THE FISH: All about the Licorice Gourami-​Group

(genus Parosphromenus Bleeker)

In a series of chap­ters, we will try to pro­vide infor­ma­tion about this group of fish: their dis­cov­ery, their nat­ural envi­ron­ment and cur­rent threats to their exis­tance. Above all, we intro­duce the known species which have been described by sci­en­tists, give help to rec­og­nize them and high­light their spe­cial fea­tures. In summary,we char­ac­terise most of the recently dis­cov­ered forms for which the sta­tus is often unclear: are they sep­a­rate species, sub-​species or just local vari­ants ? We often do not know yet but this is what makes the Licorice Gouramis so exciting.

P. spec. Langgam (photo Martin Fischer)

We are deal­ing with a fairly homo­ge­neous group of fish many of whose aquar­ium mys­ter­ies are now largely solved, but these species still raise many ques­tions from a sci­en­tific point of view: How did their devel­op­ment take place? How can we explain their sim­i­lar­ity, or their dif­fer­ences? Are there forms and types we do not know? How are the males of these species able to dis­tin­guish between the females when even we have prob­lems doing so? This is espe­cially true for the bin­tan– or harveyi-​group. Or do they in fact mate with other females? This behav­iour has some­times been con­firmed, but what does it mean? There are no sys­tem­atic inves­ti­ga­tions on this par­tic­u­lar topic up to now. It seems to be cer­tain that the process of spe­ci­a­tion in many Paro forms is still ongo­ing. For oth­ers it is com­pleted. This leaves a lot of space for sci­en­tific research.

Unfor­tu­nately time is run­ning out. All species and forms are highly endan­gered due to their close bonds to their nat­ural habi­tats, namely the black water swamps in the (pri­mary) rain­for­est. Often only small rem­anants of the for­mer swamp areas are avail­able for them and some species try to sur­vive in road­side chan­nels or pond-​like struc­tures. All Paro forms are orig­i­nally inhab­i­tants of flow­ing water bod­ies. Although they do not live in fast run­ning rivers with strong cur­rents, they will avoid still water with poor or no water exchange. How­ever they can sur­vive in such man-​made struc­tures, as long as trop­i­cal rain­fall guar­an­tees a cer­tain amount of reg­u­lar water exchange.

Because of their small size, Licorice Gouramis are hunted in their nat­ural habi­tats by many preda­tors. Dif­fer­ent species of herons or king­fish­ers hunt them, as well as snake-​heads or large shrimps. Most young fish are des­tined to become food for oth­ers any­way. Catch­ing rel­a­tively small num­bers of Licorice Gouramis for export does not threat the pop­u­la­tion. Any­way this is often only easy dur­ing few weeks fol­low­ing the annual spawn­ing sea­son, when the water level is low and the num­ber of young fish is high. The real threat is the large-​scale destruc­tion of habi­tats by drain­ing, burn­ing, log­ging and trans­for­ma­tion of rain­for­est into plan­ta­tions. Here a rad­i­cal change of think­ing has to take place really soon, to main­tain some of the threat­ened forms. The Parosphromenus Project strives to also have influ­ence in this area.


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