How Long Can A Fish Live Out Of Water? The Answer Unveiled

Many fish species can only survive on land shortly, while some others find it easy to stay alive out of water. This difference often comes from different factors, for example, species, environmental conditions to name but a few.

How long can a fish live out of water?

So, how long can a fish live out of water

To give an exact answer to this question, we need to take a deeper look into some factors. So, here we go. 

How Long Can A Fish Live out of Water?

For ease of understanding, let us take an example first.

You often see that salt tends to disappear immediately when you put it in the water and stir the liquid. And we can also find the same reaction in the case of oxygen in which it presents in the dissolved form in the seawater. 

Undoubtedly, oxygen plays a crucial role in helping the fish to stay alive. Like the lungs of human beings, the fish gills do a function of extracting oxygen from water. Then, it inhales that amount of oxygen as an important source for the respiration procedure to keep working. 

As for the fish species which cannot consume oxygen in the air well, they can live out of the water only within 5 minutes or even a few seconds. Besides, some have improperly functioning gills, and the duration even lasts much shorter. Therefore it is essential to improve the oxygen content of the water in your aquarium.

Generally, it depends on several factors to decide how long a fish can stay alive out of water. So, we will learn more about the topic in the next section right away. 

Factors Decide the Survival Duration of Fish out of Water

There are three main factors deciding how long a fish can live out of water. They are species, metabolic rate, and oxygen demand. 


With the slow metabolism and the habit of residence in cold water, some fish species survive much longer out of water. The reason for this greater duration is both their low metabolic rate as well as low oxygen consumption. And different species will show different metabolic rates and oxygen demand.

Metabolic Rate

The fish’s metabolic rate can change based on environmental conditions and its body temperature. The colder the body temperature is, the slower the metabolic procedure works. Hence, the fish can survive longer on land for sure. 

Demand for Oxygen

When it comes to the fish’s demand for oxygen, you can consider it as essential energy for a fish to stay alive out of water. Having a slow metabolic rate means that the fish needs a low level of oxygen so that it can survive for a longer duration in an environment other than water.

Survival Time out of Water with Different Species of Fish 

The following will be some species of fish and their survival duration in the absence of water. 

Pet Fish

Due to a small body along with fragile grills, the pet fish tends to die so quickly on land. Its survival duration without water often lasts about 5 minutes. Some other species, such as rainbowfish and goldfish, also do the same. When they are out of the water, without the gill movement, they will die quickly. 

Mangrove Killifish

As an amphibious species in mangrove forests, the mangrove killifish can survive almost a month with an absence of water. In the water, it uses gills to extract oxygen from water for consumption. Especially, the mangrove killifish can store oxygen in the skin as well. And on land, its skin will use that source of oxygen. 

Walking Catfish

It is such a special species of fish. Like its name, the walking catfish can walk on land. The fish own an extra organ that can assist the gills to get more oxygen from the air. With a large family tree, the walking catfish can adapt to various water conditions. Without water, it can stay alive within 15 hours. 


Another species that can dwell out of water for so long is the mudskipper. Thanks to a combination of blood vessels on the skin, its oxygen absorption will be through the bloodstream instead of gills and lungs. Therefore, the mudskippers can entirely live on land without any problems regarding respiration. 

Invasive Fish

This small-sized fish comes with an incredible survival duration in the absence of water. On average, it can live out of water for about one week. Or even in the dry creek bed of mud, the duration can last six months. 

Rockskipper Fish

It is a high-energy type of freshwater habitat.  The rockskipper fish often move around rock pools in search of mates. And this stay can last several hours. 

Snakehead Fish

The survival duration on the land of snakehead fish is not the same. Some can survive for up to one week, while others even can stay out of water within months. 


Lungfish is one of the rare species of fish that retain a special respiratory mechanism. On land, the lungfish breathe by its lung, and gills will be in use in water. Without water, its life can last about five years.


Eels commonly slither on sandy and rocky places. It does its respiratory process through the skin. Hence, even when there is no water, the eels can still survive. 

Climbing Perch

You can find climbing perches commonly in Asian countries. As a type of lungfish, the climbing perch has both lungs and gill to survive even in harsh living environments. Without water, this species of fish can keep it resilient between 6 and 10 hours. 


How long can a fish live out of water?

Now, we have already got the answer to this question. For those who love to have an aquarium, determining the survival duration without water or fish becomes more important. 

If you have any further questions, feel free to leave us a line. We will be back soon. Thank you!

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