Dwarf gouramis are known to be hardy creatures. That was why I was surprised to see my gourami lying on its side at the bottom of the tank. The more I got into this topic, the more reasons I found for the issue. To make sure you take the right approach in your tank, I decided to share all that I’ve learned.
Dwarf gouramis typically lie on their side at the bottom due to a swim bladder disease, secondary to constipation, infections, or inadequate temperature. However, gouramis may also stay at the bottom when they are relatively old or accidentally overfed. In some cases, the fish is merely sleeping.
As we move forward, I will share a few other reasons that might force your dwarf gourami to lie on its side at the bottom. I will also show you what steps you should take to solve it, including taking care of your aquarium vital parameters.
Why is my Dwarf Gourami Lying on Its Side at the Bottom?
It is usual for some fish to lie at the bottom. Clown loaches and zebrafish are some of the most prominent examples. But that doesn’t include Dwarf Gouramis. They are supposed to spend most of their time in the upper sections.
If yours is lying on its side at the bottom, one of the following factors is probably to blame:
1. Your Gourami is Sleeping
It isn’t unheard of for gouramis to sleep at the bottom of the tank. This behavior is most commonly seen in bettas, which have an unusual habit of sleeping on their sides like human beings. Because bettas and gouramis are so closely related, it shouldn’t surprise you to find your dwarf gouramis occasionally sleeping at the bottom.
However, as with most fish, this should only happen at night when the lights are off.[?] If your fish is lying during the day or when the lights are on, sleep is probably not to blame.
2. The Old Age Scenario
Dwarf gouramis have a lifespan of roughly five years. As they age, they become slower. Their lethargy will encourage them to rest more often, either lying down at the bottom or finding objects to lean against. They are also more vulnerable to diseases that can significantly weaken them, making them immobile for long periods.
3. The Gourami is Overfed
It would be best if you didn’t overfeed dwarf gouramis. They should be fed no more than two times a day and in amounts that they can finish in minutes. Overfeeding can have dangerous long-term consequences for your gourami’s health.
But in the short term, it is possible to weigh your fish down with an abundance of food. Please pay close attention to their belly. If it is distended, you probably overfed them. Give the fish time to digest the food, and it will eventually regain enough of its balance to leave the substrate.
4. The Fish Has Constipation
Constipation is a much bigger problem. It can manifest as a result of overfeeding or as a response to a diet that is rich in protein. The ailment occurs when a blockage manifests in the intestinal tract.
However, constipation doesn’t stop at causing discomfort in fish. It can harm the swim bladder, causing swim bladder disease, an illness that will also encourage your dwarf gourami to lie on its side at the bottom. You may also see your fish swimming sideways or vertically.
5. Swim Bladder Disease
Swim bladder disease occurs when the functions of the swim bladder are compromised. The swim bladder is a vital organ since fish use it to maintain balance. When it malfunctions, their swimming becomes erratic.
Start by studying your dwarf gourami. Is it struggling to rise from the bottom? That is a sign of swim bladder disease, significantly if the fish occasionally rises from the substrate only to sink back helplessly.
As was mentioned earlier, constipation can lead to a swim bladder disease. Nevertheless, it is not the only cause of swim bladder disorder. Other causes include:
- Viruses and Bacteria – The swim bladder works by either inflating with gas or ejecting the gas. Viral infections can cause inflammation, making the epithelium so thick that the gasses cannot diffuse across. Some bacteria produce similar results.
- Anatomy – Some fish have anomalies such as cysts and tumors that push against the swim bladder. Diseases can also cause a fish’s organs to become enlarged, harming the swim bladder in the process.
- Temperature – Lower temperatures can destabilize the digestive process, enlarging the gastrointestinal tract and applying unwanted pressure on the bladder.
- Defects – Some dwarf gouramis are born with defective swim bladders. They will develop symptoms of swim bladder disease at a young age.
- Diet – Dry foods are a danger to fish because they can expand after the dwarf gourami eats them, causing clogs in the pneumocystis duct.
6. Inappropriate Temperature
A hot tank can force your fish to rest at the bottom. High temperatures are not merely a source of distress. They also cause the water to lose its oxygen. As you might have already heard, cold water holds oxygen better than warm water.
And because warm water rises, dwarf gouramis in a hot tank will run to the bottom where the water is not only colder but more oxygen-rich. They will stay at the bottom until the situation is resolved or until they die.
7. Your Gourami Has the Ich
Is the dwarf gourami lying still? It is an essential question because fish at the bottom of a tank are not always immobile. If you watch closely enough, you might find that the creature is actually rubbing its body against the substrate.
If that is the case, it might be a sign that the fish has ich, a disease that causes spots to appear all over its scales. Ich sounds like an inconvenience, but it is more than capable of killing your gouramis if it goes untreated.
8. Poor Water Quality
The easiest way to determine whether your dwarf gourami is sleeping at the bottom is to look at the mouth and gills. If they are moving rapidly, the fish is definitely sick. In such cases, you are encouraged to check the quality of the water.
High concentrations of ammonia can harm dwarf gouramis. The creatures will also respond negatively to the wrong hardness and pH. Pay close attention to the size of the aquarium and the tankmates. Some fish, such as plecos, are very messy.
If you are accustomed to caring for dwarf gouramis alone, the addition of plecos could throw the balance of your tank off. The water quality will deteriorate at a much faster rate, harming your dwarf gouramis unless you change your maintenance schedule accordingly.
9. The Fish is Stressed
Like many species, stressed gouramis would stay at the bottom of the aquarium. Stress has many causes. One of the most problematic is aggressive tankmates. If your aquarium doesn’t have any plants, the gouramis will run to the bottom in the hopes of escaping the attention of bullies. Another cause of stress is dirty tanks with the wrong parameters.
Dwarf gouramis that are new to a tank are more prone to stress, mainly if the transition from the old tank to the new one is sudden. Some new dwarf gouramis will lie at the bottom because of the shock. You can produce similar results in older gouramis by exposing them to drastic changes in temperature and water chemistry.
10. Underlying Disease
Some fish lie on their side at the bottom because they are sick. Diseases like Columnaris, Dropsy, and fin rot can make a fish so weak and listless that it has no choice but to lie in one place at the bottom of the tank.
Diseases are typically accompanied by additional symptoms such as cloud eyes, swollen anus, pale gills, loss of appetite, etc. Some are worse than others. Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus is one of the deadliest.
How to Treat Dwarf Gouramis That Lie on Their Side?
If you think your fish is sleeping, introduce some new stimuli to the tank. That includes turning the lights on, adding food, or even reaching in and gently nudging the fish. Such stimuli will wake most sleeping gouramis.
Yet, if sleep isn’t the issue, the fish won’t respond. Or it will rise from the bottom only to sink back down later on, proving that the cause of its behavior is still present in the tank. In such cases, you can take the following steps to improve the creature’s situation:
1. Check the Water Parameters
Try to maintain the right parameters, including the pH (6.0-7.0), temperature (72-82 degrees F), and hardness (10 to 20 dGH). Also, if you don’t own one, I highly recommend getting the API Aquarium Test Kit (link to Amazon). That affordable bundle will measure your pH, nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia within minutes. It also lasts forever.
Also, I highly suggest installing a functional heater that will keep the temperature consistent. I personally use the Cobalt Aquatics Flat Neo-Therm Heater (link to Amazon). That is the only device that kept my temperature stable without any fluctuations. I also reviewed it here.
You also require a medium-powered filter that will keep the tank clean without overwhelming the fish. Dwarf gouramis require a slow water flow. A current that is too strong will exhaust them, causing them to lie at the bottom.
2. Performing Water Changes
As a first step, I suggest doing a 50 percent water change. If your fish responds positively, you can conclude that something in the water is to blame for its behavior. A water change will reduce the ammonia and nitrite levels.
You should also look for and eliminate the factors in the water that caused the ammonia levels to spike, including dead organic matter and leftovers. Don’t forget to change the water every day. A daily 30 percent water change should be sufficient to keep the water clean until your fish’s health improves.
It would help if you also paid close attention to the tank size. Dwarf gouramis require a minimum of 20 gallons. If you have added new fish to a smaller tank, you may have difficulty keeping the ammonia levels down. Beginners encounter this problem all the time.
They do not realize that the addition of fish to a tank increases the amount of maintenance work they have to do to keep the tank clean. A simple solution is to get a bigger tank. If you are looking for a new one, make sure to check my recommendations for aquarium kits.
3. Introduce a Few Plants
Dwarf Gouramis come from densely planted environments in the wild. Therefore, you should give them as much foliage as their tank can house. They use the plants and decorations as hiding places. It allows them to feel safe, not only protecting them from aggressive tankmates but also alleviating any stress they may feel.
4. Improving the Water Oxygenation
You can alleviate oxygen deficiencies by improving aeration. That is a simple matter of adding air pumps and air stones to the tank. If the temperature is to blame for the oxygen deficiency, check the heater. They have been known to malfunction.
You should also keep the tank away from direct sunlight and air conditioners. If the ambient temperature is too high, you can shut the heater off. This will allow the water to cool. It would help if you also switched the tank lights off. Some people will go so far as to add ice cubes in a bag to the aquarium.
5. Treating Diseases
The treatments you use to help diseased fish will depend on the type of disease, for instance:
- Ich – You can treat Ich with products like formalin and copper sulfate
- Constipation – Fasting can help in this situation, not to mention peeled and cooked peas.
- Swim Bladder Disease – This ailment also responds to fasting and a diet consisting of skinned, cooked peas. However, you should also raise the temperature by a few degrees. If infections are the cause of the illness, apply some broad-spectrum antibiotics.
- Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus – This disease is fatal. It can’t be cured.
Where sick fish are concerned, water changes are encouraged along with the application of aquarium salt. I personally use the API Aquarium Salt (link to Amazon). Start by isolating the fish. Then, add one tablespoon of salt for every three gallons of water. I also recommend consulting a vet for further treatment.
6. Pick the Right Tankmates
Dwarf gouramis shouldn’t be kept with bigger, aggressive fish like cichlids, guppies, and angelfish. They prefer cherry barbs, dwarf rasboras, neon tetras, and the like. Because they are territorial, they don’t always get along with other gouramis.
For that reason, many aquarists prefer to keep only one gourami in a tank. If you must house multiple dwarf gouramis, give them as much space as possible. Dwarf gouramis are more likely to recover from stress if their tank is peaceful.
7. Preventing Shocks
You can prevent shock in new fish by acclimating them to their new environment. You can do this by placing them in a bag and floating that bag in their new tank for some minutes. Start adding water from the tank to the bag. Do this gradually. The objective is to create an ‘aquarium to bag’ water ratio of 3:1.
That will reduce the chances of new fish going into shock because of the new tank’s parameters. If the older fish are harassing the new fish, take all the fish out and re-arrange the tank. This will destroy pre-existing territories, forcing all the fish to start over on equal footing.
If you found your dwarf gourami lying still on its side at the bottom of the tank, you should first make sure that the fish isn’t sleeping. Knock on the glass and try to apply some stimuli. Then, see whether or not the fish responds.
If the gourami refuses to move, you should look for additional symptoms. A swollen belly might suggest constipation, accompanied by a swim bladder disease. Test your water for ammonia and pH, and make sure that the temperature is between 72-82 degrees F. Ultimately, I would suggest consulting a vet.