How Long Can Fish Live Out of Water?

Many people take fish out of the water while fishing and then toss them back in. But how long can fish survive out of water?

Fish can live up to 10 minutes out of water, although there are many different species of fish that can live outside of water longer than that. There are even amphibious fish that live on land and in water. Small fish like goldfish can only live for 3-4 minutes out of water.

Now that you know a little bit about how long fish can live outside of water, you may be wondering how much this time varies from one species to another. We’ll cover that below, so you can learn exactly how long your favorite fish can live outside of water.

How Long Can Salmon Live Outside of Water?

Salmon can survive while on dry land for about 5-10 minutes, although some can live for a longer period of time. Salmon are known for jumping out of the water as they swim, especially when they are going down waterfalls or around curves, but the few seconds that they are out of the water when they jump do not harm them because they are not out of the water for long.

How Long Can Carp Live Outside of Water?

Carp can live outside of water for 10-15 minutes at a time depending on the environment and the weather. If carp are kept out of water for more than 10 minutes during the summer on a warm day, they likely will not survive. If they are kept out of the water for 15 minutes on a cold winter day or a rainy day, they may survive if they are carefully released into the water.

Carp can live in an area that provides a very low amount of oxygen for a long time, which is why they can live outside of water for the amount of time that they can. Carp can live in water that has almost no oxygen for days and sometimes months.

How Long Can Catfish Live Outside of Water?

Catfish can live outside of water for 15-18 hours, which is an extremely long time for a fish with gills to live on land. It is more common for most of them to die within an hour or two though. If a catfish is kept wet with a small amount of water, it can survive up to 18 hours outside of a body of water, although it may struggle and die within several hours because it has been unable to get the proper amount of oxygen.

How Long Can Pike Live Outside of Water?

Pike can live outside of water for up to 5 minutes, although some may survive for up to 8 minutes if they are in the right conditions. If you want a pike to survive for longer than 5 minutes outside of the water, continuously pour water over it until you choose to release it back into the water or kill it. However, if you don’t want your pike to survive outside of the water, you will not have to wait for very long.

How Long Can Bass Live Outside of Water?

Bass can live outside of water for 15-20 minutes. However, if you keep a bass outside of the water for 20 minutes and then release it back into the water, especially if the temperature outside is very warm, then it will likely not survive for very long.

If you keep a bass outside of water for a long period of time before releasing it back into the water, it will likely die soon after that or suffer in some way because of the time outside of the water. If you catch a bass and want it to survive after you release it back into the water, do not keep it in the air for longer than 10 minutes, or they will become seriously harmed.

Which Fish Can Breathe On Land?

Surprisingly, there are fish that can breathe in water and on land. Amphibious fish live both on land and in water, so they can survive for long periods of time on land.

Mangrove Killifish

The Mangrove Killifish is an amphibious fish that can live on land for a month without going into a body of water, although they do still need to drink water periodically. Mangrove Killifish absorb oxygen through their skin and can store it for when they are on land so they can still breathe normally. They just stop using their gills when they are on land but use their gills again when they go into a body of water


The Arapaima fish can breathe normal air while it is on land. It has very small gills, so they don’t process the oxygen in the water in the same way that many fish do. Instead of relying on gills, they have a swim bladder in their mouth that acts like a lung so the fish can breathe. However, they can only breathe air and stay outside of water for 24 hours at a time. If they are on land for longer than 24 hours, then they will die because of the lack of usable oxygen.

Northern Snakehead

The Northern Snakehead fish is a massive fish that can grow up to 3 feet long and has a long dorsal fin along its back. They have brown scales that make them look blotchy. They are native to China, Russia, and Korea, so they are considered to be an invasive species in America. If you see a northern snakehead fish, avoid it. They carry harmful bacteria and are very harmful to native ecosystems.

Northern Snakehead fish can breathe air and in water and can survive in water with very low amounts of oxygen.

Fish are very interesting creatures, especially when you look at the fish that can live both on land and water. If you want to know if a fish that you have caught while fishing will survive for a long time outside of water, look at the size of the fish. The size of the fish will influence how long the fish can live outside of water. The smaller the fish, the quicker they will die. The larger the fish is, the more time it can potentially live outside of the water.

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Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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