If you have any Gouramis in your tank. You cannot help but notice the very delicate whiskers protruding from the sides of the fish.
What are they and do they serve a purpose?
What Type of Fish are Gouramis?
Gouramis are known as Anabantoid fish, but they are more commonly referred to as Labyrinth fish.
Labyrinth fish species are called this due to their labyrinth organ, which is a very much like a lung. This has developed as the species has evolved due to this type of fish living in shallow muddy waters in hot climates.
The temperature of these shallow waters rises massively during the day, meaning there is less oxygen available in the water for the fish. The labyrinth organ helps these fish to survive as it helps them to breathe in oxygen directly when needed, to supplement the little amount they manage to get through their gills.
The organ is situated on either side of the head. It is only one organ that goes from one side to the other.
Please note my highly technical diagram to show where it is located…
Why do Gouramis Have Whiskers?
The whiskers on a Gourami fish are actually their pelvic fins. They are used as feelers to help the fish navigate dark, muddy waters.
Pelvic fins on most fish look very different to that of a Gourami. The pelvic fin helps the fish to stay balanced in the water, helping to prevent the fish from rolling over.
The pelvic fin on a Gourami has evolved and moved towards the front of the fish, rather than directly underneath, and have developed into whiskers. This has happened because Gouramis naturally live in very shallow water where they can’t really roll over, so they are better used to help them feel their way around the murky waters. They also help them to detect a potential mate as they can detect pheromones in female fish.
Do All Gouramis Have Whiskers?
All Gouramis tend to have whiskers as it is how they navigate around. Technically, they don’t actually need them in an aquarium, unless you are a crap owner who never cleans your tank, but they are still a useful tool for Gouramis for finding hidden food treasures and for mating purposes.
Do Gourami Whiskers Grow Back if Damaged?
These quite graceful whiskers are very delicate and are susceptible to damage.
You need to ensure that any ornaments you have in your tank don’t have any tiny nooks and crannies where the whiskers can get trapped.
It is also very important to not have ‘fin nippers’ in your tank if you have Gouramis. The biggest culprits tend to be Barbs, Cichlids, Tetras, Loaches and Angel fish. These guys can terrorise a Gourami and can lead to quite severe damage to their whiskers.
If a whisker is broken, in most cases, it will grow back naturally, if broken halfway or thereabouts. If a whisker does get broken, it is important to work out what caused this to happen. In some cases it will just be an accident. Taking the steps I have mentioned above will hopefully stop a more sinister reason for it happening.