Jumping fish that live on land – true or myth?


It would seem, what could be more boring than fish? Most of them do not make a single sound and just swim in the water, foolishly falling into the bait of fishermen. However, these creatures should not be underestimated – among them there are amazing views. Take, for example, the mudskipper Periophthalmus , which not only can breathe on land, but also occasionally find themselves in the tops of trees. You may have already heard about such creatures on TV or popular science YouTube channels, but thought that they were very rare animals. We hasten to assure you that mudskippers live in many parts of our planet and are divided into several dozen species. Let’s find out in more detail where they can be seen and how they manage to walk on land and even climb trees?

Where do jumping fish live?

There are 35 species of mudskipper worldwide, perhaps more, but scientists have only found that many so far. You might think that they live only in some wilderness and do not intersect with people. But no, jumping fish can be found in Africa, Australia and some Asian countries. As you can understand, these creatures love warm places. What can I say, you can’t even come across them in Europe.


As the name implies, mudskippers live in places with a muddy bottom. As housing, they use burrows up to 50 centimeters deep. Only males are engaged in digging these holes – females are engaged in laying eggs and raising offspring. Jumping fish rarely dive into the water depths, so they spend most of their time on land.

Mudskipper on a rock

What do fish that can jump eat?

The diet of mudskippers is the same as that of ordinary fish: algae, small crustaceans, insects and other small foods. They can feed both in water and on land. If this happens on the shore, the fish have to dip into the water and moisten the food, otherwise nothing.

How fish jump on rocks and trees

Burrowing, spawning, feeding on insects and all that is not so amazing phenomena. Let’s talk about how mudskippers jump over high rocks and climb trees.

By themselves, jumping fish are small, their body length usually does not exceed 20 centimeters. They have a large head with bulging eyes. The fins are also large – they use them as paws for moving on land. For jumping, they use their powerful tail. By swinging the back of the body, they can jump to a height of about 20 centimeters. This is quite enough to jump on stones – abdominal suckers help them to stay on them.

Large head helps males dig holes

But twenty centimeters is not enough to jump on a tree? One would assume that they climb up the branches, using suction cups on their belly to hold on to them. But the branches are usually higher than twenty centimeters above the ground, so this option is no longer possible. The reality is that mudskippers usually hit trees at high tide times.

The ability to jump high is mainly used by fish to lie down on a high stone and bask in the sun. But the main function of jumping is to attract the attention of females. Male representatives “dance” in front of their chosen ones, after which mating takes place. Females lay their eggs in pre-dug burrows, and then the males protect their offspring from attacks by predators. The enemies of mudskippers are water snakes and herons. There is no need for jumping fish to be afraid of people, because they do not make dishes from them – apparently, their taste is so-so.

Mudskippers are not eaten by humans

How do fish breathe on land?

Jumping fish breathe on land through their skin. Also in their large head is a cavity in which they can store a supply of water. Their eyes protrude strongly outward and, in order to moisten them, they immerse them in large eye sockets. In general, mudskippers are very similar to amphibians like frogs. But scientists consider them fish because they have fins.

Jumping fish video

About everything that is written above, scientists learned in the course of careful observations of mudskippers. Below you can watch a couple of videos with these amazing creatures.


Video of jumping fish in their natural habitat


How do fish jump? See for yourself

Sharks that can walk on land

Finally, it is worth noting that sometimes creatures accustomed to aquatic life begin to walk on land because of vital necessity. Cat sharks ( Hemiscyllium ocellatum ) have recently been sighted in Papua New Guinea using their fins to walk on land. The new skill came in handy for them to look for food in places where other sharks cannot reach. At first, reports of walking sharks were seen as fake, but environmentalist Forrest Galante traveled to eastern New Guinea and filmed them.


Walking shark report

Did you know about the existence of fish that can move on land? Write in the comment section.

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