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Paradise Fish
(Macropodus opercularis)

paradise fish, Macropodus opercularis

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The paradise fish or Macropodus opercularis are members of the family Belontidae. This family grouping includes both betta fish and gouarmis. The paradise fish is a gourami. They are also commonly referred to as paradise gouramis.

Paradise fish are native to East Asia. They populate the rice patties and ditches of Northern Vietnam and the Korean Peninsula. They were one of the first ornamental fish introduced to western society. They were first exported to Europe in the 1800s.

Despite their long history as a commercial ornamental fish, you are unlikely to see one in a home aquarium. They aren’t even stocked in most fish specialty stores. This may be because paradise fish do not make good aquarium fish. Paradise fish are predators by nature. They are combative and harassing. They will attack each other and other species often seriously or fatally wounding them. You can no sooner put two males in the same tank together than you can betta males. Paradise fish are even more aggressive than bettas when it comes to male territorialism. Just like bettas, females can be housed together without incident. The popularity of this species waned with western aquarists when much less aggressive gouramis began to be exported.

Aquarist who levitate toward more aggressive species have a limit number of choices as far as tank-mates for paradise fish. Suitable candidates include larger danios and tetra, catfish and less aggressive cichlids such as firemouths. They can hold there own against most South American cichlids of equal size.

Paradise fish, like bettas and other gouramis belong to the suborder Anabantid. Regardless of geological location, all members of this suborder evolved in low oxygenated water. The rice patties and ditches of Eastern Asia are a prime example of such an environment. They are often muddy and inhospitable to any fish that do not fall into the Anabantid suborder.

Evolution provided Anabantids with a unique means of surviving in these adverse conditions. They evolved a lung-like organ known as a labyrinth organ. The labyrinth allows them to breathe oxygen straight from the atmosphere. You will see all such members of this suborder frequently rise to the surface to gulp air. Without a combination of dissolved and atmospheric oxygen they will not survive.

Paradise fish grow to approximately four inches with an average life span of six years. Paradise fish prefer slightly alkaline water. They can tolerate levels varying anywhere between 6.0-8.0 and water temperatures ranging between 68-78°F. They are omnivores but should be provided a diet reasonably high in protein. The males are more colorful than the females and have larger fins.

Breeding Paradise Fish

To induce spawning, place the male and the female in a breeding tank with a divider between them. Male paradise fish may kill a female if she is not carrying eggs. You will want to have an abundance of plants for the female to hide in once the divider is removed. The water temperature should be toward the higher end of the fishes’ tolerance level. They are less likely to breed in cooler water. Have your water filter turned down. Paradise fish breed in still waters in there natural habitat.

If the male feels the inclination to spawn he will use his labyrinth to build a bubble nest on the water’s surface mixed with small pieces of the plant matter you provided. If this occurs it is safe to remove the divider.

If the female accepts the male’s invitation to breed the two fish will embrace releasing both the eggs and semen into the water. After each embrace, the male will gather the fertilized eggs and spit them into the bubble nest.

Once spawning has occurred, the male no longer has any use for the female. Promptly remove her from the tank to prevent the male from killing her. Leave the male with the fry until they hatch and begin to swim freely. Now the male must be removed to prevent him from eating the fry.

Free swimming fry can be fed infusoria. In a few days their diet can be switched to newly hatched shrimp brine or powdered fry food.

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