Physical characteristics

Anabantoids are minute (0.78 in; 20 mm) to large (23.6 in; 60 cm) percomorph fishes with a suprabranchial organ as ac cessory air-breathing organ. This organ consists of the suprabranchial chamber above the gill arches that houses the modified first epibranchial, termed the labyrinth. The labyrinth may have a highly complex three-dimensional shape in some species (Anabas and Osphronemus). Both the labyrinth and the wall of the suprabranchial chamber are lined with respiratory epithelium. The suprabranchial organ obtains blood from the first two afferent branchial arteries. Blood from the organ is collected in the two anterior efferent arteries that drain into the anterior cardinal vein, not into the dorsal aorta as in other teleosts. Basioccipital with paired articular processes that permit free movement with upper pharyngeal jaws. The last two characters are shared with the channids. In most anabantoids, the lacrimal and preopercular bones bear strong serrations; in anabantids, serrations occur in the sub-opercle, opercle bones, and sometimes the interopercle. (The name anabantids is vernacular for the family Anabantidae; an-abantoids is the vernacular name for the suborder Anabantoidei.) All species except African anabantids and Helostoma have a exoccipital foramen medial to suprabranchial chamber, greatly enhancing hearing abilities. Most species are paras-phenoid toothed, a unique derived character shared with channids, badids, Nandus, and Pristolepis. The swim bladder branches off posteriorly into two elongate diverticula that reach on either side of the hemal spines to the level of the parhypural. Many species are beautifully colored, with striking sexual dimorphism and dichromatism.

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