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Climbing perch

  • Climbing perch: restricted noxious fish
    Climbing perch: restricted noxious fish

General information

Climbing perch are native to Asia, where they are commercially fished as an important food source. They have an accessory air-breathing organ, which allows them to survive out of the water for several days in moist conditions. This gives them the ability to travel across land on their pectoral fins.

They have a highly developed predatory nature, and in times of drought, are able to bury themselves in the mud to survive. Although there are currently few reported cases of climbing perch in the wild in Australia, the species' dispersal and survival ability presents a high risk to Queensland's aquatic  environment.  North  Queensland  is especially at risk, as there have been confirmed reports of climbing perch in the Torres Strait Islands.

Climbing perch is a restricted noxious fish under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name                              

Anabas testudineus

  • pale brown-orange to dark greenish-brown with occasional dark blotches over their body                                                  
  • pectoral fins become dark orange at the base                                                  
  • commonly seen at between 10-23 cm, but can grow up to 25 cm in length                                                  
  • possess an accessory air-breathing organ which enables them to survive in waterways that have low oxygen levels.                                                  
  • most often found in canals, lakes, ponds and swamps                                                  
  • a hardy species and can tolerate extremely unfavourable water conditions (ie. low oxygen, extreme temperatures).                                        
  • feed primarily on fish but also on macrophytic vegetation, shrimps and insects.                                        
  • native to Asia                                                  
  • they are a tropical fish and inhabit fresh and brackish waters throughout the world                                                  
  • commercially fished throughout Asia as an important food fish and are considered a delicacy in some areas                                                  
  • not present in the wild in Australia.                                                  
Life cycle                              
  • reach sexual maturity at around 15cm                                                  
  • females lay about 50-100 eggs which float freely at the surface and are often laid in shallow, oxygen-depleted waters                                                  
  • eggs are guarded until they hatch.                                                  


  • have the potential to rapidly outnumber native fish and dominate aquatic communities                    
  • ossess an accessory air-breathing organ allowing them to survive for extended periods out of water                    
  • can survive a range of environmental conditions which native fish find difficult to cope with                    
  • in moist conditions they can survive out of water for several days or weeks, providing that their air-breathing organ is kept moist. In drier times, they dig into the mud to survive                    
  • travel across land on their pectoral fins and, as their name suggests, may even climb trees                    
  • these abilities, as well as their highly developed predatory nature, indicate that this species presents a high risk for survival, dispersal and adverse environmental impact in Queensland waters.                    


  • loss of favourite fishing locations due to invasion and destruction caused by Climbing perch.                    
  • Biosecurity Queensland advocates the ethical euthanasia protocols recommended by the 2001 ANZCCART publication: Euthanasia of animals used for scientific purposes. The most appropriate method may involve stunning the fish via a sharp blow to the back of the head just above the eyes. When applied correctly, this causes brain            destruction—the fish’s gill covers should stop moving and its eyes should remain still.          
  • intensive fishing may have the potential to reduce pest fish numbers in small enclosed waterbodies, but it is very unlikely that fishing alone is an effective long-term control measure.          


  • poisons have been used to eradicate pest fish in ponds and small dams, but are not practical for rivers and streams as these poisons also kill native fish.          
Legal requirements            
  • climbing perch is a restricted noxious fish under the Biosecurity Act 2014
  • it must not be kept, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit
  • if caught these species must be immediately humanely killed and disposed of responsibly away from the water body
  • by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with restricted noxious fish under their control.

Further information

Last updated 01 July 2016