Why Do Fish Jump Out of the Water?

There are a few reasons why fish jump out of the water. They are trying to travel faster while using less energy, the habitat they live in is poisonous, they are hunting for prey, or they are trying to break free from a hook. Even aquarium fish will jump out of the water if they notice that the water is becoming poisonous.

Why Would a Fish Jump Out of the Water?

It may be strange, but there are a few fish species known for jumping out of the water. There are fish that can jump for long distances. The most common fish that can jump out of the water is known as the Flying Fish. The flying fish is infamous, and many people know it as the only fish that jump out of the water. However, there are many different motives for why a fish would jump out of the water. 

  • They see their prey hovering above the water surface. 

Many fish eat insects as part of their diet, and they can’t always wait for an insect to land on the water or die in midair. But fish who feed on insects can jump out of the water in order to catch their prey. For a fish to jump through the surface of the water and catch an insect, they will dive down into the water and swim up with all of their might. Once they pass through the water’s surface and are in the air, they move faster because there is far less resistance when flying through the air than swimming in the water.

  • They can travel faster. 

Fish and other sea mammals that have long migration patterns are more likely to jump out of the water. One mammal that people look forward to seeing jump out of the water is the dolphin. It is so common for dolphins to jump out of the water that there are entire boating companies with their own dedicated dolphin sightseeing tours. Surprisingly, it is an energy-saving technique. Swimming through the ocean is difficult and energy-consuming, even for the animals that live in the ocean for all their lives. But jumping through the air is a way to save their energy. With the same amount of strength they use to swim through the water, they can travel faster and farther in the air.

  • They have been hooked, and they are trying to break free. 

Humans have been hunting for fish for tens of thousands of years, and as a result, they have developed ways of avoiding capture. Fish that live in popular fishing spots are much harder to capture than fish that don’t see many fishers. Fish are more likely to avoid certain colors if fishers use that color for their bait. But perhaps the most surprising reason fish jump out of the water is that they are trying to remove a hook from their mouth. When a fish flounders and struggles in the water, they have to use much more energy than if they were in the air or on land. So when they jump out of the water, their thrashing is stronger, and they’re more likely to either snap the line or wiggle the hook out of their mouths.

  • The water that they live in is poisoning them. 

Fish are highly susceptible to dying if their habitat is poisoned. Fish will begin to jump out of the water and onto land if they feel that they can no longer live in the water. If a company allows its waste products or toxic waste to leak into nearby rivers and streams in the area, a person living near the affected body of water will witness fish jumping out of the water and onto land because they’re trying to escape. 

Which Fish are Likely to Jump Out of the Water?

There are hundreds of species of fish around the world that can jump out of the water. Some smaller fish can jump one or two feet while the stronger fish, mostly those who live in the ocean, can jump dozens of feet in the air.

Here are just are few of the fish that can jump out of the water:

  • Smallmouth bass
  • Asian carp
  • Peacock bass
  • Rainbow trout
  • Chinook salmon
  • Coho salmon
  • Alligator gar
  • Largemouth bass
  • Sturgeon

Aquarium Fish Jumping

As stated above, fish whose habitats have been poisoned jump onto land because they are dying. You can see the same behavior in fish that live in an aquarium. People who accidentally poison their fish have remarked that their fish try to escape by jumping.

But when aquarium fish jump out of the water, it doesn’t always mean that someone purposely poisoned their water. It could also be water quality. Tropical fish need the water they live in to stay at the correct ph so they can thrive. If their tank or their water is not properly maintained, they can die. 

Since they have nowhere to escape the poisonous water, they will try to jump out of the aquarium. One of the reasons why in an aquarium fish would jump out of the water is because there was too much ammonium in the tank. Ammonium is a property of their poop, and if their water is not being filtered out correctly, then the ammonium can build up in their water and slowly kill them.


Fish can use their strength and speed to break through the water surface and fly through the air. As a hunting method, jumping into the air is effective, and they often catch their prey with this method. Fish also jump out of the water because the water is turning poisonous and could kill them. A large amount of dead fish on land is a surefire way to know if a nearby lake or river has been contaminated. Even small fish that live in an aquarium will try to jump out if their water is not being maintained correctly.

Read: How to Catch a Fish with Your Bare Hands

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