Vaillant's chocolate gourami, Sphaerichthys vaillanti

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Vaillant's chocolate gourami, Sphaerichthys vaillanti, is one of the most stunning anabantoids in the hobby. Andrew Smith explains how to keep it.

Common name: Vaillant's Chocolate gourami

Scientific name: Sphaerichthys vaillanti (Pellegrin, 1930)

Origin: Semitou Kalimantan in the Kapuas drainage in south western Borneo.

Size: Both sexes reach a maximum size of about 7cm/3".

Diet: Live foods, such as daphnia and mosquito larvae. Prepared foods seem to be rejected out of hand with wild specimens like these.

Water: Soft, acidic water is best. In the 1990s, these were found in coloured water with a pH of about 5.3 and a temperature of 29C/84F. These were being kept in hard water and looked extremely colourful, but they're likely to do much better in softer conditions.

Aquarium: My experience of these fishes is limited to three I kept a couple of years ago. These fish were the first ones I'd ever seen alive and I kept them for about six months in a heavily planted 45 x 20 x 20cm tank containing lots of Java moss and Salvinia pots and pipes for decor. The fish were not aggressive towards each other, and the only displaying of note was some circling near the water surface. Its potential as a community fish has not yet been fully determined. Aggression does not seem to be a problem, but species tanks are recommended.

Sexing: Males are slightly larger when fully grown. Females are smaller with a more rounded appearance with more prominent colouration under ideal conditions: red brown with vertical stripes and a green sheen.

Breeding: This species, like others in the genus Sphaerichthys group of Chocolate gouramies are mouthbrooders. The female initiates the spawning and it is the male that undertakes the mouthbrooding of the young, which lasts for two to three and a half weeks. The young are released gradually over a couple of days. The fish usually spawns in the evening and the two fish can sometimes be seen embracing on the base of the tank.

Notes: This fish was first described by M Leon Vaillant in 1893 who incorrectly thought it was Ctenops nobilis.

Availability: Rarely available in the shops, but imports are now more frequent. These were imported by specialist fish and reptile wholesaler Tom Halvorsen Ltd (www.tomhalvorsen.co.uk; 07977 098127).

Price: These stunning gouramis are currently selling for £15-25 each.