How Long Can A Fish Live Out Of Water? Bizarre Facts

I. Introduction
We’ve always known fish to live in water. Water provides a natural habitat for fish and other aquatic creatures while it’s there. But what if the water suddenly disappears? What happens if fish is taken out of the water? How long can fish live out of water?
In this post, we will discuss how long fish can live out of the water. The information in this section will not only help you take care of your pet fish better; it would also introduce you to the incredible world of fish who survive without water. So read on!
II. Fishy Fishy!
1. How Fish Survive in Water
The respiratory system of the fish enables it to live most of its life in an aquatic environment. There’s no need for it to go to the surface and breathe air. It acquires the oxygen needed to survive from water through the small blood vessels that spread on the surface of its gills instead of the air.
Although some fish can breathe over land while taking in the oxygen from air, the majority of fish suffocate and die without water. The gill arches of the fish will collapse without water, and the blood vessels will be deprived of oxygen from the air.
Here’s more information on how fish breath on water:

2. How Long Can Fish Live Out Of Water?
It would depend upon the species of the fish. While some won’t last more than several minutes, some can thrive for a few days. Fish that survive for days out of the water can do so by utilizing the air or taking it inside their skin.
Fish are capable of swimming and breathing underwater because of their elaborate gill system. Their gills contain filters that get rid of the oxygen in the water and regulate it inside the system.
Scientists cited that fish first thrived on Earth 1.7 million years ago after descending from an ancestral species. Fish are capable of swimming for very long periods but allow themselves to be carried by the water’s current once they get tired. This allows them to conserve oxygen and energy while traveling.
The experts recommend that fish owners must not take their pets out of the water unless they are transferring it into another water area because the common pet fish can die in just a matter of minutes without water.
The majority of veterinarians and scientists agree that most pet fish wouldn’t last more than 10 minutes in the absence of water.


3. Which Fish Live Longer Out of Water?
“Fish outside water” sounds weird and out of place. Aren’t fish supposed to stay only in water? But believe it or not, there are species of fish that evolved the capacity to utilize air and cross the road.
There are several fish that are amphibious. These fish can survive outside of water. This was the Tropical Fish Expert’s main point in a study he co-authored on a fish species called mangrove rivulus. These species of fish can leap on land as the tropical water becomes very warm.
While most fish utilize their gills while taking in the oxygen from water, many of them such as the mangrove rivulus have developed certain adaptions that enable them to breathe air. The mangrove rivulus, for example, has specialized skin that assumes a lot of similar functions as the gills.
These unique skins also contain blood vessels inside its surface that absorb oxygen into the blood. A walking catfish of Southeast Asia and South Florida possesses accessory organs that reinforce the gills and help take the oxygen in the air.
3.1 The Fins Were Originally Made for Walking
Yes, you’ve read it right – walking. I’m sure you’ve experienced seeing a catfish wiggle its way along the road after a huge rainstorm. The fish tilts its body backward and forward while using its pectoral fin for leverage to move.
Eels climb their way on dams, boulders, and obstacles every time they travel upstream. They use their skin to breath in oxygen. A recent study reveals that Mummichog, a variety of killifish, travels visually by jumping upwards and directing its body on the water.
The fishes we’ve mentioned are all incredible, but nothing compares to the lungfish of West Africa. They contain not only gills but also lungs (a primitive one). During the dry seasons, these creatures will cover their bodies with a ball of mucus, dig their way in the mud and stay dormant for a very long time; sometimes years.
As the rainy season returns, the fish will pop back up to the Earth and into the water. Check out this video to get a closer look at this incredible fish:

3.2 Why Does Fish Leave the Water and Cross the Road?
There are several reasons why fish might leave the water, and the very common ones include transferring to a better environment (one where there is more oxygen) and running away from predators.
Both the walking catfish and the snakehead look for greener pastures where they can find more food, mates, and water. These travels usually take place during the dry periods. Some of these fish also get to land by accident; either through flooding or heavy rainfall and they are forced to walk their way to the water.
Every springtime, thousands of small fish emerge on the shores along the beaches of California to spawn. And because beach habitats are on a decline due to climate change, a team of scientists and volunteers team up to study and protect the small fish.
To look for food, a species of fish named the four-eyed fish crawls up the Brazilian mudflats to eat insects. Grunion is also known to go to the shores of California’s beaches to spawn.
III. Conclusion
So now you know how long fish can live without water. Remember that most pet fish won’t last longer than 10 minutes without water so be very extra careful when taking them out of the aquarium or pond.
Just like most fishes, catfish, eels, mummichog and the four-eyed fish live in water. That’s until conditions force them to climb boulders and cross the road.
So the next time you see a fish trying to cross the road, don’t panic. It’s not going to die from suffocation.

Author Bio
Paul Watson is an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring expert who loves to fish and hunt. On his site,, he shares tips on how to make your hunting and fishing excursions both exciting and successful . Twitter