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Climbing perch

Climbing perch: restricted noxious fish
© Queensland Government

Climbing perch are native to Asia, where they are commercially fished as an important food source. They have an accessory air-breathing organ that allows them to survive out of 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 can, in times of drought, bury themselves in the mud to survive. Although there are few reported cases of climbing perch in the wild in Australia, the species' spread 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

Description

  • Pale brown-orange to dark greenish-brown with occasional dark blotches over their body.
  • Pectoral fins become dark orange at the base.
  • Commonly grow 10–23cm long, but sometimes up to 25cm.
  • Possess an accessory air-breathing organ that enables them to survive in waterways with low oxygen levels.

Habitat

  • Mostly found in canals, lakes, ponds and swamps.
  • Hardy species that can tolerate water with low oxygen and extreme temperatures.

Distribution

  • Native to Asia.
  • A tropical fish that inhabits fresh and brackish waters worldwide.
  • Commercially fished throughout Asia as an important food fish and also a delicacy in some areas.
  • Not present in the wild in Australia.

Life cycle

Breeding

  • Reaches sexual maturity at around 15cm.
  • Female lays about 50–100 eggs which float freely at the surface, often laid in shallow, oxygen-depleted waters.
  • Eggs are guarded until they hatch.

Diet

  • Mainly fish but also plants, shrimps and insects.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Potential to rapidly outnumber native fish and dominate aquatic communities.
  • Possess an accessory air-breathing organ, allowing them to survive for extended periods out of water.
  • Survive in a range of environmental conditions in which native fish find it difficult to live.
  • Survive out of water in moist conditions 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.
  • Present a high risk for survival, spread and negative impact on the environment in Queensland waters due to their abilities and highly developed predatory nature.

Social

  • Loss of favourite fishing locations due to climbing perch invading and destroying native fish population.

Control

Monitoring and action

  • If you catch climbing perch in the wild, humanely kill them and do not return them to the water. Report all invasive fish captures through our online reporting form. Take photos, if possible, to show your catch.
  • Follow the ethical euthanasia code in Euthanasia of animals used for scientific purposes (PDF, 1.8MB), the 2001 Australian & New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching publication. The most appropriate way may be to stun the fish with a sharp blow to the back of the head, just above the eyes. When done correctly, this causes brain destruction—the fish's gill covers should stop moving and eyes should remain still.
  • Intensive fishing may reduce invasive fish numbers in small enclosed waterbodies, but this practice alone is not effective for long-term control.

Poisoning

  • Poisons can completely remove 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.
  • You must not keep, feed, give away, sell, or release them into the environment without a permit.
  • If you catch these species, you must immediately humanely kill and dispose of them responsibly away from the waterbody.
  • By law, you have a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with restricted noxious fish under your control.

Further information

Contact

General enquiries 13 25 23