The bronze featherback inhabits fresh water and brackish water. It is often found in rivers and other freshwater habitats. This fish prefers both fresh and brackish waters. It may enter temporarily brackish water, such as the Mekong Delta, but does not spawn there. It can be found at sea level, but is most common at an altitude of 1000 m.
This species feeds primarily on phytoplankton and zooplankton, including small crustaceans and insect larvae. It also eats benthic algae and other plant material. This species is also sometimes kept and bred as aquarium fish. Their tank should have a dark or black background and be well-planted, with some shelters for them to hide in. Although these fish like the water to be brackish (with salt added), they can tolerate freshwater as well. They need good water quality; the pH should stay between 7 and 8. They eat live or frozen brine shrimp, krill, bloodworms or tubifex worms, and have been known to accept flake food.
This species is commercially fished and used as a food fish. Despite its popularity as a food, this species has been ascribed medicinal properties in Southeast Asia. The species is described as an "aggressive" bottom-dweller, but it may be less so now than when described by those authors. : This species is considered a food fish in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. It is an important food in certain areas of peninsular India and Sri Lanka. In Lai Autonomous Region, in northeast Thailand, represents 37% of the total fisheries harvest by weight. It is an important commercial food fish in the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam. This species is relatively unusual in that it has been commercially sold for ornamental purposes.
When eaten, this species can cause ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP). Because the toxins accumulate in the fish's liver and roe, only young juveniles of this species (about 10–20 cm) should be eaten. Malaysian locals believe that the consumption of this fish during pregnancy can cause birth defects in children, who may be born with a cleft palate or without eyes.
Global bronze featherback production
In 2010, the total global production of bronze featherbacks was estimated to be 33,940 tonnes, with most of the fish being caught in Bangladesh (19,760 tonnes), India (9,560 tonnes), and Myanmar (4,620 tonnes). The majority of the fish caught are used for human consumption, although a small proportion is used for aquaculture.
This fish is an important food fish in its range and is popular in aquaculture. It is sometimes known as the giant gourami, spotted gourami, or tiger gourami.
Bronze featherbacks are mostly found in rivers, lakes, and ponds, but can also be found in estuaries and coastal waters. They prefer slow-moving or standing waters with plenty of vegetation.