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Licorice gourami

Parosphromenus deissneri

Photo: Licorice gourami
Animal description
The Licorice Gourami (Parosphromenus deissneri) is a captivating species of freshwater fish, cherished by aquarium enthusiasts for its striking appearance and intriguing behaviors. Native to the peat swamp forests and slow-moving waters of Southeast Asia, particularly in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, this diminutive species thrives in environments that are acidic and tannin-stained, resembling tea due to the decomposition of organic matter.

Typically, the Licorice Gourami does not exceed 2 inches (5 cm) in length, making it a perfect inhabitant for nano or small-sized aquariums. The body of Parosphromenus deissneri is elongated and somewhat compressed laterally, a characteristic form that allows it to navigate effortlessly through densely vegetated waters.

The most striking feature of the Licorice Gourami is undoubtedly its coloration. Males, in particular, exhibit a mesmerizing palette of colors during breeding or when displaying to rivals. Their bodies are adorned with a deep, iridescent blue, complemented by vibrant red or orange stripes and spots that run longitudinally along the flanks. The fins are equally spectacular, often edged in similar vivid hues and intricate patterns, which enhance their visual appeal. Females, in contrast, are more subdued in color, primarily exhibiting a brownish or greyish body with less pronounced markings, which serves as a camouflage against predators in their natural habitat.

Licorice Gouramis are known for their peaceful temperament, making them suitable tank mates for similarly sized and non-aggressive fish species. However, their specific environmental needs mean they are best kept by aquarists with some experience. They require soft, acidic water conditions with pH levels ranging from 4.0 to 6.5 and temperatures between 75°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C). The aquarium should mimic their natural habitat, incorporating plenty of hiding spots with dense vegetation, driftwood, and leaf litter to provide shelter and mimic the tannin-rich waters they originate from.

Breeding Licorice Gouramis in captivity can be a rewarding experience. They are bubble nest builders; the male prepares a nest among the vegetation or under a leaf and then entices the female to lay her eggs, which he fertilizes and guards with great diligence. Post-spawning, it's often advisable to remove the female to prevent any aggression from the male, who becomes solely responsible for the care of the eggs until they hatch and the fry become free-swimming.

Diet-wise, Licorice Gouramis are micro-predators, in nature feeding on tiny invertebrates and zooplankton. In the aquarium, they require a varied diet consisting of small, live, or frozen foods like daphnia, brine shrimp, and microworms to maintain their health and coloration.

In summary, the Licorice Gourami is a jewel among freshwater fish, captivating with its beauty and complex natural behaviors. Though its care requires attention to detail and a commitment to recreating a specific biotope, the reward of keeping such a stunning and interesting species makes the effort well worthwhile for the dedicated aquarist.
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