Max Size: 10cm

Frail Gourami (Ctenops nobilis)

You will not often see Frail Gouramis in the aquarium trade due to their extreme sensitivity to shipping stress and their high levels of aggression. This species is also not recommended for anyone but the experienced fish keeper as they are one of the trickiest freshwater fish to keep, often leading to short lifespans.

Frail Gouramis are not recommended for the typical community aquarium; however, you can maintain them alongside other non-cannibalistic anabantoids in larger set-ups. You can also keep these fish with peaceful, schooling Cyprinids, although you should avoid larger species.

Frail Gouramis are sociable as juveniles but not as adults as they are often openly hostile towards and may even kill members of the same species given a chance. You can maintain them in a group; however, to do so, you would require a huge aquarium or well-structured set-up with dense plant growth and other decor arranged to break lines of sight. The aggression is not restricted to a specific gender and is heightened when the fish are kept at higher temperatures or are in breeding conditions.

Frail Gouramis are unfussy when it comes to the decor as long as you have plenty of structure and cover. Plastic piping, Ceramic flowerpots, and other artificial materials are all valuable additions. A more natural-looking design could consist of a soft, sandy substrate with driftwood roots and branches or bogwood placed to form plenty of shady spots and caves. The addition of dried leaf litter such as beech, Indian almond leaves, or oak is suitable and further emphasises the natural feel.

Frail Gouramis seem to do best under fairly dim lighting and thick plantings such as Microsorum, Cryptocoryne, Taxiphyllum and Anubias. However, adding floating vegetation may also prove helpful both in terms of diffusing light and providing essential cover.

Although it is crucial to maintain excellent water quality, the filtration, or at least water flow, should not be too powerful. It would be best to avoid water changes provided the tank is lightly stocked; however, if you wish to do so, only perform 10 to 15 per cent weekly. You will also need to make sure you have a tight-fitting lid as this species is a famous jumper, especially if you have just introduced them to a new aquarium.

Tank Mates

10 ideal tank mate ideas for the Frail Gourami include:

Butterfly Barb(Barbus hulstaerti)
Clown Rasbora(Rasbora kalochroma)
Eilyos Tetra(Hyphessobrycon eilyos)
Golden Dwarf Barb(Pethia gelius)
Licorice Gourami(Parosphromenus deissneri)
Marbled Hatchetfish(Carnegiella strigata)
Meghalaya Danio(Danio Meghalayensis)
Sparkling Gourami(Trichopsis vittata)
Steel Blue Tetra(Hyphessobrycon weitzmanorum)
Zebra Danio(Brachydanio rerio)
Quick Facts
Scientific NameCtenops nobilis
Year Described1845
Other NamesIndian Paradisefish, Noble Gourami
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
Best kept asLoners
Lifespan1 - 3 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.0 - 7.5
GH10 - 20
TDS36 - 215
59 - 77℉
15 - 25℃


Frail Gourami

Natural Habitat

Frail Gouramis are native to Bangladesh and northeastern India and are also known from West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam states and Bihar. These fish have more recently also been found in Nepal. They inhabit relatively clear, moderately-flowing waters in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams with plenty of vegetation overgrowth, although some have been found in areas with no aquatic vegetation.


In the wild Frail Goramis are mainly micro predators feeding on small aquatic crustaceans, insect larvae, worms and other zooplankton. In the aquarium, these fish may not initially accept dried or prepared foods; however, in most cases, they will learn to accept them over time.

It would be best to offer Frail Gouramis daily meals of small live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, grindal worm, daphnia and microworms as this will help your fish develop perfect colour and conditioning. Also, try and provide them with good quality dried food occasionally, although these Gouramis prefer granular foods rather than flake food.

Sexual Dimorphism

It is rather challenging to differentiate between male and female Frail Gouramis, especially when newly imported or if they are not in very good condition. However, females always possess a uniformly straight lower jaw and have a more tapered head shape than males. In contrast, the male's lower jaw is slightly rounded due to distensible skin that expands during mouthbrooding. Other than that, both sexes are very similar looking.


Frail Gouramis are parental mouthbrooders that you can breed in groups or as a single pair. As long as you have a suitable set-up, provide an appropriate diet, and maintain water quality, producing these fish should not bestow too many problems. Females will usually initiate courtship if multiple individuals are present.

Spawning can take several hours, and the male will catch each batch of eggs in his anal fin after the female collects them in her mouth and transfers them to the male by spitting them at him. Then, both fish protect the surrounding area until the female has run out of eggs.

Males that are holding eggs tend to take refuge in a quiet area of the aquarium where they assume an obscure, marble-like patterning and eat very little to no food. The eggs are held in the mouth for 7 to 20 days before anything from 10 to 100 fully-formed, free-swimming babies are released. However, inexperienced or young individuals can often consume the eggs before they hatch, and it may take them a few attempts at trying before they can carry them full term.

You can remove the male and place him in a separate tank a few days after spawning has occurred to minimise the chances of fry predation; however, in an established, heavily decorated set-up, some fry may survive. Alternatively, you can remove the fry as soon as they are released or spotted and place them elsewhere as long as the water conditions and temperature are the same.

The fry should be large enough to accept live foods such as baby brine shrimp and microworms straight away; however, they tend to remain somewhat motionless in the early stages of their life rather than actively hunting.

You should also note that the fry will only accept food at or near the water surface. For this reason, you need to make sure that you do not allow any uneaten food to accumulate on the bottom of the aquarium. Therefore, you should perform daily water changes of around 10 per cent to maintain water quality and growth rate.

The tank you grow them up in will need to have a tightly fitting cover with no gaps as they require access to a layer of warm, humid air to ensure the proper development of the labyrinth organ.

Other Gouramis of interest

Banded Gourami(Trichogaster fasciata)
Chocolate Gourami(Sphaerichthys osphromenoides)
Congo Ctenopoma(Ctenopoma congicum)
Dwarf Gourami(Trichogaster lalius)
Giant Chocolate Gourami(Sphaerichthys acrostoma)
Giant Gourami(Osphronemus goramy)
View all Gouramis
Date Added: 01/10/2021 12:09:05 - Updated: 15/02/2022 13:55:59