Starting with Labyrinths - an Anabantoid community

by David Armitage

So how do we set up an aquarium for the fish we chose last issue and what other species can we put in with them? A 2 foot or just possibly 18" long tank should be the maximum, but the smaller size will only be enough for one established pair of most species. Even with the bigger tank, there is only enough room for a couple of pairs of the most peaceful species. If you want to be on the safe side, stick with a pair, although with the sparkling gourami, you will need 4-5 fish so they can sort themselves out as they are pretty impossible for the beginner to sex.

None of our labyrinthfish appreciate neat tap-water from most districts. You can mix it with rain, distilled or reverse-osmosis-water, adjust it using a blackwater extract to soften it and lower the pH, use a buffer or maybe boil it to destroy the temporary hardness. Ideally, you need to be just on the acid side of neutral (pH6-7) and 24-26C. You'll need a lime-free gravel or otherwise the pH will rocket up again. The furnishings should cater for the lifestyles of the various species so the gouramis will need floating plants to anchor their bubble nests, the sparkling gourami likes big leaves to build a nest under and the dwarf paradisefish might like a plant-pot for its nest. The rest is up to you but try to leave space for free-swimming and at least one thickly-planted area for privacy. You shouldn't really need a filter unless you overstock horribly. The small internals create too much of a current for little labyrinths so the most you should have is a little box filter ticking over - but a monthly quarter water change would be just as good.

I always say our fish do best as pairs on their own but appreciate most people would like a bit more colour and movement. be aware then that the fish you add may receive the brunt of labyrinth aggression if they decide to breed (even the little Honey and Sparklers will more than stick up for themselves!) and the other community inhabitants will invariably eat the labyrinth fry when they hatch. On the other hand, if you choose companions that are too big, your labyrinthfish will hide and pine away.

I would suggest a school of small Rasboras as mid-water fish. they occur throughout India and south-east Asia so are reasonably natural companions that I've often caught in company with anabantoids. The Asian killifish, Aplocheillichthys often occur side-by-side as well but barbs are more problematical, often being notorious fin-nippers although Cherry barbs often occur along with dwarf paradise fish in Ceylon. If you want bottom fish, then Coolie loaches or Pygmy Chain Botias (B.sidthmunki) may be suitable or you could try the less-colourfulNoemachilus or Lepidocephalus loaches. Well, these are my suggestions, write and tell me how it turns out or why you disagree.

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