DER MAKROPODE 2/ years IGL Jubilee edition 30 years IGL ISSN X







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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 37



31. Jahrgang – April 2009

Zeitschrift der IGL

Internationale Gemeinschaft für Labyrinthfische

ISSN 0937-177X



38 Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009


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Channa melasoma-pair

(Foto: C. Kanele)

Nandus nandus – female

(Photo: A. Kandler)

Sandelia capensis-pair, on

the left the male, on the right the female. The genders can easily be observed by the differences in head shapes.

(Photo: H. Hensel/J. Schmidt, Weißwasser)



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 39

Cover picture: Betta imbellis, Pontian, West-Malaysia (Foto: M. Hallmann)

Macropodus opercularis – der Paradiesfisch (Foto: T. Seehaus)

Dario dario (Foto: G. Ott) Sphaerichthys vaillanti (Foto: F. Schäfer)

Auke de Jong (NL) Editorial

Thomas Seehaus (D) Macropodus in garden ponds

M. Hallmann & M. Scharfenberg Species differentiation of the stocky, bubble nest building fighting fish (Betta splendens-Group)

Karl-Heinz Roßmann Simple identification key for stocky, bubble nest building Betta

– wild forms (only males in magnificent coloration to be deter-

mined), without breeding forms and hybrids.

Karl-Heinz Roßmann (D) Gouramis of the genus Trichogaster – the new problematic fishes?

Peter Finke (D) Licorice gourami in tanks: Basic facts and recommendations Anke Binzenhöfer (D) Sphaerichthys vaillanti – the red chocolate gourami

Jürgen Schmidt Observations regarding sexual characteristics of dwarf ctenopoma, bush fish and cape kurper

Christian Kanele (CH) Channa melasoma – breeding, exotics and the IGL

Karl-Heinz Roßmann (D) They are called Badis badis – the “blue“fish of the genus of Badis

and Dario

Rudolf Rucks (D) Nandus nandus (Hamilton, 1822)

Hugues Van Besien (F) Polypterus senegalus Cuvier, 1829 – the bichir from Senegal

Bruno Urbanski (D) The literature team

Ingo Schindler (D) The taxonomic research of the labyrinth fishes from 1758–2008


40 41 47 53 54 59 63 66 72 77 83 87 93 94 97


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Dear members of the IGL,

After the publication of our jour-nal 3/4 as special edition in 1994, we now have a second anni-versary issue of our magazine “Der Makropode” available. The reason for the first issue was the 15th anniversary of the IGL

and it was the first issue of “Der Makropode” with a colour cover. Today, on the occasion of the 30th

anniversary of the IGL, we can proudly present the second spe-cial edition. This issue is double the size of a normal one and con-tains only colour photos. Espe-cially for this issue, the many different articles were written by the members of the IGL. So they reflect the whole diversity of the thematic work within the IGL. The fact alone that so many members agreed to write an arti-cle for this special edition shows us the potential inside the IGL. In my opinion, this is used far too little and it will be a challenge for the future steering committee to use these potentials slumbering within the IGL in an even better way. However we should always bear in mind that it is a voluntary work and that it remains as such as Peter Finke wrote.

One should really assume that a community dealing with laby-rinth fishes represents a strongly specialized organization so that further specializations hardly seem to be possible. But that’s not the way it is. The teams working within the IGL concen-trate on particular species which require special methods of keep-ing and breedkeep-ing. Let’s think of the keepers and breeders of

the several species of Channa. Nobody would come up with the idea of co-housing snakeheads and licorice gouramis, to quote only one example. So there are 12 different teams working within the IGL and of all these teams you can read articles in this issue. At this point I would like to thank all authors making it possible to publicize such a special edition. That’s the way voluntary work is fun. The last two and a half years of my term as chairman showed me anyhow that voluntary work can cause a lot of pleasure as a matter of fact. Particularly when you are successful you wish this would be our profession.

The IGL has changed during the last years and it could prove that it is really a modern working international association. The non profit making and cosmopolitan nature shape our image more and more. At the moment the inter-nationality is especially reflected by the two teams

Parosph-romenus and Channa. As already

announced the Channa team and the Snakeheads UK (Great Britain) are organizing a Channa meeting in Meppel, Netherlands. Participants from England, Scot-land, Belgium, France, the

Neth-erlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany will attend this meeting. The English language as the lingua franca of our team enables the exchange of experi-ences and a Study Group

Chan-nidae was found which enjoys

great popularity. Interested par-ties of one of the most important channa habitat in India applied for their participation.

A program is the basis for the work of all teams: “What is the purpose of maintaining our tank stocks?” How can we contribute to the protection of the environ-ment and what can we do to protect the natural habitats of our fishes are going to be exter-minated at an incredible speed? And how can we multiply the species in order to sustain stable populations in the long run? Should we possibly even try to simulate a kind of natural (artifi-cial selection? 200 years after the birth of Charles Darwinthese are the questions which we should concentrate on.

Finally here is important infor-mation in the matter of planning the conference in spring 2010. In the last issue of our journal “Der Makropode” 4/08 you could read that the conference should take place from May 23rd – 25th, 2010.

This date is not correct!!! The cor-rect date is April 23rd – 25th, 2010!

However Altena as the place of the conference is right.

I wish you a lot of fun when you read this journal!

Yours chairman, Auke de Jong



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 41


in garden ponds

By Thomas Seehaus

Macropodus ocellatus - male (Photo: H.-J. Richter)



More that 130 years ago the par-adise fishes (Macropodus

oper-cularis Linnaeus, 1758) were

imported from Ningbo in China to Europe for the first time. On the one hand they were very robust but on the other hand also nicely coloured and furthermore they showed an interesting behaviour. Therefore it is no wonder that they became the pioneers of the warm-water-aquarists in Europe. The fact that these fishes are so robust is – without any doubt – due to the enormous distribution area. From the south of Vietnam to the river Amur in the north of China they inhabit an area cover-ing tropical, subtropical as well as temperate climatic zones. The fishes have to cope with hard winters and frosted waters in their northern distribution area. Therefore the different kinds of macropodus are excellently suited for the outdoors, whether in the garden pond of in a tank on the balcony or in an outdoor tank. Before going into the out-door keeping more precisely I would like to shortly present the distribution area of the currently known species and variants.

The round tail paradise fish –

Macropodus ocellatus Cantor,


Paradise fishes inhabit the most northern parts of the distribution area of all macropodus. You also find them from the subtropical

south of China to the river Amur in the moderately cool north of China as well as in Korea and on some Japanese islands. The requirements on the keeping of tanks are very different when fishes live in such varying cli-matic zones. Whilst paradise fishes from the south of China are only rarely confronted with temperatures below 10 degrees C, the most northern stocks have to get by with severe frost up to minus 20 degrees of air tempera-ture. They can only survive these temperatures in waters being deep enough so that a frost-free water zone can be formed. In summer there are only rarely temperatures of more than 20 degrees in the north whereas 30

degrees and more can be reached in the south.

Fishes from Korea can perma-nently be kept outdoors without any problem as long as the water does not freeze completely. Fishes from regions further to the south are more sensitive and have to over winter in cold (~ 10 degrees) but frost-free waters. Unfortu-nately we usually don’t know where the fishes which occasion-ally turn up on the market come from. The exporters fro the Far East only rarely quote the exact places where the fishes were found, and if so it is a matter of luck if the retailer really knows the actual locations. Therefore you should carefully deal with fishes of uncertain origin and you


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should not over winter them


Fishes imported from Hangzhou (China) in the 80s could repeat-edly over winter under ice. The stock from the middle Yangtze area shows comparable climatic needs. Since several years para-dise fishes from Korea have con-tinuously been kept in garden ponds where they willingly mul-tiply, too.

Paradise fishes are very peace-ful labyrinth fishes showing only little aggression against each other. However they are often very shy so that you cannot see much of them when there are too few floating leaves which protect them from being seen from above. Floating leaves also prevent that

Spawning couple, typically the light female (Photo: A. Hartl)

M. opercularis (Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt) the water is too strongly heated by direct solar radiation.

In the 90 litres mortar tubs which I use, you can absolutely keep two males together with two to four females. As soon as the water temperatures reach 15 degrees the males start to to put on their magnificent summer dress. But between themselves they remain peaceful. Females ready for spawning begin to change color, too. However they show a bright creamy spawning colour. The males become very territo-rial after spawning, because they now have to protect the bubble nest with their eggs or larvae. Often the nest only consists of one cluster of spawn which, if necessary, can be moved by the

male in case of danger. The fishes also cope with the attendance of snails. Nevertheless the keeper should take care that they do not spread out of control in case he wants to breed the fishes suc-cessfully. Once the larvae swim free there isn’t any danger by the adult fishes. However the larvae of damselflies can take a consid-erable toll from the swarm of the young fishes. Normally there are however enough larvae which grow up during the summer in order to save the stock especially since the grown-up macropodus greedily polish off smaller insect larvae.

The paradise fish – Macropodus

opercularis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Considerably further south is the distribution area of the paradise fish. The most north borderline is approximately in the latitude of the city of Nan king (Nanjing) at the Jangtsekiang (Chiang Jiang). There the average temperatures vary between 0 degree in Decem-ber/January and 27 degrees in July which is comparable to regions in Germany with moder-ate climmoder-ate. The most southern distribution area that is known is situated in the highlands of Dalat in South Vietnam where there is a moderate climate, too. As para-dise fishes are very adaptable it might be possible that wild pop-ulations exist still further in the south. If these South Vietnam-ese populations are quite natu-rally there or if they are wild or exposed tank fishes, is only very difficultly or even not to be proved nowadays. Today you even find paradise fishes at places where it is for sure that they do not live there naturally, for example in Florida or in Madagascar.

As already mentioned in the intro-duction, the first paradise fishes were imported to Europe from the city of Ningbo near Shang-hai. Nan king in its turn is only 100km away from Ningbo. There-fore the paradise fishes from Nan



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 43

Macropodus hongkongensis (Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt) king should correspond to a large

extent to the first macropodus kept in tanks. It was probably a fortunate coincidence that these fishes were imported even from there and therefore they could very well cope with the condi-tions in the first European tanks. Fishes from the Nan king stock are excellently suitable for being kept in ponds. In regions with relatively milder winter seasons it is even possible to over winter under ice, as long as the period of frost spans only a few days or weeks. I over wintered these fishes together with round tail paradise fishes at water temper-atures below 10 degrees. They can stay outdoors from March until late autumn.

Macropodus from North Vietnam can be kept in the garden until autumn, too, because the climate there absolutely knows cool tem-peratures which however rarely fall below 15 degrees.

The middle and South Vietnam-ese stocks are clearly more ther-mophillic. You should not expect them to tolerate cold snaps with air temperatures below 15 degrees. I keep these stocks in mortar tubs on the balcony only from May to the end of Septem-ber where you can easily observe the mating. It is interesting to see that the females of all wild forms of paradise fishes which I know, show a similar change of colour as the females of the round tail macropodus.

The last mentioned stocks are not suitable for the garden pond; because they need to be fished out in autumn and so you always have to expect losses. However for keeping in tubs which can easily be surveyed or outdoor tanks they are absolutely to be recommended.

The Hong Kong paradise fish –

Macropodus hongkongensis

Herder & FreyHoF, 2002

A few years ago the Hong Kong paradise fish was found in a

spawned at the same time. How-ever among each other they can get very spiteful. Sometimes we have losses, especially with half-grown fishes when they begin to fight out their hierarchy. Then the keeper must carefully observe the fishes and separate them, if necessary. But as soon as the couples find each other there are almost no losses anymore.

During spawning, there may be some fights between the partners from time to time. Really serious injuries can be avoided by put-ting two couples into directly neighbouring tanks at the same time soo they can concentrate their aggression or better their willingness to protect their nest and the larvae against each other fish, upon their neighbours without hurting each other. With regard to the possible keeping outdoors, the same rules should apply as for the paradise fishes from North Vietnam.

Macropodus sp. “rotrucken” – Macropodus spechti var. eryth-ropterus, Herder & FreyHoF, 2002

Herder & Freyhof described the

Macropodus sp. „rotrucken“ as a

second new species of the genus of macropodus, certainly one of the most attractive kinds of these fishes. The natural distri-bution area is near to the city of quite small area in the environs of

Hong Kong. In the meantime the species has also been detected at other places in Guangdong (Canton) in south China. This species of macropodus was con-sidered as a variant of the black macropodus at first. But in the meantime it has turned out that the fishes are much closer to the paradise fish. Since further imports of this species to Europe are not to be expected, we should intensively try to preserve it by breeding. If this species will per-manently survive in our tanks we will see. It is said to be very aggressive and less attractive. The latter I don’t want to leave as it is. Even though they do not show loud colours, they are attractively coloured in a tank. In a harshly lighted basin at the retailer’s they certainly do not show to advantage and should most likely become non-sellers. Another problem is the extreme sensibility against bacterial fin rot. Several breeders reported about heavy losses caused by this disease.

They are supposed to be very aggressive, but this is relative. Against other fishes they are even very friendly. Over a longer period I had co-housed two cou-ples of Hong Kong paradise fishes and two couples of Macropodus sp. ”rotrucken” without any problems even if all four couples


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to purchase relatively young

fishes which grow up together. Then grown-up macropodus will be less aggressive, because they know one another. The epony-mous red colour on the back is very much intensified when you feed the fishes with frozen krill. A cold hibernation also seems to intensify the blaze of colours.

The black Macropodus –

Macro podus spechti

sCHreitmüLLer, 1936

This species has already been known for a long time. For ages it has been assumed that the black macropodus come from the environs of the old imperial town Hue in Vietnam. However since it is possible to visit Vietnam again, wild macropodus have been imported, too, which clearly differ from the tank stock known by now. These fishes are abso-lutely not colourless as the name lets us assume. The body shows a more or less strong blue glim-mer when lit it up at the sides. The back is dark reddish brown. All in all, this form from the envi-rons of Hue appears as a darker copy of the Macropodus sp. “rotrucken”. It is interesting to see that the wild form from Hue has primarily got a tail as a fork with elongated outward fin rays whereas the rays of the fishes living in tanks are also elongated but situated more in the middle of the back.

Further in the south, but still northern of the Sea Cloud Pass in central Vietnam, you find another kind of the black Macropodus. Normally these fishes cannot be differentiated from the one from Hue. However they show a very interesting change of colour when mating. Both sexes get black and light grey vertical binders so that they almost look like black and white paradise fishes! That was the reason why they have been called “Black Tiger” for a long time. Jens Kühne and Dietrich

Macropodus spechti var. erytroptherus (Photo: T. Seehaus)

M. opercularis „albino “isn’t as robust as wild ones.

(Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt)

Dong Hoi in North Vietnam. This species make similar demands on being kept outdoors like the other North Vietnamese paradise fishes.

The Macropodus sp. „rotrucken“ is supposed to be very aggres-sive, too, what I cannot confirm without restriction. The behav-iour of these fishes is strongly dependent on the conditions in the tank. Permanently high tem-peratures often cause aggressive

behaviour. A cool phase below 15 degrees during the winter months does the fishes good and prevents conflicts reliably. In spring, when the temperatures rise again, the fishes get in the mood fpr mating and the quar-rels increase. Now it is time to separate them, if necessary, in order to avoid severe injuries. When the tank is well structured and offers enough possibilities to hide, it is possible to keep two pairs in an 80 cm tank. It’s ideal



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 45

Schaller were able to identify more precisely the place where the “Black Tiger” was found. It is in a valley in the north of the Sea Cloud Pass near the village Noi Tron. Even though it has been doubted for a long time, it could be proved that the black macrop-odus was also found in the areas in the south of the Sea Cloud Pass from where they were then brought to Europe (Jörg Töpfer, Jens Kühne). Offspring of two location variants has been dis-tributed to members of the IGL in the meantime, Lam Co (Sea Cloud Pass) and Nam O (in the south of the Sea Cloud Pass). It is exciting to realize that the males of these two variants have got the same fin forms as the old tank stocks! These points very much to the theory of Schaller that the first imports to Europe came from the environs of Da Nang and not from the environs of Hue area. The black macropodus are quite thermophillic and should not be kept below 15 degrees for a longer time.

Keeping outdoors

Aquarists especially like garden ponds and tubs or tanks on the balcony, as they offer the pos-sibility to arrange the garden or the balcony in an attractive manner and to set special effects. Since we, the aquarists, tend to populate each vessel which can be filled with aquatic life-forms, it is not astonishing that these waters are often populated by tank fishes resistant to cold. We have to distinguish between all-year and seasonal outdoor keeping only during the summer months. As aforementioned, the stocks from the most northerly distribution area in the north and the middle of China also cope with longer frozen waters. The decisive factor for the success of a planned outdoor hibernation is on the one hand the length of the frost period and on the other hand the depth of the water.

Macropodus spechti from the botanical garden in Halle.

(Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt) Garden ponds which reach at

least at one point the depth of approx. one metre do normally not freeze up during German win-ters. The water is deep enough so that a zone with a tempera-ture of 4 degrees can develop at the deepest point in the water. The fishes are capable of hiber-nating in this zone without any problem. Normally macropodus meet their need of oxygen by breathing atmospheric air like the most of the other labyrinth

fishes. In fact this is impossible in a frozen pond, but usually that is not a problem at all, because the metabolism of the fishes at 4 degrees is in such a way reduced that the gill breathing is sufficient. If you over winter macropodus in the cellar at temperatures well below 10 degrees you observe that the fishes only rarely take a breath at the surface. In case that the pond is not very large you should remove the leaves and the rotten plants before the frost


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bigger wooden boxes filled with

sand are very nice too. They can be covered by plants, too. The plants covering the tubs serve as decoration as well as practical purposes. On the one hand they reduce the danger that the fishes jump out and on the other hand they attract a lot of vermin, some of which will fall into the water and serve as a welcome delicacy for the macropodus.

As substrate one can fill in some gravel into the tubs. Small water lilies and water marginals are suitable for being planted. Rigid hornwort, pondweed or other aquatic plants fill out the body of the water and give the fishes the possibility of shelter. Water cab-bages, water hyacinths, water chestnuts and floating water mosses are more adequate plants for the tubs of course for a tank which is placed in the shadow on the balcony.

When the plants are grown, the summer visitors can be put in. Macropodus continuously spawn in tubs, too. Since the young fishes do not find so many oppor-tunities to retreat as in a pond one has to be more attentive. In general macropodus do not hunt their own young. It is more or less the elder young that deci-mate their younger brothers and sisters.

The big advantage of tubs over garden ponds is that they can easily be fished out in autumn. The pure water plants can over winter in tubs. As tubs mostly stand free, they totally freeze up during longer and stronger frost periods. This would be fatal for the fishes. However it also hap-pened to me two times that I overlooked a female of the Korean round tail macropodus. Once there was a long period of per-mafrost even at the Bergstraße. It lasted several weeks so that I really thought that the tubs con-tained massive ice. But the fishes survived and started with much

more spawn than the females which hibernated in the cellar. So it did not even hurt them. Most other macropodus should not survive such handling, but the fishes from Korea must also get through hard winters in their country. In case that fishes shall hibernate outdoors, one can try to keep a part of the tank free of ice by means of a small heating rod.

But please notice the following! As nice and interesting Macropo-dus are they are not part of our local fauna and don’t belong into water outside of our con-trol. Please take care that your Macropodus do not get from your garden pond into natural waters. It is not very probable that they can settle here in the long run, but it is not to be excluded, too. Our remaining nature has enough to fight against adulterations of fauna.


FreyHoF J. & Herder F. 2002.

Review of the paradise fishes of the genus Macropodus in Viet-nam, with description of two new species from Vietnam and southern China (Perciformes: Osphronemidae). Ichthyol. Explor. Freshwaters, vol. 13(2): 147-167.

PaePke H.-J. 1994. Die

Paradies-fische. Die neue Brehm-Bücherei Bd. 616, Magdeburg.

CHan B.P.L. & töPFer J. 2000.

Bemerkungen zu einem neuen Fundort des Schwarzen Makro-poden, Macropodus conco-lor Ahl, 1937. Der Makropode,


seeHaus t. & sCHmidt J., 2002. Ihr

Hobby Makropoden – Paradiesfi-sche. Ruhmannsfelden.

seeHaus, t. 2005. Makropoden

Fische nicht nur für das Aqua-rium. Aquaristik, 12(6): 60-65.

seeHaus, t. 2006. Makropoden

Teil 2: Die Haltung im Freiland. Aquaristik, 13(1): 54-58.

period starts in order to reduce oxygen consuming processes. If the mentioned needs are fulfilled you can keep the Korean round tail macropodus outdoors all year round for example. As far as they do not have any competitors with regard to other fish species, e. g. sticklebacks, they will continu-ously reproduce themselves. If one can forego the feeding is to be decided individually. In case that the pond is large enough and the stocking rate is not that high, the macropodus will find sufficient food. Of course the pond should be well planted, ideally with water lily and other water plants with floating leaves. It should also be equipped with a marsh zone with a low water level which can be planted with fontinalis and other closely grow-ing marsh plants. Now you have the ideal whereabouts for young fishes. Many infusorians and crustaceans grow in fontinalis which serve as food for them. Scavengers with a minimum length of approx. 3 cm are good companions over a longer period. I co-housed macropodus and cloud mountain minnows (Tanichthys

albonubes and T. micagemmae)

without any noticeable losses among the barbs.

Additionally to the ponds, tubs are a good solution as a summer domicile for other less tempera-ture sensitive tank fishes being. Mortar tubs are available in dif-ferent sizes and for less money in the building centres. They should be placed where they are not exposed to the solar radia-tion the whole day. If necessary, they can be enclosed by plant tubs, providing shadow during the hottest hours in the summer as well as avoid that the water will be overheated. Moreover the less attractive tubs can be hidden a little by plants. Clever do-it-yourself men can coat them with various materials like reed matting or planks. Little plas-tic ponds which are placed into



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 47



Species determination

in the group of the stocky, bubble nest building fighting fish

(group of

Betta splendens


By Martin Hallmann & Michael Scharfenberg

We would like to ignore all human cultivated forms and populations originating from those, even though it is almost impossible in practice. We cannot always notice, if a human hand is involved or not. In obvi-ous cases one should not judge the appearance because this would only lead to further fal-sification and confusion when comparing them with wild ones. Thus, highly glittering, rudimen-tary veil tailed and pit-bull like fighting fishes are pets and crea-tures created by human hand even though, they were caught in the field. In the course of time you have an eye for it. The natural distribution area plays only partly a role regarding this

species complex, since it has mostly been adulterated. While

Betta imbellis is a type spread

to the tropics (southern race),

B. smaragdina/B. striktos is a

northern race from the subtropi-cal areas with strongly varying daytime and seasonal climate fluctuations. Betta “splendens” is not to be defined anymore due to cross breeding with B.

imbel-lis and B. smaragdina as well as

due to selective breeding. The influence of pets looking like splendens, on the wild forms by transport and by exposure is obvious. We are only able to guess the look of the wild form of Betta splendens. In fact this as species description is con-fused by types developed from a

mixture of Betta imbellis, selec-tive breeding and wild forms, no clean definition has been done by now.

At first confusion!

Betta imbellis and Betta splen-dens hybridise,and there are

from the left

Betta imbellis, Khao Lak, Thailand

© Martin Hallmann

Betta imbellis Koh Samui,

Thai-land © Michael Scharfenberg

Betta „splendensimbellis“, Taling

Ngam, Koh Samui, Thailand © Martin Hallmann


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transitional populations which

are stable with regard to their genetic constitution. In the meantime we have obtained a number of location variants of Betta imbellis in the course

of the years and we have also caught many of them ourselves. There is no other wild form with a comparable variation ( apart from the reintroduced B.

splen-dens). There were 5 or 6

distin-guishable forms of B. imbellis from Ko Samui within the IGL. Both authors caught at least three clearly different forms on Phuket Island partly in the same habitat.

Differently varying types attracted our attention in Kha-olak, Ko Samui and Phuket. We would like to call them an interim form from Betta

imbel-lis to B. splendens. While there

were fishes clearly correspond-ing to the”standard“Betta

imbel-lis, we also caught strong males

with saddle-shaped mouth. The colour of the body was dark grey, relatively poor in shining scales and the red band of the caudal fin was indistinctly bordered towards the middle of the caudal fin like the body of B. splendens. The females showed a magnifi-cent light brown colour without any shades of red in the caudal

fin. In contrast, it is interesting to see the Betta imbellis which

we caught in the west of Malay-sia appear absolutely

homoge-neous per location (Kemaman, Cherating and in the south of Kuantan).

These fishes varied minimally, but the single individuals only differed within the scope we know for example from the slim red Betta. And what can we now deduce from this?

Still nothing! There is only the fact that it is not easy to describe the species of Betta imbellis. At first you have to comment on the similarities of the forms clas-sified as Betta imbellis, then to exclude more strongly deviating ones and finally to define

”imbel-lis” herewith:

Magnificent coloration of

Betta imbellis

The magnificent coloration of the male Betta imbellis shows a nearly dark grey to black basic from the left

Betta imbellis, 3 km from Don,

Phuket, Thailand © Michael Scharfenberg

Betta imbellis, Klong Kala,

Phuket, Thailand © Michael Scharfenberg

Betta imbellis, Bang Tao, Phuket,


© Martin Hallmann

from the left

Betta „splendensimbellis“, Khao

Lak, Thailand © Martin Hallmann

Betta „splendensimbellis“, Bang

Tao, Phuket, Thailand © Martin Hallmann

Betta „splendensimbellis“, Bang

Tao, Phuket, Thailand © Martin Hallmann



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 49

colour for body and fins with lines of shining scales, red ven-tral fins with white and black point, a red anal fin point and a bordered bright red half-moon in the caudal fin. The fin mem-branes of the anal as well as caudal fins are patina coloured (Horst Linke uses this term in his book Labyrinthfische – Farbe

im Aquarium for a good reason).

These rays can partly overlay respectively supersede the red colour in the caudal fin fringe. The dorsal fin is patina coloured, too and it shows the pattern of a ladder. A slightly reddish touch can appear outer part of the dorsal fin. Most of the caudal fin, and sometimes the anal fin, too, is bordered in black. The patina colour of the shine scales inten-sifies to a partly flat shimmering colour at the pectoral fins. The operculum are also coloured in that way.

With the definition of patina we now come to talk about inner specific differences! Although Horst Linke certainly herewith thought of the turquoise colour of corroded old copper surfaces (verdigris), Betta imbellis can show shimmering colours from light green over turquoise and clearly blue. There are also dif-ferences in the form of the red moon in the caudal fin. I did find a location form which didn’t show a touch of red in the caudal fin anymore. The B. imbellis “Kuan-tan” (location MK 316) as well as a location form from Phuket (see photo 5) show the red half-moon which is strongly over-laid by radial rays. The same applies in principle to the red spot in the caudal fin which can be very small or which can take over almost the whole caudal fin as for the location type (Flora Bay) from Phuket. So there is a significant variation. Even the “safest” and assumed clearest distinctive mark – the colour of the operculum – is not uniform. I had fishes from Laos (commer-cial importation) with red

oper-cula. Apart from this, they were typical B. imbellis and consis-tently coloured in their filial gen-erations. There are all kinds of transitions of the habitus, from the typically slim, small stub-headed type to the high respec-tively saddle-dorsal type with big head. There are also certain stocks besides the short fin types which tend to long fins like Betta

smaragdina. The maximal size

of 4 – 5 cm (Ko Samui) is a little smaller than the southern spe-cies presumptions (B. imbellis) Before it is becoming more con-fusing we ask the question of the evenness.

At first Betta imbellis seems to be a variable species. A “stan-dard” form of Betta imbellis is defined by certain similarities. Differing from this some forms tend against Betta splendens. Infrequently we also find types showing only very few parts of red and tending to B. smaragdina (e. g. a type from KhaoLak).

Magnificent coloration of

Betta smaragdina

In contrast to B. imbellis and B.

splendens, B. smaragdina

gen-erally shows a very homogenous form, pattering and coloration. The magnificent coloration is to be seen in the photos. The complete head and body of the forms of Betta smaragdina that we know appear flatly green (i.e. there are no individual spots on

from the left

Betta imbellis, Kuantan,


© Martin Hallmann

Betta smaragdina, Nong Bua

Lam Phu, Issan, Thailand © Michael Scharfenberg

from the left

Betta smaragdina, Khong, Laos

© Martin Hallmann

Betta stiktos, Stung Treng,

Nord-Ost-Kambodscha © Michael Scharfenberg


50 Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009


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the operculum). The metallic

lustre of the whole body is typi-cal for B. smaragdina. You only see the grey to reddish brown body colour on the forehead and in the scales framing which is reduced to a small net structure. The rays of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins are wine red, the membranes of the fins shine in green, and the anal fin shows steel blue colours on the base. The dorsal fin shows a ladder marking, the caudal fin and the anal fins show lines with dots. The ventral fins are dark salmon with a white point. The first ray of the ventral fin is black. Betta

smaragdina is often very slim

and long finned. Some location forms (Yasothon) reach a length up to 7 cm.

Magnificent coloration of

Betta stiktos

Betta stiktos was only described

in 2005 (Tan & Ng), because there obviously is a demarcated occurrence in Cambodia (Stung Treng, North- East Cambodia). At the first view you realize an astonishing similarity with regard to Betta smaragdina. The coloration of the fins leans

con-siderably to the blue. This spe-cies is smaller and stockier. The profile of the head of Betta

stik-tos is flat compared to that of of B. smaragdina and it does not

seem to tend to long fins as B.

smaragdina. Since we know this

form in the hobby only for a very short time, it remains to wait for how far “stiktos“ will adapt to Betta smaragdina within the next generations. Therefore we rather consider B. stiktos as a local variant respectively as a colour variety of Betta

smarag-dina. A definition in the

mean-ing of a species position seems to be rather questionable.

Now the problem

The species of Betta splendens is actually even more difficult to define as B. imbellis. Firstly this results from the influence and the “mixture” of breeding forms (which can be hybrids them-selves) with wild forms. In face of it we do not know how much influence exposed fishes have on the natural occurrence and how the wild “splendens” once looked like. Secondly the already mentioned transitions to “imbel-lis” confuse things as well. Besides the (short fin) breeding forms we however know a set of location forms (wild forms or exposed renaturalised forms?) of

Betta splendens which you can

describe as follows:

Magnificent coloration of

Betta splendens (construed by

common characteristics of pop-ulations far away from settle-ments)

Male Betta splendens show a magnificent coloration of an almost reddish brown to brown-ish grey regarding the colour of body and fins with none or few shimmering scales, red ventral fins, a lacklustre red anal fin and caudal fin. The membranes of the caudal fin now reallyshim-mer with turquoise; the caudal fin shows a turquoise to true blue hem. The dorsal fin is tur-quoise and shows the pattern of a ladder, the point of the dorsal fin can be clearly red. Sometimes the caudal fin is bordered in black. The opercula are coloured in brownish black like the colour of the body. Sometimes there is a red dot respectively band on the operculum The characteristic of blue and red colours strongly varies according to the locations. Mostly the body is relatively not very high (photo 15) in the remote location forms (not very much influenced by exposed fighters), but not in to all of them.

Betta splendens reaches a total

length of 7 cm. Their body mass is mostly clearly higher than that of of Betta imbellis. We also know extremely slim and long-ish forms which do not differ from the forms of B. imbellis or

B. smaragdina. The, mostly very

bull-like forms, which show a flat shimmer on the back are not considered here, because they can be explained by to expo-sure to splendens. Effectively the species name “splendens = shiny” is only correct for breed-ing forms which indicates that the describer did not find really wild Betta splendens. These are not very coloured and absolutely not shiny. All in all you can rec-ognize a (constant) influence of the “wild forms” by exposed tank stocks.It is to assume that – in the course of the generations – they will re-develop towards the archetype. But certain char-acteristics of the breeding forms from the left

Betta splendens, Nonthamburi,


© Michael Scharfenberg

Betta splendens, Rayong,




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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 51

will obviously survive over many generations.

Definition of species and mixture

Due to the variation of B.

splen-dens, this “species” is most

dif-ficultly to define. Morphological characteristics are not sufficient in order to clearly define the forms of B. imbellis, B. splendens and B. smaragdina. We assume that the types that we name B.

splendens often bear genes of

pets which were reintroduced into the wild. The breeding of fighters has a centuries-old tra-dition in Thailand and Betta

imbellis are certainly affected

by this in the south of Thailand, too, where the line from Khao-lak (west coast, in the north of Phuket) to Ko Samui (border in the east) describes the north-ern distribution border of Betta

imbellis. These fishes live here

in a clear and white water and they consequently share the biotopes of Betta splendens. Fur-ther in the south, in the west of Malaysia, Betta imbellis typically populate slowly flowing black water streams and flood areas i. e. the typical Betta imbellis is actually a fish living in tropical areas. You find it in black water whereas Betta splendens and

Betta smaragdina inhabit the

subtropics. In the border area, the climatic conditions may be excellent for both species. This fact would explain a transitional zone where both species can live and form a hybrid. You find an untypical hybrid zone in the (subtropical) area of Siem Reap in Cambodia where B.

splen-dens and Betta imbellis form

hybrids and generate a varying transitional type. In contrast to the Malaysians, who are rather uninterested with regard to this item, the Thais and obviously the Khmers, too, are great breeders of fighting fishes and they surely do not ignore the local fishes. Pla Kat exists all over

Thai-land, on the markets as well as “wild” fishes in the fields. Nor-bert Neugebauer reported that

B. imbellis from Ko Samui were

found/availableon Phuket! The same certainly happens to the B.

splendens with short fins which

you can buy on the markets of Ko Samui or Phuket. The hybrid-ization of the fauna due to unin-tentional or deliberate exposure leads to genetically inhomoge-neous types and to the types which deviate from the stan-dards. Although the species of

B. imbellis, B. smaragdina and B. splendens can still be crossbred,

the existing crossing barrier and accommodation to the current climates as well as water types prevent the complete mixture. The standard types differ clearer from each other as many other fishes which are differentiated as species, for example Betta

brownorum and Betta rutilans.

It is just impossible to definitely differentiate the distribution areas because of the transition zone.

All this should not spoil our fun. It shall make clear how difficult it is on the one hand to establish clear criteria for “species” and on the other hand how impor-tant it is to separate the local forms. Nowadays we do not find

B. imbellis anymore ? n

captiv-ity with this slim black form and blue (not turquoise) fins which we all know from many pictures. They were lost in the mass of different colours.

Exemplary examples of unclear forms:

1. Betta sp. „Mahachai“

Fishes which are not fully coloured resemble Betta imbellis in their (normally) striped color-ation, in the length of their fins as well in their stature. The col-oration of their head shows two clear blue operculum bars like

B. imbellis. Males and females

have 1 -3 rows of shining spots on their back and three faded vertical stripes in their normal coloration. In flagrant contrast to B. imbellis there are not any pure shades of red in the fins. The patterning of the dissimilar fins reminds of Betta

smarag-dina, even though the coloration

looks less green than blue. How-ever the magnificent coloration is only superficially similar to the one of Betta smaragdina. On the brown almost black body colour (like B. imbellis) you see vertical stripes of shining spots and not a flat coloration. Furthermore B. sp. “Mahachai” show a light green first fin ray in the ventral fins. When you take a closer look they also show clear deviations from Betta smaragdina. We do not know anything for certain

from the left

Betta splendens, Siem Reap,

Kambodscha © Jens Kühne

Betta „splendensimbellis“, Siem

Reap, Kambodscha © Michael Scharfenberg


52 Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009


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yet, we can only guess.

Scien-tists rack their brains over this form with the relatively isolated distribution area in the south of Bangkok. In the simplest case it is a hereditary solid breeding form of the Thais making them independent. Influences of B.

imbellis and B. smaragdina are to

be recognized from our point of view, because Betta sp. “Maha-chai” resemble the types of B.

splendens at first sight.

Never-theless I know pictures of breed-ing forms (B. splendens possibly crossbred with B. smaragdina) which show fishes with simi-lar structure of the patterning respectively coloration.

2. Betta sp. „Siem Reap“

Fishes from this group were independently caught by Linke/ Hermann and Kühne in the sur-roundings of Ankor Wat/Cambo-dia. It is difficult to describe them as they vary from “splendens” to “imbellis” in all facets. Therefore we find here the rather reliable evidence that Betta splendens and Betta imbellis generate

hybrids and that variable inter-mediate forms arise. Please com-pare the two photos concerning

Betta sp. “Siem Reap”. It is not

possible to reconstruct anymore which form originally existed or if both were created by human hand.

Parallel there are still some pecu-liarities.

We have two peculiar forms whose coloration we could not explain at first: a colour form of Betta imbellis from Penang which was caught by Bernd Keiler in the 80s. Some of the offspring showed yellow spots instead of the red colouring. At that time we assumed that this would be a mutant with a colour deficiency or the influence of exposed Pla Kats. The second peculiarity is a Betta

“imbel-lis” from Ko Samui (compare the

photos) whose appearance in the youth indeed corresponded to the attached photo 1. When the fish grew older it completely lost its red coloration and today it shows flat turquoise fins. The fighting fishes which we found in the near of settlements are neverheless obviously often hybrids.


It is only sometimes unambigu-ous to compare definitively the forms that we know. It mostly becomes more difficult when you take a closer look. Every-body knows how easy you may

go into a skid when you want to differentiate the “species” of

Betta splendens, Betta imbellis

and Betta smaragdina/striktos. You would have to define the cri-teria of the described species. This is not easy, since the spe-cies occur in geographic breeds with different forms of fins, oration and habit. (Varying col-orations depend on the mood and the influence of light can of course mislead).

There are obviously intermediate forms in neighbouring distribu-tion areas. Here you particularly find aggravating individual dis-tinctions. They scatter between the extremes or they approach another species in many points (Phuket).

We have to start from the fact that there is a potential and unintended hybridization in the inhabited areas (which are not concerned here?) of the “wild forms” with former “pets”. The Thais are great breeders of fish and enthusiasts of Pla Kat! They have already inserted active or passive gene material of all three species. While the appearance of

Betta imbellis and B. smaragdina

is plainly to be defined at a large extent, it is very unclear with regard to Betta splendens. Here we have many colour races and breeding forms that can again be caught after being exposed. We can only guess which form of Betta splendens is said to be the original one. Because of the global popularity of Pla Kat (the fighter B. splendens) and pot fishes (pets) – also in the distri-from the left

Betta sp. „Mahachai“

(Photo: T. Kemeter)

Betta imbellis, gelbe Variante,


© Martin Hallmann Betta imbellis, Koh Samui,




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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 53

Simple identification key for stocky, bubble

nest building


– wild forms (only males in

magnificent coloration to be determined), without

breeding forms and hybrids

By Karl-Heinz Roßmann

1 Head without shining scales, no black or red opercula spot Betta splendens

1* Head with shining scales 3

3 Shining scales flat on the whole operculum and on side of the head 5 3* Shining scales on the operculum in two clearly separated fields 4 4 Anal fin with red point, caudal fin with bordered red half-moon

And black hem Betta imbellis

4* Anal fin and caudal fin without red sections with turquoise iridescent

fin membranes. Fin rays wine red to grey. Betta sp. „Mahachai“

5 Fish with a length of 5 -7 cm, rather straight front line Betta smaragdina

5* Fish smaller with round front Betta stiktos

bution areas of B. imbellis and B.

smaragdina – it is certainly usual

to crossbreed different forms for embellishment or enhancement of the aggressiveness. Think of our small animal breeders. Even though one can sup-pose that a species is formed and determined by its habitat (climate, water body …) and therefore – in terms of evolu-tion – most of the genes of the breeding forms get lost, we have to consider the following: it is

difficult to look the genetic his-tory of a Betta which was caught by oneself or even bought on the market. If the fishes remain somewhat homozygous (in the meaning of the visible charac-teristics of the corresponding species), they are listed in our stock list. Nevertheless we get surprised again and again. Of course all these examinations are dependent on systematic def-initions. The moment from when a status of species is justified or

when you talk about a subspe-cies, is a question of adequacy and in the eye of the beholder and in practice of course in the dimension of the analysed col-lection of material (are there any intermediate forms or not) and in the used differentiation raster. Our “term” of species is a model that functions only roughly. Taking a closer look you recognize that our fighting fishes do not always stick to the rules. The Thai call all fighting fishes Pla Kat.


54 Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009


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Meanwhile the scene is a

classi-cal one: someone buys a pair of dwarf gouramis in the pet shop, beautiful big fishes. He still thinks: “Anyway, why are they called dwarf gouramis?” He puts them into a properly prepared tank and enjoys them almost for four weeks. Then the disas-ter takes its course, the fishes get big stomachs, goggle-eyes, ulcers and die a few days later. The poor aquarist thinks of a mistake in keeping these fishes. He tries it once again – with the same effect. Since our aquarist has done everything correct by now, it was probably the fault of the fishes. In future he well keeps his fingers off the goura-mis. Unfortunately not only off the dwarf gouramis, no, he gives

a wide berth to all species of


The elder aquarists surely remember that the small west-ern gouramis were not difficult at all in order to be kept in former times. You could buy

Tricho-gaster lalius as small German

offspring in each good pet shop and on many fish exchanges you could find T. labiosa as well as T.

chuna after their late first import,

whereas T. fasciata has never been offered often in pet shops. I can remember that T. labiosa was the first labyrinth fish which I bred and that was easy going in the 60s.

Now we have two possibilities to explain: either the fishes have altered or the aquarists have. Maybe both are true and maybe this is also different with regard to the four species. Let’s go through the species according to their level of difficulty:

At first the one which is the easiest to be kept: Trichogaster chuna (HamiLton, 1822), honey


Despite contrary fears and leg-ends this fish is available in good and healthy quality in the most respectable pet shops which means of course that everybody who has not been successful with T. chuna has bungled it by oneself. After a hot and try period from February to May the monsoon follows with extreme rainfalls and then a cool and dry period from October to January. Therefore the honey gourami has to bear differences in tempera-ture between 10 and 30 degrees C and it easily bears even more. So the maxim for keeping honey gouramis has to be: rough but heartily.

This applies to all Trichogaster except for T. labiosa. T. chuna tol-erates nothing worse than evenly “optimal” conditions. Therefore

T. chuna was more stable with

unreliable heaters and the feed-ing with dried daphnia in the past than today with a best-bal-anced feeding and heaters hold-ing the temperature at exactly half a degree. As all Bengalis honey gourami survive the best



Gouramis of the genus


the new problematic fishes?

By Karl-Heinz Roßmann

from the left

Trichogaster chuna-male

(Photo: H.-J. Richter)

Trichogaster chuna-female

(Photo: K.-H. Roßmann)

Trichogaster chuna a mating pair



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Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009 55

in unheated tanks with distinct difference between winter and summer. In case that T. chuna are kept in heated tanks, the heater should at least be switched off at night. The food should be high-fibre; the best are daphnia and Cyclops. Concerning the water value nothing worries the honey gourami less. They are the best adapted to variations of the water values in habitats with very rainy and very dry peri-ods. One of the worst enemies of T. chuna is perfectly working reverse osmosis.

T. chuna, T. lalius and T. fasciata

feel most comfortable in garden ponds.

With regard to breeding, the honey gourami is the easiest of all, quite simple, because it has the biggest offspring of all

Trichogaster. But they are still

tiny compared to young Bettas for example which means of course that they cannot immedi-ately be fed with fresh artemia nauplii. In the first days it must be nothing else but infusorians or rotifers.

First of all you need a bubble nest in order to get offspring. The one of T. chuna is very big, coarse-pearl-shaped and in one layer, i.e. the male only builds one big foam carpet, large enough to be seen by the females even from a distance. Additionally the female will be courted to the nest by the male with vertical body and dis-tinct leading swimming. Attacks upon the female and wild hunt-ing which you can watch with other gouramis, do not happen

with T. chuna, mainly because the male is considerably smaller the female. After mating, the eggs are collected into a small clump that is kept floating by some fine bubbles. The original bubble nest crumbles. Now the male intensively cares for the clump whereas the female coop-erates in defending the area, however primarily against other females of honey gouramis.

Trichogaster chuna are quite able

to defend their territory. They can harry their associates in small tanks, but – and now comes the positive aspect – if you keep the modest T. chuna properly, they will thank it double and three-fold with their cheeky charm of a poison dwarf and their brilliant colours.

The next difficultis the Tricho-gaster labiosa day, 1878, the

thick lipped gourami from Burma, where it occupies the lowlands at the coast near Rangoon up to the plateau of the lake Inle. This area is considerably further in the south than the distribution area of the Indian gouramis. There-fore T. labiosa prefer it a little and more constantly warmer. After the honey gourami, T. labiosa is the most suited for tanks: long-living, resistant to stress and even in community tanks hardly to be stopped from spawning. If there only would not be the hor-rible oodinium! I think only choc-olate gouramis are even more sensitive to it than T. labiosa. Fortunately (and unfortunately for keepers of chocolates)

oodin-ium only occurs in soft water. T.

labiosa which often live in

rela-tive hard water in their wild life – in the lake Inle for example – is therefore best kept at a water temperature of about 15 degrees (15°GH). But it may also be 20 degrees (20°GH). Thus: Please keep away from this expensive osmosis system!

If everything suits it fine, T.

labiosa soon start to build their

bubble nest without any prob-lems in community tanks, too. These fishes are similarly as assertive as T. chuna, but due to their size of up to 8 cm, they have clearly more drive. The males of

T. labiosa which defend their

from the left

Trichogaster labiosa (Photo: E. Sänger) Trichogaster labiosa (Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt) Trichogaster labiosa (Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt)

Trichogaster chuna „Gold“


56 Der Makropode – Volume 31 – 2 / 2009


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territory can even make dwarf

cichlids’ life hard. So, even in the time of nano-aquaristics: big tanks! For two pairs of T. labiosa it should really be a tank of one meter. It cannot do any harm if the tank has got a reasonable water level so that the females can take shelter near the sub-strate. The thick-lipped gourami builds a simple, flat, coarse pearl-shaped bubble nest with bubbles blown some distance to the nest and then brought to the nest. Floating plants which grow directly near the nest are pushed to the nest with the mouth. You cannot observe any courtship display; perhaps this is only because the fishes cannot

live outside the big space they require in normal tanks. In case that the female which is in the vaccinity of the male anyway, she cannot be mated outside and then led to his territory. After many observations I have the impression the courtship display of Trichogaster labiosa and the nearly related T. fasciata is that the female approaches the terri-tory of the displaying male until she has been noticed. Thereupon the female is “welcomed” with raised fins and then very heav-ily chased away. This behaviour does not keep the female from returning a few minutes later and this can last several days before spawning. It has nothing to do with the fact that the bubble nest has not been finished yet. In case of emergency, this procedure could take half an hour. What is more, the conflict of encounter will hereby be moderated and the maturity of the spawn will be synchronised. The spawning can only take place when the female responds to the male’s display behaviour in the right way. She has rapidly to swim in the male’s flank and to show her intentions with some bites. The female only behaves that way when the time for spawning has arrived. Each hesitation means the time for spawning has not come yet and will be answered by an immediate attack. Just like in real life, the gourami which raises the children wants to be asked a little. In contrast to Betta,

Macropodus and the most other

labyrinth fishes the female has to leave the nest after

spawn-ing in a hurry. After a successful spawning, the female disappears from the territory of the male. It has nothing to do with the fur-ther care of the spawn and she is well advised to hide in the tank until it is ready for spawning again and to get in touch with the male “to be driven away” again. Young T. labiosa are very small, like all gouramis and they have to be fed with infusorians or rotifers for a few days until they begin to take artemia nau-plii. The biggest problem with the young is their proneness to oodinium. There is no oodinium in hard water. If you want to breed T. labiosa in soft water, you should add one teaspoon of common salt per 5 litres of water to the breeding tank. Then the Artemia live longer, too.

If you have engaged yourself with aquaristics for a while, you know: the more tropical the fish, the easier it is to keep. And the further north the native land of a fish, the more difficult it can be. Nothing is easier than to keep the conditions constantly at an optimum by the correspond-ing technical equipment. It will be difficult, if an optimum does not mean constantly. This is the problem we have with the two most northern gouramis Tricho-gaster lalius (HamiLton, 1822)

and Trichogaster fasciata BLoCH

& sCHneider, 1801. Their common

distribution area is in the north of India, the south of Nepal and in Bangladesh. Occurrences in Pakistan are probable, alleged locations in Burma, Thailand and Malaysia - as mentioned in

Mak-Trichogaster lalius (Photo: H. Linke)

from the left

Trichogaster lalius „blue“

(Photo: Dr. J. Schmidt)

Trichogaster lalius

(Photo: K.-H. Roßmann)

Trichogaster lalius „red“





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