Why Is Your Gourami Losing Color?

Gouramis are some of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish, prized for their unique shape and stunning colors. However, if you’ve noticed your gourami looking paler than usual or losing its vibrant hues altogether, it can be worrying. A gourami’s coloring is an indicator of its health and wellbeing, so when it starts to fade, it’s a sign that something is not right.

There are several potential reasons why your gourami may be losing its color. Identifying the underlying cause is key to restoring your fish’s color and vitality. Let’s explore the most common culprits behind a fading gourami and what you can do to bring back its true colors.

Physical Damage

One potential reason your gourami is losing color is physical damage sustained from injuries. Gouramis can injure themselves in a variety of accidental ways:

  • Jumping out of the aquarium if the lid is not securely fitted. The fall can lead to scale loss, fin damage, or abrasions.
  • Sustaining an injury from sharp decor or tankmates. Rough gravel, plastic plants, or aggressive fish like cichlids can bite or scrape a gourami, damaging its protective slime coat.
  • Developing ulcers or bacterial infections from fighting with other gouramis. Male gouramis are notoriously territorial and conflicts can lead to bodily harm.

Physical trauma strips away scales and damages tissue, causing inflammation. This impairs the fish’s ability to maintain its pigmentation and vibrant coloring.

Healing injuries requires pristine water quality and possibly antibiotics if bacteria set in. Remove aggressive tankmates and ensure the aquarium has a snug lid with no jumping hazards. Switch to soft, rounded gravel and decor to prevent abrasions. With time and improved living conditions, the gourami’s color should return as its body recuperates.


By far the most common reason gouramis lose their color is due to chronic stress. Gouramis are highly sensitive fish that can succumb to stress quite easily. Anything that throws off the balance of their environment can cause anxiety and suppressed coloration. Some main stressors to watch out for include:

Poor Water Quality

Gouramis are very delicate when it comes to water parameters. Ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate spikes from overfeeding or insufficient water changes will rapidly stress a gourami. pH extremes, improper water hardness, and temperature fluctuations also wreak havoc.

Test your water frequently and perform partial water changes weekly or as needed to keep levels in check. Invest in a liquid test kit for accuracy. Provide stable temperatures around 75-82°F.

Inadequate Tank Size

Gouramis need ample swimming room or else they feel cagey and stressed. Most species should be kept in a minimum 20-30 gallon tank, with larger varieties needing even bigger setups. Overcrowding with too many tankmates is equally detrimental.

Follow general stocking guidelines of 1 gallon per inch of fish. Make sure your particular gourami has enough space for its adult size. Bigger is always better when it comes to gourami tanks.

Aggressive Tankmates

Gouramis are peaceful, timid fish that don’t mix well with aggressive species prone to harassing and nipping. Common incompatible tankmates include tiger barbs, red-tailed sharks,oscars, and convict cichlids. Even fin-nipping fish like tetras and danios can stress a gourami over time.

Stick to docile community species like mollies, platies, rasboras, and small catfish for tankmates. Never combine multiple gourami species or males together. Give your gourami plenty of dense plants, caves, and driftwood to act as visual barriers and hiding spots if housing with rambunctious species.

Improper Diet

Feeding issues are a hidden stressor for gouramis. Too little food leads to malnourishment while overfeeding fouls the water quality. Low quality flake and pellet foods also lack proper nutrition.

Offer a varied, protein-rich diet like live or frozen brine shrimp, blood worms, daphnia, and mosquito larvae. High quality pellets and algae wafers should also be fed. Only feed what your fish can consume in 2-3 minutes, 1-2 times daily.

Bullying and Harassment

Aggressive bullying from territorial or pushy tankmates is tremendously stressful to gouramis. Nippy species constantly badger them, while cichlids may claim the whole tank as their territory and intimidate the gourami.

Isolate the bullies or rehome them if necessary. Ensure your gourami has sufficient personal space and hiding areas to retreat from harassment. Limit tankmates, reduce crowding, and use tank dividers to prevent bullying issues.

DG Iridovirus

One of the most devastating illnesses gouramis face is DG Iridovirus, also known as dwarf gourami iridovirus. This is a fast-moving, incurable viral disease prevalent in dwarf gouramis that usually proves fatal. Early signs are lethargy and washed-out coloring followed by lesions and ulcers.

Unfortunately, there is no cure once fish contract this virus. It spreads rapidly through bodily fluids and is easily transferred by nets, siphon hoses, and contaminated water. Isolate and euthanize any infected dwarf gouramis immediately to avoid infecting others. Sterilize all equipment between uses.

Purchasing dwarf gouramis from reputable breeders can help reduce risks, as mass fish farms may carry this disease. Limit stress and maintain excellent water quality to boost dwarfs’ immunity against outbreaks. Quickly removing sick individuals limits transmission to healthy fish.

Environmental Factors

A gourami’s environment directly influences its coloration through light intensity, tank décor, substrate, and more. Improper setups can literally drain color from fish. Some key considerations include:


Too little light dims a gourami’s pigments while excessive light bleaches them out. Find the Goldilocks balance with moderate ambient lighting for 6-10 hours daily. Avoid direct sunlight hitting the tank. Use aquarium-safe LED or fluorescent bulbs that support plant growth.


Light substrates like bare glass, white sand, or bright gravel reflect light to wash out colors. Opt for dark, natural sand and gravel in earthy tones. Add aquatic plants and decor to provide visual breaks and shaded areas.


Bare tank walls and backgrounds have the same color-leaching effect as pale substrates. Apply a non-reflective background with black or nature themes to bring colors forward. Provide areas of coverage with plants and decor.


Too sparse or brightly colored decor stresses fish. Offer an enriched environment with smooth rocks and driftwood, artificial plants, leaf litter, and floating vegetation. Arrange decor to create shady spots and line-of-sight breaks while keeping ample swimming room.

With simple adjustments to this environmental factors, you can enhance the light and contrast of your tank to make your gourami’s colors truly pop!

How to Restore Your Gourami’s Color

If you notice your gourami looking washed out or transparent, don’t delay taking corrective action. Catching color loss early and addressing the underlying problem gives the best chance of recovery. Here are some steps to nurse your pale gourami back to health:

  • Test water parameters and perform partial water changes to improve water quality. Eliminate ammonia, nitrites, and reduce nitrates to safe levels.
  • Add stress coat, aquarium salt, and live plants to help repair skin and fins. Indian almond leaves release beneficial tannins too.
  • Move the gourami into a separate hospital tank if necessary to lower stress. Provide extra hiding spots with plants and decor.
  • Evaluate tank size, aquatic conditions, tankmates, and feeding regimen. Make adjustments to reduce stressors. Remove aggressive fish if present.
  • Boost nutrition with freeze-dried krill, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, and other conditioners to support healing.
  • Use an anti-parasitic bath if flukes, ich, or other parasites may be the cause. Consult veterinarian guidance on proper treatment.
  • Perform partial water changes and monitor water parameters daily as the gourami recovers.

With attentive care and removal of stressors, your gourami’s beautiful colors should return and intensify. Be patient, as it may take days or weeks for pigments to regenerate and reach full vibrancy again. Focus on sustaining optimal tank conditions moving forward.

Preventing Future Color Loss

An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure when it comes to maintaining your gourami’s dazzling hues. Here are proactive steps you can take:

  • Perform weekly partial water changes of 25-30% to prevent pollution buildup
  • Test water chemistry routinely and keep ammonia, nitrites at zero and nitrates < 20 ppm
  • Feed a high quality, varied diet in moderation
  • Maintain stable water temperatures within the ideal range
  • Use soft, rounded substrate and decor to prevent injuries
  • Give gouramis adequate swimming space and plenty of hiding spots
  • Reduce tankmate aggression and overcrowding
  • Apply tank backgrounds and use moderate lighting periods
  • Quarantine new fish and plants before introducing them
  • Purchase gouramis from reputable sources to avoid diseased stock

Keeping your gourami stress-free and in peak health is the best way to retain its colors long-term. Gouramis thrive when provided with a spacious, enriched environment, optimal water quality, a healthy diet, and compatible tankmates. With attentive care, your gourami’s dazzling colors will continue to brighten up your aquarium.


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