gourami (gōräˈmē) [key], tropical freshwater fish of the labyrinth fish family. Like other members of their family, gouramis have a labyrinthine breathing apparatus connected to each gill chamber that enables them to utilize atmospheric oxygen. They can therefore live in oxygen-poor water. Gouramis are native to SE Asia and Africa. The true gourami, Osphronemus goramy, reaches a length of 2 ft (60 cm). It originated in Indonesia, but has been introduced in China and S Asia, where it is cultivated as an important food fish. Certain smaller members of the family, popular as aquarium fishes, are also called gouramis. Best known is the white, 10-in. long (25-cm) kissing gourami ( Helostoma temmincki ). Other popular gouramis are the moonlight gourami ( Trichogaster microlepis ) of Thailand, a 6-in. (15-cm) long, silvery-blue fish with long, threadlike ventral fins, and other Trichogaster species. The talking, or croaking, gourami ( Trichopsis vittatus ), a 2-in. (5-cm) long fish, is noted for the curious sounds produced by the males when they surface for air at night. The labyrinth fishes also include the betta, or fighting fish, and the so-called climbing perch, or walking fish, of SE Asia. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Anabantidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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