of coarse sponge filter. I lost all four of my cory cats because they got sucked into a tiny intake on the side of the power head before I figured out how to block it.

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Thank you both for your answers!

Today I put in a sponge filter with an airstone into the opposite corner from my HOB filter to creat more flow and surface agitation which is seems to be doing wonderfully. I also went back in and carefully removed all bubbles again. I moved the floating plants to the middle of the tank so they would be between two sources of flow/agitation and the fake plants I kept as is to give whatever fry are left their small chance at survival, plus the male does not seem very interested in using them for a nest. Dumped half the new baby fry into the fry box, the other into the fake plants to fend for themselves as there have to be hundreds now and, while I doubt many will survive, I don't want to risk it lol. 

To my dismay, literally as I type this, the male and the dominant female are spawning yet again for what seems like the 100th time in two weeks. He is just putting the eggs into the corner and along the side of the tank. 

That being said, my efforts to increase flow, eliminate the bubble nest, and move things around seem for naught in terms to decreasing or eliminating spawning. I am open to additional input or advice! 
Needless to say, I will not be saving anymore eggs or fry. 😩

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Really very entertaining fish to watch!!  Sword fights and all, even when defending a nest!  My male and female almost dance with each other.  The male tries to chase the female away but she has none of it!  None of the eggs and swimmers have ever survived my community tank, even heavily planted.  The half beaks are probably the culprits since they stay near the surface and they do get chased the most, as well as the guppies...but none of them care.  Now the mystery snail, THAT'S funny.  He'll be sleeping up in the corner by the nest and you can just see smoke coming out of that honey's ears!  If he had any 🙂

Good luck with the flow!

Michelle

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On 1/5/2021 at 9:18 PM, Hobbit said:

@Jaesthetic Are the eggs staying put or moving with the flow? If he’s able to make them stay put you’ll need a higher flow rate. If they’re floating away, then I think he will calm down eventually! It may take a few days, but don’t give up hope!

I wish I could come over there and help you chaperone. 😆 

The eggs stick to whatever he seems to stick them to (glass, air tubing, plants, etc.). I am not sure how to increase the flow any higher than it already is with the HOB seachem tidal 55 and sponge filter with air stone already in there in opposite corners of the tank. It is only a 20 gallon so there isn't a lot of space as is especially with my plants. 😔

I thought things were getting a little better, but I was wrong lol. They're still bickering and they laid more eggs 1-2 days ago that look to be about ready to hatch. This time he just made a small bubble nest which I removed and he stuck the eggs to the airline tubing and the glass wall. 
I gotta hand it to them though, they really are very determined to procreate no matter what. I wish you could help chaperone as well!  😆

 

On 1/6/2021 at 12:36 AM, Mastifflvr28 said:

Really very entertaining fish to watch!!  Sword fights and all, even when defending a nest!  My male and female almost dance with each other.  The male tries to chase the female away but she has none of it!  None of the eggs and swimmers have ever survived my community tank, even heavily planted.  The half beaks are probably the culprits since they stay near the surface and they do get chased the most, as well as the guppies...but none of them care.  Now the mystery snail, THAT'S funny.  He'll be sleeping up in the corner by the nest and you can just see smoke coming out of that honey's ears!  If he had any 🙂

Good luck with the flow!

Michelle

The flow does not appear to have helped, though my tank water is slightly clearer lol! They are lovely to watch when they aren't stressing me out with their squabbling. The dominant female seems to at least have the sense to generally leave the nest alone and stay away, but the bullied female insists on trying to always get closer and hunt for eggs/babies even after getting harassed by the others and having a bite chomped out of her tail fin. Thankfully I've not been able to observe any other injuries since, but man is she persistent. She likes to hide behind things near the fry box and the male's nest and snag a fry or eggs any chance she gets. I added 3 amanos to the tank on Sunday night and have never seen them since. I have no other fish besides the females in there and I've seen the zeal with which they hunt and eat their young, even the free-swimming fry which can go really fast. 

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Man! It sounds like you got a male with super sticky spit. 😆 Well I’m glad they’re starting to fall into some sort of routine with who swims where. 

I will say that I think my honeys are slowing down as they get older. I’m guessing mine are about a year old now. Though they flirt all the time, the male isn’t so determined to build nests and the female isn’t so interested in visiting them anymore. Hopefully yours will slow down with time as well. Of course I’m actually *trying* to breed mine so it figures this would happen to me and not you.

Thanks for the update! I was wondering how your honeys were doing.

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I've noticed that too Hobbit, mine I've had for about a year now too...which probably means they are close to 2 yrs old because they take so dang long to get big!  But mine have slowed down on the bubble nests too.  They make one probably about once a month now instead of once every week.  I plan on letting nature takes it's course and not save a nest to raise until I sell this batch of 30 I already have.  These babies are about nickel size and 5 months old.  So slow!  Bur really fun 🙂

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On 1/18/2021 at 4:25 PM, CCK said:

I was wanting to add a honey gourami to my community tank. I've read different things. Are they ok being alone or what is the recommendation for them to be happy/healthy?

Keep them  alone or in groups. I believe the recommended group size would be 6 or more to establish a pecking order, but I am not a 100% sure.  

I recently got a group from Aqua Huna, and they are doing great together.  Plus they are absolutely stunning in appearance.  If you do decide to order a group from them, don't forget to go to the aquariumcoop.com website to get a discount code.  They sell them in groups of 6.

The tank sizes, if I remember correctly are as follows: 
1 - 10 gallon 
2 - 20 gallon
6 - 40 gallon
then for each additional 1 beyond 6 a lot 5 gallons more

Edited by Ben_RF
My grammar is always atrocious. Plus added more info.
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