Samurai Gourami Care: Diet, Tank Size, Breeding & Disease

Scientific NameSphaerichthys Vaillanti
Common NameSamurai Gourami, Samurai Zebra
OriginRiver in Borneo
Temperature Range75 – 80°F
Adult Size1.8 – 2.2 inches
DietOmnivorous but prefers carnivorous diet

Samurai Gourami Facts

  • Samurai Gourami are not particularly common fish in the aquarium hobby. They can be difficult to obtain. These fish come up for sale occasionally from international breeders and online retailers. They are usually expensive when they are for sale.
  • They are not a common fish, even in their native habitat. Their lazy swimming pattern mimics the dead leaves on the creek floors where they are collected, and it makes them difficult to spot.
  • They have a labyrinth organ that allows them to survive in oxygen depleted environments, and unideal water conditions that would kill most other fish.
Samurai Gourami 

Samurai Gourami Care

Samurai Gourami male can be distinguished from the female, but it can be somewhat difficult. The female Samurai Gourami is more colorful than the male, and you can identify her more easily by looking at her markings. The females have a vibrant iridescent green to their bodies, and they have red and green vertical bars on their sides. They also have a straighter lower jaw, and have a more prominent head shape than the males. The females also have a reddish tail area. Males are plain in comparison and usually have a pale brown or greyish tint to them. With other species the males are usually more brightly colored than the females are, but with the Samurai Gourami, the opposite is true. This is known as sexual dimorphism.

When Samurai Gourami are young, it can be quite difficult to distinguish the males from the females, but as they mature it will become apparent fairly quickly if it is a male or female. Mature males have distended skin around their mouths. This is due to the fact that they are a mouth brooding species, and the extra skin on the mouth of the male can be stretched out so that he can hold eggs during spawning.

Food and Diet

Samurai Gourami are omnivorous, and in their natural habitat they feed on small crustaceans, zooplankton, microworms, and insect larvae. They will not readily accept dried foods. In captivity, they will require a steady diet of live or frozen mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, microworms, daphnia, or bloodworms. It is not common for them to accept dried or flaked foods, but you could get lucky and have your Samurai Gourami accept them. If you own one of these fish, it is a good idea to stock up on live and frozen foods.

You should still introduce them to a varied diet of dried and flaked foods to give them an opportunity to get used to them. This will give you a chance of successfully getting them to accept these foods into their diet. During this adapting period, it is important to give them the live foods that they require as well. Feeding them a varied diet of live and frozen foods will help bring out their colorings, and make them more vibrant.

Size and Lifespan

When cared for properly, the Samurai Gourami have a lifespan of 5 to 8 years, and they can grow from 1.8 inches up to 2.2 inches at full maturity.

Tank Size and Requirements

Samurai Gourami are a tropical, freshwater fish that require a tank size minimum of 20 to 30 gallons for a grouping of 6 to 8 together. They are kept best in a group of 6 to 8 no matter the tank size. They are considered a more difficult fish to keep, so keeping them in an environment that more closely resembles their native habitat is ideal. They prefer low, dim light, and soft, acidic, warm blackwater tanks. It is important to keep the nitrate levels low, and the tannin levels elevated.

They can survive in a temperature range of 75 to 80°F,  but it is a good idea to keep it in the higher range, especially if you have males holding onto their fry. However, on the other end of their temperature range, higher temperatures can cause major aggression in these fish.

In their native habitat, Samurai Gourami live in soft, acidic, tannin filled, peat swamps. They live in slow moving river systems among the leaf litter and debris, and they are sheltered by the dense canopy of trees and leaves. They prefer a dim light set up, but it can be mimicked in a captive environment by placing them in a densely planted set up. It is also a good idea to give them lots of driftwood or bogwood to their tank for places to hide.

Samurai Gourami need to be kept at a pH of 4.0 to 5.0. Their tank water should be filtered through aquarium peat to help maintain the acidic conditions they require.

When it comes to aquarium decor, the Samurai Gourami are not very picky. Flower pots, plastic tubing, and other plastic or artificial decor is easily accepted by these fish. If you are going for a more natural looking environment, you will want to go with a soft, sandy substrate, and wood roots, driftwood, and Indian Almond Leaves. These things when placed in their tank will mimic their natural habitat and help your Samurai Gourami feel more at home. Another good idea is to place their aquarium decorations in such a way that it creates caves and dark places for them to hide.

Indian Almond Leaves should also be added to their water, as they are highly beneficial to your Samurai Gourami. As they decompose, they release beneficial tannins into the water that create the blackwater environment that the Samurai Gourami needs to survive and thrive. The decomposing leaves are also a great food source for Samurai Gourami fry. These leaves can be removed and replaced every few weeks or so, or they can be left to break down in their environment.

These fish live in still water environments, and they should be kept in a setup that has very low water flow. You will want to avoid large water changes to their tank, and a 10 to 15 percent water change every week is more than adequate to keep them content and thriving in their aquarium.

Tank Mates and Temperament

Samurai Gourami are extremely timid and shy fish, They move very slowly, and will easily be intimidated by more active fish. For this reason, it is very important to choose their tankmates with care. They do best in a single species tank set up, but they can be housed with other peaceful fish.

Breeding Samurai Gourami

Unlike other species of Gourami, the Samurai Gourami are mouth brooders. The females will defend the territory while the males brood the eggs. During spawning time, their colors will be brighter, but the females will always remain brighter than the males. Another unusual thing about Samurai Gourami is that the female fish is the one to initiate the breeding process. During this time, the fish will remain upright, and stay this way for several hours. The female will then lay 10 to 40 eggs somewhere in the substrate or other available surface in their tank where the male will then fertilize them. Once this has occurred, the male will then gather the eggs into his mouth and hold them there anywhere from 7 to 21 days. The skin around the mouth of the male Samurai Gourami fish is expandable, and allows them to fit all of their eggs.

The male will not eat during this time, he will remain calm and in a quiet spot of the breeding tank, and because of this, he may require a recovery time afterwards. Once the male releases the fry, they will be fully formed and free swimming. The fry are large enough at this stage to accept baby brine shrimp or microworms. Once the male has released the fry, he should be removed so that he doesn’t eat them. It is a good idea to have a separate, dedicated, and established breeding tank with the same requirements as their regular tank setup.

It is important to have a tank with a tight fitting lid that keeps their air warm and humid for proper development of their labyrinth organ. Their labyrinth organ is the organ which allows them to survive in oxygen depleted environments, and in deteriorated water conditions that would have otherwise killed other species.


Samurai Gourami are susceptible to the same diseases that all tropical freshwater fish are. These include bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. They can also get sick if the pH is off in their tank. They are also susceptible to illness due to unhygienic conditions or contamination.

Since these fish are difficult to obtain, if you do by chance get lucky enough to find one of these fish for sale, it is important to know that when they are imported and acclimated in water that has a higher pH than normal. They are extremely susceptible to fungal infections at this pH, so it is important to return them to their normal pH level as soon as possible.

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