How Long Can a Fish Live out of Water?

A fish that can survive for days on dry land is causing concern in Australia. The climbing perch, technically known as Anabas testudineus, is a fish species native to Southeast Asia that has an air-breathing organ that allows it to survive while traveling from one waterhole to another. The fish "walks" by using sharp spines on its extendable gill covers to drag itself along. Ecologists are concerned for birds and other fish, which can die from suffocation after eating the noxious perch.

Fearing a fish out of water:

  • Climbing perch can flex their gill covers, causing them to become lodged in the throats of predators. It is believed that the fish are migrating to Australia aboard fishing boats.
  • In late 2005, climbing perch were discovered on Saibai Island and another small Australian island in the Torres Strait, about four miles (6.4 km) south of Papua New Guinea.
  • Despite being a freshwater fish, climbing perch can survive in briny water, and even bury themselves in mud to survive. The species grows to about 10 inches (25 cm) in length.
More Info: Queensland Government: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Discussion Comments


I cleaned a bunch of crappie when I was a kid in South Carolina. You can cut the heart out of them, and it will lay there by itself, and beat for a long time. No water, plenty of air.

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