Parosphromenus Ornaticauda (Licorice Gourami)



Parosphromenus ornaticauda is found in Kali man tan Barat, Western Borneo, Kapuas River, and northwest of the city of Pontianak. This species is threatened in its original habitat because of the destruction of its natural environment which is destroyed to grow palm trees. Many of the species died because of water contamination with chemicals. And every passing day its habitat is getting smaller and smaller. Now, its presence in the aquariums has saved it from extinction. It is traded worldwide as an ornamental fish.

Ornaticauda is still a quite strong species in its habitat, – even though its natural habitat and ornaticauda are both threatened. Now and then there is an export of ornaticauda from the wild also which is affecting the population. The truth is that ornaticauda is the only species that the hobbyists fail to breed in aquariums until lately with high success rates.

Parosphromenus ornaticauda, as well as other Parosphromenus species, are not proper for un-experienced hobbyists, but only the hobbyists that can provide proper tank conditions and pay the required big patience on this species can keep the fish.

Description & Appearance

Parosphromenus ornaticauda was first discovered in 1990 by Kottelat. It belongs to the family of Osphronemidae. It’s a small ornamental fish for aquariums. It is usually found in southern (peninsular) Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, and Indonesian rivers.

Parosphromenus ornaticauda is a freshwater fish. Its length does not exceed 3.5 cm. It is lean and has no high back structure as compared to the other species of the same category. The lower half of the body is dark or black. The upper half is red-brown. Paired fins have a similar pattern. Anal and dorsal fins are black and have white spots and a white edge.

This species has a typical striped pattern. Ornaticauda males and females are very alike. Males show special colors most of the time (that is the brownish, black pattern). If stressed he will turn black/white striped. During the mating season, the appearance is almost identical which can confuse sexing the fish.

The females are less striking in color. The lower part of the body is not fully dark but has a brown stripe from the snout to the caudal fin base. Another stripe extends from below the pectoral fin base to the anal fin.

The suitable temperature for it is 27.6 °C, pH 4,5, and conductivity 39 micro Siemens. It can coexist with other peaceful small species.

This fish is highly sensitive, loves hiding, and shows conservative behavior. It is better to keep it with its kind in a species-only tank. If you want to make a good compatible community tank, choose only peaceful small cyprinids such as Sundadanio sp. or Borara sp. But Ornaticauda and other Paros. species do well only while they are in a species-only tank. So it is highly recommended to keep them alone with its kind.

Do not keep different Parosphromenus species together because the females are very much alike and the species can crossbreed with each other.

Tank Conditions:

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

Parosphromenus ornaticauda doesn’t need a large tank. A group of 10 fish can be kept together in a 30-40 liters aquarium. You can decorate it with driftwood branches and roots or clay pots. Arranging these decorations to create shade and hiding places for the fish will be good for their comfort. You can also add plastic camera film containers to create shelter and spawning sites.

Adding dried leaves is a good idea because of the tannins they will release and the hiding places they are providing. It also further emphasizes the natural feel of the aquarium. Decomposition of the leaf litter by the beneficial bacteria colonies also brings the growth of a proper cycling ecosystem in the aquarium. The decaying leaves are also a good source of a secondary food for the fry.

The tannins and other chemicals releasing by the leaf litters’ decomposition are beneficial for fish coming from a blackwater environment. For this purpose, alder cones are also equally good to use.

TThis species naturally loves very dim lighting. Choosing aquatic plants that grow and stay healthy in dim lighting will be proper for the complete healthy ecosystem. Cryptocoryne sp., Microsorum, or Taxiphyllum are suitable choices. Ceratopteris sp. is also a good floating aquatic plant that will fit the Parosphromenus ornaticauda tank.

This fish prefers living secretly and likes to stay hidden. Beginners are not recommended to have this species. Its breeding is a difficult process because of many different factors. The male needs a wide space for courtship dance. Small tanks are not suitable for breeding. Small tanks around 10-12 suitable for breeding a pair. The water conductivity should be below 40 micro-Siemens.


The main problem in keeping Parosphromenus Ornaticauda like other Licorice Gourami species the necessity of live food. This species only accepts live foods and some minor cases frozen live foods. They accept live foods such as blood worms, tubifex worms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp. Some specimen may accept commercial dry fish foods, but most of the specimens do not since they are the shyest species of the Parosphromenus species they can hardly see and attract commercial fish foods.

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. The live food source also should be various in case the fish do not accept one or another.

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 ornaticauda 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.

Since Parosphromenus ornaticauda is sensitive to the changes in water parameters, large volumes of water changes are not appropriate. 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, making higher volume water changes can be also possible.

This fish is highly sensitive and you should never introduce it to fluctuating levels of cleanliness or biologically immature aquariums.



Parosphromenus ornaticauda has significant courtship behavior. The male displays a fantastic dance. He presents his strikingly iridescent fin edges. The male swims around the female in very fast and zig-zag movements. The female develops a coloring during the courtship time that is similar to the colors of the male in the same period. This color change is unique for this species of Parosphromenus.

The female prefers to lay eggs in very narrow caves where the diameter of the entrance is as small as 1.5 cm. Other breeding sites can be the covered areas under the plant leaves or the floating spawning rafts.

During the courtship, the male embraces the female and wraps its body around the female while she releases eggs in batches. Some males make a simple nest in the cave for the eggs. Both the female and male try to attach the eggs to the ceiling of the cave after they spawn. Male attempts to protect eggs from any harm. But in case during the following hugging and spawning, the eggs may dislodge from the ceiling and inexperienced males might eat them. So, it is significant for the fish to reach the right mature age for breeding.


After successful spawning, the female comes out of the cave while the male takes care of the brood. Since the female doesn’t help with the care of fry and often eats them, after spawning it is better to remove the female immediately. He may move the eggs several times to other locations during the incubation period which is 24-36 hours.

After hatching the fry swim without any sense of direction in the beginning. So, he collects them and takes them back to the “nest”. After 3 – 5 additional days they are fully free-swimming and leave the cave. At this point necessity of parental care ends. Parents can be moved and the fry can be reared separately.

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 the fish does not lay a huge amount of eggs – only 10 to 20 eggs each time – and also, eggs are highly sensitive the water values strictly should be at a pH value between 3 and 4 with a high humic acid content.

In clear water, successful breeding is also recorded at pH 6.5. The most important thing in all the breeding process is the provision of a large space for successful courtship, clean water, and low pH levels.

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Images Credits: Horst Linke

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