kissing gourami (kisser fish) is derived from what appears to be
kissing between fish; however, scientists still are not sure of the true
purpose of the behavior. It is believed to be a harmless territory challenging
behavior which generally occurs between two males. This conjecture is supported
by the fact that aging seems to diminish the need to challenge one another.
Also with age, the desire for mating territories diminishes.
COMMON NAMES: Kissing fish, pink kissing gourami, green
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Helostoma temminkii
ADULT SIZE: 12 inches
LIFE EXPECTANCY: Average of 7 years; can be long-lived,
up to 25 years
Thailand, Vietnam, Sumatra, Borneo, Java,
Cambodia, Malay Peninsula, and possibly in eastern Myanmar
Top to mid-dweller
Minimum Tank Size
Easy to intermediate
6 to 8
5 to 20 dGH
72 to 82 F (22 to 27 C)
Origin and Distribution
The popular kissing fish, commonly called a kisser,
originates from the Indonesian island of Java and is also found in Borneo,
Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is commonly cultivated in the
southern Indochina region as a food fish. Today, virtually all specimens sold
in the U.S. are commercially bred in Florida. Also, Thailand and Singapore
commercially breed this species for the aquarium trade as well as for food
Colors and Markings
There are three colors variations of this fish: a pink or
flesh-colored form; a silver-green form often referred to as the
"green kisser;" and a mottled or piebald variety. The pink variation
does not occur as frequently in nature and is the result of a reduction in
pigmentation known as leucism. This trait has been selectively bred for the
aquarium trade, due to the color preference by owners.
species is the naturally occurring coloration. It has a dark bar bordering
the dorsal and anal fins. The pink and green have at times been described
as separate species, but they are both a single species. A mottled or piebald
variation is also sometimes seen for sale, however, it is less
popular than the
A mutation that has been bred for the aquarium trade is to make the fish
shorter and rounder, giving it a balloon-like appearance. This mutated strain
is not as hardy as the naturally occurring varieties, and it has a shorter
Kissing gouramis have been known to be quarrelsome with
some species of fish and should not be kept with smaller fish. Although they
can be kept in a community tank with medium to large size fish, owners should
observe them closely to ensure they are not bullying other fish. Potential
tankmates may include loaches, barbs, larger tetras, a couple of types of
cichlids, and some catfish.
Kissing gouramis will sometimes ram the sides of other fish, stripping them of
their slime coat, and may potentially damage their skin. If this occurs,
it is wise to separate the fish.
Habitat and Care
In nature, kissers are usually found in slow-moving,
heavily vegetated ponds or marshes. They are a hardy fish that will tolerate a
range of water conditions. A hidden structure in these fish is
the labyrinth organ. This organ enables them to take oxygen from the
air, allowing them to survive in waters with low oxygen levels. In fact, the
gills of labyrinth fish are usually not capable of obtaining enough oxygen from
the water to survive. Therefore, they must satisfy some of their oxygen
requirement by gulping air at the surface of the water. For this reason, it's
essential to provide them with access to the water surface.
However, they need a lot of space with access to the
surface, warm water, and plenty of vegetation. Because they are fond of plant
matter in their diet, use artificial plants or sturdy live
plants such as Java fern or Java moss. Tender plants are likely to be
eaten down to the stem.
In nature, kissers grow to a size of a foot or more, but
in captivity, they generally remain about half that size. However, even a small
kisser will grow too large for an aquarium smaller than 30 gallons and should
not be kept in mini-tanks. With proper care, it is not unusual for these fish
to live well over a decade.
You can't seem to miss the kisser on this fish, but what
you cannot see are the rows of fine teeth on the inside surface of those lips,
which are used to graze on algae and vegetable matter.
Kissers accept a variety of foods, including flake,
frozen, freeze-dried, and small live foods, such as tubifex and brine
shrimp. They also will accept any kind of vegetable matter and should be
provided with plenty of spirulina-based foods as well as fresh vegetables when
Periodically provide fresh romaine lettuce, cooked
zucchini, or peas to keep your kissers in optimal health. Take care when
providing fresh vegetables, as uneaten portions will quickly foul the water.
Both sexes of kissing gourami look almost identical, from
their oval shape to their thick fleshy lips. It is almost impossible to
determine the sex of these fish until they spawn. At the mating period, the
body of the female becomes round as it fills with eggs.
Potential breeders should be conditioned with live foods
and provided with a large tank with soft, warm water (80 F). Unlike other
labyrinth fish, kissers do not build elaborate bubble nests, although the male
may blow bubbles randomly at the surface.
Spawning begins by circling, progressing to nudging and
dancing, followed by an intense beating of tails and finally kissing.
Eventually, the male wraps his body around the female, turning her upside down.
The female will release hundreds or even thousands of eggs which are fertilized
by the male as they rise to the surface.
If floating plants or lettuce are placed on the surface
before spawning, the eggs will adhere to them and the fry can feast upon the infusoria
that grows on the vegetation. Remove the parent fish following spawning, as
they may eat their own young.
Eggs will hatch in approximately one day, and in another
two days, the fry will be free swimming. Feed them very fine flake foods or
small live foods such as freshly hatched brine shrimp.