Name: Helostoma temminkii
Origin: Java and Thailand
It seems silly to feel compelled to speak "in defense" of a fish that doesn't know it was the subject of an offense, but here goes: I have a kissing gourami (Helostoma temminkii/temminckii; natural olive green/silver color; not the captive-bred pink kind) going on its 15th year. The fish was about an 3 cm long when I purchased it as a novelty when I was about 12 years old; I am now 27 and the proud parent of a 15 year-old-and-going-strong kisser with the personality of a family pet - definitely not a novelty. The fish was unfortunately kept with a variety of incompatible fish over the years, including goldfish, American bluegill sunfish and so on, and it survived all of them. It has grown from its 40 L to a 75 L tall, 110 L and now a 570 L aquarium. It's about 30 cm long and is housed with a pair of very large and somewhat aggressive angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) and a quartet of medium-size silver dollars (Metynnis hypsauchen), as well as a few belligerent Chinese algae eaters. In context, the kisser is the largest of several pretty big (by aquarium standards) fish, and it seems to have no interest in them whatsoever. The only world it pays attention to is the world outside of its aquarium - it waits on the substrate of the right-hand corner, staring up into my kitchen and literally wags its tail and swims around in a dizzy manner when it sees any human that it recognizes. It loves food, but seems to love "playing" through the glass just as much. I feel guilty over having held this intelligent creature captive, in fact, because it really seems to be way beyond any other fish I've ever seen in terms of awareness. There were times when I caught my "guilty" kisser kissing at the bodies of dead fish and thought it had killed them, and it also used to kiss on the sides of the angelfish, but it has for some reason overcome this behavior. In any case, the kissing gourami is a decidedly unglamorous, unassuming fish that often goes overlooked for its interesting behaviors, and is often misrepresented as a docile community fish. In reality, it's a pretty large fish as far as captive fish go, but it has at least as much personality as cichlids, and at least in the case of mine, it really has become a family pet.
Such a pitty the Kissing Gourami is mistakingly sold as a "docile, community" fish. Sure, it does well in communities: with Pacus, SA Cichlids, and Tinfoil Barbs of relatively the same size. That "kissing" face is a display of dominance, the bigger the lips, the more superior the fish! Sometimes the fish will "lip-lock" in highly aggressive wrestling competitions. With a lack of conspecifics to joust with, a single Kissing Gourami will turn to tankmates to prove who exactly is alpha fish of the tank. With larger tankmates that fight back, the Kissing Gourami is pretty peaceful, residing in the area of the tank that it has claimed its own. The mistake is made by folk who buy a cute, "romantic couple" and stick them in their 40-80 liter "docile" community tanks. Then scales fly as the kissers are quite big, and maintain control of the entire surface area of those tanks. Also, those people that must have the "biggest fish" often end up with a bully. Not because that fish is killing everything out of spite, it's just being dominate. The key to having peaceful Kissing Gouramis is to have a fairly large tank that is more long than tall, 120 liters or more. Next, either decorate the hell out of it so that tankmates can escape a kisser's "kiss of death," or place in tankmates that will fight back. Female Gouramis of any species have a noticable swelling of her overies behind the pectoral fins. Males look slender, if a bit hollow in that area. It takes some practice and a keen eye to distinquish those features when the fish are jumping all over the display tank, so take your time in observing you LFS tanks. Good luck with your kissers, they are truely a great fish to brighten up a dark tank with.
My kissing gourami is 14 years old and has so far managed to survive 2 outbreaks of whitespot which only it lived through, 4 house relocations in which it was transported and kept in a bucket and plastic bag, a very bossy green severum, a pair of breeding angelfish, breeding jewels and quite a few major climate control goof-ups. It is currently 15 centimetres long and very mellow, although any tetra ends up as a snack.
I have had kissing Gouramis for some time now (approx 10 years), and have found the following to be true: Their kissing is given in aggression. So when they are kissing, they are actually fighting. They look after themselves really well against cichlids, just as long as the cichlids are introduced after the gouramis and that the gourami has a size advantage (considering these chaps grow to 30 cm, this shouldn't really be a problem). I have found that they are quiet and shy breeders. I have only found that they will progress with breeding if they are in their own tank and there is plenty of hide away areas.
I had three gouramis however one passed away. The two that are left (one big and one small) chase each other constantly. At points they will completely wrap their bodies around each other and stay for periods of 5 minutes. They don't appear to be hurting each other however. Also they will lay in the corner of the tank and let the other fish swim around them
Mr. Fish is a kissing gourami in his 16th year and measures about 15 cm. He has been through many adventures and survived them all. We bought him for our daughter when she was 15 and now she is 31. He does not allow any type of fish to join him in his 150 liter tank, but does like to get attention, will splash water, turn a brighter hue if we do not feed him when he sees us. Most enjoyable fish.