climbing perch or walking fish, member of the labyrinth fish family, adapted to living in oxygen-depleted water or on dry land. It is not related to the true perch. Labyrinth fishes are spiny-finned fishes of Africa and SE Asia, which have a labyrinthine chamber over the gills that enables them to absorb and retain atmospheric oxygen. Members of some species can remain out of water for several days and will even suffocate (drown) if held underwater. The climbing perch, Anabas testudineus, of SE Asia, is brown and reaches a length of 10 in. (25 cm). Climbing perches travel in search of water when their ponds dry up; they walk with jerky movements, supported by the spiny edges of the gill plates and propelled by the fins and tail. They are said to climb low trees. The family also includes the paradise fishes, the betta, and the gourami; all are popular aquarium fishes. The land-walking mudskipper is of a different family. Climbing perches are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Anabantidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.