Paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis): Care Guide


Common Name(s)Paradise fish
Scientific NameMacropodus opercularis
OriginEast Asia
Temperature68-82°F (20-28°C)
Size2.5 inches
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous diet
Lifespan8-9 years
Water pH5.8–8.0
Tank MatesGiant danios, Bala Sharks, and Bristlenose Pleco
BreedingBubble nest spawner
DiseaseMay be susceptible to lymphocystis disease.
Paradise fish
Paradise fish (Macropodus opercularis)

Paradise Fish, also known as paradise gourami, is a species of freshwater fish native to the waters of Asia. They are known for their beautiful red and blue stripes, making them an appealing choice for aquarium owners. But that choice is quickly questioned when they learn just how aggressive paradise fish can be. Despite their aggressive nature, some people may still want to try their hand at keeping them in a tank, maybe with delusions about being able to tame them. Should you wish to be one of those people, you should follow this guide closely, as paradise fish aren’t too hard to keep.

Paradise Fish Facts

  • Paradise fish are extremely aggressive, even going as far as attacking females after they’ve laid their eggs.
  • Paradise fish are known as a labyrinth fish, which means they can breathe air with an organ similar to lungs.
  • Paradise fish are one of the oldest species of domestic fish, first described as being kept in tanks in 1665.

Paradise Fish Care

Paradise Fish can be challenging to handle, especially for newcomers. As such, newcomers should avoid paradise fish. They are very aggressive, especially with others of the same species.  Male paradise fish will fight one another over territory or female; because of this, males should be kept separately. Their aggression is their most significant factor when owning one. Other than that aggression, paradise fish is a hardy species with low-maintenance tank conditions. If you’re up for the task, they can be an entertaining and fulfilling species to keep, and their gorgeous colors will keep you entertained for hours.

Paradise Fish Temperature

Paradise fish are a species of tropical fish from warm waters in Asia. You may believe that those origins mean they can only prosper in warm water, but that isn’t the case. Paradise Fish are incredibly hardy, meaning they can survive in a wide range of water temperatures. The preferred water temperature range of paradise fish is between 68oF to 82oF. That wide temperature range means they’re great options for both warm and cold water tanks. But as with all fish, that temperature range isn’t the only condition that needs to be adhered to. You must also be sure that the pH levels are within their preferred range. With paradise fish, the most critical condition that needs to be met is tank mates so that they don’t get into fights and attack or even kill each other.

Paradise Fish Water pH level

Paradise fish are hardy fish species, meaning they can withstand and thrive in a wide range of different tank conditions. But even with that hardiness, paradise fish still have preferred requirements. The preferred pH level of Paradise fish falls anywhere in the range of 5.8 – 8.0. Making sure that your tank stays around that pH level will ensure a long and healthy life for your paradise fish. pH conditions are essential, but not exceptionally so; paradise fish can survive in a wide variety of environments. With that being said, finding compatible tank mates is realistically the most challenging part of housing paradise fish in a community tank.

Paradise Fish Size

Paradise fish are a smaller species of freshwater fish. Their small size means they can fit into smaller than average size tanks, but keep in mind that these fish are too large to fit into a nano tank.  Paradise Fish, also known as paradise gourami, can reach upwards of nearly two and a half inches. Their small size and vivid colors might make them an appealing choice for community tanks, but despite their small size, they are highly aggressive. That means that they shouldn’t share a tank with others of the same species, as the males can get very territorial. Paradise fish also should not be housed with other similarly aggressive fish as they will not hesitate to fight one another.

Paradise Fish

Paradise Fish Tank Size

On average, a fully grown single male paradise fish will require a 20 gallon tank. That size increases if it’s a community tank. The space needs of all the fish in the tank need to be considered when picking out a tank. Any tank that houses a paradise fish needs to be well planted; keep that in mind when selecting a tank. You need to have sufficient room for both the fish and the plants. The plants in the tank help emulate their native environment; this helps ensure they are stress-free and feel safe.

Paradise Fish Food and Diet

Paradise fish are omnivores meaning they’ll eat both plants and meat; they aren’t picky. But when held in captivity, paradise fish need to be fed a complete and balanced diet. This diet will help ensure their health, happiness, and longevity. When in their natural environment, paradise fish gets tons of protein from different types of insects, meaning you should do your best to incorporate that into their diet. They also prefer brine shrimp, bloodworms, white worms, and larvae. Feeding them live foods such as those is very important; doing so will help diversify their diet and enrich them. Paradise fish should be provided food around two times a day; it will be better for them and help with their stress levels.

Paradise Fish Lifespan

The lifespan of a paradise fish is dependent on its environment, diet, and stress level. When they are well cared for, paradise fish tend to live for around 8 – 9 years on average. Obviously, that lifespan can and will decrease if your paradise fish is neglected or fed the wrong things or kept in an unsafe tank where they cannot relax.  When kept in excellent conditions, some reports say paradise fish have lived over ten years. That number shouldn’t be taken as fact; that long lifespan only happens in scarce instances.

Paradise Fish Tank setup

When setting up a tank, you always want it to emulate the natural environment of the inhabitants contained within. The natural environment of paradise fish is the slow-moving, shallow waters of Asia. Dense vegetation and plant life is the common theme of the waters where they originate. With that in mind, having a lot of vegetation on the bottom of your tank will help your paradise fish feel at home and relaxed. The temperature of your tank isn’t nearly as important, as paradise fish can thrive in a wide variety of temperatures. pH is a more important condition to monitor as a fluctuating pH can severely  impact your tank.

Paradise Fish Breeding

 Many at-home aquarists love to try their hand at breeding their fish. Some have more luck than others; that luck usually stems from the proper tank conditions and the ease of breeding that species. When breeding paradise fish, or any fish for that matter, the most important thing is to differentiate between the females and males. Paradise fish have very distinct differences between their sexes, making this easier. Once a male and female have been singled out, switch them to their own tank and begin to feed them high-proteins foods for a few days. The next step is to warm the tank up and lower the water level. The lower water level will allow the juvenile paradise to reach the surface easier and get air which will help their development. Male paradise fish will build a nest; once the nest is created, the male and female will begin to court one another. The male will wrap itself around the female; this will lead to the release of eggs. This process continues until the female has released all of its eggs; paradise fish can lay up to 500 eggs. Once all the eggs are laid, the male will take them to the nest and protect them. It is imperative at this point to remove the female from the tank. Male paradise fish get so defensive of their eggs that they will not hesitate to attack the female should she get close. Once the eggs have hatched, in about 1 to 2 days, they need to be carefully fed. Once the young start free swimming, the adult male should be removed from the tank to not feed on the fry. Over time with great, and careful care, the fry will begin to develop their gorgeous paradise fish colorings.

Paradise Fish Male or Female

Not all fish have many differences in their sex; that fact can make it much harder to breed them. If you can’t tell them apart, you can’t pair them up to breed.  Thankfully, paradise fish are easy to tell apart and easier to breed because of that.  Male paradise fish are usually longer than their female counterparts, and females also tend to have more dull colorings than males. The difference in these characteristics makes them easier to tell apart and pair to breed. But it also makes it easier to keep the males away from each other, which is beneficial because male paradise fish can be highly aggressive and territorial towards one another.

Paradise Fish Diseases

Cleaning your tank regularly and checking for any changes in pH, water temperature, or quality is imperative to the health of your fish. This is true even of the hardy paradise fish; they can be affected by several different illnesses or infections. Paradise fish can suffer from lymphocystis disease; it is where growths start to form on the fish’s fins; it is sometimes mistaken for Ich.  Lymphocystis disease is usually caused by stress, which is why it tends to affect paradise fish when they’re new to their tank. The growths caused by it can get large enough where it makes the fish unable to swim. Fin rot, which is a bacterial disease, can also affect paradise fish. These diseases and illnesses can usually be avoided by keeping your tank in order. Regularly check the water for any changes and change the water when necessary, also. Be sure the fish aren’t stressed and have plenty of room in their tank.

Paradise Fish Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for any fish, several factors need to be taken into account. Their pH levels need to be consistent, as well as their temperature needs. They also need to be compatible from a temperament standpoint. That is the biggest problem when it comes to finding tank mates for paradise fish; their aggressive natures mean they’ll likely try to fight other fish in their tank. Paradise fish will prey on and attack any fish that is a similar size or smaller. This means that the most fitting tank mates for paradise fish are those larger than it.

Are Paradise Fish Aggressive?

Paradise fish are an extremely aggressive species of freshwater fish. They can get territorial with others of the same species; this is why male paradise fish shouldn’t be kept together. Male paradise fish will also attack females after they lay their eggs, and the males get very protective and defensive of their eggs. Paradise fish will also attack any fish that are of similar size; this goes for fish that are smaller than them. The aggressive nature of the paradise fish is why they can only be housed safely with fish much larger than them.

Can Paradise fish be kept together as groups?

Male paradise can not be kept in the same tank together. They are very territorial and aggressive fish. The males will not hesitate to attack one another, even going as far as killing them. Having said that, male paradise fish can be housed with female paradise fish. They shouldn’t try to fight one another normally. But, if a female lays eggs, the male that fertilized them will get very defensive of them. Those males will go as far as attacking the female who laid the eggs should they get too close to them. That’s why if you are trying to breed them, you need to remove the female from the tank as soon as the eggs are laid to avoid them getting attacked, hurt, or even killed.

Compatible Tank Mates for Paradise Fish

When choosing tank mates for paradise fish, you need to take into account their temperament. You can not house them with any aggressive fish regardless of size. If you house paradise fish with larger, more aggressive fish, the paradise fish will hide and likely die due to the stress; if you house paradise fish with smaller fish, the paradise fish will not hesitate to attack them. Paradise fish can only be kept with fish larger than it, but that also have a timid or relaxed temperament. There are several species of fish that fit into that category. Here are a few of those species.

Bala Sharks

Bala Sharks are a species of freshwater fish native to the waters of Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia. They can grow up to a foot in length and tend to be peaceful, and this size and gentle nature make them a perfect companion for paradise fish.

Bristlenose Pleco

Bristlenose Pleco is a species of unique catfish. They have a bony-like exterior and grow to around 5 inches, and that size is roughly double that of a paradise fish. That means that Bristlenose Pleco and paradise fish can coexist in the same tank, and Paradise fish will not get aggressive with any species larger than it.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Paradise Fish

Paradise fish can be highly aggressive; they are known to attack and even kill any species of fish smaller than it. They will also be aggressive towards any other aggressive species that are similar in size. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be kept alone; it’s just easier to keep them alone. Also, paradise fish can stay in a tank alone; they don’t tend to get lonely.  But if you want to keep paradise fish in a community tank, here are some species to avoid keeping them with.

Paradise Fish

The first fish you may want to pair with a paradise fish are several other paradise fish. Paradise fish shouldn’t be kept together, that is, for various different reasons. For starters, the males get very aggressive and territorial, and they will attack other males that come close and will likely even kill them. They are also known to get aggressive towards females after the female has laid their eggs. Male paradise fish are incredibly defensive of their eggs.

Tiger Barbs

Tiger barbs are a very popular fish species because of their vivid colors and interesting markings. They are gorgeous when they school together, but they can be a bit aggressive. Tiger Barbs are also known as fin nippers, meaning they will not hesitate to nip on the fins of any fish, including paradise fish. That fin nipping means they can’t be contained in the same tank with paradise fish.

Paradise fish and Guppies

Guppies are one of the most popular species of freshwater fish. This popularity is because they’re gorgeous and easy to care for. They’re also a very peaceful species of fish and can grow up to 2 inches. The timid temperament and small size of guppies make them incompatible with paradise fish. Paradise fish are extremely aggressive and will attack anything similar in size to it or smaller, such as guppies. Any guppies housed in a tank with a male paradise fish likely won’t survive for very long.

Paradise fish and Shrimp

There are several different species of shrimp that are extremely popular to keep in tanks. This is because shrimps tend to stay at the bottom of the tanks and will help keep the tank clean. On the other hand, Paradise fish tend to stay near the mid or the top of the tank. That means that paradise fish shouldn’t often come in contact with the shrimp. Because of this difference in location, paradise fish and shrimp should coexist in a tank together without any problems.  

Paradise fish and Goldfish

Goldfish are the most common aquarium fish globally, won as prizes at fairs or given to children as their first pet. For many, owning a goldfish is a throwback to those innocent days as a child. Goldfish can grow to be quite large, up to 14 inches. A goldfish that large would not be able to coexist with paradise fish; paradise fish are on the smaller end of the spectrum and would quickly get eaten by a larger goldfish; Goldfish and paradise fish are potentially compatible with one another, but only in the event that the goldfish isn’t much larger than the paradise fish.

Paradise Fish and Betta

When an aquarist thinks of aggressive species, bettas are usually the first species that comes to mind. They were initially bred to be fighting fish. Paradise fish are also known to be very aggressive, and you shouldn’t pair two aggressive species in the same tank together. Betta and paradise fish are incompatible as tank mates and shouldn’t be held in the same tank together. They are both too aggressive and will not hesitate to attack one another.

Paradise Fish and Angelfish

Angelfish, not to be confused with the salt-water Marine Angelfish, are a species of freshwater fish. They are known for their distinct shape and long fins. Angelfish can grow up to 6 inches in length and aren’t a very aggressive species. Paradise fish and Angelfish shouldn’t be kept in the same tank together. Paradise fish may try to nip on the elongated fins of the angelfish. Nipping on fins can lead to diseases such as fin rot on the afflicted species.

Paradise Fish and Neon Tetra

Neon tetras are gorgeous freshwater fish. They grow to around an inch and a half in length. Paradise fish, on the other hand, grow to around 2 inches. You’d think their similar size would make them compatible tank mates, but they aren’t. Neon tetras and paradise fish are not compatible tank mates. Neon tetras don’t grow large enough to be considered a non-threat to paradise fish, meaning that the highly aggressive paradise fish will not hesitate to attack them.

Paradise Fish and Pearl Gourami

Pearl gourami is a species of freshwater fish native to the waters of Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, and Sumatra. They can grow up to nearly 5 inches in length. Pearl gouramis are peaceful fish, meaning they do well in community tanks. Paradise fish and pearl gourami are compatible as tank mates. This is because the pearl gourami is larger than the paradise fish, meaning it likely won’t be aggressive towards the pearl gourami.

Paradise Fish and Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami, also known as flame gourami, are freshwater fish native to South Asia. They’re peaceful fish that can grow up to 2 inches. Their small size and timid temperament mean they won’t be a good match for any aggressive species. Paradise fish and dwarf gourami are not compatible as tank mates. Dwarf gourami is timid and peaceful; paradise fish are the opposite of that.

Where can I find Paradise Fish for sale?

Paradise fish are trendy despite their aggressive nature; that’s because of their vivid colors. Paradise fish can be purchased at most pet stores, as well as specialty aquarium stores. The price of paradise fish can vary, but on average, they sell for between $8 – $10.

Paradise fish are a beautiful yet complex species. Their aggressive nature makes them tough to work with. But if you can get past that, they can be a fulfilling fish to own, as long as you follow the guidelines laid out in this post. Avoid keeping them others of the same speceis and you should have a great time with your new paradise fish.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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