Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Trichopodus trichopterus
(three spot gourami)



Trichopodus trichopterus (three spot gourami)


  • Last modified
  • 01 February 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Trichopodus trichopterus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • three spot gourami
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Trichopodus trichopterus, the three spot gourami, is a small, popular ornamental fish, native to Southeast Asia, that has been introduced in at least 17 countries. T. trichopterus has successfully colo...

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Trichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, captive specimen.
CaptionTrichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, captive specimen.
Copyright©Mark Maddern
Trichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, captive specimen.
AdultTrichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, captive specimen.©Mark Maddern
Trichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, 63mm in length.
CaptionTrichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, 63mm in length.
Copyright©Mark Maddern
Trichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, 63mm in length.
AdultTrichopodus trichopterus (three spot or blue gourami); adult, 63mm in length.©Mark Maddern


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Trichopodus trichopterus Pallas, 1770

Preferred Common Name

  • three spot gourami

Other Scientific Names

  • Colisa maculatus Swainson, 1839
  • Labrus trichopterus Pallas, 1770
  • Nemaphaerus maculosus Bleeker 1878
  • Osphromenus insulatus Seale, 1910
  • Osphromenus siamensis Günther, 1861
  • Osphromenus trichopterus Bleeker, 1865
  • Osphronemus saigonensis Borodin, 1930
  • Stethochaetus biguttatus Gronow, in Gray, 1854
  • Trichogaster sumatranus Ladiges, 1934
  • Trichogaster trichopterus Bloch and Schneider, 1801
  • Trichopodus maculatus Vipulya, 1923
  • Trichopodus trichopterus Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831
  • Trichopodus trichopterus Lacepede, 1801
  • Trichopus cantoris Sauvage, 1884
  • Trichopus sepat Bleeker, 1845
  • Trichopus siamensis Sauvage, 1881
  • Trichopus trichogaster Roberts, 1993

International Common Names

  • English: blue gourami; golden gourami; opaline gourami

Local Common Names

  • Cambodia: trey kampleanh samré; trey kanpleanh samrê; trey kawmphleanh samrai; trey komphléang
  • China: giant gouramy
  • Denmark: blå gurami; toplettet gurami
  • Germany: blauer fadenfisch; blauer gurami; punktierter fadenfisch
  • Indonesia: sepat; sepat jawa; siopet; sompat
  • Indonesia/Java: sepat iju
  • Laos: pa ka dout; pa salid
  • Malaysia: sepat padi; sepat ronggeng; two-spot gouramy
  • Philippines: pla-salit; siamese gurammy
  • Poland: skrzeczyk karlowaty
  • Sri Lanka: theppili
  • Thailand: pla ka di; pla ka di mor; pla kra di; pla kra di mhor; pla sa lak; pla sa lang; pla sa-lak; pla sa-lang
  • USA: cosby gourami; gold gourami; threespot gourami
  • Vietnam: cá sac buòm

Summary of Invasiveness

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Trichopodus trichopterus, the three spot gourami, is a small, popular ornamental fish, native to Southeast Asia, that has been introduced in at least 17 countries. T. trichopterus has successfully colonized new aquatic habitats because of its wide environmental tolerances, ability to colonize anthropogenically disturbed habitats, trophic opportunism and fast growth rates. Of particular note is the fact that T. trichopterus is highly tolerant of hypoxic conditions, as it possesses an auxiliary respiratory organ that allows it to breathe air. Ecological impacts upon endemic fish fauna may include resource competition and alteration of aquatic food webs.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Suborder: Anabantoidei
  •                             Family: Osphronemidae
  •                                 Genus: Trichopodus
  •                                     Species: Trichopodus trichopterus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Trichopodus trichopterus was originally described by Pallas (1770) as Labrus trichopterus. In 1801, Bloch and Schneider described the genus Trichogaster, which included what are currently known as Trichogaster fasciata and Trichopodus trichopterus, but they did not name a type species. La Cepédè (1801) described the genus Trichopodus, and included within it Pallas’ trichopodus, but again, did not name a type species. Jordan (1917) designated Colisa fasciata [Trichogaster fasciata] as a type species of Trichogaster and also designated Trichopodus mentum [Osphronemus goramy] as a type species for Trichopodus. However, this was challenged by Myers (1923), who also erroneously interpreted Trichopodus as a junior synonym of Trichogaster, and named Labrus trichopterus as type species for Trichogaster. As it turns out, however, the earliest valid type species designation for Trichopodus was by Bleeker (1879), who designated Labrus trichopterus as type species for the genus (Topfer and Schindler, 2009). This made later type species designations by Jordan (1917) and Myers (1923) invalid. In addition, Derijst (1997) later pointed out that Trichogaster should be the junior synonym of Trichopodus and not the other way round, as had been interpreted by Myers (1923)). As a result, Britz (2004) and Topfer and Schindler (2009) confirmed that species previously assigned under Colisa, based on Jordan’s (1917) type designation, are recognized as Trichogaster, whereas species that were previously assigned under Trichogaster are recognized as Trichopodus, based on Bleeker’s (1879) type designation. The numerous synonyms and redescriptions of Trichopodus trichopterus may be partly explained by its wide native range and localized colour variation (Pinter, 1986).


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T. trichopterus grows to a maximum size of approximately 15 cm total length (TL) but, in the wild, is more common at approximately 10 cm TL. It has an elongate body, moderately compressed laterally. It has a very small, dorsally directed mouth, with a vertical, protractile upper jaw and prominent lower jaw. Scales are moderate in size and irregularly arranged, with a curved, irregular lateral line. There are 40-52 scales in lateral series. The dorsal fin has 6-8 spines, 7-10 soft rays, and is quite small. The anal fin is long, extends from the ventral fin to the tail and has 9-12 spines and 30-38 soft rays. The caudal fin is slightly emarginate or truncate. The first ray of the paired ventral pelvic fins forms a pair of long thin sensory filaments and the remainder are vestigial. The modified pelvic fin filaments have a sensory function, contain tactile and chemo-receptors and are utilized in feeding, courtship, mating and aggressive activities (Scharrer et al., 1947; Picciolo, 1964; Pollak et al., 1978a, b; Bisazza et al., 2001).

There is great variation within and between the colouration and markings of natural populations of T. trichopterus and ornamental varieties of the species. In wild-type fish, the background colour is usually a uniform pale blue/grey and may even be pale brown. Dark irregular mottling of up to 20 narrow irregular oblique bars may be present, almost obscuring the base body colour. Two dark spots of varying intensity may be present; one on the body at the caudal peduncle, and one centrally on the midline of the body. The third spot, where the species common name comes from, is the eye. Dorsal, anal and caudal fins have a series of whitish spots forming parallel bands. The distal margin of the posterior anal fin is orange with a few rounded yellowish spots.

Several ornamental variants have been produced through selective breeding. The “blue” or “three spot” variety is similar to the wild-type fish, with a relatively uniform darker blue background and the characteristic dark spots. This variety has been introduced to Queensland, Australia. The "cosby" or “opaline” form exhibits a distinct dark blue marbled/shading pattern on the dorsal flank region, which obscures the dark spots on the flank and caudal peduncle. The “gold” form has a golden yellow background colour, usually with a distinct yellow marbling pattern. The eyes are either black or reddish-brown. The “silver” form has a silver background, usually without a marbled pattern nor the distinctive spots (Pinter, 1986; Frankel, 1992; Rainboth, 1996; Cole et al., 1999; Kottelat, 2001a, b; Froese and Pauly, 2014; TropWater, 2014). Images of fish exhibiting wild-type and ornamental colourations can be viewed in Pinter (1986), Low and Lim (2012), Geheber et al. (2010) and Froese and Pauly (2014).

Sexing in adults and juveniles can usually be determined by the dorsal fin; females have a shorter and rounder dorsal fin, while males exhibit a larger and more pointed flowing dorsal fin, often capable of reaching the caudal fin when relaxed. In adult fish, males tend to be larger, yet slimmer, while females exhibit a rounder stomach region.


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T. trichopterus is native to South-east Asia in the Mekong Basin, as well as a number of other countries in the region, although the exact native range is uncertain because of past introductions (Nico and Fuller, 2014). In the Mekong Basin, the species is found in Laos (Roberts, 1993; Kottelat, 1998; 2001a), China (Yunnan) (Hwang et al., 1988), Cambodia (Kottelat, 1985; 1998; Rainboth, 1996), Thailand (Vidthayanon et al., 1997) and Vietnam (Kottelat, 1998; 2001b). T. trichopterus is also native to Malaysia (Ang et al., 1989), Myanmar (Kottelat, 1985) and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan/Borneo) (Kottelat et al., 1993).

T. trichopterus has been introduced into at least 17 countries. It was collected in Palm Beach and Dade Counties in Florida, USA, in the 1970s, likely as the result of release or escape from fish farms (Courtenay et al., 1974; Courtenay and Hensley, 1979). These introductions have been considered unsuccessful (Courtenay et al., 1984; Rixon et al., 2005). Similarly, the species was noted east of Cave Springs, Alberta, Canada in the 1970s, but has been absent since 1981 (Crossman, 1984). In 2007, a population, now abundant, was detected in Lajas Irrigation Canal, Puerto Rico, probably resultant of an aquarium release (Nico and Fuller, 2014). T. trichopterus is established in the Magdalena and Orinoco watersheds in Colombia (Welcomme, 1988) and in the Gloria Reservoir and Boa Vista stream, Minas Gerais, Brazil (de Magalhaes et al., 2002). In the Dominican Republic, T. trichopterus became established in the Rio Ozama immediately after hurricane 'David' in c. 1979 (Lever, 1996; Froese and Pauly, 2014). In 2009, Geheber et al. (2010) collected T. trichopterus from a small pond near the northern coast of Jamaica. The species has been introduced into Namibia (FAO-DIAS, 2014), Réunion (Keith et al., 2006), Seychelles (Keith et al., 2006), Sri Lanka (Welcomme, 1988; Pethiyagoda, 1991), India (Daniels and Rajagopal, 2004; Radhakrishnan et al., 2012), Taiwan (Liao and Liu, 1989; Shen, 1993), Papua New Guinea (West and Glucksman, 1976; Welcomme 1988; Allen, 1991), the Philippines (Welcomme, 1988; Juliano et al., 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2014) and Bali (Low and Lim, 2012 and references therein). The species has also been introduced to areas of China outside its natural range (Ma et al., 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2014), although little information is available about these introductions. In Australia, T. trichopterus (blue Sumatran morph) was first reported in 1998 from a sugar cane irrigation channel, and subsequently from freshwater lagoons associated with the Sheep Station creek, lower Burdekin region, northern Queensland. In 2007, the species was reported from the Barattas system, adjacent to Sheep Station creek, and was considered to have established multiple populations in the lower Burdekin region (Webb, 2007). The species has been collected from Aplin weir, Ross River, Townsville, and is also known from artificial reservoirs on Saibai Island in the Torres Strait (Webb, 2007; TropWater, 2014).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


CambodiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat, 1985; Rainboth, 1996; Kottelat, 1998
ChinaPresentNativeHwang et al., 1988; Ma et al., 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2014Introduced in some areas of the country
-YunnanWidespreadNative Not invasive Hwang et al., 1988Occurs in the Mekong
IndiaPresentIntroducedBased on regional distribution
-KeralaPresentIntroduced Invasive Krishnakumar et al., 2009; Radhakrishnan et al., 2012
-Tamil NaduPresentIntroducedDaniels and Rajagopal, 2004Chembarampakkam Lake in the outskirts of Chennai
IndonesiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Based on regional distribution
-JavaPresentNative Not invasive Kottelat et al., 1993; Low and Lim, 2012Introduced in Bali
-KalimantanWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat et al., 1993
-Nusa TenggaraWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat et al., 1993
-SumatraWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat et al., 1993
LaosWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat, 2001a; Roberts, 1993; Kottelat, 1998
MalaysiaWidespreadNative Not invasive Ang et al., 1989
-SabahWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat et al., 1993
-SarawakPresentParenti and Lim, 2005
MyanmarWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat, 1985
PhilippinesWidespreadIntroduced1938Welcomme, 1988; Juliano et al., 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2014Collected in Leyte, Mindanao and other locations
SingaporePresentNativeLow and Lim, 2012
Sri LankaPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Not invasive Welcomme, 1988; Pethiyagoda, 1991Has become rare and may no longer be present
TaiwanPresentIntroducedLiao and Liu, 1989; Shen, 1993
ThailandWidespreadNative Not invasive Vidthayanon et al., 1997
VietnamWidespreadNative Not invasive Kottelat, 2001b; Kottelat, 1998


NamibiaPresentIntroducedFAO-DIAS, 2014
RéunionPresentIntroducedKeith et al., 2006
SeychellesPresentIntroducedKeith et al., 2006

North America

CanadaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive
-AlbertaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1970s Not invasive Crossman, 1984Collected in waters east of Cave Springs, Banff, in the 1970s, but has been absent since 1981
USAAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Based on regional distribution
-FloridaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Courtenay et al., 1984; Rixon et al., 2005Collected in Palm Beach and Dade Counties in the 1970s

Central America and Caribbean

Dominican RepublicPresentIntroduced1979Lever, 1996; Froese and Pauly, 2014Established in the Rio Ozama immediately after hurricane 'David'
JamaicaPresentIntroduced2009Geheber et al., 2010Collected from a small pond near the northern coast
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedNico and Fuller, 2014Abundant in Lajas irrigation canal

South America

BrazilPresentIntroducedBased on regional distribution
-CearaPresentIntroducedRodrigues-Filho et al., 2018
-Minas GeraisPresentIntroducedde Magalhaes et al., 2002Gloria Reservoir and Boa Vista stream, Paraiba do Sul River Basin
ColombiaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988Established in the Magdalena and Orinoco watersheds


-QueenslandPresentIntroduced1998Webb, 2007; TropWater, 2014Multiple populations in lower Burdekin region, Ross River near Townsville and Saibai Island in Torres Strait
Papua New GuineaPresentIntroducedWest and Glucksman, 1976; Welcomme, 1988; Allen, 1991Established in Port Moresby area


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Puerto Rico 2007 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No Nico and Fuller (2014) Abundant in Lajas Irrigation Canal
Colombia Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause) Yes No Welcomme (1988) Presumably escaped from aquaculture facilities
China Thailand 1990s No No Ma et al. (2003); Froese and Pauly (2014)
Philippines Thailand 1938 Yes No Welcomme (1988); Juliano et al. (1989); Froese and Pauly (2014) Collected in Leyte, Mindanao and other locations
Sri Lanka Aquaculture (pathway cause) No No Welcomme (1988); Pethiyagoda (1991) Has become rare and may not longer be present
Papua New Guinea 1970 Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes No West and Glucksman (1976); Welcomme (1988); Allen (1991) Established in Port Moresby area

Risk of Introduction

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There are two main factors likely to influence the risk of introduction of T. trichopterus to natural environments: the popularity of the species as an ornamental fish, and the number of naturalized introduced populations present in the wild. Researchers have speculated that the release of unwanted ornamental fish is the most likely explanation for the presence of many nonindigenous populations of T. trichopterus (Lintermans, 2004; Nico and Fuller, 2014). T. trichopterus is a popular ornamental species (Rixon et al., 2005; Corfield et al., 2007), making the potential for its release correlated with its popularity and abundance among fish hobbyists. For example, in Australia, Corfield et al. (2007) listed T. trichopterus as a commercial aquarium fish species of “high” importance, with a volume between 10,000 and 100,000 fish sold annually. Natural dispersal and anthropogenic translocation of introduced populations of T. trichopterus are more likely to occur in areas that already contain multiple, large and/or widely distributed populations of the species. In these areas, there is a greater risk of the general public collecting, translocating and potentially re-releasing fishes.


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T. trichopterus is found in a wide variety of lentic and slow-flowing lotic aquatic environments across its natural range. The species is generally absent from fast flowing streams and rivers. It typically occurs in heavily vegetated, shallow or standing lowland waters including ponds, ditches, rice paddies, canals, swamps, marshes and wetlands (Kottelat, 2001a; Vidthayanon, 2002). It occupies peaty and black waters (i.e. highly acidic waters), polluted anthropogenically-modified environments, and it can temporarily occupy brackish waters (Pinter, 1986).

Around the central to lower Mekong, T. trichopterus is known to undertake lateral migrations into flooded areas of forest or grassland during the wet season, returning to the main river systems when the floodwaters begin to recede at the onset of the dry season (Rainboth, 1996; Poulsen and Valbo-Jørgensen, 2000).

Habitat List

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Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Lakes Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Lakes Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Ponds Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Ponds Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Estuaries Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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There are diverging opinions on the chromosome number of T. trichopterus. The diploid/haploid chromosome numbers are 48-48/24 or 46-46/23 (Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Reproductive Biology

T. trichopterus can reach sexual maturity at 7 cm TL and 12 to 14 weeks of age (McKinnon and Liley, 1987). Under favourable environmental conditions, the species exhibits a protracted breeding period, with temperature and day length being important reproductive cues (Hails and Abdullah, 1982). Axelrod et al. (1967) stated that the minimum temperature for reproduction is 18°C, whereas Degani (1989) and Cole et al. (1999) consider 23°C to be the minimum temperature. All researchers concur that the upper temperature limit is 29°C. Spawning is enhanced in acidic water with a pH range between 5.5 and 6.5 (Reyes-Bustamante and Ortega-Salas, 2002).

T. trichopterus fecundity is size dependent and usually ranges from 300 for smaller females, up to maximum of 2000 to 4000 eggs for larger females (Zukal, 1983; Richter, 1988; Pethiyagoda, 1991). Reyes-Bustamante and Ortega-Salas (2002) recorded a higher mean absolute fecundity of 8021 eggs, and a maximum value of 9104 eggs under experimental conditions. T. trichopterus enhances offspring survival and recruitment through specialised nesting and parental behaviours which, when combined with the species protracted breeding period, enable rapid population growth (Froese and Pauly, 2014).

Considerable research has been conducted on the reproductive behaviour of T. trichopterus. Male fish, in particular, exhibit innate and learned complex behaviours associated with establishing and defending reproductive territories (Tooker and Miller, 1980; Hollis et al., 1984; 1989; 1995; 1997; Hollis, 1999). Female maturation can be effected either by pheromones released by territorial males and/or in response to male nest building and courtship behaviours (Lee and Ingersoll, 1979; Pollak et al., 1978a,b; 1981; Becker et al., 1992; Degani and Boker, 1992a,b; Degani, 1993; Degani and Schreibman, 1993; Jackson et al., 1994). Male T. trichopterus construct “bubble nests”; air is gulped in at the surface and mucus-lined bubbles are expelled, which adhere to each other at the water surface, usually among floating or emergent vegetation (Cole et al., 1999). Males are territorial and exhibit aggressive behaviour to intruders that approach the nest. When ready to spawn, they will allow a receptive female to enter their territory (Picciolo, 1964). Degani (1989) observed a correlation between parental body size and both nest size and number of larvae, concluding that females lay their eggs according to the size of the nest. Pinter (1986) observed that, unlike others in the genus, T. trichopterus will reproduce with only a “scant scattering of bubbles that barely resemble a nest”.

Spawning occurs with the male initially stroking the ventral side of the female with his dorsal fin, then wrapping his body around the female to exert pressure on her to expel her eggs, which he then fertilises. During each “nuptial embrace”, the female will expel between 40 and 80 eggs (Pinter, 1986). The eggs are lighter than water and float upwards into the nest, or the male will retrieve those that sink in his mouth, or those that have floated outside the nest and expel them into the nest with numerous bubbles. This procedure is repeated until all eggs have been released by the female. The male then guards the brood for several days (Hodges and Behre, 1953; Miller, 1964; Picciolo, 1964). After spawning, the male becomes highly aggressive towards conspecifics, including the recently-spawned female. After the young fish leave the nest, the male ceases care, but usually continues to maintain the nest and will court and spawn with other receptive females (Hodges and Behre, 1953; Miller, 1964; Pollak et al., 1981).

Physiology and Phenology

T. trichopterus possesses an auxiliary respiratory structure called the labyrinth organ, which is associated with the gills. This structure enables the species to obtain oxygen through the gills and to breathe air, depending on the amount of available oxygen in the water (Das, 1928; Burggren, 1979; Heisler, 1993; Berra, 2001). Consequently, T. trichopterus has a high tolerance to hypoxia and can be present in waters with extremely low oxygen levels.

The labyrinth apparatus, a bony structure, is a modified extension of the epibranchial segment of the first gill arch, contained within a supra-branchial chamber. The walls of the chamber and the labyrinth are covered with a highly vascularized respiratory tissue. During air-breathing, the fish engulfs air bubbles into the suprabranchial chamber and gas exchange occurs (Peters, 1978; Yan, 1998). However, T. trichopterus is characterised by both a low oxygen carrying capacity and low blood-oxygen affinity, suggesting obligate air-breathing to meet oxygen demand.  


T. trichopterus is omnivorous and mainly consumes zooplankton (e.g. copepods, cladocerans, ostracods), macroinvertebrates (insect larvae) and occasionally detritus and terrestrial macrophytes (Conlu, 1986; Chung et al., 1994; Rainboth, 1996; Talde et al., 2004).

Environmental Requirements

T. trichopterus is the hardiest species of the genus (Pinter, 1986), being able to tolerate wide ranges of water hardness, pH, temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen conditions (TropWater, 2014). The species tolerates lower temperatures than others in the genus (Pinter, 1986), although there are conflicting reports of its minimum temperature being 18, 22 or 23°C (Axelrod et al., 1967; Degani 1989; Froese and Pauly, 2014). Anecdotal reports from aquarists/ornamental industry suggest the species can cope in temperatures as low as 18°C (Premier Pet, 2018). 

T. trichopterus has been reported to tolerate brackish waters (Pinter, 1986; TropWater, 2014), although its upper tolerance limit is unknown. Geheber et al. (2010) collected T. trichopterus in likely brackish conditions in Jamaica, although salinity was not directly measured. The authors stated “we suspect the water to be brackish given the surrounding vegetation (mainly mangroves), the close proximity of the Caribbean Sea (c. 10 m), and the direct connection of the pond to the sea via a culvert (assumed to allow water through during high tide or wave surge events).”


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Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
BS - Steppe climate Tolerated > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
26 29

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Conductivity (µmhos/cm) Optimum 22-718 tolerated; Cole et al. (1999)
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) >2 Optimum Cole et al. (1999)
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 50 100 Optimum Cole et al. (1999)
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) Optimum 89.24-624.68 tolerated; Priest (2002), Froese and Pauly (2014)
Salinity (part per thousand) 0 Optimum Cole et al. (1999)
Water pH (pH) 5.5 6.5 Optimum <8 tolerated; Cole et al. (1999), Reyes-Bustamante and Ortega-Salas (2002), Priest (2002), Froese and Pauly (2014)
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 23 29 Optimum Breeding; Degani (1989), Cole et al. (1999)
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 18 29 Optimum Breeding; Axelrod et al. (1967)
Water temperature (ºC temperature) Optimum 18-31 tolerated; Axelrod et al. (1967), Degani (1989), Cole et al. (1999), Priest (2002), Froese and Pauly (2014), Premier Pet (2018)

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

Natural dispersal of T. trichopterus can be facilitated by its wide environmental tolerances, i.e. its ability to survive hypoxia, moderate subtropical water temperatures and brackish waters. Furthermore, T. trichopterus is known to undertake lateral migrations into flooded areas of forest or grassland during the wet season, returning to the main river systems at the onset of the dry season (Rainboth, 1996; Poulsen and Valbo-Jørgensen, 2000).

Webb (2007) noted that T. trichopterus rapidly dispersed in floodwaters throughout the system of lagoons and low-lying coastal areas to the north of the Burdekin River in north Queensland, Australia. The species is likely to continue dispersing into other catchments due to the network of drains, irrigation channels and lagoons present in this region, and to its high tolerance of hypoxic conditions, common in anthropogenically-modified aquatic habitats.

Natural dispersal of T. trichopterus may be constrained by the species preference for lentic or slow-flowing lotic environments; rapidly-flowing or highly variable lotic environments may inhibit the species establishment or population growth.

Intentional Introduction

T. trichopterus can be intentionally introduced to aquatic habitats as unwanted ornamental fish. This is the most likely explanation for the introduction of nonindigenous populations of the species in Australia (Lintermans, 2004) and elsewhere. The species is utilized as a food fish in parts of Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia (Alfred, 1963; Westenberg, 1981), which may provide motivation to further translocate the species within Asia.

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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Not much information on the impacts of introduced populations of T. trichopterus is available, although a number of studies have stated that impacts have occurred. Generalisations can be made taking into account the diet, reproduction and ecology of the species, and potential impacts on sympatric native fishes and aquatic ecosystems. For example, T. trichopterus may compete with indigenous fishes for food and, during reproduction, males become aggressive and may displace indigenous fishes (TropWater, 2014). T. trichopterus is considered an invasive species in Kerala State, India, where it may be potentially harmful to indigenous fishes (Krishnakumar et al., 2009). Liao and Liu (1989) consider T. trichopterus a resource competitor of the endangered gold barb, Puntius semifasciolatus, and at least partially responsible for population declines of this species. While P. semifasciolatus is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as a species of “Least Concern”, it is impacted by numerous threats and has declined in some parts of its range (IUCN, 2014).

The importation of gouramis (including T. trichopterus) into Australia has been identified as representing a very high disease risk, because the group hosts significant exotic viruses and/or parasites, which can adversely affect native fauna (Corfield et al., 2007).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


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Economic Value

T. trichopterus is a very popular ornamental fish sold worldwide (Rixon et al., 2005; Corfield et al., 2007). In Australia, a volume between 10,000 and 100,000 fish is sold annually (Corfield et al., 2007). In some countries, the species is also sold for human consumption (Rainboth, 1996).


Social Benefit

T. trichopterus is utilized for human consumption in Asia (Alfred, 1963; Rainboth, 1996). In Java, it is processed into salted, dried fish (Westenberg, 1981). The species is also used as a biological research model in many disciplines including, for example, behavioural studies (e.g. Hollis, 1999). 

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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T. trichopterus is most closely related to, and superficially similar to, T. pectoralis (snake-skin gourami). However, T. pectoralis grows larger (20 cm TL or larger) than T. trichopterus, its dorsal fin has 7 spines and 10-11 soft rays. The anal fin has 9-11 spines and 36-38 soft rays. The species is greenish-grey with silver flanks, and narrow irregular oblique bars may be present (Pinter, 1986).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


In Queensland, Australia, the state government Fisheries Act 1994 allows for the imposition of fines of up to AU$220,000 for the release of non-indigenous fishes into aquatic environments (Queensland Government, 2014).


Public awareness

Documents/identification guides have been created by the Queensland Government, Australia, to educate the general public about introduced fish species (Queensland Government, 2011; 2014).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Although T. trichopterus is a very popular ornamental fish species, with non-indigenous populations occurring in many countries, little research has been conducted on its potential ecological impacts after introduction to new ecosystems. The specific ecological impacts of this species introductions need to be more closely examined.


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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Museum of Victoria, Fishes of Australia Database
USGS – Nonindigenous Aquatic Species


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Australia: TropWATER - Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research , James Cook University, Townsville,


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06/11/14 Original text by:

Mark Maddern, School of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

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