The Elusive Gourami

The Elusive Gourami

Paul Arden | Tuesday, 19 April 2022

This week we are filming the second half of the Giant Gourami episode, the part where I catch lots of fish. I’m writing this in advance of course and so that is angler optimism for you. But if you are not optimistic about fishing, then why go in the first place?

James’ question on Sunday, about fish not eating certain insects, perhaps because they taste bad, may in fact hold water. As you might know, I host a small – 1yr old – Giant Gourami in my fish tank in the Battleship. When I first got a mind that I would like a houseboat of sorts, one of my first thoughts was that I should have a fish tank so that I can study Giant Gourami.


My first attempt failed catastrophically when I had three Giant Gourami and a Dwarf Gourami. At one point the largest decided to beat up the second largest. So I released it. The second-in-command then took upon itself to try to kill the next in line to the throne. So I released that one too. The final Giant Gourami, after it had recovered from the ordeal, then decided to kill the Dwarf Gourami. FFS! So I released that one also. And then, one fateful day, the Dwarf Gourami got a fungal disease and promptly died.


The very next night however, while I was on the bow of the Battleship checking my anchorage, I spied a tiny Giant Gourami swimming about like nuts. I fetched my small pond net and retuned to the bow and the baby Gourami swam straight in to the net and has been with me ever since.


So let me tell you something about this fish. It looks out from the fish tank. Not in, but out and observes the world around with what I can only call a sense of curiosity. I can feed him by hand and he undoubtedly recognises me and Ashly. Which brings me to the point of this story…


Gourami are omnivore. On the lake I’ve witnessed them feeding on ants, termites, cicadas, a lake dun that exists here… as well as figs, green leaves, and algae.


We have a light overlooking the Battleship fish tank, that at certain times of the year attracts different insects. If there is a moon we see few insects. No moon we have many. I think I may have mentioned that it loves sedges but it is certainly worth repeating!


But also I feed it… ants if in the boat, house and horse flies, earwigs, sedges…. wasps it refuses… but also it will eat mango – for which it will do a “Gourami Dance”, cheese, chocolate, ice cubes (oops!)… bread and crackers it doesn’t like, figs it will spit out… and now we get to the point of all of this: if loves sweet grapes but sour grapes it will spit out.


And so, as a result of this, there can be no question in my mind, that Gourami not only have a sense of taste, but that they use it when deciding whether or not to eat.


What I can’t say of course if this applies to trout and Alder Flies for example. And Gourami are certainly a but different from your normal fish. Five minutes refusals sets them apart from any other fish I know, but if Gourami have and use a sense of taste then it’s certainly possible that other fish do too.


Cheers, Paul