Kissing gouramis are so named for their lip-locking activity. Read on for some interesting information about this attractive fish.
Gouramis are freshwater fish that belong to the family Osphronemidae, which consists of around fifteen genera with more than 95 species. They are native to certain parts of Asia, like India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. These fish are equipped with a special, lung-like organ that enables them to absorb oxygen from the air. This special feature helps them with sufficient oxygen supply, as most of these fish live in shallow waters with poor oxygen levels. There are many different types of gourami that are generally classified as dwarf and large varieties. Many of the gouramis are very popular as aquarium fish. Apart from those belonging to the family Osphronemidae, some related species are also popular as gouramis. One of them is kissing gourami (Helostoma temminckii), which is the single species of the genus Helostoma in the family Helostomatidae. In fact, it is the sole species of this family and is otherwise known as the kisser or kissing fish.
Like other gouramis, kissing fish too have laterally compressed, slightly elongated bodies. These fish can grow to a length of around 12 inches, but those in aquariums are often found to be smaller. It is difficult to distinguish between male and female kissing fish, but females are usually heavier and plumper than males. They come in two colors – silvery green/gray and flesh color (or pink). Green-colored kissing gouramis (commonly called green kisser) have dark border on their anal and dorsal fins. Otherwise, the fins are almost colorless in both types. Pink ones have whitish-pink or flesh-colored bodies and are very popular as aquarium fish. Nowadays, a mutated variant of pink kissing gourami is also available. This type is named balloon kissing gourami (balloon pink or dwarf kissing fish), after their small, round bodies. While both these types (pink and green) are classified as Helostoma temminckii, nowadays, the pink variety is referred to as Helostoma rudolfi in some texts.
Their dorsal and anal fins are almost of same length and both are slightly elongated at the rear end. While they have round pectoral fins (just behind the gill cover on both sides) that are somewhat large, the pelvic fins (near the belly, beneath the pectoral fin) are slightly long. The caudal fin (tail fin) is somewhat round in shape. They have fleshy, pouting lips that can protrude. This is the most distinct feature of this fish. Their lips are lined with fine, horny teeth, which they use to feed on algae and to fight. Kissing gouramis have no other teeth except those on their lips. These fish derived their name from their lip-locking activity, about which we will discuss in the next paragraph.
Do Kissing Fish ‘Kiss’?
Helostoma temminckii are popularly known as kissing fish, as they are sometimes found to lock their lips with other members of the species. You may also find them kissing other types of fish, plants, and objects in the tank, while feeding or bullying. While there are various instances of animals displaying human behavior, what is the truth behind the ‘kiss’ of this fish? Why do kissing fish kiss?
Kissing gourami is a fish with fleshy, pouting lips, which is its characteristic feature. Compared to most of the other gouramis, this fish has a terminal mouth that can be protruded. Even the name of the family Helostomatidae is derived from this feature. Though the lip-locking act of these fish may appear as kissing, it is certainly not a display of love and affection, as in case of humans. It has been suggested that their lip-locking is a sign of fight for dominance. It usually happens in young males, who want to defend their territory or feeding areas. Such aggressive behavior is also seen during breeding season, to attract females.
It is also suggested that the action is not lip-locking, but is jaw-locking, which may sometimes lead to jaw damage. In such case, the injured fish may not be able to feed and may eventually die. Injury during such fight is very rare. Adult kissing gouramis rarely display such actions. In short, kissing fish do not kiss and display their love. What appears to be a kiss is actually a fight for dominance, in males. However, it is this feature that is responsible for the popularity of kissing gourami, which is commonly raised in aquariums. If you are planning to have kissing fish in your aquarium, then continue reading this article to know more about how to take care of them.
Kissing Gourami Care
◆One of the primary aquarium requirements of kissing fish is sufficient space. As they tend to grow bigger in a very short span, you have to keep them in big fish tanks. A 30-gallon tank or larger ones are suggested for raising this fish. Ensure that the bottom of the tank has a good amount of gravel and stones.
◆Even the water conditions must be monitored. You can use soft or moderately hard water with a pH of 6.5 to 8.5. The hardness of water must be between 5 to 30 dGH (use soft water, while they breed). The water must have a temperature of 72 to 82 degree Fahrenheit.
◆Make sure that these fish get enough space and lots of natural and artificial vegetation, in the tank. In case of natural plants, go for strong and sturdy ones like Java fern or Java moss (inedible), as tender plants may be consumed by them, in whole. These fish must have access to the water surface, as they take in oxygen from the air (in between).
◆One of the important aspects of kissing gourami fish care is the choice of tank mates. As they are sometimes aggressive, it is always better to keep them with slightly larger fish. Kissing gouramis may also feed on smaller fish in the tank. They may also bully other fish and ‘kiss’ them. This may result in loss of protective mucus layer on the skin (of the other fish) that becomes prone to infection, leading to death. Ideal kissing fish tank mates are cichlids, catfish, clown loach, silver dollar fish and barbs.
◆As far as kissing gourami diet is concerned, you must understand that they are omnivores that feed on a wide range of foods. They are also algae eaters, who suck in the algae growing on the stones and inner surfaces of the tank. It will be better not to clean the back glass of the fish tank, as these fish can feed on the algae growing on it.
◆You may feed kissing fish with algae-based flakes, frozen or freeze-dried live food like, bloodworm, brine shrimp and tubifex. Even live insects (small), glassworms and earthworms may be offered as food for this fish. They may also be fed with cooked (parboiled) lettuce, peas and zucchini. Uneaten food must be removed soon, as it may make the water foul.
◆For breeding kissing gourami, a large (separate) tank with soft water is required. Offer them with live food and maintain the temperature level at 80 degree Fahrenheit. The male fish wraps its body around that of the female, who releases eggs into water. The male fertilizes them, as they float to the surface.
◆It is better to remove the parent fish, once the spawning is finished. This is to save the young ones, as the adults are found to feed on them. You may also cover up the eggs with some floating vegetation or lettuce leaves. This acts like an anchor to the fry that can also feed on the bacteria growing on the leaves.
◆It takes only a day for the eggs to hatch. The fry will start swimming in another day or two. You have to feed them with live food like brine shrimp (newly hatched ones) or fine flakes.
The above said is only a brief overview about kissing gourami – the kissing fish. If you are really interested in growing these fish, it is always better to gain a thorough knowledge about them, beforehand. You may collect such information from breeders or those experienced in raising kissing fish. If properly taken care of, kissing gouramis may live up to five or six years.