Three-spot gouramiTrichopodus trichopterus


Being a member of the family Osphronemidae , the three-spot gourami(T. trichopterus) is a labyrinth fish that is capable of breathing air. It is a popular fish in the ornamental trade which have led to its establishment outside its native range. Though popular, information of T. trichopterus is rather scattered and this page aims to provide consolidated information on the biology & taxonomy of T. trichopterus.



ICZN accepted name : Trichopodus trichopterus Pallas,1770
Original name in first description :Labrus trichopterus Pallas 1770
Scientific synonym(scientific names used to refer to T. trichopterus in the past)(Synonym) (Author) (ICZN Validity)*
Tichogaster trichopterus (S) Bloch & Schneider, 1801, no.
  • Osphromenus insulatus (J) Seale,1910, no.
  • Osphromenus siamensis (J) Günther, 1861, no.
  • Osphromenus trichopterus(J) Duncker, 1904, no.
  • Trichopus trichopterus(O) Cuvier & Valenciennes,1831,no.
  • Trichopus sepat(S) Bleeker,1845, no.
(S) - Senior Synonym ; (J) - Junior synonym; (O) - Others

(click for taxonomic history)

Common name:(Names commonly used to refer to T.trichopterus)
  • Three-spot gourami
  • Two-spot gourami
  • Blue gourami
  • Pla kadi or pla kadi mor in north thailand
  • Pla salark or pla salaring
  • Trey Kawmphleanh samrai in Cambodia
  • Sepat Padi in Malaysia
  • Sepat ronggeng in Malaysia

Paper containing the first description of T.trichopterus:Pallas, P. S. 1770.Spicilegia zoologica quibus novae imprimis
et obscurae animaliumspecies iconibus, descriptionibus atque
commentariis illustrantur.Fasciculus octavus. pp. 45-46, pl. I-V

Type information:
(Place where the original specimen used to describe this species is kept)
There is no information available on the type information and locality.


(why is this fish named Trichopodus trichopterus?)
The genus name, Trichopodus, is composed of the Greek words ή θρίξ (thrix) which means hair and ό πούς (pous) which means foot
(Schindler,2009) while Trichopterus means hair-fin in greek, referring to the shape of the ventral fins (Ritcher,1988).


(How to recognize a three-spot gourami?)

Trichopodus or Trichogaster?Members of genus Trichopodus & Trichogaster can be easily distinguished by the ventral fin that are reduced to to a rudiment prolonged as a long filamentous ray. However, members of genus Trichopodus have a shorter dorsal fin base and are larger as compared to the members of genus Trichogaster (Pinter,1986).

Three diagnostic features of T.trichopterus
T. trichopterus can be recognize by a long anal fin that is often marked with yellow-orange spots and also by a body with numerous narrow irregular oblique bars that are quite distinctive if present. The most distinctive characteristics of T. trichopterus are the two conspicuous lateral spots located at the caudal base (Tail) and central portion of the fish. Together with the eyes that resembles a third black spot, it is given the name three-spot gourami.
Example of genus Trichogaster (Trichogaster chuna)

Trichopodus trichopterus. (Photo: Lee Ding Lun)



  • Habitat

    • T. Trichopterus has a wide ecological distribution. It can withstand a large range of media ranging from ordinary freshwater, peaty and black waters, polluted waters to brackish waters.
    • It is most commonly found in swamplands, rice fields,ditches ,pools and ponds that have:
      1. stagnant or semi-stagnant waters
      2. shallow waters with depth less than 2m
      3. bottoms with thick layer of soft mud,detritus or organic material
      4. high turbidity of water
      5. shade usually sparse or lacking
      6. with a good marginal growth of emergent and floating plants
    • T. trichopterus is often absent from torrent streams, fast flowing streams and rivers due to the disadvantages conferred upon the fish by its laterally compressed body.
    • Temperature of habitat ranges from 26 degrees Celsius to 34 degrees Celsius.
    • Dissolved oxygen in the habitat can be low as T. Trichopterus is tolerant of low-oxygen environment due to its air breathing capabilities.
    • Optimum pH of habitat ranges from 7.0 - 8.0 but T. trichopterus is capable of tolerating a wide range of pH from 3.7 - 9.5.
  • Diet

    • T. trichopterus is normally a bottom feeder. They change from carnivorous feeding of zooplankton, crustaceans and insect larvae in the fry stage to algal and detritophagic feeding in the adult.

  • Reproduction

    • T. trichopterus reaches sexual maturity at a length of 7cm, usually between 12 - 14 weeks of age.

    • T. trichopterus reproduces via external fertilisation.

    • They are bubble nesters and the male usually builds bubble nests at the surface of the water ,consisting of mucous membranes, in floating plant matter.
    • The bubble nest may rise up more than 3 cm above the water and are up to 25 cm long.

    • The male guards the egg until they hatch.

    • 300 - 4000 eggs can be produced per spawning (Ritcher,1988).

    • Spawning occurs in the temperature range of 23 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius.(Degani,1989).

    • When pairing, the male swims up and down , stroking his partner's belly in the process, before taking the female into his bodily embrace. This action is described by Miller (1964) as rubbing.

Breeding three-spot gourami

  • Breathing

    • T. trichopterus belongs to a group of perch-like fishes known as labyrinth fishes. Labyrinth fishes are fishes that have a supplementary respiratory organ.

    • Unlike most fishes, which use the gills for gaseous exchange in the water, T. trichopterus can obtain an additonal supply of oxygen from the atmosphere by using its "labyrinth" organ.

    • To do this, T. trichopterus must periodically swim to the water surface to exchange gases.

    • However, the gills of t. trichopterus have degenerated to the extent that they alone cannot support the oxygen demands of the fish and have to work in synchrony with the "labyrinth" organ to meet the oxygen demands of the fish.
T.trichopterus performing gaseous exchange on the surface of the waterPhoto: Lee Ding Lunlabrinyth_copy.jpg
Supplementary respiratory organ of the Three-spot gourami (circled in red)
Photo : Lee Ding Lun

Extracted from Ritcher (1988), Tan(1969), Rainboth(1996), Degani(1989),Horst Linke(1992).


T.trichopterus can be found naturally in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Bali, Borneo, Java, Malaysia, Sumatra & in the Mekong basin in Yunnan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia ,Myanmar(Burma) and Vietnam.

In Singapore, it has been observed at Sungei Ayer Tawar (1958), Sungei Seletar, Nee Soon Rifle Range (1958), Serangoon (1898,1964), Jervoise Road (1912), Woodleigh (1934), Sungei Tengeh (1963),Sungei Kangkar (1963), Sungei Kallang, outlet from Peirce Reservoir (1964), Sungei Seletar, outlet from Seletar Reservoir (1964), Somerset Road, R. Hanitsch(1912).( Alfred E. R.,1966), Kalllang river (Tan et. al, 2010), Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve & Seletar Wet-gap (2011, Observed by Low Bi Wei).

Being a popular and intensively marketed tropical aquarium fish species, T. trichopterus has been introduced by accident or intentionally released into the freshwater habitats of many countries.There have been evidence of established populations in western Ghat in India (Molur, 2008),Philippines(Juliano et al. 1989), Taiwan(Shen 1993), Papua New Guinea(Allen,1991), Southern Africa (FAO, 1997), South America(Welcomme, 1988), the Dominican Republic (Lever,1996) and Queensland, Austrailia (Ringwood,2009). There were also sightings in Florida (Fuller et al. 1999) and Canada (Crossman 1984), but without evidence of establishment.

View Distribution of Trichopodus trichopterus in a larger map

Sub-species of T. trichopterus

T. tricopterus trichopterus(wild)
Photo: Lee Ding Lun

Blue gourami( T. trichopterus sumatranus Ladiges, 1933)
external image bluegourami02.jpg
Silver gourami
(Mutation of T. trichopterus sumatranus)(Aquarium Breed)

Cosby gourami
(Mutation of T. trichopterus sumatranus)(Aquarium Breed)
*As no paper or article has been found to support the validity of T. trichopterus sumatranus as a sub species at the moment, due caution should be taken when using the name.*

Gold gourami
(Mutation of T. trichopterus sumatranus)(Aquarium Breed)

Environmental Impacts

Despite the existence of multiple established populations across the world, the ecological impacts of this species have not been adequately explored and evaluated.However, It has been suggested that T. trichopterus is capable of competing with the native fish population for food and space as they are able to dominate areas, which the natives are not able to, due to their high fecundity , their ability to breathe air and their tolerance to varying pH levels , temperature and salinity.

In Queensland, Australia,T. trichopterus can only be kept in aquariums, but cannot be released. They cannot be used as bait, live or dead. If they are caught in the wild they must not be returned to the water. Penalties up to $200,000 apply(Ringwood,2009).

In Kerala, India, T. trichopterus is considered an invasive species and is thought to be potentially harmful to native ornamental fishes there.
(Krishnakumar et al., 2009)

In 2009, Geheber et al.(2010) collected T. trichopterus from a small pond near the northern coast of Jamaica in June. The collection represents the first documentation of this species in Jamaica.

Human uses

  • Food fish in parts of Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia.
  • Aquarium fish trade

Conservation Status

IUCN Red list status: Not evaluated
The Singapore Red Data Book: No Record

Although the abundance of T. trichopterus has not been evaluated, Alfred (1996) mentioned that T. trichopterus is common and widely distributed in Singapore.

Threats faced by T. trichopterus

Although there are no know threats to T.trichopterus globally or locally in Singapore, native populations of T.trichopterus in Singapore are facing a reduction in range due to rapid loss of habitats & habitat degradation over the years.

Taxonomic Details


(Morphological features of T. trichopterus that can be used for identification purpose)

  • Colour :
    • Body can range from brown to greyish in T. Trichopterus Trichopterus (wild) to blue or marbled blue or silver or golden in T. trichopterus sumatranus(aquarium breed). Darker at the dorsal and almost white at ventral.
    • Head with dark grey dorsal and silverish opercle scales with 2-3 blackish bars
    • Eyes bright red or orange when life
    • Median fins and pectorals are brown
    • Dorsal and caudal fins are dark grey with roundish white spots
    • Dorsal fin distal margin yellowish
    • Anal fins with anterior parts whitish and the rest dark grey
    • Distal margin of posterior anal fin orange with a few rounded yellowish spots

  • Length: up to 150mm

  • Dorsal spines (total): 6 - 8

  • Dorsal soft rays (total): 7-10

  • Anal spines: 9 - 12

  • Anal soft rays: 30 - 38

  • Dorsal fin branched rays: 8-9

  • Branched anal-fin rays: 33-38

  • Dorsal fin base length: Shorter than anal fin base

  • Pelvic fin length: Exceeds anal fin base length

  • Mouth: Very small, very oblique, upper jaw vertical and somewhat protractile, lower jaw prominent.

  • Scales:moderate size, irregularly arranged; 40 - 52 scale in lateral series.

  • Lateral line: Curved or irregular, interrupted or continuous, reaching caudal fin .

  • Caudal fin: Slightly emarginate or truncate.

  • Pectoral fin:Hyaline

  • Body patterns: One black spot each at just after posterior edge of pectoral fin on median of body and at the middle of caudal-fin base; body with up to 20 narrow irregular oblique bars(anterior bars & posterior 4-5 bars interrupted).

  • Sexing: Females has plumer belly and have a shorter and rounder dorsal fin while male are slimmer with larger and pointed flowing dorsal fins often capable of reaching the caudal fin when relaxed (See below for illustration).

  • Juvenile: Similar to adult.
Extracted from Tan & Ng(2005), Inger & Chin(2002), Kottelat(2001) & Rainboth(1996)
Male T. trichopterus. (Diagnostic dorsal fin circled in red; click to enlarge)
Photo:Lee Ding Lun

Photo: Lee Ding Lun

Alcohol preserved specimen, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
Photo:Lee Ding Lun

Female_f.jpgFemale T. trichopterus (Diagnostic dorsal fin circled in red; click to enlarge)

Taxonavigation and history

(Currently accepted relative postion of T.trichopterus in higher order taxon)
Animalia Linnaeus , 1758

Chordata Bateson,1885

Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fish) Klein,1885

Perciformes (Perch-like)

Osphronemidae Bleeker,1859

Trichopodus Lacepede,1801
Taxonomic History
(Changes in the genera of trichopterus)

The genus Trichopodus was formed by Lacepede (1801) for the two species-group taxa T. mentum and
Labrus trichopterus Pallas (1770) but no type species was determined then. In 1831, Cuvier included
Labrus trichopterus Pallas, 1770 as the single species for Trichopodus .

In 1917, unknowing of the earlier description by Bleekers(1879) Jordan assigned Trichopodus mentum
Lacepede as the type species for Trichopodus and Trichogaster fasciatus Bloch & Schneider(1801) as the type species for Trichogaster. Until 1923, the four small gouramis were classified as Trichogaster
while the larger gourami as Trichopodus. In 1923, Myers contested the assignment by Jordan and
interpreted Cuvier's boundary of Trichopodus (thus also for Trichogaster incorrectly).

Since MYERS (1923) assumed that Trichogaster Bloch & Schneidler is the senior synonym of
Trichopodus Lacepede, he synonymnised both as Trichogaster and a new genus Colisa was
erected for the four small gourami

In 1997, Derijist pointed out the earlier description by Bleekers (1879) and in 2004 Britz made Colisa
obsolete ,returned the 8 species to their previous genera and revived genus Trichopodus at the same
time. However, the proposed changes were not used in subsequent literature. In 2008 ,Töperfer and
Schindler identified the change but it was only in 2009 when Töperfer and Schindler published a paper
reaffirming Trichopodus as a valid genera with the type species as Trichopodus trichopterus.

Extracted from Töperfer & Schindler (2009)

Phylogenetic position

(Relative phylogenetic position of T. trichopterus among related fishes)

Based on the phylogenetic tree, we can see that members of genus Trichopodus, previously known asTrichogaster, forms a monophylectic group and is a sister taxa of genus Trichogaster, previously known as Colisa.

The closest relative to T. trichoptersus is T. pectoralis (Snake-skin gourami).
Abstracted from Rüber et al.,2005 (Click for more information)Phylogenetic analysis done based on a Bayesian phylogenetic approach on mtDNA60. (Permission granted - License Number: 2783980703832 )


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