How Long Can Fish Live Out Of Water?

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It is quite common to wonder about the fish living out of water. People have been making mermaid movies since forever. But Can fish survive out of water? If They do, how long can fish live out of water? What are the factors that kill the fish out of water?

The survival of the fish out of the water depends on what breed they are. Some fish die instantly while some can live for hours, days, or even months without water. It also depends on the environment around them.

When you have a general idea about the fish survival outside water, you will many more questions swirling around your head. The what, the how, the why, and the when, are the most probable questions you search answers for.

Hence, here is the solution to your questionnaire problem read the article below to know details of the connection between fish and water.

Can Fish Survive Without Water?

Well, as already said, the survival of the fish depends. It depends on the factor related to their habitat, their body structure, their diet, their environment preferences, and most importantly their type.

We have lungs that help us to breathe in the open air but fish, generally, breathe with the help of their gills. Meaning that there is a very thin chance of your fish surviving outside water as you can’t survive inside water.

Some fish have the capacity to endure the struggle and pain that follows the absence of water. So, it is possible the fish you are thinking of, survive outside the water even for a longer period.

But it always comes down to the natural phenomenon and fate intervenes. Fish will die after a certain time if you do not introduce it to the water as soon as possible.

You don’t want your fish to die such a painful death and it is indeed a worst-case scenario of being of fish without water around.

How Long Can Fish Live Out Of Water?

Again, it depends. If your fish has the capacity to breathe in the open air and extract oxygen directly, voila you have got amazing fish for you.

But most fish don’t have that luxury to live without water for very long. There is no definite answer to the question you are asking here.

However, there is a small window of hope, giving you a maximum of 10 minutes. Experts suggest not to keep your fish out of water for more than 10 minutes or else your fish will die.

But again, it depends on the breed of the fish you have. Certain species of fish possess the ability to live out of water for months while some die within minutes.

There is also the thinnest possibility of survival for a little longer if the gills of fish are moist enough. While you fish jump out of water or you take it out, there is still little water in their body and around them.

This water will keep them and their gills moist for a little longer giving them chance to extract oxygen from it. Although it is a risk and make sure it never happens to your fish.

This is the most brutal death anyone can imagine that’s why do not experiment around with your aquarium fish.

How Does Fish Survive In Water?

Now we are talking plain and basic biological process. The same thing we have known about fish and aquatic animals for a long.

You know human beings use lungs to respire whereas fish have gills to do so. The water they live in gives them all the oxygen they need and their gills help them.

When they swim around the water, the water enters their gills with tiny blood vessels. These gills then extract the oxygen present in the water and send back the waste air.

Even the water currents help them with all the transportation and respiration helping them conserve their energy. Along with energy, the water provides unlimited oxygen.

That’s how these fish survive in the water. Thanks to their respiratory system that is specifically designed by mother nature to help them survive in water and die without it.

What Are The Factors That Cause The Fish To Jump Out Of Water?

Your fish doesn’t have legs to just walk out of the water on its own. They need a specific reason to jump out of water.

Unless who will like to leave their comfort zone and invite death over them. Thus, here you will learn what you to take care of and be careful with if you don’t want your fish to bring the medal in long jumps.

Here is what you need to look at:

Aquarium Water Temperature

There are certain degrees every fish can handle to live in. And when the temperature exceeds or decreases, fish get desperate to save their life.

The slightest change but continuous fluctuation in the temperature of the aquarium can make the fish uncomfortable and stressed. They will try to jump out of the environment, hence out of the water.

Aquarium Heater like a submersible heater will help you achieve the ideal temperature according to the fish species you have.

Open Lid Of The Aquarium

Curiosity gets the best in everyone probably. Your fish tend to get curious over the simplest thing and of course the outside world.

Their ‘finding Nemo’ mode will get the best of them making them jump out of the tank as soon as they see the opportunity.

That’s why you need a lid for your aquarium to save the fish from escaping the tank. Sometimes they jump because of the inappropriate condition in the tank so make sure to check it.

You may have the active and jumpy fish in the tank, research all about it to make sure what you need to do. Keep the lid on all the time except for the condition it is important to open it.

It also helps to keep the aquarium clean and healthy due to no external factors hampering the tank condition.

pH Level In The Tank

alike the temperature, fish ask for pH level to be maintained at a certain range. Any changes in the pH can make your fish uncomfortable and upset in the tank.

Lower pH level tends to burn the body of the fish making them jumpy and active. The change in the pH will make or say force your fish to jump out of the tank to save their life.

The adjustment of pH or say increase in the aquarium pH level will do the trick most of the time. But don’t let the pH increase more than the ideal range or that will also bring complications.

Ammonia Poisoning In The Aquarium

Increment in the ammonia level in the tank increases the toxicity of the tank. In other words, ammonia acts as a poison in the tank with fish and for the fish.

Likewise, it is a natural tendency to run away from an environment that is toxic to you. Fish do the same thing here and jump out of the tank.

The leftover food and fish waste produce the ammonia in the tank. Moreover, the toxicity keeps on increasing if the tank is not clean and maintain in the ideal tank condition as soon as possible.

Here is when the aquarium filter and filtration system come in. Aquarium filter and its media home the beneficial bacteria.

You can maintain the ammonia level to zero with the help of beneficial bacteria in the tank.

These bacteria perform the aquarium nitrogen cycle, thus changing ammonia into essential compound nitrite. Hence, this process will help you to remove the toxic compounds making your fish less jumpy.

Aquarium Filtration System

Although filtration helps to clean the aquarium and manage to keep the balance in the tank, it can act as a window sometimes.

While the water is being filtered, small fish follows the water current and escape the tank into the filter media.

They will be held in the very first filter media though but this will be the death of them for sure without water and oxygen after the filtration system stops.

Aquarium Water Change

25 to 30% of Water change in the aquarium once a week is the best option to keep your tank clean and safe. The leftover food and fish waste, all the pollutants in the tank make the aquarium water cloudy and foamy.

So, if you are not careful enough while changing the water, you may take some fish out of the tank mistakenly. It will not be the fish’s fault this time making you the culprit for its death.

Why Do Fish Die When Removed From Water?

As we have now already established that the fish needs gills to respire and there are very few that can breathe air directly. So, it is very easy to conclude what might go wrong when they don’t get water.

When you take out the fish from the water or it jumps out, most fish will suffocate and die due to the failure of the respiratory system.

The gills arch and collapse when there is no water present around the fish. Even though there are fish that can breathe through the skin or other respiratory organs, they will not last.

The gills are designed to extract the oxygen from the water and not directly from the atmosphere. It will cause serious damage to the fish gills making them immediately or slowly susceptible to death.

What Happens To Fish When Kept Out Of Water?

The fish starts gasping for breath and use every last ounce of their energy to fight back and jump into the water.

You may have seen the fish struggling in pain when taken out of the water while fishing. They are basically struggling to get the moisture in the gills so that it can extract the oxygen to breathe.

Fish without water will feel a tremendous amount of pain and die of suffocation eventually. That’s why there is a phrase people say when someone is uncomfortable or vulnerable with the change i.e. A Fish out of water.

Factors That Decides The Survival Of Fish Out Of Water

There are few things that decide the survival of fish without water even they are fragile. You have already learned about the factors that are mentioned above. Now let’s learn how they decide the fate of the fish.

Fish Species

Some fish are designed with a dual respiratory system where they are breath with both gills and skin. That’s why some fish are seen living without water for months.

These fish are basically amphibious and will survive quite well for a certain period but death eventually finds them.

Moreover, fish that live in the cold water can adjust themselves for a while without water. So, as it is said it depends on the fish you have.

Presence Of Moisture

The moist gills can extract the last oxygen present within them making them live a little longer without water.

Although if these fish are small with fragile gills then the chances are very low to even survive a minute. Likewise, the dry condition will also work against the life of fish.

Metabolic Rate

Fish with a slow and low metabolic rate or say metabolism and digestion consume less energy. While they save their energy, they are also withholding the respiring part giving them a window to last longer.

Metabolism and how fast or slow it is also deciding the fate of fish without water.

Oxygen Demand

Some fish species adjust to the low oxygen level in the water, so they do the same when they are exposed to open air. And for other fish, you have to maintain the oxygen level in the aquarium too.

Fish, like catfish species, are very undemanding of the oxygen for many hours and will still do fine. But everything has its limits so do not push it further just because they can handle it.

However, fish like neon tetras, rainbowfish, etc. will die within a few minutes they are out of water.

Different Fish With Different Survival Time Out Of Water

Each fish has its own survival time in the absence of water. Here are some fish along with their survival probability and time out of the water.

Pet fish

Pet fish are often small and have fragile gills. They seem to die immediately after they are out of water. The most they will last is 2 minutes and that’s it.

Large Ocean Fish

Whales, Dolphins, etc. along with most mammal fish breathe directly from the air and don’t use water oxygen.

These fish, are although can live for months out of the water, will eventually need to go back to the water to support their body weight.

Walking Catfish

These are one of the unique species among catfish with an extra organ that helps gills to respire in the open air too.

They are often seen after hailstorms alongside or on the road and are kind of walking or crawling around.

These fish can last for months as long as they have a better environment around them.

Mangrove Killifish

This mangrove rivulus can live for a month in the absence of water due to its amphibious nature. These fish can absorb oxygen with the help of blood vessels present in their skin.


These fish have skin covered will blood vessels that help them to breathe in the open air. They are amphibious and will do fine without water for a pretty long time.

These fish can survive up to 66 days on land making them the longest surviving species without water.

Rockskipper Fish

They wander around in search of new habitat and will last for several hours when they are moist and around food even if there is no water around.

Invasive Fish

These small yet amazing fish can survive up to 6 or 7 days out of water and 6 months in the dry mud creeks.

Snakehead Fish

This fish is known to travel through the land in search of habitat and can last very long without water. They can go from six days to months without water.


Although eels are amphibious, they are kept under the fish category with the survival time very high even months in absence of water.


As its name suggests, these fish possess lungs that can help them breathe in the open air without issues whatsoever.

So, they can live for months without water but will eventually need water to survive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some FAQs related to the topic.

Can Fish Get Brain Damage From Being Out Of Water?

Yes, fish can get brain damage just like terrestrial beings due to the deprivation of oxygen without water around.

Which Fish Can Survive The Longest Out Of Water?

Mangrove Rivulus is one that can survive the longest out of water. They can live up to 66 days in the absence of water on the land.


In conclusion, fish can live without water for a few minutes to a few months depending on the factor species, metabolism, oxygen demand, etc. But it is never okay to keep the fish without water and let happen any circumstances with fish living without water. It is wrong to experiment with your fish whom you love dearly. Don’t bring death to them by doing some experiments. Remember to take care of your fish along with its tank necessities.

Happy Fish Keeping!

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