Snakeskin gourami (Trichopodus pectoralis)

The name Trichopodus comes from the Ancient Greek words θρίξ (thríx) which means hair and πούς (poús) which means foot while pectoralis comes from the Latin words pectus which means "chest" and ālis which means "of or pertaining to", refers to the large pectoral fins of the species.
The snakeskin gourami (Trichopodus pectoralis)

The snakeskin gourami (Trichopodus pectoralis) is a species of gourami native to Southeast Asia.


The name Trichopodus comes from the Ancient Greek words θρίξ (thríx) which means hair and πούς (poús) which means foot while pectoralis comes from the Latin words pectus which means “chest” and ālis which means “of or pertaining to”, refers to the large pectoral fins of the species.

Physical characteristics

The snakeskin gourami is an elongated, moderately compressed fish with a small dorsal fin. Its anal fin is nearly the length of the body and the pelvic fins are long and thread-like. The back is olive in color and the flanks are greenish gray with a silver iridescence. An obvious, irregular black band extends from the snout, through the eye, and to the caudal peduncle. 
The underparts are white. The rear part of the body may be marked with faint transverse stripes. The fins are also gray-green, and the iris of the eye may be amber under favorable water conditions. The dorsal fins of male fish are pointed and the pelvic fins are orange to red. The males are also slimmer than the less colorful females. Juvenile snakeskin gouramis have strikingly strong zig-zag lines from the eye to the base of the tail.

This species can grow up to 25 centimetres (9.8 in) TL in length though most only reach about 15 centimetres (5.9 in).

Distribution and habitat

They are common in the Mekong and Chao Phraya basin of Cambodia, Thailand, Southern Vietnam, and Laos.They have also been introduced in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and New Caledonia.

Snakeskin gourami are found in rice paddies, shallow ponds, and swamps. They are found in shallow, sluggish, or standing water habitats with a lot of aquatic vegetation. It also occurs in flooded forests of the lower Mekong, and gradually moves back to rivers as floodwaters recede.


Snakeskin gourami generally feed on aquatic insect and other small living organism in its habitat. Like other labyrinth fish, it can breathe air directly, as well as absorb oxygen from water through its gills.

Relationship to humans

Compared to other gourami species, the snakeskin gourami is less frequently sold as aquarium fish but is more commonly used as food fish in their native lands. The snakeskin gourami is a highly economic species that is captured and cultured for food and for export for the aquarium trade. It is one of the five most important aquacultured freshwaterspecies in Thailand. Its flesh is of good quality, and may be fried, grilled or used for fish soup, like tom yam. In Thailand, there is a trade of dried snakeskin gourami for the benefit of people in areas where the live fish is not available.

The very famous areas for the snakeskin gourami farming in Thailand are Bang Bo and Bang Phli Districts in Samut Prakan Province with Don Kamyan Sub-District in Mueang Suphan Buri District, Suphan Buri Province, but the area with the largest number of farms is Ban Phaeo District, Samut Sakhon Province, all of these are in the central region.

In the aquarium

Trichopodus pectoralis are a hardy species recommended for a beginner in the fishkeeping hobby because, despite growing to a relatively large size, they are peaceful fish that can be kept in a community tank. They can be mixed with barbs, danios, tetras, Corydoras, angelfish, loaches, Loricariids and other gourami.

A snakeskin gourami is a bottom and middle tank level dweller. It requires a 24-inch (61 cm) length aquarium. A 10 or 20 gallon (38 to 76 liter) tank is sufficient for a fish of 4 inches (10 cm) length. A larger specimen should be kept in a 32-inch (81 cm) or 30 gallon (114 liter) tank. The recommended pH is 5.8 to 8.5 with a water hardness of 2 to 30 dH and a temperature of 72 to 86 °F (22–30 °C). A snakeskin gourami can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in captivity and its spawns are also unusually large.

Snakeskin gouramies, being omnivores, eat live food such as Tubifex worms, insects, insect larvae and crustaceans. They also consume flakes, pellets, chopped spinach and lettuce. They are not picky and will accept any food offered.

Breeding snakeskin gourami is not difficult. They will breed when they reach 5 inches (12.5 cm) length. It is the most prolific among all the gourami species. There can be as many as 5,000 fry from a single spawning period. The males are relatively nonaggressive, even at spawning times, which is unlike other labyrinth fishes. The parents will also not eat the fry. Fry can be raised by feeding progressively larger flake foods, in accordance with the size of the fry; occasionally feeding of live foods such as newly hatched brine shrimp is a welcome change in their diet. During breeding, like some of other labyrinth species, snakeskin gouramies are observed to vocalize sounds described as croaking, growling or cracking tones, to demonstrate territorial behavior.


  1. Vidthayanon, C. 2012. Trichopodus pectoralis. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 10 April 2014.
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). “Trichopodus pectoralis” in FishBase. February 2014 version.
  3. *Butler, Rhett Ayers, Tropical Freshwater Aquarium Fish (TFAF), 1995 and Website, 2002
  4. Agbayani, Eli (2006-12-01). “Introductions of Trichogaster pectoralis“. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
  5. “National Aquaculture Sector Overview – Thailand”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  6. “ทำไม “ปลาสลิด” ไม่มีหัว”. Manager Daily (in Thai). 2013-06-06.
  7. Jump up to:a b c d e Axelrod, Herbert R.; Emmens, C.; Burgess, W.; Pronek, N. (1996). Exotic Tropical Fishes. T.F.H. Publications. ISBN 0-87666-543-1.

Further reading

  • “Species Fact Sheet”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • Robison, Henry Welborn (1971). “An Ethological Study of the Snakeskin Gourami, Trichogaster pectoralis, with Comments on Phylogenetic Relationships Among Species of Trichogaster (Pisces, Belontiidae)”.
  • Vromant, N.; Duong, L. T.; Ollevier, F. (2002). “Effect of fish on the yield and yield components of rice in integrated concurrent rice–fish systems” (PDF). Journal of Agricultural Science138: 63–71. doi:10.1017/s0021859601001642.

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