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These fish possess an unusual feature: located in the upper part of the head is a special organ known as the labyrinth - hence their earlier name of Labyrinthidae. They were also formerly known as Anabantidae (meaning "climbers"), since some can scramble out onto land. The labyrinth, in fact, allows them to breathe oxygen from the atmosphere. This process is supplemental to the normal function of the gills and represents an adaptation to their habitat, developing in juveniles during the first few weeks of life. The underlying reason is that Belontiidae, natives of Asia, live in environments deficient in oxygen: standing water, stagnant and often muddy, including pools and rice paddies. The pectoral fins of certain species have developed thread-like organs which have a tactile function and help the fish find its direction.


The Siamese fighting fish only partly deserves its common name: the males are aggressive towards one another - and to females after spawning - but they do not interfere with other species. The females are always mutually tolerant. A handsome male (red, blue, or green) can therefore be kept in a regional or community tank. As soon as the female has laid her clutch of several hundred eggs, she must be removed, as she runs the risk that her mate will attack or even kill her. Incubation takes 2 days; remove the male after hatching. The fry will develop rapidly. Size: 6-8 cm.


A ripe female.


Males of the giant gourami will battle for dominance. The females lay over 100 eggs in soft, acidic water. This species interbreeds with the thick-lipped gourami: dealers market the resulting hybrids under either name.


Betta splendens


Colisa sota (Colisa chuna)

The honey gourami does not always construct a nest for spawning: the male carries the fry about until they are free-swimming. A gregarious but timid species. Size: 5 cm.

Colisa sota (Colisa chuna)

The honey gourami does not always construct a nest for spawning: the male carries the fry about until they are free-swimming. A gregarious but timid species. Size: 5 cm.

• Colisa labiosa

The timid thick-lipped gourami hides in the vegetation whenever it feels threatened. The female lays several hundred eggs in soft, acidic water. Size: 10-12 cm.



The kissing gourami is a near relative of the Belontiidae - it actually belongs to the family Helostomatidae - and like them possesses a labyrinth, and builds a bubblenest for its eggs. The "kissing" behavior observed between individuals probably has some social function; it is not necessarily linked to reproduction, though admittedly also occurring during the mating ritual. Size: 10-15 cm.

Trichogaster leeri

The male of the peaceful pearl gourami has a more pointed dorsal fin than the female, which can lay up to 1,000 eggs. The fry are slow to develop. Size: 13 cm.


The paradise fish has been familiar to aquarists since the mid- 1800s. It is the "black sheep" of the family, but possesses the advantage of withstanding temperatures down to 15%C -sometimes even lower for short periods. The female lays several hundred eggs which hatch in 2 days or so. Size: 10-15 cm.



Trichogaster trichopterus

The tranquil blue gourami or three-spot gourami prefers to breed in seclusion from other fish. The current variety has only two black spots on its body - the third spot referred to in its English name is really the eye. These spots are not present in the Cosby strain. There is also a most beautiful golden variety, which is not albino. Size: 10 cm.


The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) is the traditional recommendation to the novice: the male makes a glorious sight in the aquarium. If your aim is to familiarize yourself with breeding procedures, it is better to try the blue gourami or the dwarf gourami. The latter (Colisa lalia) is tranquil and timid, retreating into the vegetation if disturbed. The female, less brightly colored than the male, is very prolific. The eggs hatch in 2 days, with the fry feeding on small live prey. There is also an orange-red version of this species - the sunset. Once again, the female is duller in color. Size: 5 cm.

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