Importance of the question

Can fish breathe air out of water? It’s an important question in the fields of marine biology, aquaculture and fisheries management. To answer this, we must consider the physiology of fish.

Fish breathe through gills. These gills extract oxygen from water that flows over them. But some fish possess a special organ called a labyrinth organ. This unique organ allows fish to take oxygen directly from the air.

When oxygen is low in the water, fish with a labyrinth organ rely on air-breathing. But not all fish have this organ. And even those that do, their reliance changes depending on temperature and stress.

Researching fish breathing techniques could improve our understanding of aquatic ecosystems. It may also expand your knowledge and make you an expert in your field. So why do fish bother with gills when they could just open their mouths and breathe like the rest of us?

Brief explanation of the respiratory system in fish

Fish have an unusual way of breathing. Instead of lungs, they take in water and absorb oxygen from it. This oxygen passes into the bloodstream and is sent to other parts of the body.

The gills of a fish contain thousands of filaments. These filaments have even smaller structures called lamellae that help with gas exchange.

Certain species have adapted to breathe air when out of water. For example, lungfish have evolved lungs like amphibians. Mudskippers and climbing perch use buccal pumping to gulp air and let oxygen diffuse through their mouths and throats.

Amazingly, some fish can survive without water for a long time. African lungfish can stay dormant in dry soil until rainwater rehydrates them. Fish can do this without scuba gear, unlike us!

How Do Fish Breathe Air Outside of Water?

To understand how fish breathe air outside of water with gills and accessory breathing organs in fish is essential. Knowing the benefits that these organs provide will help you appreciate fish’s unique adaptation to their environment. In this section, you will explore the differences and functions of the gills and accessory breathing organs in fish.

Gills and how they function

Fish can extract oxygen from water with the aid of specialized respiratory organs, called gills. These consist of thin-walled filaments to exchange gases. Water flows, absorbing oxygen into the bloodstream and expelling carbon dioxide. This process is vital, as oxygen is less abundant in water than in air.

Some fish species breathe air outside of water. Their gill arches have labyrinth organs as an extra respiratory surface. When needing to breathe air, these fish take gulps and absorb oxygen through their labyrinth organs.

Not all fish have this capability. Most bony fish rely only on gills for respiration. But, some species like lungfishes and some catfishes can breathe air via their mouth or anus if necessary.

Mudskippers use both gills and lungs to extract oxygen from air and water. They live in intertidal areas, spending time in and out of water when the tide recedes.

In one case, sawfish swam up freshwater rivers due to low oxygen levels in the area. They used spiracles instead of gills to breathe. Fish have multiple accessory breathing organs!

Accessory breathing organs in fish

Fish have evolved air-breathing organs to supplement their gill-breathing system. These organs enable them to breathe outside of water, giving them the ability to survive in low oxygen conditions or move between bodies of water. Lungfish have lungs similar to amphibians and reptiles, while catfish use a modified gastrointestinal tract to breathe air through their anus. Some species can even absorb oxygen through their skin.

The NOAA estimates 32,000 fish species worldwide that have adapted their own respiratory mechanisms. So why swim when you can breathe air? Lungfishes are the ultimate rebels of the underwater world.


Lungfish have peculiar physical characteristics. They have large, elongated bodies with thick scales and a primitive lung, which they use to extract oxygen from the air.

Their breathing technique is equally unique. They can take in air while on the surface of the water or on land. Plus, their skin and gills can absorb oxygen while underwater. Some species can even survive out of water for up to six months!

What’s more, they can aestivate – a type of dormancy similar to hibernation. During this period, they secrete a mucus-like substance that hardens around them to keep them from drying out. This unique ability enabled them to survive a severe drought in Australia.

Catfish are also sneaky breathers. They can suck air from the surface like underwater detectives. No wonder they always look like they’re up to something!


Catfish are renowned for their ability to breathe air outside of water. This is called facultative air breathing. It uses a special organ called the labyrinth organ.

The air-breathing frequency and duration of catfish varies. For example, walking catfish take 20-25 mins per day, only 10-15 secs each time. African catfish breathe up to 95% of the time; up to 24 hrs.

The labyrinth organ is in the head and has blood vessels with folds. This helps exchange air and blood. Catfish also gulp air with their mouths or other openings, such as behind their eyes.

A tip: Provide a suitable environment with enough oxygen. This will reduce your catfish’s need to facultative air breathe and promote better health. Amazingly, fish can gasp for air outside of water!

Climbing Perch

Climbing Fishes: Air-Breathing Wonders!

The Anabantidae family, also known as Climbing Perch, have the amazing ability to breathe air and explore land environments. Here’s what sets them apart:

Climbing Perch FeaturesDescription
Gills and LungsThey have both organs to respire water and air; modified gill chambers help maintain moisture.
Moist SkinThey can extract oxygen through their skin in humid conditions.
Supplemental RespirationThey can store air in an enlarged part of their swim bladder, called the labyrinth organ. This helps them survive periods of drought or low oxygen.

These incredible adaptations make Climbing Perch a great fit for various aquatic habitats. Research shows they can even survive in rivers with low oxygen content! (source: Esther Ngumbi)

Mudskippers: Mastering both air and water – impressive!


Mudskippers are amphibious fish with adaptations to live in water and on land. They possess lungs and gills, which allow them to get oxygen from the air and water.

Their fins are developed into paddle-like structures, aiding them on soft mud and solid ground. Plus, their eyes protrude from the skull and are placed high for predator spotting.

It’s believed that Mudskippers first appeared fifty million years ago during the Eocene period. Fossils show they lived in oceans near Southeast Asia before adapting to dry land.

Warning: Do not try to charge your phone with an electric eel. Desperate times don’t call for desperate measures!

Electric Eels

Electricity production in fish is not unheard of. The electric eel is one of the few species that can do so. These eels have cells called electrocytes, which allow them to generate an electrical discharge of up to 600 volts. They are related to catfish and carp and can even breathe air.

Look no further! Discover other amazing sea creatures with us! Why did the snakehead fish take a walk on land? To show it is more than just a fish out of water!

Snakehead fish

Snakehead Fish are able to breathe air out of water! They have a unique organ in their head called the labyrinth organ which allows them to absorb oxygen from air. They can also gulp air from the surface of the water. This adaptation is especially helpful for dry spells or water with low oxygen levels.

Plus, some species can crawl on land for short distances using their pectoral fins. However, they still need access to water and can’t survive solely on land.

Fun fact: Snakehead fish have become an invasive species in many places, thanks to their adaptability and aggressive nature. Now, they’re daring aerial acrobats!

What Happens to Fish When They Breathe Air?

To understand what happens to fish when they breathe air, it’s important to explore the advantages and disadvantages of air-breathing and the changes in behavior and physiology that occur as a result. In this section on “What Happens to Fish When They Breathe Air?” with sub-sections of “Advantages of air-breathing,Disadvantages of air-breathing,Changes in behavior and physiology”, we will take a closer look at each of these elements and their impact on fish.

Advantages of air-breathing

Fish that can breathe air boast several advantages for their survival. For instance, they can live in oxygen-depleted environments like swamps and deep sea trenches. Plus, they can avoid predators by staying still at the bottom and taking breaths of air.

Moreover, some species can lie on the sand banks while pumping air through the gills and hunt for prey. There is also a unique organ called the “labyrinth organ”, which enriches blood with oxygen from atmospheric air.

Additionally, a few fish species can extract nitrogen from the air, which helps maintain the internal pressure needed for swimming at different depths.

Air-breathing isn’t only exclusive to aquatic animals; amphibians, reptiles, and even mammals (such as whales) have this capacity.

Fossil records show that 300-400 million years ago, stem-group bony fishes had modified swim bladders that acted as primitive lungs, enabling them to breathe air intermittently. Fins may be good for swimming, but they cannot help with gasping for air.

Disadvantages of air-breathing

Air-breathing: Its Disadvantages for Marine Creatures

Marine animals that breathe air face several issues. These include:

  • More energy: Lungs use more energy than gills to get oxygen from air, draining the animal’s resources quickly.
  • Dehydration risk: Air can dry out marine animals since they can’t keep moisture on their outer surfaces.
  • Dive time: Carbon dioxide builds up, limiting dive time since air breathers have to come up frequently to exhale & inhale.
  • Oxygen toxicity: They must adjust to changes in oxygen levels & pressure to avoid toxicity or sickness.
  • Predators: Rising for air makes them vulnerable to predators at the surface.
  • Habitat: Limited access points may make it hard for some species to survive in shallow waters.

Fish can breathe air but less efficiently than with gills. Not all fish have air-breathing organs.

Studies show that lungfish can switch to gill respiration in low-oxygen conditions, surviving when aquatic habitats are hypoxic.

True Fact: The lungs of some fishes can extract up to 80% of oxygen from air (source).

Why do fish need gills when they could just hold their breath?

Changes in behavior and physiology

Fish that start breathing air experience strange changes. Their gills become less effective, so they take bigger gulps of air from the surface. Fish may move to areas with more air too.

This is vital for species like lungfish and mudskippers, which can live in water and on land. Lungfish can survive out of water, and mudskippers use their modified fins to hop on land and absorb oxygen through their skin.

But air exposure can be risky. It can lead to dehydration, and fish are more vulnerable to predators when gasping at the surface.

This all started 400 million years ago with primitive lungfish evolving a structure that allowed air-breathing. This adaptation helped them survive in areas with low water and not enough oxygen.

Can All Fish Breathe Air?

To understand if all fish can breathe air or not, you need to explore further. There are differences in air-breathing ability among various fish species. Factors affecting air-breathing in fish can also have an impact. In this section, we will explore examples of fish that cannot breathe air to provide you with a clearer understanding.

Differences in air-breathing ability among fish species

Different fish species have their own air-breathing capabilities. For instance, lungfish and certain catfish can get oxygen directly from air. On the other hand, betta fish and gourami have special organs known as labyrinths that let them breathe air at the water surface. Furthermore, some fish can take in atmospheric oxygen via their skin or modified swim bladders; even if only for a short period of time.

The following table illustrates the air-breathing powers of various fish species:

SpeciesAir-Breathing Ability
LungfishDirectly from Air
CatfishDirectly from Air
Betta FishLabyrinth
Climbing PerchModified Swim Bladder

These mechanisms developed due to different environmental conditions. For example, lungfish live in water bodies with low oxygen, while labyrinth fish prefer shallow water with low oxygen levels.

Unfortunately, human activities have caused damage to the natural habitats of these amazing creatures. In Bangladesh’s Chalan Beel wetlands, climbing perch have been seen digging burrows in farmers’ rice fields. This is rarely seen in natural places like swamps or billabongs. When the fields are drained during planting season, the fish inside can’t escape and risk dying. The climate crisis also puts these adaptive fish in danger, since they may not be able to adapt quickly enough to changes brought by oceanic acidification and higher temperatures.

So why join a gym when you can marvel at fish trying to gulp air?

Factors affecting air-breathing in fish

What affects the air-breathing capability of fish? Some fish species have the capacity to take in oxygen from both air and water. Different factors, like habitat requirements, environmental stressors, metabolism rates, predation risks, and phylogenetic history, can influence this behavior differently. For instance, temporary ponds may make fish lung-breathe for survival during droughts. Also, low oxygen levels in the water can cause air breathing by hypoxia-sensitive fish. Plus, larger body size and higher activity levels lead to more gill surface area and less reliance on aerial respiration.

The following table summarizes the effects of different factors on air breathing in fish:

Habitat QualityNeed & frequency of air breathing
Dissolved OxygenGill respiration rate & air breathing
Body SizeLess aerial respiration & bigger gills
Activity LevelsRespiratory exchange surface area
Predation RiskCost & benefits of air breath

Genetic modifications over millions of years give fish this trait. Detailed research into comparative genomics, developmental biology, and biomechanics is needed to understand how certain gene-expression patterns or structural adaptations allow efficient gas exchange. Also, studying evolutionary adaptations at various scales (genes to ecosystems) can help us see how human-induced changes affect species-specific traits.

We should take action to preserve fish and aquatic biodiversity. Join conservation groups, advocate ocean-friendly behavior changes, or make sustainable seafood choices. Our efforts can have a positive effect on the food web and ensure marine life is around for future generations to enjoy.

Examples of fish that cannot breathe air

Certain species of fish rely solely on their gills to extract oxygen from the water. They lack organs for pulmonary respiration. Such species usually evolve in aquatic environments with high oxygen concentrations.

Examples of fish that cannot breathe air are:

  • Great White Shark
  • Blue Whale
  • Piranha
  • Electric Eel
  • Jellyfish

Interesting fact: some fish can gulp air, but only use it to control their buoyancy. Others have special respiratory organs like the labyrinth organ or swim bladder to get oxygen from air.

To keep such fish healthy, provide aeration and good water quality. Live aquarium plants, aerators, and filters help circulate water and increase oxygen levels. Fish can’t breathe air, but they can delight us with their underwater acrobatics!


To conclude the article “Can Fish Breathe Air Out of Water?” and provide a clear understanding of the topic, here is a summary of key points to remember. Additionally, final thoughts on the topic will be shared to give you a better perspective and leave you with a deeper understanding of fish biology.

Summary of key points

Key Takeaways:

  • An MOU is a mutual agreement between two or more parties. It outlines the intention to enter a relationship.
  • MOUs are not legally binding. They are just the start of negotiations and conversations.
  • The primary aim of an MOU is to build trust and cooperation.
  • It contains information like purpose, scope, responsibilities, and timelines.
  • Transparency, goal definition, stakeholder involvement are vital for writing effective MOUs.

Organizations use MOUs to create partnerships before entering legal agreements. These agreements are key for building relationships by specifying areas of collaboration and coordination. They help avoid potential disagreements later on by setting clear expectations. The success of an MOU depends upon how well it is written, communicated, and implemented. Organizations should review MOUs often since circumstances change over time.

To illustrate, the United States has signed various MOUs with foreign countries regarding environmental protection, civil aviation safety, and military defense. For example, the Camp David Accords in 1978 was an MOA that resulted in peace between Israel and Egypt. To conclude, if you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey!

Final thoughts on the topic

We’ve finished our talk on the subject. It’s key to think back on the key points. In short, we’ve gone over a lot of topics with expert opinions and research. Later, it’s important to think about how this knowledge works in real life.

Moreover, we must consider the effect of new tech on the subject. As ideas and approaches keep changing, staying up-to-date is a must.

Finally, as we end this article, readers should remember to follow best practices. With proactive strategies and staying informed on trends, success can be had.

Pro Tip: For a better understanding of tricky topics, look for different views and opinions.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can fish breathe air out of water?

Yes, some fish are able to breathe air out of water. These fish have a swim bladder that is adapted to act as a lung. They are able to take in air from above the water’s surface and extract oxygen from it.

2. Which fish can breathe air out of water?

Some examples of fish that can breathe air out of water include lungfish, various types of catfish, and some species of eels. However, not all fish are able to breathe air and many are dependent on gills for their oxygen supply.

3. Why do fish breathe air out of water?

Fish that are able to breathe air out of water do so in order to survive in low-oxygen environments. In some cases, they may live in stagnant or polluted water where oxygen levels are low. In other cases, they may inhabit shallow waters that dry up periodically, forcing them to rely on air to survive.

4. How long can fish breathe air out of water?

The amount of time that fish can survive out of water varies depending on the species and other conditions. Some fish can survive for several hours or even days outside of water, while others may only be able to survive for a few minutes.

5. Is it harmful to fish if they breathe air out of water?

In some cases, breathing air out of water can be stressful for fish and may result in health problems or reduced lifespan. However, for species that are adapted to this behavior, it is a necessary part of their survival strategy.

6. Can fish suffocate if they cannot breathe air out of water?

Yes, fish that are unable to breathe air out of water may suffocate if they are unable to get enough oxygen through their gills. In order to survive, these fish need access to oxygen-rich water and may be unable to survive in low-oxygen environments or during periods of drought.