As a longstanding member of the aquarium hobby, I am not one to take joy in keeping that which everyone else does. Neither am I prone to taking the ‘easy-way-out’. The aquarium hobby is constantly growing and changing, with many of those changes making it increasingly easier to keep and maintain once ‘impossible’ aquariums. Species of fish and plants that were once the sole possessions of professionals have become mainstays in the aquarium hobby.
The Last Frontier…
However, a few species remain which have proven time and again to be ‘difficult’ to keep. Among them, the Chocolate Gourami stands out. Almost eighteen months ago, at the time of writing this article, I began planning to keep these elusive fish. It took almost eight months to find an aquarium store which was able to import this species. The Chocolate Gourami is renowned as being difficult to transport. The aquarium stores which do import them or order them from suppliers, often report huge fish loses. On top of that, those that make it usually take two or three weeks to recover from their ordeal.
Initially, I bought four Chocolate Gouramis. I would have purchased a larger group, however, there were only four individuals in the dealer’s tank. After about two weeks one of the Gouramis was injured, probably in a fight, and slowly weakened until it died. A few weeks later I bought nine more Chocolate Gouramis, to bring the population to twelve individuals.
The Problems Start…
Shortly thereafter, the problems started. The Gouramis were housed in a 175 litre planted aquarium, fitted with a canister filter. In an aquarium of this size, the environmental conditions should have remained relatively stable. However, shortly after purchasing the additional nine Gouramis, one died for unknown reasons. This should have had very little effect on the aquarium, however, on the morning of finding the corpse, I recorded an ammonia reading of 0.25 ppm. That ammonia level would persist for several months despite frequent water changes and liberal dosing with Seachem Prime.
The ammonia level eventually resulted in the deaths of all but two of the Gourami’s. It also led to the deaths of 10 Kuhli Loaches and several Boraras, which were living in the aquarium. Under normal circumstances, the filter and plants in the aquarium should have been able to deal with the ammonia level, however, for reasons which are still unknown, the ammonia persisted. The constant presence of ammonia, although limited, caused enough stress in the fish to result in mortality.
Although the aquarium was cycled and had been running for approximately six months before introducing the Gourami’s, the aquarium was obviously unstable. This led to the conclusion that the filter was responsible for the deaths. The filter was an Aqua One Aquis 500; suited for aquariums up to 100L. Now, before you as a reader begin to make judgments about my poor choice of filtration, allow me to explain. Chocolate Gouramis do not do well with high flow; neither do Boraras or Kuhli Loaches. Thus, overestimating the power of a canister filter, I purchased a filter designed for a smaller aquarium. This should not have been a problem however, as many people do this for similar reasons, without any problems. However, it turns out that the flow on the Aqua One Aquis series is… well… less than satisfactory. After 24 hours of decent flow (flow which suited the size of the aquarium and the inhabitants), the flow began to rapidly decline until the opposite end of the aquarium had areas of still water. I concluded that limited flow was the main reason for a persistent ammonia level.
The Current Situation…
The two remaining Chocolate Gouramis have been re-housed in a 133 litre aquarium, with a soil substrate. The layout of that aquarium actually matches the intended layout of the 175 litre aquarium. Despite the pH, GH and KH in that aquarium being significantly different to the 175, the Chocolate Gourami’s made a quick and relatively stress free, transition. The Boraras and Kuhli Loaches were also re-housed into the 133.