Kissing Gourami (Kisser Fish): Profile and Information

Kissing Gourami

The name “Kissing gourami” was coined from what looks like fishes kissing; nonetheless, scientists are still not sure how to describe this behavior.

Even though it is a territorial behavior between two males, is it believed to be a harmless challenge.

This speculation is backed by the fact that aging seems to reduce the need to challenge one another. This also diminishes the desire for mating territories.


  • Common Names: Pink kissing gourami, Kissing fish, green kisser
  • Scientific Name: Helostoma temminkii
  • Life Expectancy: The kissing gourami can live at least for seven years and can live as long as 25 years under the right conditions
  • Adult Size: 12 inches


  • Family: Helostomatidae
  • Tank level: Top to mid-dweller
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Breeding: Egg scatterer
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallon
  • Care: Easy to Intermediate
  • Origin: Vietnam, Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and eastern Myanmar
  • Hardness: 5 to 20 dGH
  • pH: 6 to 8
  • Temperature: 22 to 27 C (72 to 82 F)


The famous kissing gourami, commonly known as the kisser fish, is a native of the Indonesian island of Java and can also found in Cambodia, Borneo, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The kissing gourami is commonly cultivated as a food fish in the southern Indochina region. Virtually all specimens sold today in the U.S. are bred commercially in Florida. Also, Singapore and Thailand commercially breed this fish for food consumption as well as their aquarium trade.

Colors and markings

The three colors variations of the kissing gourami: a piebald or mottled variety; fresh-colored or pink form; and a silver-green form, which is often referred to as the “green kisser.”

The pink or fresh-colored variation doesn’t occur as often in nature, and this is caused by the reduction in pigmentation, known as leucism. This particular trait is being selectively bred for the aquarium trade, because of owners’ preference for their color.

The naturally occurring coloring is the green species, which has a dark bar lining the anal fins and the dorsal fins. Although the green and the pink kissing gourami have been described as different species, they are, in fact, the same species.

Piebald or mottled kissing gourami is also sometimes put up for sale; however, it is not as popular as the pink variety.

The fish has also been mutated for the aquarium trade to make the fish rounder and shorter, giving the kisser fish a balloon-like appearance. The mutated cousin is not as hardy as the original kissing gourami, and it doesn’t live as long either.


Despite their romantic appearance, the kissing gourami has been known to be notorious and quarrelsome with other fishes and shouldn’t be kept in the same space with smaller fishes.

Although they can be managed in a community tank and kept with medium to large-sized fishes, owners should keep a close observation on them to ensure they don’t bully other fish. Potential tankmates of the kissing gourami May include barbs, loaches, larger tetras, some catfish, and cichlids.

It is essential that you separate your kissing gourami from other fish if you notice them ramming their sides. They usually do this to other fishes to strip them of their slime coat, which potentially causes damage to their skin.

Habitat and care

Kisser fish is naturally found in slow-moving, heavily vegetated marshes or ponds. They are very dogged fishes that can tolerate different water conditions.

The labyrinth organ is a hidden structure in the fish. This labyrinth organ allows for the kissing gourami to collect oxygen from the air, which enables them to survive waters with minimal levels of oxygen.

Basically, the gills of labyrinth fish aren’t modified to obtain enough oxygen from waters to survive. Therefore, they gulp air from the surface of the water they are in, to satisfy their oxygen requirements.

This is why it is necessary to grant them access to the surface of the water. They also need plenty of space asides surface access, plenty of vegetation, and warm water. Plenty of vegetation is necessary because the kisser fish is fond of plant nutrients in their diet.

Artificial plants or live plants like Java moss or Java fern can be introduced into their environment. Sturdy plants are preferable, as tender plants are like to be eaten even down to the stem.

In their natural state, kissing gouramis can grow up to a foot or more, but would remain half the size if kept in captivity. However, an aquarium that’s smaller than thirty gallons might be too small for even a tiny kisser fish.

In other words, kissing gouramis shouldn’t be put in mini-tanks. It isn’t uncommon for kisser fish to live for more than a decade, under proper care.


The kisser lips on the kissing gourami can never be missed, but the rows of fine teeth located inside the surface of their mouths aren’t apparent. This set of teeth is used for grazing on vegetable matter and algae.

They can accept several foods, including frozen, flake, freeze-dried, small live foods like brine shrimp and tubifex. They would also feed on any type of vegetable matter, as well as spirulina-based foods, and fresh vegetables, if possible. Crisp romaine lettuce, peas, or cooked zucchini could be provided periodically to give your kissers optimum health.

Be careful when feeding them vegetables, because the water may become foul with uneaten portions.

Sexual differences

It can be hard to tell both sexes of kissing gourami as both of them are almost identical. The similarities are evident from their thick fleshy lips to their oval shape.

You can only figure them out when they start spawning. The body of the female becomes round and fuller as it becomes filled with eggs during the mating period.


Potential breeders should be conditioned to provide large tanks with soft, warm water of 80 F, as well as live foods. Kissing gourami doesn’t build elaborate nests, unlike other labyrinth fish, even though male kissers may randomly blow bubbles at the water surface.

Spawning process begins by circling, and then it progresses to nudging and some fancy dancing, which is then followed by intense beating of tails before sealing it with a kiss. The male then wraps his body around the female while turning her upside down.

Hundreds or even those of eggs would then be released by the females who would later be fertilized by the males as they move up to the surface of the water.

If lettuce or floating plants are placed on the surface before spawning, the eggs will stick to them, and the fry can feast on the infusoria that grows on the vegetation. The parent fish should be extracted from the tank, following spawning, as they may feed on their own young.

It takes approximately one day for eggs to hatch, and two days for the fry to swim freely. Fine flake foods or small live foods like freshly hatched brine shrimp should be fed to be fry to keep them healthy.

Are you interested in having kissing gourami? Do you have a tank big enough to house them? Or are you particularly about having several colors of the kisser fish? Share with us in the comments.

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