Home Fish Science Do Fish Come Up for Air? (Helpful Examples)

Do Fish Come Up for Air? (Helpful Examples)

by gvald

When we talk about fish, everyone thinks of animals with gills that inhabit the sea floor. However, did you know that there are some species that can breathe out of water?


Indeed, some fish can breathe out of water for a few hours, for several days and even infinitely! Yes, there are fish that have organs that allow them to survive in non-water environments.


Do fish come to the surface to breathe?

Generally speaking, of course not, fish do not need to come to the surface to breathe, moreover, we all know that they breathe through their gills, which offer them the possibility to draw oxygen from the water.


However, some fish are able to survive out of the water for a limited time, this is the case especially for freshwater fish.


Why do most fish breathe only underwater?

Unlike humans who get oxygen from the air they breathe, fish filter it from the water they swallow through their mouths. This water bathes their gills, whose function is similar to that of our lungs.


It is from these gills that red blood cells carry oxygen to every cell in their body. Once the air has been used, it is expelled and then eliminated. Since the gills do not work in contact with air, fish can only breathe underwater.


Which fish can breathe out of water?

If fish can breathe in the water, this is not only the case for marine mammals, which have lungs. Dolphins and whales regularly come up to the surface to catch air, just like us at the pool. Here are 4 more unknown ones:


1. Frogfish

The frogfish or periophthalmus is one of the fish that is able to breathe out of the water. They live in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in the Indo-Pacific and the African Atlantic. They can only breathe on the surface if their body remains very wet. This is why they always live in muddy areas, hence their name.


In addition to having gills to be able to breathe underwater, they have a respiratory system that allows them to breathe through their skin, mucous membranes and pharynx. In addition, they are also equipped with what are called “gill chambers” that allow them to accumulate oxygen to help them breathe in non-water spaces.


2. Climbing Perch

This is a freshwater fish native to Asia that can grow up to 25 cm long. However, its most special characteristic is that it can survive out of water for six days as long as its body always remains wet.


During the driest seasons of the year, it finds its food in dry creek beds while searching for moisture to survive. These fish can breathe out of the water through what is called the labyrinth organ located in its skull.


When the streams where they live dry up, they have to look for a new place! In search of a new place to live, they are even able to move on dry land.


They are somewhat flat-bellied, which allows them to rest on the ground when they leave the ponds they are in. Thus, they “walk” on land while propelling themselves with their fins to find another new place to settle!


3. Snakehead fish

This fish, whose scientific name is Channa Argus, is native to China, Russia and Korea. It has a supra-branchial organ and a divided ventral aorta that allows it to breathe both outside and inside the water!


Thanks to this, it can survive several days out of water in humid environments. It received the name of snake head because of the shape of its head, which is a little flattened.


4. Senegal Polyterus

The polypterus, Senegal bichir or African dragon fish is one of our top 4 fish that can breathe out of water!


The Senegal Polyterus can end up easily measuring up to 35 cm! Usually, they propel themselves out of the water with their pectoral fins. These fish breathe out of the water because they have primitive lungs instead of a swim bladder. If they keep wet they can stay out of the water indefinitely!

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