Parosphromenus deissneri (Licorice Gourami)


Parosphromenus deissneri

Parosphromenus Deissneri (Licorice Gourami) is a small labyrinth fish belonging to the Osphronemidae family. Its small size and beautiful coloration make it unique among all gourami species. It is endemic to the island of Bangka in Indonesia, where it lives in slow-flowing ‘black water’ creeks among the vegetation. These creeks are in tea color due to the presence of humic acids and other chemicals releasing by decaying organic materials.

At present, the natural habitat of Parosphromenus deissneri is mostly destroyed, and they exist only in limited small places. The species is highly under threat in the wild.

Deissneri grows only up to 3-4 cm and lives up to 10 years. It can be characterized by the branching of the caudal fin rays in the male specimen. The males are more brightly colored than the females and slightly smaller.

There are up to twenty different species in the Parosphromenus genus. However, in the aquarium trade, they are all often incorrectly labeled as ‘Licorice Gouramis’ or Parosphromenus deissneri. Since these different species are very similar in appearance and hail from the same habitat, they need more or less the same conditions to survive.

Parosphromenus deissneri is the easiest species all along the paro-species but is recommended only for well-experienced aquarists since it is extremely rare. It is very peaceful and can live in groups in a ‘species only’ tank. It can also fit in a community tank where the other fish are equally peaceful and shy. Some good tankmates are Chocolate Gouramis (Sphaerichthys asphromenoides) and Samurai Gouramis (Sphaerichthys vaillanti).

This is a species that is really in danger of disappearing fast. You will never see it in trade. People in have only a few of the species and trying to breed them with high efforts. Due to the fish is under real danger of extinction it is not a good fit for inexperienced people to keep this fish.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: 22-28°C
pH: 3,5 – 6,5
Hardness: 0 – 8 dGH

Licorice Gourami prefers highly acidic and soft waters. It tends to do well in dim lighting conditions, so low light and a dark substrate can fit well. The aquarium must have cover to maintain warm moist air above the water surface due they have labyrinth organs to breathe. The general hardness must be low and carbonate hardness may negligible. To achieve these conditions, the use of peat filtration or reverse osmosis is the best option. The water can be acidified using phosphoric acid or similar reagents. If lighting or water conditions are not proper, Licorice Gourami may not display bright coloration patterns.

Proper Tank Conditions:

The aquarium must be between 25 liters to 100 liters depending on the number of fishes. It must be planted and contains floating vegetation like Ceratopteris sp. or Java moss. Driftwood roots and branches can be added and arranged to provide shaded areas. The addition of dried oak leaves or almond leaves enhances the natural feel and provides several other benefits to water conditions.

Dry tree leaves provide tannins which are beneficial for the fish by protecting them from bacterial and fungal infections. Further, they provide cave-like structures, which are an essential requirement for breeding. The leaves also contain micro-organisms that sustain the fry for the initial few days after spawning. PVC pipes or similar structures could also be helpful for breeding purposes in a breeding tank to provide spawning caves.

Licorice Gourami is very sensitive to changes in the organic composition of water. Never introduce Deissneri into a fresh tank without existing biological activity. The water must not have too much flow, so sponge filters are ideal for their tank setups. Weekly water changes do well, with only 10-15% of the total volume at a time. Larger or irregular replacements of water can be detrimental to the fish.


Licorice Gourami must be fed with live foods like blood worms, tubifex worms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp. Frozen forms of bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp are also accepted sometimes, but they are not sufficiently nutritious so, the live ones are always better. Some specimen may accept commercial dry fish foods, but most of the specimens do not. Additionally, the diet must be varied regularly to provide proper nutrition. People who intend to keep this fish should make sure to have a live food source before having this fish to prevent any loss of fish.


Licorice Gouramis are cave breeders. They can’t breed in a community tank. Breeding requires a separate tank for this species. Adding pipes or Java moss can be helpful as they provide good spawning spots and additional security to the fish. The male fish select a territory with a natural cave: like under stones or leaves; and try to attract females. They then create bubble nests inside the cave where spawning takes place.

The male is responsible for the eggs and brood care while the female doesn’t have any responsibility for the care of the brood and often eats the fry. Hence it is better to remove the female just after the spawning. The incubation period is around 24-36 hours. The fry becomes mobile after 4-6 days but requires an additional 3-4 days before they become free-swimming without parental care. The fry needs very clean water and requires 10-15% water changes daily to grow healthy. They can stay along with the parents if no other fish are present in the aquarium. The fry initially feeds on infusoria and starts accepting brine shrimp or micro-worms a few days later.

Image Source:

Photo Credits: Karsten Keibel, Denmark

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