‘Tis the season to be jolly, and while the darkness and cold try to gain a foothold in our moods, sugary Christmas candy goodness never fails to provide a little lift. But, I’d wager very few indulge in licorice for the holidays. One of the most hated flavors, licorice gets a bad wrap from the black ropes and Good & Plentys we’re all familiar with. This woody root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, however, has so many seasonally-relevant medicinal benefits it deserves a little love. Good for digestion after decadent feasts, liver function after a bit too much “glugg”, and an antidepressant when family fun turns dramatic, licorice can scratch that itch! So, in honor of this underdog flavor, let’s take a look at some beautiful anabantoids, known as Licorice Gouramis. A few of our favorite “flavors” include Parosphromenus phoenicurus, Parosphromenus sp. “Batu Pahat”, and Parosphromenus rubrimontis.
Licorice Gouramis from the genus Parosphromenus are peat-swamp-specialists from Southeast Asia. They are relatively small, and males exhibit bright breeding coloration. Popular with experienced aquarists for their beauty, and the challenge, Licorice Gouramis have a reputation for being a bit finicky, requiring biotope tank setups with soft, acidic water, and live foods. Tanks should be equipped with dark substrate, driftwood branches and roots, plenty of sheltered areas from caves, rockwork, or pvc pipe, low-light plants like Anubias or Cryptocoryne spp., floating plants, and dried leaf litter. Generally peaceful, but skittish, they can be kept as pairs or in mixed-gender groups, alongside small, peaceful cyprinids. Micropredators by nature, Licorice Gouramis must be fed live, tiny invertebrates. In a pinch, they might accept frozen foods, but dried foods will most certainly be refused. Tank waters are best kept with temperatures between 71 and 82°F, pH of 3.0 to 6.5, and hardness below 72 ppm.
Recently described from central Sumatra, Indonesia, P. phoenicurus is a licorice gourami with a flaming tail strong enough to last 8 days. Known more commonly as “Phoenix Licorice Gouramis” they max out around 1 inch and exhibit red, white, and black flame-like patterning on their caudal fins, licorice-black horizontal banding, pointed noses, and long, skinny pectoral fins.
Discovered by hobbyists in the blackwater stream Batu Pahat in Southwest Peninsular Malaysia, P. sp. “Batu Pahat” or “Fire & Ice Licorice Gouramis” are a rare prize. Beautiful enough to crown the top of any tree, they have the characteristic Licorice Gourami body shape and striping, but their breeding coloration is uniquely distinct, with radiating ice blue, black, and red.
Described in 2005, P. rubrimontis hails from Perak in West Malaysia near Bukit Merah meaning “Red Mountain”. Known commonly as the “Bukit Merah Licorice Gourami”, they reach about 1.5 inches and exhibit shiny green pectoral and ventral fins, and Twizzler red caudal and dorsal bands. Threatened due to draining and conversion of habitat to agriculture, this species is part of the Parosphromenus Project to breed and protect endangered Licorice Gouramis.
Still planning your holiday treats? A little licorice spice tea could wrap up a feast quite neatly! …but if it’s still just too licor-ish, try some licor-fish!