Kissing Gourami (Helostoma temminckii)

Written by Kmuda. Posted in About Fish

Kissing Gourami

The above is a recent photo is of my Kissing Gourami. This fish is over 25 years old.

AKA: Kissing Fish, Kisser, Green Kissing Fish, Pink Kissing Fish, Marbled Kissing Fish.

Max Size: 6-12 inches

Minimum recommended tank size: 30 gallons. Mine is the master of a 55 gallon tank.

pH range: Virtually Irrelevant, 6.0 - 8.0

Water Hardness (dH): Virtually Irrelevant, from soft to hard (mine spent its first decade in liquid rock and its second in very soft water).

Temperature: 72-82 (F):- My Kissing Gourami has spent over 20 years in temps around the 80 degree mark. He actually spent several years in a Discus tank at 84 degrees.

Aggression: Surprisingly Aggressive.

Sexing the Kissing Gourami: Virtually Impossible

Lifespan: Not really known. Mine is 25 years old.

Diet: Omnivore - A Kissing Gourami's primary diet should consist of flake food high in vegetable content such as Zoo Med Spirulina Flakes or Ocean Nutrition Spirulina Flakes, supplemented with a quality algae based wafer such such as Omega One Veggie Rounds. Kissing Gouramis will do well in tanks that contain a good algae growth as they will constantly graze the walls of the tank, plant leaves, ornamentation, filter intakes, and other objects, rasping (kissing) algae from their surface. I attribute a good crop of algae to the long life of my Kissing Gourami and have encouraged bearded algae growth in his tank. A true omnivore, my Kissing Gourami also relishes freeze dried Tubifex worms (pressed onto the glass).

A "trick" to feeding Kissing Gouramis flake food is to use a floating ring (or feeding station) and to feed small sized flakes. While the Kissing Gourami becomes a surprisingly large fish, it's mouth/throat is comparatively tiny. Use of a feeding station keeps the flake food in a limited area allowing it to be consumed by the Kissing Gourami. Kissing Gourami's will quickly learn "this area" is where the food will be, swimming to it when you approach the tank.

In the wild, Kissing Gouramis are also filter feeders. When you see them swimming around your tank, apparently kissing the water, it is actually attempting to force water through its gills to filter out plankton and small particles of food. It is basically this same mechanism they use to consume flakes from the feeding station area.

Overview: This plain, nondescript fish originates from slow moving, heavily vegetated streams in Southeast Asia. Like Beta's, Kissing Gouramis are Anabantoids, possessing a labyrinth organ which allows them to breath air from the atmosphere. For this reason it is very important they have unrestricted access to the surface of the aquarium (air). On the infrequent occasions I've accidentally overfilled my Kissing Fish's tank, submerging the center brace, I've witnessed absolute panic on behalf of my Kissing Gourami when his trip to the surface to gulp air was blocked by this barrier.

In their native lands, Kissing Gouramis are a favorite food fish. In aquariums, they are popular for all of the wrong reasons.

Far too often beginning aquarists see these fish as very small specimens in the fish store, kissing each other (which is actually their form of combat), buying a pair, thinking they are cute little buggers who love to kiss each other (they are actually fighting, people).

They do not stay that way. Nor will a pair peacefully coexist. Eventually, one of them will become dominant, harassing the other to death (literally). In over 30 years of keeping fish, I have never successfully maintained more than one Kissing Gourami in a tank although I am aware of instances where many were kept at once.

But man, have I maintained One… for a very long time.

These fish do not stay small. They actually become rather large, potentially aggressive fish. I’ve had very good luck keeping mine with smaller fish but when housed with fish larger than him, he tends to become demon possessed. This is where the nick name “Kung Fu Kisser” comes from. I’ve witnessed my Kissing Gourami “kissing” a full sized Oscar, pushing him from one side of the tank to another, pinning him into a corner, then doing the same to an 18” Red Tailed Catfish, flashing from one side of the tank to the other, keeping each opponent pinned in their prospective corners. I had to rescue the Oscar and Red-Tailed catfish, from a 9” Kissing Fish (with a tiny mouth). In addition, my Kissing Gourami killed his brother (or sister, can’t really tell the difference) by constant harassment.

On the other hand, he has done very well with an assortment of tetras, livebearers, Angelfish, and (especially) Red Tailed Black Sharks (RTBS). Since RTBS are also known to be aggressive towards tank mates, I find it interesting that Kissing Gouramis and RTBS seem to coexist so well (they do come from basically the same areas; perhaps nature knows something we do not). While the Kissing Gourami and RTBS may harass other fish in the tank, mine have never harassed each other, and I am on my third RTBS (in this tank).

With Kissing Gouramis, it's very easy to determine if the fish is healthy or not. A healthy Kissing Gourami's mouth is in almost constant kissing motion (lips extend, flare, out, then pull back). If the fish is not feeling well, the mouth will be held shut, sometimes as if it is clenched shut, sometimes even clinched so tightly it appears to be forming a squiggly frown. Over the years, my Kissing Gourami has survived bouts with Ich, an HITH like disease, and something that appeared to grow out of his head, leaving a hole behind (which later cleared). In the last year, I had several scares where I thought I was going to loose him. He would stay in a corner, mouth clenched shut, and stopped eating. Each time this occurred after another fish died in the tank and (I assume) the Kissing Gourami was feeding on the dead fish. Regardless, he's bounced back each time and as I type, still going strong. And I've become more diligent in removing the odd dead tetra or livebearer from the tank.

Kissing Gouramis are long lived, hardy fish. As stated, mine is over 20 years old, surviving the common mistakes we all make when starting out, and still going strong. But, my initial thoughts are, “I don’t know why anyone would want to own one.” There are much prettier fish available. They can be very aggressive. They are a very long term commitment. Their dietary requirements dictate special handling and their tanks are ugly (at least should be) due to the heavy coating of algae that should exist, something most people spend a significant amount of time trying to prevent.  Then, I think of mine. How he greets me as well as any wet pet, how he swims to his feeding station whenever I open the hood to the tank, how he has been with me for over 20 years, surviving everything, out surviving the Discus, the Oscars, the Firemouths, the Angelfish, even the dogs and cats. And I realize, if you want a long term, active, “Wet Pet”, instead of organic, living, decoration, this is the fish for you. So while he might not be “pretty” like a Firemouth, or macho like a Jack Dempsey, or as exotic as a Red Terror, or be anything swimming in your tank you want to feature for anyone else, how many of you can claim one of these “feel good” pretty or macho fish has been in your tank for over 20 years? To me, that is something worthy of pride and something that gives me more joy than any “feel good” fish. Regardless of what fish I may have at any point in time, my ugly, plain, obnoxious Kissing Gourami is the king of his aquarium and the star of my tanks.

Kissing Gourami Photos

Pink Kissing Gourami

Pink Kissing Gourami


Green Kissing Gourami

Green Kissing Gourami Photo Courtesty of


Marbled Kissing Gourami

Marbled Kissing Gourami Photo Courtesty of



Wild Kissing Gourami Photo Courtesy of


Kissing Fish Kissing

Juvenile Kissing Fish Testing Each Other Photo Courtesy of www.freeanimal