Kissing Gourami

Helostoma temminckii

Last updated: January 16, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Evgenii Predybailo/Shutterstock.com

The kissing gesture that the kissing gourami displays is not a mating gesture

Kissing Gourami Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Anabantiformes
Family
Helostomatidae
Genus
Helostoma
Scientific Name
Helostoma temminckii

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Kissing Gourami Conservation Status

Kissing Gourami Locations

Kissing Gourami Locations

Kissing Gourami Facts

Prey
Insect
Main Prey
Insect
Group Behavior
  • Solitary except during mating season
Fun Fact
The kissing gesture that the kissing gourami displays is not a mating gesture
Most Distinctive Feature
Protruded lips
Distinctive Feature
The kissing gourami's lips are lined with horny teeth
Other Name(s)
Kissing fish, kisser
Average Spawn Size
More than 1,000
Habitat
Thickly-vegetated backwaters
Predators
Human
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Solitary
Favorite Food
Benthic algae and aquatic plants, with insects taken from the surface.
Type
Ray-finned fish
Common Name
Kissing gourami
Special Features
Kissing gourami can breathe in atmospheric oxygen
Origin
Asia

Kissing Gourami Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Green
  • Silver
  • Pink
Lifespan
2–7 years
Length
6–12 inches
Venomous
No
Aggression
Medium

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The kissing gesture that the kissing gourami is known for is not a mating gesture.

Summary

The kissing gourami is one of the most distinct species in the gourami family. The puckered mouth of this species is a distinctive feature that has made it a popular pet among aquarists. The kissing gourami is both a bottom feeder and a filter feeder, thanks to specially developed mouthparts. Although most people keep it for its aesthetic value, it may also serve as food in Asia.

5 Kissing Gourami Facts

  • The kissing action of the kissing gourami is not a romantic gesture
  • Even though it is a single species, it has two different colors
  • The fish displays aggressive behavior
  • It is the only species in the Helostoma genus to have an extra joint in its jaw.
  • Its eggs hatch after one to two days of fertilization

Kissing Gourami — Classification and Scientific Name

The scientific name of the kissing gourami is Helostoma temminckii. It is a tropical freshwater fish that belongs to the Actinopterygii class and the Helostomatidae family. Fish in the Helostomatidae family and others of Asian origin are also called gourami. However, they’re found in aquariums as well. 

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The specific name of this fish is a reference to a famous Dutch zoologist, Coenraad Jacob Temminck. The way the fish moves its distinctive lips resembles a kiss, which earned it its common name, the kissing gourami. It is also called the “kisser fish” or simply the “kisser.”

Kissing Gourami — Appearance

Kissing Gourami
The puckered mouth of this species is a distinctive feature that has made it a popular pet among aquarists.

©boban_nz/Shutterstock.com

The most intriguing body part of the kissing gourami is its forward-facing mouth with protruded lips. This feature makes it different from other gourami species with upward-facing mouths. The lips contain rows of fine horny teeth. Artificially bred species have more pronounced lips and smaller bodies. They are known as balloon-kissing gourami.

Like all gouramis, the kissing gourami is flat and oval-shaped. It also possesses caudal, pectoral, anal, and long dorsal fins. The pectoral fins are longer than usual, and the caudal fins have a more concave shape. The fish has visible scales on its head and its body. Male and female kissing gouramis are so similar that it is difficult to distinguish between them physically. The total body length of the species falls between 6.69 to 11.81 inches. The kissing gourami also has well-developed gill rakers. 

The kissing gourami comes in two color varieties — the green-to-gray with dark brown fins, and the pink with transparent fins. While the first variant occurs naturally, the other is a product of genetic modification to give it a pinkish color.  

The presence of an extra joint in the fish’s mouth is why it has such a stunning look. Apart from the unique look, the jaw also gives the kissing fish a feeding advantage. It is why kissing gouramis can extract nutrients from substrates — something other gourami species cannot do.  

Behavior

They are moderately aggressive and are top to middle-water dwellers. They may intentionally ram into other fish and strip them of their slime coat — and they do this more frequently in captivity.  

The kissing gourami has a complex inner ear. This characteristic makes communication among the species possible. A special structure in the ear aids the hearing of the fish. To communicate with others, the fish grinds its teeth.

The fish feeds unusually due to the protruded nature of their mouth. Since the teeth are on the lips, it has to press its lips against a feeding surface. This makes it seem like the gourami is kissing the “surface.”  

The “kiss” is actually an aggressive behavior in which the fish battle with their mouths. Researchers are yet to come up with a concrete reason why these species portray the kissing behavior. The common belief is that the fish act that way to establish some sort of territory dominance among the males.

Kissing Gourami — Distribution, Population, and Habitat     

The number of kissing gouramis is still bountiful even though they are greatly fished out of their natural habitat. On the IUCN, it is listed under Least Concern. The population of the Helostoma temminckii is not threatened. There is a high number of kissing gourami fish farms since it is a popular aquarium fish (and food for some people). The population status of the species is increasing as a result of common selective breeding. 

Typically, kissing gouramis are found in shallow tropical freshwater habitats. The well-vegetated, slow-moving waters provide a perfect environment for the fish to feed. They can easily reach and eat insects, plants, and benthic algae. Unlike other fish species, they can also use their specially structured mouth to eat algae off stones, 

This fish species prefer shallow water because they can breathe in oxygen directly from the surface. The gills cannot provide the fish with adequate oxygen. To solve that, it has a modified organ similar to the lungs (labyrinth). The organ allows the fish to breathe in oxygen from the air without difficulty.

Kissing Gourami — Evolution and History

Kissing gourami belongs to the Actinopterygii class (ray-finned fish). This group of fishes has been in existence for over 400 million years after their emergence during the Early Devonian Period. Modern bony fishes (teleosts) first appeared about 200 million years ago. Scientists believed that they evolved from an order of fishes known as the Holosteans, which is now extinct. Teleosts reached their full evolutionary diversity about 50 million years ago, evolving into diverse suborders and families. 

The kissing gourami is believed to have evolved on the Indonesian Island of Java. However, it has been introduced to other locations worldwide. In the past, kissing gouramis were primarily hunted for food because of their fairly large size. As the years went by, the species got more attention as a result of their distinctive puckered mouth. Humans started breeding the kisser in aquariums, and by 1950, they were a major highlight of many commercial aquariums. 

Further modifications were made to increase its artistic value. The pink variety became more popular due to its visual appeal and was bred selectively in large quantities. Both the green and pink varieties are available in mass quantities across many states.

Kissing Gourami — Predators and Threats

Kissing gourami is an omnivorous species. Humans primarily prey on the kisser for food and its aesthetic value and keep it in captivity. The kissing fish is one of the most popular aquarium fish. However, several diseases that affect aquarium species threaten the existence of fish as well. 

What Does the Kissing Gourami Eat?

The kisser feeds on a variety of food, including algae, aquatic plants, insects, plankton, and other microorganisms. This gourami has well-adapted mouthparts for bottom feeding. It uses its gill rakers to filter in nutrients and feed on surfaces other species cannot access. 

What Eats the Kissing Gourami?

Humans are the major predators of this fish species. Gourami is a delicacy in South Asia. However, more people are interested in its aesthetic properties, so they keep the kissing gourami as pets and tend to them in aquariums.  

Kissing Gourami — Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

The typical lifespan of the kissing gourami is five to seven years. The fish becomes sexually mature when it is around three years old. The species reproduce once a year in the Monsoon season. This season usually falls between May and October in Thailand. The reproduction period starts with a process called spawning. During spawning, male and female kissing gourami release sperms and eggs into the water for external fertilization. The female kissing gourami starts the process by laying the eggs underneath water vegetation, followed by the male. 

The eggs can be up to 1,000 or more. They are small, round, and smooth, with an oily covering that keeps them afloat till they get attached to vegetation. The eggs hatch a day (or two) after fertilization. After birth, the young fish (fry) are totally independent.

Kissing Gourami in Fishing and Cooking

Commercial breeders cultivate the fish in Thailand, Singapore, and other parts of Asia. Anglers also fish for them in the wild. Fish dog biscuits, bread crusts, and other floating food pellets are great baits for the kissing gourami. Experts use the same method used for carp fishing to catch the kisser. 

Kissing gourami can be baked, steamed, boiled, and pan-fried. In Thailand, the fish is enjoyed as a delicious treat deep-fried with pepper or with chilli sauce. Southeast Asians value gourami as a major part of their cuisine because of its thick flesh, unique texture, and great taste. Generally, fried gourami has a higher fat content compared to other methods of cooking. 

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

Kissing Gourami FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are kissing gouramis found?

Apart from Java which is their origin, kissing gouramis are found in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Florida, and Singapore. The kisser fish have been introduced outside Asia and are now found in aquariums all over the world, even in regions where they’re absent in the wild.

 

Why do gouramis kiss?

The protruding lips of the kissing gourami are where its teeth are arranged. It uses the lips to scrape algae from the surface of stones. This action looks a lot like the fish is kissing the surface. Kissing gouramis also display this kissing action to threaten other males in their territory. 

 

 

How big do kissing gouramis get?

On average, the kissing gourami grows to a maximum length of about six inches when kept in a tank at home. However, the fish can grow significantly bigger in the wild. This fish can grow as big as 12 inches in its natural habitat. 

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Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kissing_gourami
  2. Animal Diversity, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Helostoma_temminkii/
  3. Animal World, Available here: https://animal-world.com/encyclo/fresh/anabantoids/kissinggour.php
  4. Aquarium Source, Available here: https://www.aquariumsource.com/kissing-gourami/

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