Sick Dwarf Gourami

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Aquarium Advice Newbie
Mar 8, 2023
I am new to the aquarium hobby and had a healthy 40 gallon freshwater tank for a while. I purchased a fish online and after about a week my tetras developed ich. Soon after, everyone was sick. Per my local fish store I treated with copper green which seemed to help everyone except for my gourami. She looked to be having issues with her swim bladder so I have started erythromycin. She is just getting worse. Her head is starting to discolor, her scales are raised, she won't eat, and she just sits and breathes at the top of the tank. This is my last hope before euthanizing so I'm hoping someone has an answer. I hate seeing her suffer.

Tank parameters:
Ph 7.0
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 15 ppm
Chlorine 0
Soft water
Temp 78

My carbon is removed and I am not doing water changes currently as still have one day left for the antibiotics. Normally I do weekly 20-25% changes while vacuuming the gravel. Other fish (that are still alive): serpae tetras × 3, goldfish, clown pleco x 2. Deceased fish: neon tetras x 5, telescope goldfish. I was just about to get a 60 or higher gallon tank when this happened..


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Hi and welcome to the forum :)

I can't see any scales sticking up. Which scales are sticking out from the body?

What does the fish's poop look like?

Did the fish bloat up (get fat) overnight?

What symptoms does the fish have besides darker colour, raised scales and not eating?


Darker colouration is common on sick fish.

The fish in the pictures is a male. Female dwarf gouramis (Colisa lalius) are silver all over. If the fish are blue or red, or red & blue, they are males.

The fish is covered in excess mucous, which is caused by something in the water irritating the fish, most likely the chemicals.

There's no cure for swim bladder problems and true swim bladder problems are uncommon. If a fish starts floating when it stops swimming, stop feeding dry food for a week and feed frozen and or live food instead. If the problem is resolved by removing dry food the diet, then the issue was air in the intestine. If it isn't fixed by removing dry food, then it's a swim bladder issue.
If a fish sinks to the bottom after it stops swimming that is normally a swim bladder problem but can also be caused by fish eating gravel. Gouramis don't normally eat gravel but some goldfish do.


Antibiotics should only be used as a last resort on known bacterial infections that haven't responded to normal treatments. There are gram positive and gram negative bacteria and you need to use the correct antibiotics for the infection. Improper use and mis-use of antibiotics has lead to drug resistant bacteria that kill birds, fish, reptiles, animals and people.

If you use antibiotics, they should be used in a bare tank so the medication can work on the fish and not get wasted on bacteria in the gravel and filter. The hospital tank should be flushed out and refilled with clean dechlorinated water before more antibiotics are added.


Dwarf gouramis (Colisa lalius) and all their colour forms are regularly infected with the Gourami Iridovirus and or Fish Tuberculosis (TB). There's no cure for either. I doubt this is the Gourami Iridovirus so that's a plus. However, if the fish bloated up overnight, stopped eating and did a stringy white poop, then it has internal organ failure and is dying. This can be caused by Fish TB or by medications, old age and or stress.

If the fish did bloat up overnight, stop eating and do a stringy white poop, it should be euthanised. Once organs have been damaged the fish is going to die and no medications will save them.
Thank you for all of the information. I was told it was a female due to the rounded dorsal fin. It did not bloat up overnight. Poop is rare right now but when it happens it is stringy but is green in color. I did switch to frozen foods for everyone but the gourami hasn't eaten in over a week. Right now it is really just sitting at the top of the tank so I think the antibiotic may have helped the swim bladder issue as before it would sink to the bottom or go sideways when it was trying to swim. It is staying in a vertical position and not really moving, and does sometimes go a little sideways still. I attached some more pictures showing the bumps. Maybe it's the discoloration but to me everything looks a little raised compared to the normal.


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Coloured poop (green, brown, black) is good and means it isn't an intestinal infection.

No interest in food is bad and could be from poor water quality, chemicals or something else.

Fish rolling on their side is usually poor water quality and the fish dying.

The fish is still covered in excess mucous and that means something in the water is stressing it out.

I can't see bumps on the body.


A big water change and gravel clean every day for a week is my suggested treatment to reduce anything in the water that is irritating the fish. The filter should also be cleaned. If you are on the last dose of treatment today, maybe start water changes tomorrow.

Wipe the inside of the glass down with a clean fish sponge. This removes the biofilm on the glass and the biofilm will contain lots of harmful bacteria, fungus, protozoans and various other microscopic life forms.

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate every day for a week. The water changes and gravel cleaning will reduce the number of disease organisms in the water and provide a cleaner environment for the fish to recover in. It also removes a lot of the gunk and this means any medication can work on treating the fish instead of being wasted killing the pathogens in the gunk. It will also remove the medication if that is causing the issue.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it is added to the tank.

Clean the filter if it hasn't been done in the last 2 weeks. However, if the filter is less than 6 weeks old, do not clean it. Wash the filter materials/ media in a bucket of tank water and re-use the media. Tip the bucket of dirty water on the garden/ lawn. Cleaning the filter means less gunk and cleaner water with fewer pathogens so any medication (if needed) will work more effectively on the fish.

Monitor the fish. Feed a varied diet and include live foods like brineshrimp to see if the gourami starts eating again.
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