Using a seine was impossible because
of the debris in the stream, so I used only
a small aquarium net and blindly fished
on the eroded banks. All we caught were
several Eirmotus octozona and one young
Thus, the only way I got the fish I
wanted was to import them directly from
Jakarta. The exporter indicated that the
fish were wild-caught, but it is likely
that in villages like Suhaid someone
will start to breed this fish in partially
natural conditions, the way people in
Thailand breed Betta imbellis in village
pools. A net cage in a forest pond would
The price of Sphaerichthys vaillanti is
typically high anywhere in the world,
so I was surprised that I was recently
able to get two young pairs for a
I arranged a biotope tank according
to their habitat, which I saw during
my unsuccessful collecting trip. I used
a 40-liter (10-gallon) tank with black
water—soft and acidic at 26°C ( 79°F)
with an Anubias plant. On the bottom I
put rotten leaves from a forest stream to
make the fish feel at home.
I fed them all types of live food—daphnia,
cyclops, mosquito larvae, tubifex, and their
favorite: brine shrimp.
After three months of this pampering,
they began to manifest signs of sexual
activity. One of the females assumed
a dominant role; she became brightly
colored and began to display to the
males. The males turned a dark brown,
highlighted by a white margin to the
caudal fin, and began to display to the
female. The other, submissive female lost
her coloration and assumed a subordinate
position with her body vertical, head up,
and fins clamped whenever the dominant
female came near.
A typical S. vaillanti habitat in Borneo.
Samurai gourami, a male in spawning color.
One afternoon I found the dominant
female and a male circling each other with
wide-spread fins. I had to go to work, and
when I returned the next day the female
was still nicely colored, but the male had
lost his color and was hiding under the
Anubias leaves. He also refused to eat.
After a week it became apparent from his
enlarged throat that he had eggs in his
mouth. After two weeks he was breathing
A samurai gourami female in spawning color.
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