Kissing gourami

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Helostoma temminckii family

Helostomatidae taxonomy

Helostoma temminckii Cuvier, 1829, type locality not specified. other common names

French: Gourami embrasseur; German: Küssender Gurami; Spanish: Gurami besador, gurami besucón.

physical characteristics

Length 9.8 in (25 cm). High body, laterally compressed. Head has large fleshy lips and several rows of spoon-shaped teeth unattached to the jaw bones. Wild-type coloration is greenish beige, with darker longitudinal lines along each scale row; a breed with uniform pink color is commonly cultivated in ponds. Adult fish has a highly specialized filter-feeding apparatus derived from modified gill rakers. Long dorsal fin with 16-18 spines and 13-16 soft rays; long anal fin with 13-15 spines and 17-19 soft rays.

Striking anatomical changes of the feeding system occur during development. Juveniles have normal conical teeth in jaws and on pharyngeal jaws. As the fishes mature, the jaw teeth are lost and substituted by a second type of spoon-shaped teeth in the fleshy lips. Lower pharyngeal jaws lose teeth completely, and their number is reduced in upper pharyngeal jaws, sitting on long bony bases so that the resulting structure resembles a brush.


Central Thailand, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Java, Borneo. Has been introduced to various countries as a food fish. Established populations in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bali, Colombia, and Florida, in the United States.


Occurs in sluggish streams, swamps, ponds, and lakes. behavior

Exhibits "kissing" behavior, in which they protrude their fleshy lips when grazing algae or during social encounters. They may also "kiss" during aggressive behavior or courtship individuals.

feeding ecology and diet

One of the most specialized filter-feeding teleosts, filters small (even unicellular) invertebrates and algae from the water. Also scrapes off algae and other aufwuchs (plants and animals adhering to parts of rooted aquatic plants and other open surfaces) from the substrate.

reproductive biology

Exhibits typical spawning clasp. Several thousand small (0.04 in/1 mm) buoyant spherical eggs are released during one spawning phase that comprises numerous spawning bouts. Eggs with a large oil globule hatch after one day at 86°F (30°C). No parental care.

conservation status Not listed by the IUCN.

significance to humans

A valued food fish in Southeast Asia, and popular in the aquarium trade. ♦

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