Why do Kissing fish kiss?

In this article, we will learn who the Kissing fish are and answer the question “Why do Kissing fish kiss?”. We will also understand some of their needs and ideal tank conditions to be raised.

Why do Kissing fish kiss?

The Kissing fish kisses as an aggressive response to conspecifics or physically similar species. This aggression occurs due to territory, female and resource disputes.

Who is the Kissing fish?

Kissing fish is scientifically known as Helostoma temminkii and can also be popularly called Kissing gourami. They are freshwater fish originally from Asian tropical slow-moving waters, such as ponds, lakes and swamps. They occupy water in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Borneo and Cambodia. In the wild, they usually live around aquatic vegetation.

They have a white-pinkish colouration, which can vary between silver-greenish to reddish. However it is not found in the wild, the white-pinkish colour is the most common for pet tanks. There are also shape varieties that have been selected artificially, such as the Balloon Pink Kissing fish, also called Dwarf Kissing fish. This variety is not very strong and has a shorter lifespan.

They can breathe atmospheric oxygen. They own an accessory organ called labyrinth that makes this process possible. They are normally around 15 centimetres. However, some may reach up to 30 centimetres. Though, it is important to have some fish raising experience and plenty of space to raise one.

Why do Kissing fish kiss?

Kissing fish are semi-aggressive fish. They can become very territorial when in the presence of conspecifics or other physically similar species. When they are kissing other fish, it is not an affectionate sign. It is actually a fight. This behaviour of locking and protruding lips and pushing each other is typical of Kissing fish aggressions.

Consequently, by having thick lips, additional joints and frontal teeth, when they start a fight it looks like they are kissing. That is where the “Kissing” name comes from. This fight is associated with pushing competition, for hierarchy and dominance. It just ends when one of the fighters gives up, or in some extreme cases when the fish breaks their jaws.

For this reason, it is recommended that Kissing fish should be kept separately from fish of the same species. And also, if kept with other species, you should consider having similar or larger sizes to avoid Kissing fish kisses. If you follow the size recommendation, you should have a nice peaceful community in your tank.

In addition to the kissing fight, it is also possible to detect some kisses when Kissing fish are eating. This is because they have an additional joint in their jaws, which allows them to protrude their mouth while eating to scratch organisms from rocks and other rigid structures. For this reason, the kissing behaviour becomes even more evident.

What do Kissing fish eat?

In the wild, they feed on microscopic organisms by filtering through the gills. They can also use teeth to scratch algae from rigid surfaces. However, they are not able to chew the material, because they do not present any other teeth shape rather than the scratching one. 

In a tank, they accept many types of food, from live natural to industrialized ration flakes and pellets. To keep a good equilibrium in their diet, it is important to offer them bloodworms, artemia, or similar live food once a week. In addition, they also enjoy vegetables, so offering cooked lettuce, green beans and zucchini is also a nice option.

How to breed Kissing fish?

Breeding Kissing fish is a very tough task. Kissing fish are very specific about water parameters in respect to their reproductive activities. Therefore, if you are planning to breed your Kissing fish, you will need to set a breeding tank with adequate parameters.

Temperature is the most important condition to be adapted. Temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal to imitate their natural reproductive season. The water of the breeding tank should also be soft. 

Once you place male and female in the tank, you should provide them with enough live food and a floating leaf (lettuce) for eggs to attach. The female spawn and the male start fertilizing the eggs. Once fertilized, they float and attach to the leaf. 

When you detect the eggs were fertilized and are already attached to the leaf, you will need to replace the adults in their original tank. Otherwise, they will probably eat the eggs. Eggs normally hatch within 24 hours. When the eggs hatch, the fries will eat what is left from the egg sac. After that, you can feed the fries with small larvae or powdered foods.

What are the ideal Kissing fish tank conditions?

Tank size

As said before, Kissing fish can reach up to 30 centimetres long. Thus, to keep a non-stressed Kissing fish, you will need at least a 50-gallons tank. However, if you have the possibility, a 75-gallons tank would fit better for your kissing fish.

Water parameters 

Water parameters are also important to keep under control to keep your fish healthy. Kissing fish tanks should have a controlled pH around neutral, between 6.0 and 8.0, some experts would suggest more strict conditions, pH between 6.4 and 7.6. Temperature is also important to be kept around 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Water hardness should not be an issue when considering Kissing fish tanks. The hardness of the water should be somewhere between 5 and 30 dGH.

Setting your tank up

About the filter, it would be necessary to place a filter with a flow 5 to 10 times the tank volume per hour. Also consider cycling the water now and then, when you determine it is necessary.

In addition to the water parameters, you should also consider having many plants, artificial if you plan to keep them or natural if you plan to feed your Kissing fish with them. If you plan to keep natural plants inside your tank, consider having the harder ones, for example, Java moss and Java fern.

When considering substrate, you should go for fine sand or large gravel. Remember to keep some large rocks in your tank too. Kissing fish are capable of scraping and removing algae from rocks.

Finally, remember to keep free space on the surface. Kissing fish also breathe atmospheric air, in this way they could reach the surface air easily.

Who are the ideal tank mates for Kissing fish?

As pointed before, Kissing fish are classified as semi-aggressive, and this could be a problem depending on the mates you plan to raise in your Kissing fish tank.

It is important to avoid species physically similar to the Kissing fish because it could be a trigger to aggressive kissing behaviour. Thus, barb and tetras can make good tank mates for your Kissing fish.

Red Eye Tetra

This species is very peaceful and can live well within groups of three or more. They are very easy-going fish as they can get a bit aggressive if kept as the single Red Eye Tetra. Furthermore, they are also very low-maintenance fish.

Cherry Barb

Cherry Barbs are also a very easy-going community fish. They also prefer to live in groups of five or more. Cherry Barbs do not require a lot of effort for maintenance and their colour is a plus. Females are white, however, the males are silver-cherry red.

There are many benefits of getting a tank mate for your Kissing fish. Among them is the decrease of stress levels. Having proper tank mates for your Kissing fish will create a healthy community where the fish will not display any aggressive behaviour and their well-being will also increase. Another benefit is that by adding other fish and organisms to your Kissing fish tank, they can assist you in cleaning the tank and also will provide a more natural environment for your Kissing fish, allowing them to perform their natural behaviours.


Here, we understood the reasons why Kissing fish kiss and their main characteristics. Also learnt about the ideal tank conditions to raise a Kissing fish and also who are their potential tank mates.

If you have any doubt, feel free to join us with a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Why do Kissing fish kiss?

How long do Kissing fish live? 

In captivity, Kissing fish live around 7 years. Although, they can reach up to 25 years in the wild. By preparing your Kissing fish tank to raise your Kissing fish you can maximize your fish lifespan. Avoiding diseases and stressful situations will also increase your fish welfare. Thus, your fish will probably live longer and healthier.

How to raise a kissing fish? 

Following recommendations about tank condition for your Kissing fish is very important to raise yours. Tanks with at least 50 gallons are recommended. They enjoy areas with vegetation and other fish species that do not resemble Kissing fish. Additionally, it is necessary to keep pH between 6.0 and 8.0, and temperature between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to tell if my kissing fish is male or female?

This species does not have an evident sexual dimorphism. Thus, it is very difficult to find out if your Kissing fish is male or female. However, when they reach sexual maturity, females may have a more rounded belly. This is more apparent when they are carrying eggs. Although, breeding this species is very difficult and rare in captivity.

Are kissing fish aggressive?

Kissing gouramis rate as semi-aggressive. They are not as brutal as some fish. Most of this species’ aggression is directed at conspecifics or fish that look similar to it, particularly those with the same shape.

Which fish can live with Kissing fish?

Kissing fish are typically more aggressive towards conspecifics. Thus, it is not recommended to raise more than one Kissing fish in the same tank. However, it is possible to raise some other species in a community-style tank. Some of the species suggested as Kissing fish tank mates are catfish, tetra, cichlids, and angelfish, for example.

Can Kissing fish live with Goldfish?

Raising a Kissing fish and a Goldfish in the same tank is not possible. The water parameters required by each of these species are extremely different. Thus, having one of them will exclude the chance of having the other in the same tank.


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Insanely Awesome Facts About Kissing Gourami, the Kissing Fish. https://petponder.com/kissing-gourami-kissing-fish

Yang, A. 2020. Kissing Gourami 101: Care, Tank Mates, Size & More.https://www.aquariumsource.com/kissing-gourami/