Paradise Fish – Species Profile & Care Guide
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Today, we will discuss a fish species that has lost some of its popularity over the years. It’s the Paradise fish, also known as the Paradise gourami.
Unlike other gouramis, this species tends to be more aggressive and territorial, with the males attacking each other and other fish over territory, food, and the need for pure dominance.
I wouldn’t recommend this species to novice aquarists due to its aggressive nature and complex environmental requirements, making the fish more difficult to maintain and care for. But, if you’re up to the task, caring about the Paradise fish isn’t impossible.
However, as you will see, they require some specific environmental conditions to thrive since they are different from most fish species you may be accustomed to.
So, let’s see what makes the Paradise fish unique.
Tank Size for Paradise Fish
Guppies and Paradise gouramis reach the same adult sizes, around 2 to 3 inches. By comparison, guppies require 2 gallons of water per fish, Paradise gouramis require 5 gallons.
Furthermore, if you’re keeping one Paradise fish, you better have a 20-gallon tank ready and add 5 more gallons for every other fish you’re adding. It’s atypical for such a small fish to require so much space, but it’s also understandable.
Paradise fish are extremely territorial and will patrol their environment with a lot of determination to put it like that.
20 gallons is enough for one fish, but the space requirements will increase significantly, depending on which fish you’re adding to the environment. Having more than one male Paradise fish in the same tank is almost always a recipe for disaster.
Males are extremely violent towards one another and will never share the same space in peace. The same can be said about the relationship between Paradise gouramis and other small fish species, especially the more aggressive ones.
If you like taking risks and want to build a community tank with Paradise fish, make sure to invest in a larger tank and decorate it with plenty of rocks, wood, and plants.
These components will minimize aggression between Paradise fish and other species by breaking the line of sight between them.
They will also contribute to forging a more natural-looking environment, providing your fish with comfort, peace of mind, and a lot of hiding places.
Water Requirements for Paradise Fish
The Paradise fish doesn’t have any special water requirements compared to many other fish species. The ideal temperature is almost similar to that of guppies. Revolving around 70 to 82 F with a pH of 6-8 and water hardness between 5 and 30 dGH.
The peculiar thing here is the fish’s breathing apparatus. The Paradise fish possesses a labyrinth organ that allows it to breathe atmospheric air. Several other fish species possess this organ, including other gouramis, bettas, and, of course, the labyrinth fish.
This breathing apparatus is useful in low-oxygenated environments, allowing the fish to breathe atmospheric air at the water’s surface.
You may have noticed this behavior in bettas as they swim to the surface, get a gulp of air, and sink back to their comfort zone.
Many fishkeepers tend to be alarmed by this behavior, thinking that their fish gasp for air and show signs of suffocation, but that’s not the case.
The thing that separates bettas, for instance, from Paradise fish is that the labyrinth organ allows bettas to live and even thrive in murky waters with low oxygen levels. This isn’t the same for Paradise fish.
This gourami species require pristine water conditions, preferably well-oxygenated.
Dirty waters, combined with algae overgrowth, will cause health problems and even kill the fish.
The fish’s breathing behavior is also important when it comes to setting up the tank’s layout. You need to provide your Paradise fish with easy access to the water’s surface, so avoid packing the tank with too many floating plants.
You should also avoid using tight lids that restrict access to the atmospheric air.
What do Paradise Fish Eat?
Think of what your guppies or other omnivorous fish eat, and that’s perfect for your Paradise fish.
There are several things I’d like to mention in relation to the fish’s diet:
- More protein is better – Most omnivorous fish species require limited protein intake and more veggies in general. The Paradise fish requires more protein compared to plant-based nutrients, so always adjust their diet accordingly.
- Prepare their food prior to feeding them – Paradise fish are rather small and might not be able to consume flakes and pellets if they’re too big. Break them into smaller pieces if you notice your fish have difficulties eating them. Otherwise, aside from the fish not feeding properly, the uneaten pellet and flake residues will sink to the tank’s bottom and decay.
- Overfeeding is dangerous – Your Paradise fish will easily overeat should you provide them with more food than they need. Always feed your fish twice per day at most and only sufficient food for them to consume within 2 minutes. Anything more than that can cause them to overheat, leading to digestive issues and resulting in more food residues sinking to the substrate.
- Clean the residual food – Any uneaten food will poison the water by decaying and increasing the ammonia levels. The process can unfold fast, within days, depending on the food and how many fish you have. I recommend cleaning as many food residues as you can after each feeding session without disturbing the fish if possible.
How Long do Paradise Fish Live?
The Paradise fish can live between 8 to 10 years in captivity, which is significantly more than your regular fish species like guppies, mollies, tetras, etc.
This is one of the main reasons for this gourami’s appeal, despite its overall decline in popularity.
Its lifespan will, however, vary depending on the living conditions, diet, and overall lifestyle. Your Paradise gourami will live longer in a stable and clean environment with a nutritious diet and a strict feeding program, and compatible tank mates.
And I’m using ‘compatible’ loosely here since few tank fish species are compatible with the Paradise gourami.
And when discussing those that are, the notion of compatible refers to “not bumping into each other too often.” But will discuss this aspect later on.
Do Paradise Fish Need a Heater?
Yes, I would say they need a heater in most, if not all, situations. While the Paradise fish can adapt to a generous range of water temperature, it’s not wise to leave this metric to chance.
Paradise fish don’t appreciate water fluctuations, especially sudden drops or increases in temperature which can cause health issues down the line.
The Paradise fish may even experience temperature shock in more extreme cases. The heater will prevent these issues by ensuring a stable environment with optimal temperatures throughout the year. It will also keep track of water temperature constantly, allowing you to adjust it whenever necessary.
The water temperature stability is even more important for Paradise fry since they are more sensitive to changes in water parameters.
Do Paradise Fish Need a Filter?
Yes. I’ve seen a lot of people arguing against the necessity of a filter, stating that the fish can survive without one. And it’s true, most fish will survive without a filter, but the filter’s purpose isn’t to help the fish survive but thrive.
The filter will do 3 things for your Paradise fish:
- Clean the water – A good filtering system will absorb all water particles, which may include dead plant and animal matter, food residues, fish waste, and dirt. This will make the water cleaner, improving the tank’s esthetics and keeping your gouramis healthy, active, and happy. As happy as Paradise gouramis can get.
- Control ammonia levels – The filter will house a variety of ammonia-consuming bacteria that will prevent ammonia and nitrite spikes. They play a key role in the tank’s ecosystem by keeping the water cleaner and safer for your fish. All fish will benefit from having a filter, especially Paradise gouramis.
- Oxygenate the water – Your Paradise gouramis will benefit from living in a properly oxygenated environment and so will the rest of the tank inhabitants. The filter is even more necessary if you plan on pairing gouramis with other fish species that thrive in well-oxygenated environments.
As a side note, Paradise gouramis don’t appreciate fast-flowing waters and powerful currents.
So, keep your filter’s power in check to prevent the Paradise fish from growing uncomfortable with their environment.
Are Paradise Fish Aggressive?
You can never understate aggression when it comes to Paradise fish. These fish will fight over anything, with males displaying violent behavior against each other and other fish constantly.
Here are some of the situations where Paradise males will display aggressive behavior:
- Fighting over space – Paradise gouramis are notoriously territorial, which explains their need for a lot of space, despite them being small in size. Male Paradise fish will always display extreme aggression towards other males of the same species. They will fight to the death to assert territorial dominance. If they don’t die immediately, the resulting injuries from the battle will infect, with a similar outcome following shortly.
- Fighting over females – This is where things really get nasty. Nothing triggers Paradise fish aggression as female competition, causing males to jump at each other’s throats with little-to-no hesitation. The female-to-male ratio doesn’t really matter either. The males will lay it out regardless of the opportunity to control the entire harem.
- Fighting to protect the eggs – The male Paradise gouramis are among the few male fish that protect the eggs until they hatch. They will guard the egg area fiercely, attacking both male and female Paradise fish coming nearby. You would think that this aggressive parental display insinuates that male Paradise gouramis make for great parents, but you would be wrong. Males will eat the fry soon after hatching, provided you don’t take measures to prevent that. This is the clearest statement about this species’ dualist nature if you ever needed one.
- Fighting for the sake of it – Males will also attack other fish species, especially those with larger fins. Which makes Paradise fish unfit for cohabiting with species like guppies, bettas, or goldfish.
As it’s already obvious by now, Paradise fish aren’t really fit for living in community environments.
You can accommodate them in community tanks, as we will soon see, but it takes a lot of knowledge and effort to do so.
Do Paradise Fish Make Good Tank Mates?
No, and that’s strictly due to their aggressive nature. From the perspective of water parameter preferences, there’s nothing unique about this species. Paradise fish thrive in similar water conditions to those most fish species enjoy.
What’s different about them is the need for pristine water quality and disdain for dirty tanks and algae growth.
But it’s their aggressive behavior that discourages most people from pairing them with any other fish species. However, if you feel more daring today and have some experience with community tanks, you can make it work.
Here are 3 suggestions regarding the best tank mates for Paradise fish:
- Fast and active swimmers – You want some fish that can quickly get out of the Paradise gourami’s way if things go south. Slow swimmers are always at risk of attracting the attention of Paradise fish which will come to investigate and potentially nip at some fins. Some decent options include hatchet fish, cherry barbs, or zebra danios, so long as you keep them in a group.
- Larger fish species – Paradise fish are mostly attracted to fish of similar size or smaller. Attracted as in “prone to attack.” Larger fish will intimidate them, discouraging the male Paradise fish from attacking or bullying them. Some large gourami or even goldfish species could fit nicely in this category.
- Bottom-dwellers – Bottom-dwelling catfishes like plecos and loaches can make for a fine addition to your community tanks. These species will spend most of their lives on the tank’s substrate and rarely interact with other mid-to-top swimmers like the Paradise gourami. The latter may not even observe the catfish living at the bottom of the tank, especially if there are plenty of rocks and caves breaking the line of sight.
However, nothing is 100% certain when it comes to finding reliable tank mates for your Paradise fish. This means you should take my suggestions with a grain of salt and research the topic thoroughly before committing.
Furthermore, try to take extra precautions when mixing Paradise fish with any other species.
Add a variety of plants to your aquarium, decorate the substrate with caves and rocks, and add some driftwood if necessary.
These will create a multitude of hiding areas where your fish can retreat when stressed or threatened with Paradise violence.
How to Breed Paradise Fish?
Fortunately, Paradise fish breed quite easily in captivity. The only thing that can affect their breeding capabilities is stress. So you need to address that out of the gate.
Provide them with crystal clear water conditions, give them a healthy diet, and minimize fish aggression as much as possible. These measures will keep your Paradise gouramis active, healthy, and ready to breed.
The breeding process is rather simple. The male Paradise fish will court the female and perform a mating dance similar to that of the betta. The male will swim around the female until its efforts are acknowledged and accepted.
After mating, the male will blow saliva bubbles at the water’s surface, creating a bubble nest for the female to investigate. If the female feels like the nest is safe, she will lay her eggs for the male to guard until hatching.
The eggs will hatch 1 to 5 days later, at which point the fry will spread everywhere. I suggest using a 10-15-gallon breeding tank to prevent adult Paradise fish from eating the fry. Which is bound to happen, starting with the male guarding the eggs.
How to Treat Sick Paradise Fish?
I recommend quarantining your sick Paradise fish as soon as it starts displaying health issues. This is for the safety of the rest of the fish in your tank. After that, assess the fish’s symptoms and provide adequate treatment.
You may need to use antibiotics, which is another reason why quarantining the fish into a different tank is necessary.
Pouring antibiotics in the main tank will kill off most bacteria, harmful and beneficial alike, and you don’t want that. A treatment tank is necessary to keep the fish safe during the treatment. And this will allow you to monitor its condition closely.
Regular water changes and pristine water conditions are necessary during the treatment phase. Keeping your fish calm and comfortable and increasing its recovery chances.
If your Paradise gourami doesn’t show any signs of getting better over the course of 2-3 days, you might need to consider euthanasia.
It’s better to kill off one fish than have the entire Paradise population infected.
Paradise fish are rather difficult to maintain and even more problematic to handle and integrate into a community tank.
I don’t recommend them to novice fish keepers for these reasons primarily.
But, if you’ve seen worse and you can handle their explosive personality, Paradise fish will make for quite the companions. They will live up to 10 years in pristine water conditions with proper diets and compatible tank mates.
Provide them with a well-decorated tank, stable water parameters, and a nutritious, protein-rich diet, and they will thrive.