If you’ve ever been fishing or hung around a body of water long enough… you’ll notice that occasionally fish will jump out of the water.
Given that fish live and breathe underwater, what causes fish to jump out of the water?
The three most common reasons for a fish to jump out of the water are to escape from predators, hunt for food, or gasp for oxygen. Generally, fish will only jump out of water in a fight or flight situation.
Now that we know the most common reasons for fish jumping out of the water, let’s dive deeper into what causes fish to jump out of the water.
Reasons For Fish Jumping Out Of The Water
1. Escape From Predators
Generally, smaller fish can be seen jumping out of the water when they are being hunted by a larger fish.
Smaller fish will stay closer to the shoreline to stay away from deeper waters where larger fish roam. However, larger fish will try to hunt smaller fish which can cause the small fish to scatter and swim away.
Sometimes if the small fish has no other room to swim then the fish will jump out of the water in hopes of escaping the predator.
Common freshwater predators of smaller fish include trout, bass, and catfish. Usually, you can see a larger fish underneath the smaller fish when a bunch of small fish jumps out of the water.
1b. Escape A Fisherman’s Hook
If you are fishing then you may have experienced a fish jumping out of the water as you try to reel the fish in.
Another reason that fish may jump out of water is to “escape a predator” which is the fisherman and their hook!
Sometimes when the fish jumps out of the water, the hook will get loose and fall out of the fish’s mouth.
Common sport fish such as bass and walleye are known to jump out of the water since they are often caught enough to know how to get loose more often.
So once again, fish will jump out of the water to escape predators whether that’s a larger fish or a fisherman.
2. Hunt For Food
Food is the second most common reason for fish to jump out of the water and is similar to the first reason – escape from predators.
Whether larger fish are hunting smaller fish or insects, the larger fish may jump out of the water as it hunts for food.
Imagine a bass leaping out of the water to catch a dragonfly that is flying low to the water. There are plenty of other scenarios where a large fish will be hunting for a small fish or insect and jump out of the water to try and catch their food.
Now let’s move on to a reason why fish jump out of the water that doesn’t involve eating or being eaten.
3. To Get Oxygen
Fish will occasionally jump out of the water when the oxygen levels in the water drop to low levels. In matters of survival, fish will do anything they can to survive including finding enough oxygen.
Sometimes if there are too much algae or if the ammonia levels in a pond or fish tank are too high, then the fish will start jumping out of the water in order to try to get more oxygen. In this instance, the fish in the pond or fish tank is suffocating and is jumping out of the water to try and survive.
Fish that are living in ponds and fish tanks that have low levels of oxygen can sometimes be seen putting their mouths to the surface of the water and gulping or inhaling the air. This is another sign that there are too much algae or the ammonia levels are too high in the pond or fish tank.
4. To Reach Spawning Grounds
On the other hand, some fish species are wired to return back to their spawning grounds in order to lay eggs.
Salmon is the most famous fish species that will travel from the ocean and back up rivers and waterfalls to reach their original spawning ground.
It’s very common to see salmon jumping up small waterfalls and obstacles in order to reach their original spawning location. In fact, salmon will continue swimming upstream until they reach their original birth spot.
So don’t be surprised when you see a lot of salmon jumping out of the water as they swim up rivers and waterfalls to return to their spawning ground.
However, make sure you’re just watching the spawning salmon jump out of water. Any salmon that is at or near their spawning location will be inedible as their bodies begin deteriorating once salmon spawn.
In the Gulf of Mexico, some fish species gather together in a large group to romance and reproduce. It happens during the same time each year. The fishes throw themselves in the air and, through this procedure, both the male and female fish begin attracting each other to find the perfect mates.
This is the least common reason for fish to jump out of the water but it does happen for a few species.
There are a few common reasons for fish jumping out of the water.
Generally, fish are either hunting for food or being hunted when they jump out of the water. However, fish will also jump out of the water in order to get more oxygen or to reach spawning grounds.
Overall, fish will jump out of the water when they have to for survival. Usually fish are not jumping out of the water just for fun.
So the next time you see a fish jumping out of the water, look for nearby fish. These fish are usually being hunted or hunting smaller fish and insects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Fish Jump Out of The Water At Night?
Generally, fish will jump out of the water at night when they are hunting or being hunted. Fish will have a harder time seeing at night so larger fish will be able to sneak around better when it’s dark.
When the large fish comes close to a smaller fish, the small fish will have less time to safely swim away. So you may notice more small fish jumping out of the water at night as they try to escape being eaten.
Why Do Fish Jump Out of Water In A Pond?
Common reasons for fish to jump out of water in a pond are if the fish is hunting, being hunted, or if the oxygen levels are low in the pond.
It’s common for fish to jump out of the water when they are hunting or being hunted since that is often a last-ditch effort of the smaller fish from being eaten.
If the pond is full of friendly fish then the only reason for the fish to jump out of the water is if there is too much algae or high ammonia levels in the water.
Too much algae or high ammonia levels will cause the oxygen levels to drop in the water which is essentially suffocating the fish. So the fish will jump out of the water in order to try and get more oxygen.
Keep in mind that higher levels of ammonia in ponds are a result of too much fish waste in the water. So occasionally clean the pond in order to remove any excess algae or fish waste.
Why Do Fish Jump Out Of Tanks?
A common reason for fish to jump out of a fish tank is if the water does not have enough oxygen for the fish. Generally, fish in fish tanks are happy unless the water has too much ammonia, not enough oxygen, or if the pH is imbalanced.
Once the water is just right then the fish will usually be happy in a fish tank.
Sometimes smaller fish will jump out of a fish tank if the larger fish is trying to eat the smaller fish. So as long as all of your fish are friendly in the fish tank then this shouldn’t be an issue.
The best way to ensure that fish do not jump out of a fish tank is to place the lid over the fish tank whenever you are not feeding the fish.