How to Care for Your New Climbing Perch
Aqualand's inside scoop on Anabas testudineus
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At four inches, climbing perch eat goldfish.
Origin: Climbing perch are widespread over the tropical areas of India, Indonesia, Philippines, Southern China, Africa (although these could be one of the Ctenops species), and Southeast Asia. They live in fresh and brackish waters. In their home countries, they are considered food fish rather than ornamental fish. Some Malays consider them bad joss for the households that keep them -- making those households more quarrelsome.
Description: We cannot describe your average climbing perch as exactly pretty, or colorful, or possessed of impressive finnage. “Drab” sums it up. Okay, the red eye looks good. And he has a couple of black spots -- still not much to look at.
Attitude: Climbing perch want to roam. We put four in an uncovered ten gallon tank. The water was down three inches, and they were all out of the tank within one hour. One hit the floor. The others lit in three different tanks. You need to keep yours covered. Lowering the water three inches for 1.5-inch climbing perch does not corral them. They also dislike bright lights. The new screen cover darkened their tank and seemed to calm their escape efforts.
Size: Supposedly climbing perch grow to ten inches. The ones we kept for two years never exceeded four inches. Even at three inches, they liked eating goldfish. We housed them with some other tough cookies. Our climbing perches enjoyed life most when we put them in a paludarium with several frogs. They never crawled out of the water, but they devoured any crickets unlucky enough to hit their water.
Foods: Climbing perch eat flakes, pellets, frozen, freeze-dried, and live foods. They do not even know how to spell “picky eater.” Some sources say they also eat vegetable matter. We never really tried peas or lettuce because the only other anabantid we fed vegetable foods was the osphronemus goramy. Ed Stafford, one of our long ago suppliers said he fed his kissing gouramis oat meal and Cream of Wheat.™ These little toughies would probably eat them also, but that’s way too much effort if you’re only running a few head on your perch ranch. Think of these little guys as small-mouthed predators.
Sort of Social: Climbing perch seem to get along with their own kind. They like to “taste” their other tank mates. You will not want to mix them with tetras or danios or slow moving long-finned fishes. Mix these little biters with larger barbs and equal-sized cichlids. Supposedly that black spot on their gill cover disguises a sharp weapon. None of the ones we’ve picked up by hand and returned to their tanks have caused any injuries that OSHA investigated.
Climbing? Without that “climbing” rep, no one would be much interested in these little guys except as food items. Climbing perch apparently migrate over land at night -- especially during and after a heavy rain. Since they breathe air, they can make it quite a ways. No official timing records exist, but the 100 meter dash is often referred to.
Breeding: None of our climbing perches ever offered to breed. In the wild, they scatter 50 to 100 floating eggs and go on about their business of pestering other fishes.
Sexing: All of our climbing perches looked the same. This may be why we never had any spawns. Males are supposed to have longer dorsal and anal fins. Ours all looked alike.
Last Words: We’ve provided lots of islands and plenty of humidity and have yet to see one climbing perch haul his scaly behind onto dry land. And we don’t think the little nippers look much like “perch” either. LA
© 2005 LA Productions
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