My relatives went on a trip leaving behind their goldfish. When they returned, they noticed that a fish had jumped out of the water and had become dry, apparently dead. But the fish was put back inside water again, and to my relatives' surprise, it became alive.


I don't think the relatives are lying. If the anecdote is correct, could there be a scientific reason for the observation?

  • 2
    Probably like our cat, it heard the familiar sound of the owners car and jumped out in anticipation. then the owners took a while to unpack hence it dried out while waiting (in a sunny spot say). Apr 3, 2021 at 16:44
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    Fish and other cold blooded animals are operating at much lower metabolic rates and thus are much more tolerant to oxygen deprivation; slower metabolism means that their oxygen usage is much less, on the other hand we need to burn a large amount of calories just to maintain a constant 37 °C body temperature.
    – lila
    Apr 3, 2021 at 17:18
  • 1
    Seriously... is this an April Fools? Apr 3, 2021 at 18:37
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    My opinion, since two people already raised their concerns about this question being an April Fools joke: thanks for taking your concerns; it is not up to me to decide whether it is or not, but as a fish owner I have once experienced a thing like this with a small fish that jumped out of the aquarium and I believe this question is legitimate and has a merit to it. My case was a small fish (about 3-4 cm White Cloud Mountain minnow) that I had found laying on the carpet next to the aquarium. It was seemingly lifeless, but revived upon ...
    – lila
    Apr 5, 2021 at 22:49
  • ... introduction to the water without any immediately apparent ill effects. I was at home the time it happened and thus I was able to determine that fish must had spent between about 20 minutes to an hour laying there outside of the water. It wasn't dried up like a crisp, but had visibly lost quite a bit of moisture laying there and wasn't looking quite right, so its "revival" was a huge surprise to me.
    – lila
    Apr 5, 2021 at 22:49

1 Answer 1


Goldfish can live for up to three hours out of water.

It also depends on where your goldfish lands. If they landed somewhere moist or in the puddle of water they spilled out of their bowel, they can survive for around three hours. However, landing on a dry surface will kill them in about one hour, due to lack of breathable oxygen for their gills as well as other reasons as indicated by Lila in her comment:

Many aquatic organisms, including fish, are ammonotelic - they rely on being surrounded by water to constantly excrete nitrogenous waste, mainly by gills. Deamination of amino acids in protein metabolism produces ammonia which is highly toxic; mammals metabolize ammonia into urea which is relatively non-toxic and doesn't need to be immediately excreted, but most fish must rely on excreting ammonia immediately from their bodies. Being outside of water disables this and, on top of suffocating, also poisons them. More information: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolic_waste#Nitrogen_wastes

So... it never fully died.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a zombie goldfish.


vivofish.com - How Long Can Goldfish Live Out Of Water?


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