Parosphromenus harveyi (Licorice Gourami)



Parosphromenus harveyi is endangered species because of deforestation and the loss of its natural habitat. Typically, it lives in water streams that are covered with a thick canopy of branches and little sunlight penetrates down. The river-side vegetation is thick and in abundance.

Naturally, they are found in ‘Batu Arang, western side of the Malaysian Peninsula which corresponds to the coal-mining town of Batu Arang in Selangor state. Additional localities all lie within the North Selangor peat swamp forest with at least one population known from the Tanjong Malim area in neighboring Perak state.

The species is still existing in nature but within limited areas such as the remaining suitable remnants of the marshes in the Selangor Forest. It is also existing in some stenotype environments of heavily modified peat swamps like irrigation ditches and roadside canals.

Description & Appearance

Parosphromenus harveyi is from the family of Osphronemidae. They reach a maximum length of 2,7 – 3,0 cm while living in wild but the aquarium-grown species reach 4,5 cm. It is not very famous in aquarium fish because of its special live food requirements and soft, acidic water preference such as the other parosphromenos species. Also, they are impressively colorful.


Male and female are different in colors and the males are brighter. Anal, dorsal and caudal fins have a black band bordered on each side with bluish iridescent bands. The inner blue bands are wider. The tip-like pelvic fins are shimmering blue, while the pectoral fins are glassy and translucent. In the season of mating, the males show overall brighter and impressive colors.


Females are not as colorful as males are. They do not have the colorful blue band in the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins. The exciting thing about Parosphromenus harveyi is the colorations during the mating season. The female loses most of its colors and looks rather pale, yellowish in appearance. But both the female and male develop a dark bar crossing their eyes which can help to determine the species of this kind despite its color change.

The color patterns look darker and brighter when the fish is in an aggressive mood.

Behavior and Compatibility

Parosphromenus harveyi has specific requirements both for feeding and environmental conditions. Keeping them with other species is not suitable since they will not survive among others. But a few peaceful species like Boraras, Sundadanio sp. or cyprinids can live with Parosphromenus.

Keeping different types of Parosphromenus sp is also not recommended because the females are very much alike unless you intend to mix-breed. Fry of this fish usually survives with their parents but not when other adults are around.

Tank Conditions:

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

In natural environments, the water is usually stained with chemicals like humic acid and fulvic acid, and other tannins because of decaying plant matter. Adding driftwoods, branches, and leaves in the aquarium to create some shady areas for sheltering and providing proper nesting spots is a decent way to imitate the natural habitat. Other materials like clay pots, empty camera film containers, piping, etc. are also good for creating potential breeding caves. Most aquarists prefer not to add a substrate in the aquarium to keep the maintenance easy.

The addition of dry leaves creates more shelter and increases the aesthetic appeal of the aquarium. In addition, they add good bacterial colonies when they decay. The fry eats them as a secondary food choice and the chemical tannin creates a similar feel to the natural blackwater environment. You can use Alder cones also for a black water environment.

As the fish loves the very dim lighting, you need to choose plants that survive dark environments like Taxiphyllum, Microsorum, Cryptocoryne spp. Choose Ceratopteris spp. as floating vegetation.

Parosphromenus harveyi lives in pairs. Keeping the maintenance very strict is significant as well as not overfeeding the fish. Strong filtration and water flow are not necessary. Just use an air-powered sponge filter or other similar methods when needed. More frequently, you can change five to ten percent of the tank water to keep the conditions more stable.

All types of Parosphromenus need acidic water conditions and very low general hardness. You may employ a reverse osmosis unit for obtaining soft water. To make it acidic, add some phosphoric acid or a similar chemical if needed or instead of adding some alder cones, dry leaves will help to create acidic water while decaying.

Do not use natural peat because it is environmentally destructive. The Parosphromenus species are sensitive to unstable organic wastes levels in the water. So, never add them to an aquarium which is immature for them.


This little predator lives on tiny aquatic invertebrates. This type of food is plentiful in natural environments but it is difficult to keep the supply of live food incessant to Parosphromenus harveyi in an aquarium. But a wide variety of small live foods are good for feeding it in captivity. Micro worms, mosquito larvae, Moina, Daphnia, Artemia nauplii, etc. are good live food sources.

The fish refuses to eat any dried food and very rarely can accept some frozen foods but does not depend on it for long. It prefers to prey on moving live foods and likes hunting its food.

Tank Maintenance:

Mild filtration with an air-powered sponge filter or a low flow external/hang-on filter is sufficient for the filtration. Most breeders keep Parosphromenus harveyi in pairs. So, while keeping the fish in pairs it is not strictly necessary to use a filter in case the feeding is not too heavy. Instead, making regular water changes will be enough to keep the fish healthy. But it is always the best method to build a complete ecosystem with proper filtration, decoration, and vegetation for the health of the fish and other inhabitants.

Changing the water weekly basis in small amounts like 5-10% of the aquarium volume is best for this fish. If it is possible to pre-condition the water before water changes, it will enable making water changes in higher volumes.


The fish normally spawns in little caves or hidden places behind or under the leaf litter. The pair develops parental behavior during the spawning period and they live like good couples. Male is mainly responsible for egg and brood-care.

In natural environments, the male ready to couple with a female specifies a tiny territory where there is a naturally-formed cave or under a dry leaf. For successful breeding, it is necessary to create such territory for the male with the help of some simple material like driftwood, small ceramic caves or dry leaves or, etc.

After forming a safe territory for himself, the male starts his most splendid attempts by his special movements to attract a female and let her enter the place where his nest is.

During the courtship, the male swims in a ‘horizontal’ position, head-up or head-down. The different types of this species have different courtship behaviors. P. harveyi shows a head-down behavior while courting. The male moves in almost a vertical position with the head down. It displays its fins and colors fully and tries to attract the females.

The breeding actions of P. harveyi are more intimate as compared to other fish species. The male wraps his body around the female and the female releases the eggs in batches.

Some couples attach their eggs to the ceiling of the cave while some of the males build a basic small bubble nest inside the cave. As the eggs are released in batches and the male and female are active in the cave, some eggs may dislodge from the ceiling. In some cases, inexperienced fish may eat them. It takes time until the fish gets some experience and does things in the right way.

After the spawning, the female gets out of the cave. The male stays with the eggs and takes care of the eggs.

Eggs hatch after two days and the fry becomes able to move out of the cave after 4 to 6 days. But they cannot swim smoothly and in a certain direction. That’s why the father brings them back to the “nest.” After 3 to 5 days more, the fry is mature enough to swim freely and at this point, they leave the cave and parental care ends.

The fry needs rotifers, Paramecium, or other similar foods at the beginning of their lives. But later, they can eat Artemia nauplii and other small live foods like micro worms.

It is more appropriate to remove the free-swimming fry in another aquarium and is not left with the parents.

Raising Fry:

As the first food, fry need rotifers or Paramecium. After they get big enough, feeding the fry with Artemia nauplii and powdered fish foods will be possible.

Most breeders keep these fish in breeding pairs and remove the female after spawning because the fry can survive along with the male but not usually alongside other adults and the female.

Due to the fish does not lay a large number of eggs(only 10 to 20 eggs each batch) and also, the eggs are too sensitive to the water parameters it is substantial to keep the water parameters strictly at the proper values. Setting the pH value between 3 and 4 with high humic acid content is significant.

Image Source:

Special Thanks to and Helene Schoubye
Images Credits:, Helene Schoubye

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