Anabas testudineus is probably the best-known species of this group, but is probably the least frequently kept.
There is a legend in the East that Anabas climbs palm trees and drinks the sap. This was first recorded in 1787 by a Lieutenant Daldorf of the Danish East India Company based at Tranquebar. He had found a climbing perch lodged in a crack in the bark of a palm tree growing beside a pond. It took an Indian naturalist to dispel this notion. Dr Das put forward the alternative explanation that these fishes are often found in trees, having been placed there by predatory birds who had captured them while they were migrating across land. So Anabas has acquired a common name which has nothing to do with how it gets up into trees!
When migrating from pond to pond, it not only uses its fins to help propel itself across the ground but also spreads each gill cover in turn so that the sharp spines on the latter anchor it to the ground while the fins push the fish forward, allowing it to move in a jerky side to side motion. This solves the problem of surviving when the pools dry up, and should the fish be unable to find another water source, it can bury itself in damp mud to survive. This remarkable creature can live for up to 48 hours out of water provided the conditions are damp. Being so hardy, they were able to withstand transportation by sailing ship and in around 1870 were put on display at the London Zoo Aquarium.
In the aquarium, they are very easy to keep, being tolerant of most water conditions. The one thing they do need is warmth, so a temperature averaging 26°C (79°F) is beneficial. Provide plenty of plant cover and some pieces of wood for shelter. This also helps create territories in the aquarium and should reduce the amount of squabbling.
Feeding the climbing perch couldn’t be easier – if it’s edible, they eat it. True omnivores, they consume pellets, rice, vegetable matter, live foods, flake, and so on. They are best kept with their own kind, in a fairly large aquarium, and under such conditions they will pair and may even breed. The floating eggs hatch in some 24 to 36 hours, but the fry are small, so be prepared to provide large quantities of infusoria in the first instance.