Can dwarf gouramis live in a 20 gallon?

Dwarf gouramis are small, colorful freshwater fish that are popular additions to community aquariums. With their vibrant colors, bubbly personalities, and relatively small size, it’s easy to see why many aquarists are drawn to these little beauties. But with their specific care needs, can dwarf gouramis thrive in a 20 gallon tank? Let’s take a closer look.

The Basics on Dwarf Gouramis

There are several different color varieties of dwarf gourami available today, with the most common being the powder blue dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius) and the neon dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia). Both max out around 2 inches in length when fully grown. Here are a few key facts about their care:

  • Preferred Water Temperature: 75°F – 82°F
  • Preferred pH: 6.0 – 7.5
  • Recommended Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Lifespan: 4-6 years

Dwarf gouramis originate from slow moving streams, rice paddies, and stagnant pools across South Asia. They prefer soft, acidic water and appreciate having plenty of plants and hiding spots. While they are considered peaceful community fish, male dwarf gouramis can become aggressive towards one another, so it’s best to keep just one male per tank.

The 20 Gallon Aquarium

A standard 20 gallon aquarium measures 24 inches long x 12 inches wide x 16 inches high. This provides a footprint of 240 square inches (length x width) and a water volume of about 20-22 gallons when filled.

A 20 gallon tank is on the smaller side, but it can work well for a carefully selected community of small tropical fish. The compact size makes it a popular choice for beginners since it is easier to maintain stable water parameters in a smaller volume of water. The downsides are that stocking options are more limited in a 20 gallon, and water conditions can deteriorate rapidly if overstocked.

Stocking Considerations for Dwarf Gouramis

So can dwarf gouramis live happily in a 20 gallon aquarium? Let’s go over some key stocking considerations.

Group Size

Dwarf gouramis are social fish that prefer to be kept in small groups. However, mature males will squabble if kept together. The general recommendation is to keep just one male along with 2-3 females. A group of 4 dwarf gouramis (1 male + 3 females) would work well in a 20 gallon.


When stocking tankmates, focus on peaceful schooling fish that occupy the upper or middle levels of the tank. Dwarf gouramis tend to stay near the surface. Some good options include:

  • Ember Tetras
  • Neon Tetras
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Harlequin Rasboras
  • Corydoras Catfish

Avoid tankmates that are nippy or likely to harass the gouramis, such as tiger barbs. Bottom dwellers like cory cats make excellent tankmates as they inhabit a different area of the tank.


The bioload, or amount of waste produced by the fish, must be low enough to prevent the tank from becoming overloaded. Dwarf gouramis have a relatively low bioload for their size. Here is a rough estimate for a 20 gallon tank:

  • 1 Dwarf Gourami – Low Bioload
  • 4 Dwarf Gouramis – Low Bioload
  • 10 Ember Tetras – Low Bioload
  • 6 Corydoras catfish – Low Bioload

This stocking level would be safe for a 20 gallon tank provided that filtration is adequate and water changes are performed regularly.

Tank Setup for Dwarf Gouramis

While a 20 gallon tank is large enough for a small group of dwarf gouramis, the tank setup needs to cater to their needs for them to truly thrive. Here are some key guidelines for setup:


Dwarf gouramis are sensitive to poor water quality. A high quality filter rated for a 20-30 gallon tank is essential. An aquarium filter provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration to keep the water clean.


Dwarf gouramis require warm water between 75°F-82°F. A submersible aquarium heater rated for a 20 gallon tank should be used to maintain water temperature in this range.


Dwarf gouramis appreciate a heavily planted tank. Floating plants are a great choice as they provide shade and block light from above. Anubias, java fern, crypts, and swords are excellent planted options. Include plenty of hiding spots with driftwood, rocks or cave decor.


A fine gravel or sandy substrate works well. Dwarf gouramis may sift through substrate looking for food.

Water Parameters

Maintain soft, slightly acidic water conditions. The ideal parameters are:

  • Temperature: 75°-82°F
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: 5-12 dGH

Use peat, almond leaves, or driftwood to naturally soften and acidify the water if needed. Perform regular partial water changes to replenish minerals and prevent nitrate buildup.

Setting Up a Suitable 20 Gallon Dwarf Gourami Tank

Putting all this information together, here is one example of a suitable dwarf gourami setup for a 20 gallon aquarium:

  • Fish Stocking:
    • 1 Male Dwarf Gourami
    • 3 Female Dwarf Gouramis
    • 8 Ember Tetras
    • 6 Corydoras Catfish
  • Plants:
    • Floating plants (frogbit, red root floaters)
    • Anubias
    • Java Fern
    • Cryptocorynes
    • Amazon Sword
  • Decorations:
    • Driftwood
    • Rocks
    • Cave or clay pot for hiding
  • Substrate: Fine gravel or sand
  • Filtration: Canister filter rated for 30 gallon tanks
  • Heater: 50-100 watt submersible heater
  • Water Parameters:
    • Temperature: 78°F
    • pH: 6.5
    • Hardness: 10 dGH

This setup would allow the dwarf gouramis and other fish plenty of swimming space while also providing sufficient cover and plant life for them to feel secure. The tank is heavily planted and includes driftwood and almond leaves to naturally soften and acidify the water. The canister filter provides ample filtration, and partial weekly water changes will help control nitrate levels.

Considerations for Long Term Care

While a 20 gallon tank can work for dwarf gouramis, there are some long term care considerations to be aware of:

Tank Maintenance

Smaller tanks require more frequent maintenance to keep water conditions stable. Test water parameters 1-2 times per week and perform 30-40% water changes weekly. Clean the tank and filter monthly.

Nitrate Buildup

The lower water volume means nitrates can accumulate faster. Keep nitrates below 20 ppm through regular water changes and live plants. Consider upgrading to a larger tank as the fish grow.


Monitor for signs of aggression between the male gouramis. Be prepared to separate a bully fish or upgrade tank size if needed.

Dietary Needs

Dwarf gouramis are omnivores requiring a varied diet. Feed a mix of quality flakes, pellets, live/frozen foods. Vary their diet to keep them healthy long term.


Dwarf gouramis can live 4-6 years with proper care. Make sure you are committed to caring for them for their full lifespan.

The Verdict on Dwarf Gouramis in 20 Gallons

At the end of the day, a 20 gallon tank can successfully house a small group of dwarf gouramis along with some compatible tankmates provided that the tank is set up properly and water parameters are closely monitored and maintained. The pros and cons can be summarized as follows:


  • Large enough for 1 male + 3 female dwarf gouramis
  • Allows for a small community of peaceful nano fish species
  • Heavily planted setup caters to dwarf gourami behaviors and needs
  • Water parameters are easier to control


  • Limited stocking options compared to larger tanks
  • Water conditions deteriorate faster
  • Requires more frequent tank maintenance
  • Aggression issues may arise faster
  • Fish may outgrow tank over time

While dwarf gouramis can live in a 20 gallon aquarium, a larger tank such as a 30 gallon provides more wiggle room in terms of water parameters and stocking options. But a carefully planned 20 gallon community tank can certainly give dwarf gouramis a great home!

Frequently Asked Questions

How many dwarf gouramis can live together in a 20 gallon tank?

A good grouping for a 20 gallon is 1 male and 3 female dwarf gouramis. The male may become aggressive towards other males in the smaller tank. More females spread out aggression.

Should I get a powder blue or neon dwarf gourami?

This comes down to personal preference! Powder blues have a rich blue coloration while neons are a bright red-orange. Both varieties have similar care needs and do well in planted community tanks.

What fish can live with dwarf gouramis in a 20 gallon aquarium?

Good tankmates include ember tetras, neon tetras, harlequin rasboras, cherry barbs, corydoras catfish, and Bristlenose plecos. Avoid aggressive fish like tiger barbs.

How often should I do water changes on a 20 gallon with dwarf gouramis?

Aim for 30-40% water changes weekly. Dwarf gouramis are sensitive to nitrates. The smaller water volume means nitrates can build up quickly, so frequent water renewal is key.

Can I add a Betta fish to my 20 gallon dwarf gourami tank?

This is generally not recommended. Male bettas tend to be aggressive towards gouramis. A female betta may work provided there is enough space, but there is still a risk of aggression between them.


Dwarf gouramis are a colorful, engaging freshwater species that can make a fantastic addition to planted community aquariums. While their minimum recommended tank size is 10 gallons, a properly configured 20 gallon tank can successfully house a small dwarf gourami community.

The keys are selecting appropriate tankmates, providing plenty of vegetation and hiding places, maintaining strict water quality parameters, and performing frequent partial water changes. While a larger tank is always preferable, a 20 gallon aquarium can provide dwarf gouramis with a healthy, enriching home given the right setup and care regimen.

Leave a Comment