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Overview:The range of the Labyrinthfish extends from China and
korea, all through southern Asia including the Philippines
and extending into Africa.
Labyrinth fish are very popular with Aquarist because of
their beautiful colors and interesting behavior. Many
species, will demonstrate courtship, nest building and
parental care right in a community tank set-up. These and
other reasons make them one of the long term favorites in
the tropical fish hobby.
Distinguishing traits:The single most trait that distinguishes the Labyrinth
fish from all others, is the organ they posses that gives
them their name. The Labyrinth is located above the gills
and consists of skin folds, called Lamelli, which
are filled with blood vessels, through which oxygen can be
absorbed from the air. This feature allows the Labyrinth
fish to survive in water with very low oxygen levels. The
general body shape of the fish varies from elongated, with
slight lateral compression (bettas) to leaf shaped.
In general, the Labyrinth fish are not difficult to keep.
The tank should be well lit, but not be overly bright.The
substrate should be a dark color with dense plantings
including many floating plants. Some genera prefer the
safety of caves. feeding is not a problem as all flake food
is readily accepted.
In nature Labyrinthfish appear to prefer very weedy rivers,
streams and ponds. Some are even found in irrigation
ditches, flooded rice fields and even polluted waters.
Almost all of the species are un-demanding of water quality
and will thrive and reproduce in slightly acidic ( pH ~ 6.5
) and medium hard to soft water. The temperature range is
also not overly important and can range between 68 - 80
degrees f. (20 - 27 c. ). Aeration and filtration is not
needed, especially with the bubble nest builders. As you
can see most Labyrinthfish are very un-demanding and can be
placed in just about any community tank set-up. The most
well known exception to this rule is the Chocolate
Gourami which needs extremely acid water to live. Also
members from the lesser known Parosphromenus genus
have special needs.
The Asiatic species are mostly peaceful and the African
species Ctenopoma are predators feeding on insects
and small fish. During the breeding period most males will
establish a territory which they will defend from all
intruders. Depending on the species the Labyrinthfish
should be kept alone, pairs or in small groups.
Most labyrinthfish are calm and can be kept with schooling
fish like the Tetras and some Barbs -no fin nippers. They
also get along fine with the bottom dwelling fish like
Catfish and Gobies. You should avoid most Cichlids due to
their aggressive nature. When keeping different species of
Labyrinth fish together the smaller fish will quickly
succumb to the larger when a conflict arises.
Many species build nest of small air bubbles. These nest
are always built by the male and their size, shape and
postion depends on the species. The nest is made at the
water surface among floating plants. Some fish incorporate
plants into the nest and some are all bubbles.The male
courts the female under the nest, where he curls around her
and turns belly up.The eggs are extruded and fertilized
from this position. They usually float up into the bubble
nest and become almost invisible. This process is repeated
several times and the larger species are very prolific. The
male practices brood protection. This involves chasing away
the female and any other intruder, concentrating the eggs
in the nest, retriving any eggs or fry that fall from the
nest and keeping the nest in repair. He is one busy guy!.
The eggs hatch in 25 to 36 hours. The fry are very small at
first and must be fed the smallest of foods. They grow very
fast. After the fry have been free swimming for about five
days the male should be removed. The young are sensitive to
low water temperatures for a period of two to three weeks
when the Labyrinth is developing.
Some of the Labyrinthfish, especially those living in
moving water where a bubble nest would not work, practice a
form of mouthbrooding. The Male takes full responsibility
for the eggs and fry. Still others are open water breeders
and perform no brood care at all. I Concentrated on the
bubble nest type of breeding as it the most common type
seen by home hobbyist.