The Anabantidae are a
fish commonly called the climbing gouramies or climbing perches. The family includes about 34 species. As
labyrinth fishes, they possess a
labyrinth organ, a structure in the fish's head which allows it to breathe atmospheric
oxygen. Fish of this family are commonly seen gulping at air at the surface of the water. The air is held in a structure called the suprabranchial chamber, where oxygen diffuses into the bloodstream via the respiratory epithelium covering the labyrinth organ. This therefore allows the fish to move small distances across land.
Climbing perch (Anabas testudineus
) on land
Of the four genera,
Anabas is found from
South Asia (they are called (Tamil: Senna meenu) chemballi (Malayalam: urulan sugu/Karippidi) in
Kerala, kau (odia) in
Odisha, India, kawaiya in
Sri Lanka), east to China and
Southeast Asia. The remaining three genera are all restricted to Africa. They are primarily
freshwater fishes and only very rarely are found in
brackish water. As egg-layers, they typically guard their
eggs and young.
Climbing gouramis are so named due to their ability to "climb" out of water and "walk" short distances. Even though it has not been reliably observed, some authors have mentioned about them having a tree climbing ability. Their method of terrestrial locomotion uses the gill plates as supports, and the fish pushes itself using its fins and tail.