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Samurai Gourami | How I Care (Without Killing Them) |

Samurai Gourami (Sphaerichthys vaillanti) is a rare addition suitable to your nano aquarium. They are not common in the aquarium industry, even in their natural habitats.

When they are present in their natural habitats, it is hard to spot them because of their swimming pattern and traits that mimic a floating dead leaf.

For these reasons, Samurai Gouramis are expensive, and most hobbyists will never get to see one in person.

The care for a Samurai Gourami is essentially the same as any other gourami. They need a planted tank with some driftwood and rocks for hiding spots. The water should be soft and acidic, with tropical water conditions.

Some find it hard to care for these fish, but we think they are relatively easy to care of if given their demands. Let’s find out more about these fish and how to provide the best care for them.

Samurai Gourami

What is Samurai Gourami?

Scientifically named Sphaerichthys vaillanti, Samurai gourami is a freshwater fish belonging to the Osphronemidae family.

The fish is endemic to the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Their natural habitat is found in blackwater areas thriving with tree roots and other decaying materials in the Kalimantan River. 

Because the samurai gourami swims along the riverbed’s bottom, it may be mistaken for dead leaves. They have a labyrinth breathing organ that helps them get oxygen from the air.

They are small fish that prefer high water temperatures, which is why they are ideal for nano aquariums.

What do Samurai Gouramis look like?

Samurai Gouramis are gourami that has a metallic green/ grey color with red and green vertical stripes on their sides.

The head part is on the green side, while the tail part is redder. The female and male have distinct differences, which we will discuss in a moment.

How big do Samurai Gourami get?

Samurai gourami is a small-sized fish that grows up to 2.2 inches. They are pretty shy in nature, so they spend most of their time hiding among plants or rocks.

Is Samurai Gourami aggressive?

No. Samurai gourami are not aggressive. They are relatively peaceful, but they will eat any small fish in the aquarium since they are omnivore fish.

Samurai Gourami behavior

Most of the time, samurai gouramis are shy and stay hidden on the bottom of riverbeds. They often stay close to decaying plant matters to blend in with them to avoid predators.

When threatened, samurai gourami will try to escape by swimming into dense vegetation. If that doesn’t work, they’ll simulate a drifting leaf by swimming to the surface with their fins close to their bodies then drifting along.

Samurai gourami is a social fish that prefer to stay in groups. You will usually see them swimming in pairs or small groups.

Due to their shy nature, it is not easy to find suitable tankmates for these fish. They do fine with peaceful fish and bottom-dwelling fish.

If kept with aggressive tankmates, you will not see them in your aquarium most of the time, or worse, they may get killed by aggressive fish because of their peaceful nature.

How long do Samurai Gouramis live?

The average lifespan of samurai gourami is around 4 to 5 years. However, there have been cases where they have lived up to 8 years.

One look care guide

Scientific nameSphaerichthys vaillanti
Common nameSamurai Gourami
Vaillant’s chocolate gourami
Chocolate Samurai Gourami
Samurai Zebra
Care levelModerate
Native toIsland of Borneo in Southeast Asia
Type Blackwater fish
Color Metallic green/ grey color with red and green vertical stripes on their sides
Tank size30 gallons
Preferred temperature70 to 80°F
Other water parameters (ammonia, etc.)pH level: 4- 5
Hardness: 0 to 3.2°dGH
Must contain tannin
Preferred salinityNo salinity
Size1.8 to 2.2 inches
Life span5 to 8 years
Temperament Peaceful, aggressive when breeding
Recommended tank matesBottom-dwelling fish
Rosy barbs
Some tetra fish species
Harlequin rasboras
Mystery snails
Amano shrimp
Dwarf crayfish
Preferred foodBloodworms
Brine shrimp
Feeding frequencyTwice per day
breedingEgg-laying mouthbrooders

Samurai Gourami care

Samurai gourami is a relatively easy fish to care for. You will have to mimic their natural habitats with correct water conditions to keep them healthy.

The following are the basic needs of samurai gourami:

  • A planted tank with some driftwood and rocks for hiding spots
  • Water should be soft and acidic, with tropical water conditions
  • The tank should be a blackwater tank

You may already know how to set up a freshwater tank, but you may not know how to set up a blackwater tank. But, do not worry, as we’ll explain how to set up a blackwater tank in a moment.

Samurai Gourami size

The size of an adult Samurai gourami is between 1.8 to 2.2 inches. They are small-sized, therefore, require a small-sized tank.

How many Samurai Gourami should be kept together?

Samurai gourami is schooling fish, and they prefer to stay in small groups. So, you should keep at least 6 to 8 fish in an aquarium.

Samurai Gourami tank size

Samurai gourami is a small-sized fish, so they should be kept in a tank of at least 30 gallons. A 30-gallon fish tank is enough for a group of 6 fish.

Tank setup

The natural habitats of Samurai Gourami contain blackwater that contains tannin, lots of plantations, and dead and decaying plant matters on the bottom.

To make your fish happy, you will have to mimic these conditions in your aquarium.


For a blackwater tank, sand is the best substrate as we will anchor some plants in it. You should avoid using gravel as it will be hard to clean and cause health problems for your fish.

Decorations and Plants

You can use organic decorations like driftwood and rocks. The decorations should be natural and not plastic because it will hurt the water quality.

Some live plants can give your tank a natural feel, and live plants help with the water quality of your tank.

Further, you must fill your tank’s bottom with decaying leaves and other foliage so that the water gets essential tannins from the decaying matter.

They also provide important hiding places for these fish to blend in and hide.


You should use a good quality filter to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish. A filter will help remove solid wastes and keep the water parameters stable.

Heating and Lighting

Aquariums should be kept at a temperature of around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if you live in a cold climate, you will need to use a heater to keep the tank warm.

You should also use full-spectrum fluorescent light to provide your fish with the natural light they need to live.

Water flow

These fish are used to living in still water with slow-moving currents, so you should keep the water flow of your tank slow and steady.

Water quality condition

You should be careful with water quality in your aquarium as Samurai Gouramis are highly sensitive to water quality changes.

They are used to living in waters that don’t change often. Therefore, you should not change much water from your aquarium frequently.

Although keeping the nitrate levels down is required, you shouldn’t change a large amount of water like other freshwater tanks.

For Samurai Gouramis, a 15% water change weekly or bi-weekly is enough. More than that may hurt your fish.

The water temperature should be around 70 to 80°F. So, adding a water heater may be required if you live in a cold area.

Water hardness should be 0 to 3.2°dGH, and the water pH should be about 4 to 5 as they prefer acidic waters.

To keep the pH correct, filter the tank water through aquarium peat. For hardness, you can use crushed coral.

Samurai Gourami breeding 

Breeding this tropical freshwater fish is not hard if you provide their ideal water conditions in your aquarium. They are mouthbrooders and protect their fry until they can live independently.

Samurai Gourami male and female fish identification

Samurai Gouramis show sexual dimorphism. So it is easy to identify females from males. Female Samurai Gouramis have vivid colors than males. They are also a little bit smaller in size than males.

Males and females can be easily distinguished by their coloration. Females are generally more colorful with vibrant iridescent green bodies and distinctive markings such as red and green vertical bars on the side, straight lower jaw, reddish tail, and a prominent head than males.

Males, on the other hand, are more plain-looking. Their body is pale brown or greyish, and they have distended skin around their mouth for mouthbrooding.

It isn’t easy to distinguish males and females from juvenile specimens because they all look similar.

So, when you are buying Samurai Gouramis for breeding, it is better to buy more than one fish and wait until they mature to determine their gender.

Identify pregnant Samurai Gourami and Samurai Gourami pregnancy stages

Pregnant female fish will show more plumper bellies than non-pregnant females like all other fish.

The reason is that the eggs inside a pregnant female’s body get more prominent as the fish nears the time of spawning.

A gravid (pregnant) female Samurai Gourami will have a noticeably swollen belly. If you see this, she is likely carrying eggs, and you should try to obtain a pair of suitable breeding fish if you wish to breed the species.

Samurai Gourami breeding

If you provide your Samurai Gourami with the right tank conditions mentioned above, they will breed easily, and you will raise their fry up to adulthood.

Make sure that the water is acidic with a pH of 4 to 5, slightly soft, and tropical temperatures between 72-82 °F (22-28°C) with blackwater conditions.

You should set up a separate breeding tank for housing these fish during their pre-spawning period. The tank should have a dark substrate and plenty of java moss for the female to deposit her eggs on.

During spawning, adult males show intensified coloration. They have a swollen red throat because of their role in reproducing.

Juveniles and females lack this intense coloration because they do not breed or protect the young ones.

Samurai Gourami shows mouth-brooding behavior during breeding time and protects their young until they can feed themselves with foods such as baby brine shrimp.

The fries are born with an orange yolk sac that provides them with nutrition until they learn to eat.

After the female lays the eggs, the male fertilizes them and then pick up the eggs in his mouth. He will then keep them in his mouth and protect them for 7 to 21 days until he releases the free-swimming fry.

During this time, the male Samurai gourami will not eat anything. So, you must observe the male and remove him from the tank if he starts to show any signs of starvation.

How many babies do Samurai Gourami have?

Female Samurai gourami lays about 10 to 40 eggs in one spawn. The eggs will hatch in about 3 to 4 days.

The male will then protect the fry for an additional 7 to 21 days. So, in total, the Samurai Gourami parental care lasts for about 10 to 30 days.

The number of fries depends on the size of the female and the number of eggs she lays. Usually, you can expect around 5 to 30 fish fry in one breeding session.

Samurai Gourami fry care

You cannot do much in the first few days as the parent fish takes care of them. Once the male fish releases the fry, you can start feeding them.

You can feed the young fish newly hatched brine shrimp or powdered flake food until they are able to eat whole foods.

Special tips

When choosing a breeding pair, be sure to select two healthy fish with exemplary coloration. Regularly check for the water quality condition as these fish are susceptible to water quality.

How to feed Samurai Gourami?

Samurai gourami is omnivore fish that feed on zooplankton, small crustaceans, and insect larvae in the wild.

In the aquarium, You can feed them various live and frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, Daphnia, and Cyclops.

However, you will have to feed them with live food while acclimating them to your aquarium as they do not easily adapt to the new environment.

After some time, you can try providing them with frozen food and freeze-dried food and then dry food.

Some fish keepers have also had success in feeding them with flake food that has been soaked in water for about 15 minutes.

When feeding your Samurai Gourami, it is essential to vary their diet to keep them healthy. This can be achieved by adding different types of foods into their diet.

When introducing new foods to your Samurai Gourami, start by feeding them a small amount and gradually increasing it over time. This will help diminish the chances of your fish developing digestive problems.

Do not overfeed your Samurai Gourami, as it can lead to health problems. Remove any uneaten food after 5 to 10 minutes to not pollute the water. Feeding twice per day is sufficient for your fish to get the nutrition it needs.

What fish can live with Samurai Gourami?

Samurai gouramis do best in a species only tank.

You need to keep at least 6 Samurai Gouramis in one tank for them to thrive. However, they can also coexist with other fish species if they are not boisterous fish.

When choosing compatible tank mates, you should remember that these fish show aggression during breeding.

So, you will have to choose tank mates that can tolerate aggression to some extent.

Samurai gouramis can coexist well with bottom-dwelling fish like corydoras, Pangio species like Kohli loach. They can also do fine with rosy barbs, some tetra fish species, and harlequin rasboras.

Some compatible non-fish tankmates are mystery snails, Amano shrimp, and dwarf crayfish.

Related questions 

Are Samurai Gouramis rare?

Yes. Samurai gouramis are rare because they are not easy to catch in their wild habitats due to their camouflage behavior.

The Samurai fish is one of the expensive freshwater aquarium fish in the world. It is not readily available in local fish stores and can be found only online or at fish expos.

How long does a Samurai Gourami live?

The average lifespan of a Samurai gourami is about 4 to 5 years in the wild. However, they can live up to 8 years in captivity if they are well taken care of. 

Credit to : Aqua World Info
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.