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Anabas testudineus, The climbing perch
Anabas testudineus, Bloch, 1792
Climbing Perch

Origin:India, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia including southern China. Occurs also in brackish waters, but mainly inhabits small densely grown streams, ricefields, and muddy pools. This fish also occurs on Celebes, Amboina and Halmahera, although it's unclear if this is the natural habitat, or that they have been introduced by humans there(Hoedemann, 1969).

Etymology: Anabas (L.); The climber, testudineus(L.); Turtlelike

Synonyms: Anabas Scandens, Amphiprion scansor, Amphiprion testudineus, Anabas elongatus, Anabas macrocephalus, Anabas microcephalus, Anabas spinosus, Anabas trifoliatus, Anabas variegatus, Anthias testudineus, Cojus Cobujius, Lutjanus scandens, Lutjanus testudo, Perca scandens, Sparus scandens, Sparus testudineus.

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) Order: Perciformes Family: Anabantidae (Climbing gouramies)

First European import:Unclear, Baensch and Riehl(1982) report that the fish was already present in the London Zoo in 1870.

Description:Slender fish with large scales, spines on the gill cover. Grey brown to silver color, with a dark spot on the base of the caudal fin. Some red can be observed in the fins.Anabas testudineus Climbing perch

Care: The climbing perch should be kept in larger tanks, that are well covered(accurate jumper)and with good filtration since the fish pollute a lot. Planted regions with hardy plants like javafern or vallisneria, and some floating plants. The fish will sometimes eat softer plants. Aggressive and shy fish, which isn't suitable for the avarage community tank. The fish can be kept together with larger robust cichlids. Richter reports that it's wise to keep a space of 10 cm between the water and the cover, since the fish jump out of the water when surfacing for air. This species is extremely adaptable, and can be kept in any water, soft, hard, alkaline and acidic, even in brackish water.

Feeding:All food is taken, even oatmeal. Anabas testudineus is a fierce predator, and will also eat other fish if they can master them.

Size: Up to 25 cm, but in aquariums usually not larger than 16 cm.

pH: 6.0-8.5

Temperature: 20-30 degrees.

Breeding: The fish will spawn in the evening between plants, and the eggs hatch in 24-36 hours. The eggs float and no parental care has been reported, but the fish will not eat the fry. Lowering the waterlevel in a large tank to 20cm, combined with frequent waterchanges and a varied diet(fish!) will get the fish to spawn. Up to 5000 floating eggs, 0.6mm large can be produced.

Sexual dimorphism: NoneAnabas testudineus the climbing perch

Prices: Netherlands, € 7,-

Additional: The fish is called climbing perch since it can wander accross land to find new habitats. It has also been reported to climb trees, but Singer described that this is caused by fishing birds placing the prey in a tree, until the fish dies, after which it can safely be consumed without the bird having to worry about the sharp spines. In a recent nature show this could be seen, and the bird used a short branch to spike the fish, after which it started consuming the fish. Prior to this you could see the Climbing Perch crawling through the mud from an almost dried out pool.

Axelrod(1974) reports a xanthoric form, and has a nice picture of this colormorph. The fish are deep bright yellow. It's unclear whether the form still exists.

When handling and catching the fish the sharp spines should be considered. The fish will defend themselves with it, and they use the spines very well(personal experience, ouch). If netted they will get stuck in the net, and you can damage the fish. If the fish managed to escape, do not limit the search to the vicinity of the tank, I found a fish that crawled more than 10 meters over carpet.

Another very similar species has been described as Anabas oligolepis, Bleeker, 1855. This species distinguishes itself from A. testudineus by a higher body form, and no spot at the base of the caudal fin.

Picture references: Picture 1: www, public domain. Drawing 1:www, public domain.

References:Singer, T. A.(1980): Labyrint vissen. Zuidgroep B. V., Best, The Netherlands.Baensch, H. A., Riehl, R.(1982): Aquarien Atlas I. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.(click on the link to buy this book)Axelrod, H. R. (1974): Encyclopedia of Tropical Fishes. T. F. H. Publications, Neptune city, U. S. A.Richter, H. J. (1979): Das Buch der Labyrinthfische. Verlag Neumann-Neudamm, Melsungen, Germany.

Linke, H.(1980): Labyrinthfische - Farbe im Aquarium. Tetra Verlag, Melle, Germany.

Hoedeman, J. J.(1969): Aquariumvissen encyclopedie 5. Elsevier Nederland B. V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

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