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  1. Identity
    1. Biological features
    2. Images gallery
  2. Profile
    1. Historical background
    2. Main producer countries
    3. Habitat and biology
  3. Production
    1. Production cycle
    2. Production systems
    3. Diseases and control measures
  4. Statistics
    1. Production statistics
    2. Market and trade
  1. Status and trends
    1. Main issues
      1. Responsible aquaculture practices
    2. References
      1. Related links

    Osphronemus goramy  Lacépède, 1801 [Osphronemidae]
    FAO Names:  En - Giant gourami,   Fr - Gourami géant,  Es - Gurami gigante
    Biological features
    Osphronemus goramy belongs to the family of Osphronemidae (Gouramis), subfamily: Osphroneminae. The giant gourami is the type fish of the family and is also its largest species. Its origin is from South East Asia, notably from Indonesia (but limited to the islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo), the Malay Peninsula, Thailand and the Mekong basin. The other three species belonging to the family are: O. exodon from the Mekong basin and O. laticlavius and O. septemfasciatus from the island of Borneo. Giant gourami can reach a remarkable size (>70 cm) but normally the maximum size is 45-50 cm. It is a laterally compressed (compressiform) fish with a quite high body - body depth is 2.0-2.1 times standard length (SL). The dorsal fin has 11-14 spines and 12-14 soft rays; the anal fin has 10-11 spines and 20-23 soft rays (Kottelat and Witthen, 1996). The soft-rayed portion of the caudal fin may be rounded or obtusely rounded. Large phenotypic variations may exist in cultivated strains of giant gourami. Sexually mature males may have a concave head profile, especially during mating; their coloration is highly variable but is usually grey-brown with darker shading on the base of the pectoral fin. Lighter coloured (or even white) fish are common (Padang strain) and blue or orange-red colour variations are also seen. In juveniles, 8-10 perpendicular black bands are present on the body. Giant gourami have the ability to breath air through a specific organ called the labyrinth (a much-folded suprabranchial accessory breathing organ), which appears in juveniles about 30 days after hatching (dah) and becomes functional around 40 days dah. The labyrinth permits giant gourami to survive in deoxygenated areas. This fish is omnivorous, but with a strong vegetarian tendency; it can ingest various aquatic and terrestrial plants, although it can also eat a wide range of other food resources (frogs, tadpoles, snails, small fish, etc.). This relative robustness and adaptability to unfavourable environmental conditions, as well as its omnivorous habit (and the propensity to consume plant food) make it a very attractive candidate for low-input aquaculture.
    Images gallery
    Ponds arranged for the natural reproduction of giant gourami: divided into compartments (left); non-divided (right). (Photo by D. Caruso)(Photo by D. Caruso)
    Bamboo fibre baskets (sosog) with palm fibre nest built by giant gourami broodfish (left) and egg incubation at the water surface in plastic containers (right). (Photo by D. Caruso)(Photo by D. Caruso)
    Rearing facilities used for giant gourami nursery phase with stagnant water. (Photo by D. Caruso)(Photo by D. Caruso)
    Harvesting of a giant gourami production pond (left); fish are carefully caught with a dip net for live sales (right). (Photo by D. Caruso)(Photo by D. Caruso)
    Historical background
    The aquaculture production of giant gourami is very important in Indonesia, where this fish has high economic and patrimonial value. It is probable that this species has been reared for many centuries and this practice is strongly rooted in Central Java and West Java; these two areas are considered to be the cradle of gourami production. The first description of the production cycle of this species was published by Huet (1951), but Commerson (in Banks et al., 1773) reports that "gouramiers" were reared in large terracotta jars by Dutch settlers in Java. Traditionally giant gourami rearing is integrated into the agro-ecosystem context of the Javanese countryside where it still reared at low densities in shallow ponds. Traditional rearing is not very demanding and, despite the slow growth of this species, its culture is an attractive activity. Its rearing functions as a form of saving for fish farmers, who tend to wait for family events (weddings, pilgrimages or unexpected expenses) to sell their production. Though this traditional form of production is still present in several areas, the rearing of giant gourami has become gradually intensified, particularly in periurban areas, with the common use of compound aquafeeds that allow faster growth. Another consequence of the success of giant gourami culture is that the number of fish farmers rearing this species steadily increased over the decade or so to 2019, thanks to the settlement of new producers and the substitution of other reared species by gourami. Furthermore, production has expanded in other regions of the country, particularly in Sumatra and Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo). A shift towards more intensive production has of course modified the process and the features of the production chain.
    Main producer countries
    Main producer countries of Osphronemus goramy (FAO Fishery Statistics, 2018)
    So far, with an estimated production in excess of 145 000 tonnes in 2017, Indonesia is the most important producer of giant gourami and its production represents more than 98 percent of the total world production (FAO, 2019). Only five other countries have reported production of this fish (Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore) to FAO; however, other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic are known to produce a not reported quantity of this species.
    Habitat and biology
    In Indonesia, populations of wild giant gourami are now very rare, but some residual populations are known in the Batanghari River in Sumatra and in the rivers of Kalimantan. However, two other species of gourami are present in the same area and misidentification may occur.
    Giant gourami prefer calm waters, especially slow-moving areas such as lakes and large rivers. They are also found in flood plains and irrigation canals. They have the ability to breathe air through a specific organ called a labyrinth that allows fish to survive in deoxygenated areas. The reproduction of this species is characterized by the construction of a nest consisting of twigs and plant residues taken from the aquatic vegetation rather than the air bubbles that characterize smaller labyrinthid fishes. Nests are positioned near the bank in shallow water. Once spawning has occurred, the males monitor the eggs and larvae.
    Production cycle

    Production cycle of giant gourami (O. goramy)

    Production systems
    Two major aspects characterize the production of giant gourami in Indonesia. The first is that the production chain is strongly segmented; fish can be sold more than ten times during the period from eggs to market size. This is probably due to the slow growth rate of this species; shortening the rearing period allows each fish farmer to convert the fish stock into cash rapidly. The second characteristic is the variability of the "strains" reared by fish farmers. Indeed, field surveys have indicated that fish farmers recognize more than fourteen different strains. However, it is unlikely that all of them have a separate identity; synonymy and misidentification are probably the true origin of this apparent diversity. In fact only three different improved strains (Batang Hari, Tutug Oncong and Sago) are officially recognized by the Indonesian authorities.
    So far, genetic studies have shown that local strains presenting slight phenotypical differences are genetically undifferentiated and all are the same species (Osphronemus goramy). Partial sequencing of the cytochrome b gene has shown that all these strains have 99 percent similarity with Osphronemus goramy. The production cycle is the same, whatever strains are reared.
    Seed supply 
    Giant gourami fry production relies on the natural spawning of captive broodstock in ponds. Giant gourami reach full sexual maturity when they exceed 2.5 kg (2-3 years old) and females can be identified by black pigmentation at the base of the pectoral fin (Slembrouck et al., 2019). Males are characterized by a marked hump on the forehead and a thickening of the lower jaw. Sexing errors can occur and urogenital cannulation is recommended. Giant gourami can spawn throughout the year; seasonal effects are not well determined. Earthen or concrete ponds are the most common facilities used for the reproduction stage. Ponds are often divided by nets or bamboo fences into several compartments, commonly with a size of 20 m2. In these spawning ponds the fish density is normally 1-5 per m2. A sex ratio of one male to three females (1:3) is normal but this may vary depending on the experience of the farmer and the availability of broodstock. To improve reproductive efficiency fish farmers always select larger males than females. In spawning ponds, male and females are introduced at the same time in order to avoid the occurrence of strong male aggressiveness. Once the breeding pair is matched (from 1 day to 1 month or more), both male and female start to build the nest. In Java, fish farmers often use small bamboo fibre baskets (called "sosog") as nest supports and vegetable fibres - generally of palm trees (Arenga species) - are provided for the broodstock to make their nests. Fish can also nest in holes dug by fish farmers along the pond banks. Relative fecundity may vary according to the strain - ranging from 1 300 to 2 500 eggs per kg of female; egg diameter is around 2-3 mm; eggs are buoyant, due to the presence of yolk and a very large oil globule (Baras et al., 2018). After spawning, broodstock close the nest with palm fibres to protect the eggs and it becomes guarded by the male that shows territorial behaviour. Fish farmers monitor the construction of the nest daily and they harvest the eggs immediately after spawning or at a maximum of 2 days later.
    Eggs are incubated in static water in covered plastic basins, which are simply placed on the pond bank, under a shed or in a small hatchery. However, some artisanal hatcheries use more sophisticated structures that are equipped with aquaria, wooden or fibreglass tanks, aerated water; even RAS may also be used. The eggs density used during incubation is highly variable but 4-5 eggs per cm2 is recommended by the Indonesian National Standard (SNI).
    Giant gourami eggs are valuable commodities. For example in Central Java, a cluster of fish farmers specialized in egg production may be sending millions of eggs per week across the country. Hatching occurs around 35-40 hours after fertilization, and larvae can swim rapidly, but yolk resorption continues until 13-15 days after hatching (dah). Larvae can be fed with zooplankton as early as 4-5 dah; but generally they are fed from 8 -12 dah. At this age larvae, can be sold or transferred to nurseries.
    The nursery phase lasts until juveniles reach 2-4 cm (60-90 dah). At the beginning of the cycle stocking densities vary between 75 and 700 larvae per m2. Generally, the facilities used for nursing are wooden tanks covered by tarpaulin - or concrete or fibreglass tanks - filled with static water. The size of these facilities is very variable (2-100 per m2) and the water depth is shallow (20-30 cm). These facilities are generally outdoors and may be either completely closed under plastic sheets or partially shaded (covered by bamboo, palm leaves or shade nets), or have no protection at all. However, in the latter case, palm or banana leaves are placed on the water surface to provide shelter for the larvae. Usually the larvae are fed with live sludge worms (tubifex) distributed ad libitum. Giant gourami feed slowly; thus, fish farmers can adjust the food ration regularly. Some farmers practice the nursery stage in greenwater and feed the young fish with zooplankton (Daphnia or Moina). In such cases, tanks or ponds are prepared with lime (50 g per m2) and fertilized with poultry manure mixed with rice bran (500 g per m2). Raw vegetables may also be used to enrich the water for the development of phytoplankton. The rearing conditions during the nursery phase can be very demanding on the juveniles which may suffer adverse environmental conditions, particularly drastic changes in temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen concentration. These events occur mainly during the rainy season and often cause significant mortalities; for this reason survival rates at the end of the nursery phase are generally low (<20 percent) and variable (0-50 percent).
    Rearing fingerlings 
    After the nursery phase, when the fish reach 2-4 cm in length (2-3 months old), juveniles are placed in fertilized earthen ponds, sometimes in concrete tanks, with a stocking density of 50-75 fish per m2. Progressively, farmers grade the fish and decrease their density. Commercial feed (meal and crumbles) with ~40 percent of crude protein is used at this stage. The recommended feeding rate is 10-20 percent of estimated biomass/day, with a gradually decreasing ratio. However, the quantity of feed distributed usually depends on the individual fish farmer's experience, on fish behavior and cash flow. At the end of pre-growout time fish farmers start also feeding leaves that will be routinely used during the growout period. Pond water is enriched during this period using a 1:1 mixture of poultry manure and rice bran, but the quantity used is highly variable. The pre-growout stage ends when fish reach 8-12 cm (5-7 months). However, giant gourami juveniles may be sold at various sizes during this period depending on the custom of individual farmers.
    Ongrowing techniques 
    Typically growout in West Java occurs in 4-5 static water small earthen ponds (300 to 1000 per m2) with a depth of 0.5-1.5 m. Ponds are usually limed and fertilized with chicken manure and leaves of various species of plants (mainly banana). Ponds may be exclusively dedicated to giant gourami or shared with other species. More than 50 percent of giant gourami farmers also produce other commodities; <20 percent of them produce giant gourami in polyculture ponds. In polyculture, the other species are normally tilapia, striped catfish and common carp. Most of the fish growers do not produce eggs or juveniles; thus, they depend entirely on seed availability. The most important criteria of choice farmers make is the "strain" of giant gourami, but other criteria are also employed (e.g. price, size and fish condition). Fish are usually stocked at 5 individual/m once or more times. During growout, fish may be graded and their density reduced if necessary. Growth rate is quite slow and giant gourami may reach commercial size (500-750 g) within 9-14 months of growout. To achieve larger sizes (1-2 kg), an extended period of growout rearing is required, generally comprising 25-35 months in total. Although strong variations exist according to strain, rearing conditions and water temperature, the time required to reach commercial sizes mainly depends on the feeding strategy. Giant gourami are fed with commercial floating pellets (extruded) containing ~30-33 percent of crude protein. The feeding rate is generally ~2-3 percent of biomass. Commercial fish food and raw plant material are the rule for feeding giant gourami during growout. Giant taro (Alocasia machrorrhizos), taro (Colocasia esculenta) and cassava (Manihot esculenta) are the plants mostly used, but other species of plants may also be used. Plants may be distributed 2-7 days per week; sometimes they are cut but usually they are distributed entire on the water surface. The ratio between pellets and vegetable material varies according to fish size and feed cost and may range between 5 and 100 percent. Generally, fish farmers tend to use much more raw vegetables when fish are nearly commercial size. Feed is generally distributed twice a day, seven days a week, but in some cases, the distribution of feed, particularly pellets, may be completely ceased, due to economic reasons.

    Figure 2. Weight length relationship of O. goramy juveniles (size comprised from 7 to 25 cm of total length n=532). Fish came from 78 growth out ponds from West Java.

    Handling and processing 
    The fish are killed in chilled water, bled and eviscerated. The skin, the head and spinal cord are then removed and the fillets are vacuum packed and frozen. The fillet yield varies between 50-55 percent of body weight.
    Production costs 
    Considering the variability of rearing practices used, the production costs are difficult to ascertain. Undoubtedly, the greatest input cost is feed; however, fish farmers reduce this cost as far as possible by balancing the plants fed, the pond fertilization and the commercial feed used, particularly for juveniles. Similarly, in the nursery phase, the cost of sludge worms can be a heavy economic burden for fish farmers. The second most important cost is seed cost. In the nursery phase, the cost of seed ranges from 10 to 35 percent of the sales price; in the pre-growout phase it may be as high as 40 percent. In the growout phase, the price of juveniles represents around 17-to 23 percent of the sales price according to initial size of fish. Other miscellaneous costs, notably of fish transport, chicken manure and extra manpower contribute to the total operating costs.
    Diseases and control measures
    Diseases are an increasingly serious problem in the giant gourami production chain; particularly considering that live sales are quite normal in Indonesia. These exchanges of live fish represent a very important risk of spreading diseases; they also cause serious stress to the fish, which can easily become sick after transfer. Nowadays, several aetiological agents have been identified in Indonesia and elsewhere, which are listed below. However, epidemiological studies on prevalence and risk factors, economic impacts and efficacious treatments for these diseases are not well documented. Treatment with antibiotics (tetracycline, enrofloxacin) formalin, potassium permanganate and methylene blue are used by fish farmers; however, fish diseases are mainly treated by changing a high proportion of the pond water or adding salt (2g/l-1 NaCl) to the pond when feasible. Giant gourami farmers also use several plants to treat diseases in a natural manner.

    CIVVIridovirus/MegalocytivirusVirusSplenomegaly; mortality
    TiLV Tilapia lake virus/OrthomyxovirusVirusExperimental infection 100% mortality
    MAS Aeromonas hydrophila and related species BacteriaMortality may be high; experimentally >80%
    Citrobacter freundiBacteriumSepticaemia -bacteraemia
    Columnaris Flavobacterium columnareBacteriumFin erosion; body necrosis
    Mycobacteriosis Mycobacterium fortuitum Mycobacterium spp.Bacteria Chronic disease with internal granuloma and cutaneous sores
    Nocardiosis Nocardia sp.BacterialChronic disease with granuloma
    Strepococcal Streptococcus agalactiaeBacteria Asymptomatic disease but isolated several times
    IchIchhithiophitirius multifiilisProtozoaWhite nodules on body and gill; repeated mortality
    Tricodinosis Tricodina sp.Protozoa No external sign
    MyxosporeanHenneguya spp.ProtozoaNo external sign, but may be massive infestation in gills; prevalence may be high
    Myxosporean Hennegoides longitudinalisProtozoa In intestine; no external sign
    Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome EUSAphanomyces invadansFungusUlcers and sores
    Saprolegnales Saprolegnia spp.FungusCottony appearance on body
    TrematodosisCentrocestus formosanusLarval trematode In gills; no external sign

    Suppliers of pathology expertise
    • Research Institute for Freshwater Aquaculture and Fisheries Extension (RIFAFE) / Centre for Fisheries Research (CFR), Jl, Sempur Nø1, Bogor 16154, West Java.
    • Directorate General of Aquaculture (DGA) /Sukabumi Main Centre of Freshwater Aquaculture Development (MCFAD). Jalan Selabintana Nø37, Kota Sukabumi 43 114, West Java.
    Production statistics
    In Indonesia the production of giant gourami is spread throughout all the major islands of the country; however, Java and Sumatra together produce more than 94 percent of the total national production (60 percent and 34 percent respectively) (Badan pusat statistik, 2013). Giant gourami, in most cases probably originating from Indonesia, have been introduced widely into other tropical and temperate countries, including tropical islands (Roberts, 1992). Twentyfour translocations around the world have been reported; the earliest took place in the 19th century - to Algeria, France, India and Madagascar. According to FishBase, giant gourami are present, either native or introduced, in 20 countries.
    The global farmed production of giant gourami reached 145 300 tonnes in 2017; Indonesia accounts for more than 98.4 percent of total production, having expanded nearly nine fold since its production of 16 438 tonnes in 2002. More detailed information is available in FAO FishStatJ.
    Market and trade
    Market segmentation is a characteristic trait of gourami production in Indonesia. Giant gourami may be sold at every size (from eggs to broodstock); eleven commercial sizes are officially identified in the country. For each segment, the market price varies according to the season, size and quality of fish. The giant gourami is the most expensive cultured fish species in Indonesia. It has no intramuscular bones and is one of the most appreciated freshwater fish in several Southeast Asian markets because of its thick fillet, texture and tastiness. In the Jakarta market, giant gourami are 27 to 50 percent more expensive than other freshwater aquaculture species. The market price increases with size and is enhanced when fish are sold live. The market size may be up to 500 g; however, there has been a trend towards the purchase of smaller fish (300 g) which are now available in some markets.
    Status and trends
    For several years O. goramy has been the object of active research carried out by Indonesian research institutions, mainly concentrated on growout, breeding, feeding and genetic selection. Recently, thanks to international cooperation, research has focused on breeding, the young fish phases and ecological intensification. Considering that, the survival of farmed giant gourami may be low and that disease outbreaks are recurrent, studies on disease management need to be strengthened. A scientific effort should be undertaken to improve knowledge on the genetic pool of giant gourami in Indonesia and in other natural distribution areas. Gourami production is still a small-scale farming activity; however, there is a strong trend towards intensification in Indonesia. This is particularly true for the growout phase, where earthen ponds may be replaced by more intensive systems carried out in facilities such as cages and concrete tanks. These technological trends towards intensification require higher investment and different technical knowhow; their future is unpredictable. On the other hand, the traditional production system that has been described here copes with various problems, notably water quality and quantity and competition for land through urban pressure.
    The market size is still increasing and prices are stable. Nevertheless, it is possible that production expansion may be limited by the shortage of juveniles, both in quantity and quality. Diversified products (fillets) are present in urban markets. A sustainable approach towards small-scale farming is essential to maintain and increase gourami production. Providing technical assistance to fish farmers to find specific solutions in response to the challenges generated by a changing and competitive environment is required.
    Main issues
    There are no substantial negative issues generated by the current forms of gourami farming. Conversely, they contribute to the maintenance of rural activities in peri-urban areas and their environmental impact is not a concern.
    Responsible aquaculture practices
    In Indonesia, there is a national standard for each production phase of the rearing of giant gourami (Indonesian National Standard - SNI 2000, 2006) and Indonesian good aquaculture practice is available. Indonesian authorities promote the application of GAP and certify compliance.
    Badan pusat statistik, 2013. Badan pusat statistik Indonesia / Central Statistics Agency of Indonesia.
    Banks, J., de Bougainville, L. A., de La Condamine, C. M., Commerson, P., de Fréville, A.F.J., & Solander, D. 1773. Supplément au voyage de M. de Bougainville, ou, Journal d'un voyage autour du monde, fait par MM. Banks & Solander, anglois, en 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771. A Neuchatel [Suisse]: De l'imprimerie de la Société typographique.
    Baras, E., Arifin, O. Z., Slembrouck, J., Subagja, J., Kristanto, A. H., & Legendre, M. 2018. Oil globule size in fish eggs: A matter of biome and reproductive strategy. Fish and Fisheries, 19(6):996-1002.
    FAO, 2019. Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics. Global aquaculture production 1950-2017 (FishstatJ). In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department [online]. Rome. Updated 2019.
    Huet, M. 1959. Aperçu de la pisciculture dans les régions tropicales en Extreme-Orient et en Afrique Centrale. Bulletin Fran‡ais de Pisciculture, (193):129-144.
    Jaemwimol, P., Rawiwan, P., Tattiyapong, P., Saengnual, P., Kamlangdee, A., & Surachetpong, W. 2018. Susceptibility of important warm water fish species to tilapia lake virus (TiLV) infection. Aquaculture.
    Kitao, T., Ruangpan, L., & Fukudome, M. 1989. Isolation and Classification of a Nocardia species from Diseased Giant Gourami Osphronemus goramy. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, 1(2):154-162.
    Kottelat, M., & Whitten, T. 1996. Freshwater fishes of Western Indonesia and Sulawesi: additions and corrections. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions.
    Lom, J., & Dyková, I. 1992. Protozoan parasites of fishes. Elsevier Science Publishers.
    Miles, D. J., Kanchanakhan, S., Lilley, J. H., Thompson, K. D., Chinabut, S., & Adams, A. 2001. Effect of macrophages and serum of fish susceptible or resistant to epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) on the EUS pathogen, Aphanomyces invadans. Fish & shellfish immunology, 11(7):569-584.
    Roberts, T.R. 1992. Systematic revision of the Southeast Asian anabantoid fish genus Osphronemus, with descriptions of two new species. Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwaters 2(4):351-360
    Slembrouck, J., Arifin, O. Z., Pouil, S., Subagja, J., Yani, A., Kristanto, A. H., & Legendre, M. 2019. Gender identification in farmed giant gourami (Osphronemus goramy): A methodology for better broodstock management. Aquaculture, 498:388-395.
    SNI, 2000. SNI 01-6485.3-2000: Produksi benih ikan gurame (Osphronemus goramy, Lac) kelas benih sebar (in Indonesian). Badan Standardisasi Nasional (BSN), Jakarta, Indonesia.
    SNI, 2006. SNI 01-7241 2006: Ikan gurame (Osphronemus goramy, Lac) bagian 5: Produksi kelas pembesaran di kolam. Badan Standardisasi Nasional (BSN), Jakarta, Indonesia.
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