Fish With Legs: 9 Unique Walking Fishes(Update 2024)

Last updated on February 11th, 2024 at 04:10 pm

Have you ever pondered the possibility of fish having legs and what such creatures might look like? It’s a thought-provoking notion, but the reality is that there’s a surprising diversity of fish equipped with leg-like appendages, often in the form of evolved fins.

Among the vast tapestry of over 30,000 fish species that exist today, some possess the astonishing ability to venture onto land, blurring the lines between aquatic and terrestrial life. Yes, you read that correctly – there are fish that can walk!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll introduce you to over 09 remarkable fish species with legs or other specialized anatomical features that enable them to navigate both aquatic and terrestrial realms. Prepare to embark on a captivating journey and discover the fascinating world of these unique aquatic beings. Happy reading!

Key Points

  • The “Mexican Walking Fish,” often mistaken for a fish, is an amphibian called the Axolotl. It inhabits freshwater lakes and ponds in Mexico.
  • The Senegal bichir fish can use its fins to move short distances on land, allowing it to travel between ponds or capture prey attempting to flee water.
  • Some mudskippers can climb trees using their pelvic and pectoral fins, resembling walking with crutches. This unique ability isn’t exclusive to mudskippers; frogfish are also part of this rare club of walking fish.
  • Warty Frogfish swim differently from other fish, using openings in their gills to propel themselves forward, akin to jet engines, rather than relying heavily on their tails.
  • Fascinating fish with legs are popular in aquariums, but they require good water quality and ample swimming space in aquariums or large aquariums.

Why Do Fish Have Legs?

Fish with legs? Yes, they exist! These remarkable creatures have evolved an ability to walk in water or on land. There are a couple of compelling reasons behind this peculiar development:

1. Collecting Food: Some fish with legs can leave the water to search for food or anchor themselves on the underwater terrain, making them more efficient at gathering sustenance.

2. Escaping Predators: The ability to transition between water and land provides a crucial escape route. If threatened by a shark or a land predator, these fish can quickly move to safety – either onto the shore or into the water.

3. Blending In Fish with legs can cling to objects in their environment, offering them effective camouflage and protection from potential predators.

In essence, fish with legs showcase the extraordinary adaptability of nature, allowing them to thrive in challenging and dynamic ecosystems.

Why Don’t Fish Have Legs?

Firstly, watching fish gracefully swim through water makes it clear that walking isn’t necessary for them. Their streamlined bodies are perfectly adapted for underwater navigation.

Furthermore, most fish cannot survive outside of aquatic environments for more than a few minutes. They rely on gills to extract oxygen from water and cannot breathe on land.

However, there are exceptions to this rule – some peculiar fish do have legs, despite the general trend among fish species.

List of 09 Fish With Legs

Axolotl: The Aquatic Marvel

Fish With Legs! Axolotl is walking on the stone with feet
  • Scientific Name: Ambystoma mexicanum
  • Diet: Carnivore; consumes small fish, insects, and even other salamanders.
  • Size: Typically 9 – 12 inches, occasionally reaching up to 18 inches.
  • Origin: Native to Mexico, specifically Mexico City.
  • Type: Freshwater
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes

While Axolotls aren’t technically fish, they are prized additions to fish tanks due to their captivating nature. The Axolotl, also known as the Mexican walking fish, belongs to the salamander family and originates from select lakes in Mexico.

What sets these aquatic beings apart is their remarkable ability to retain their gills and webbed feet throughout their lives, never fully transitioning to a terrestrial existence. Essentially, they are four-legged “fish.”

Sadly, in their natural habitat, Axolotls face critical endangerment due to pollution, habitat drainage, and other environmental challenges. However, these unique creatures continue to thrive in aquariums worldwide.

Mexican walking fish are exceptional pets, especially their albino variants, a visual delight in freshwater aquariums. To ensure their well-being, they require cool water conditions and a tank of at least 20 gallons for optimal health and happiness.

So, while they may not be traditional fish, Axolotls are aquatic marvels that have found a special place in the hearts of aquarium enthusiasts around the globe.

Hillstream Loaches: Aquatic Wonders

Fish With Legs
  • Scientific Name: Sewellia sp. and more.
  • Diet: Omnivore; feasts on small invertebrates, algae, and biofilm.
  • Size: Typically around 2.5 inches.
  • Origin: Hailing from Asia.
  • Type: Freshwater.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

Hillstream loaches are a remarkable and somewhat unconventional group of fish. Among these species, scientists have made intriguing discoveries – several possess the ability to traverse land, thanks to their distinctive enlarged pelvic girdle.

While your typical reticulated hillstream loach may not be seen strolling on dry ground, they are well-equipped to navigate the rocky terrain at the bottom of fast-flowing streams. This adaptation is a testament to their resilience in dynamic aquatic environments.

One notable member of this group is the cave angelfish, a petite, sightless species native to Southeast Asia. What sets this fish apart is its exceptional capability to scale waterfalls, a feat made possible by its unique skeletal structure. Studying these creatures offers valuable insights into how legs may have initially developed in aquatic animals, shedding light on the evolutionary wonders of our natural world.

In the realm of freshwater aquaria, hillstream loaches captivate enthusiasts with their distinct behaviors and adaptations, adding a touch of wonder and curiosity to aquatic environments.

Dinosaur Bichir: The Land-Walking Wonder

Fish With Legs
  • Scientific Name: Polypterus senegalus
  • Diet: Carnivore; feasts on aquatic invertebrates and other fish.
  • Size: Typically grows up to 14 inches.
  • Origin: Hails from Africa.
  • Type: Freshwater.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

The dinosaur bichir is a captivating freshwater species renowned for its remarkable ability to navigate on both land and in water. These fish possess a unique talent – they can breathe below and above the water’s surface. This extraordinary adaptation is made possible by their specially adapted fins and their distinctive wriggling, serpentine motion, which allows them to traverse terrestrial terrain.

While you can indeed keep a dinosaur bichir in a larger home aquarium, it’s important to note that this isn’t a pet you’ll be taking out for walks anytime soon! These fascinating aquatic creatures are best appreciated within the confines of a well-maintained aquarium, where their intriguing behaviors and adaptations can be observed with awe and wonder.

Mudskippers: Nature’s Amphibious Marvels

Fish With Legs
  • Scientific Name: Periophthalmus sp. and more.
  • Diet: Omnivores, primarily consume small crustaceans and tiny creatures.
  • Size: Up to 12 inches.
  • Origin: Indigenous to Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania.
  • Type: Thrive in brackish waters.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

Mudskippers, the aquatic acrobats, defy conventional fish norms. They’re the exclusive fish species with legs that prefer terra firma to water! Using modified pectoral and pelvic fins, they navigate both land and water effortlessly, even leaping into the air with their tails.

These fascinating creatures call the sheltered mangrove environments home. They craft burrows to seek refuge during low tide and can be spotted perched on tree roots above the water’s surface, displaying their unique affinity for both land and sea. In a display of their agility, they can even skim over water like a stone.

For hobbyists and admirers of the natural world, mudskippers offer a captivating glimpse into the intricacies of life at the dynamic intersection of land and water.

Sea Robin: The Seabed Strollers

Fish With Legs
  • Scientific Name: Prionotinae subfamily.
  • Diet: Carnivores; ‘ diet consists of mollusks and various invertebrates.
  • Size: Ranging from 4 to 17 inches.
  • Origin: Inhabit the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
  • Type: Reside in saltwater environments.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

Sea robins, also known as red gurnard, possess a mesmerizing adaptation that sets them apart in the underwater world. They gracefully traverse the seabed using their pelvic fins, which have remarkably evolved into six leg-like rays located just behind and below their head.

While they retain the ability to swim like typical fish, sea robins exhibit an almost insect-like quality as they crawl along the seabed in search of their next meal. Their unique “legs” also prove to be quite handy when it comes to digging up buried treasures hidden beneath the sand, making them proficient foragers in their saltwater habitat.

For enthusiasts and admirers of marine life, sea robins offer a glimpse into the remarkable diversity of adaptations that have evolved in the depths of our oceans.

Snakeheads: Aquatic Marvels with a Troubling Legacy

Snakehead running over concrete in water
  • Scientific Name: Channa spp.
  • Diet: Carnivores; ‘ menu includes various species, such as small fish, frogs, and even birds.
  • Size: Ranging from 6 to an astounding 36 inches.
  • Origin: Native to Asia and Africa.
  • Type: Inhabit freshwater ecosystems.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes, though subject to specific regulations in the USA.

Snakeheads encompass a diverse group of over fifty fish species, spanning from the petite and vibrant rainbow snakehead, measuring around 6 inches, to the colossal giant snakehead, which can grow to nearly 5 feet in length!

These freshwater marvels possess a remarkable repertoire of adaptations, including the ability to both breathe and traverse on land. This extraordinary skill aids them in transitioning between different pools and swamps, offering them a competitive edge in their dynamic habitats.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the unfortunate side of their story. Snakeheads have gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. Originally from Asia, some of these highly aggressive fish have escaped captivity and become invasive in the United States, causing ecological concerns and prompting specific regulations governing their ownership.

Warty Frogfish: Masters of Camouflage

Fish With Legs
  • Scientific Name: Antennarius maculatus
  • Diet: Carnivore; preys on other fish.
  • Size: Up to 6 inches.
  • Origin: Hailing from the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean.
  • Type: Thrives in saltwater environments.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

Meet the warty frogfish, a vibrant member of the anglerfish family. These underwater wonders are unique in that they “walk” beneath the waves rather than on land. With a flair for disguise, they gracefully navigate the reef, patiently seeking the perfect hunting spot.

Their camouflage skills are nothing short of astonishing. Resembling the corals in which they dwell, warty frogfish are masters of deception. Small fish that venture too close to these expertly concealed predators find themselves at a considerable disadvantage when the frogfish unveils its cavernous mouth.

For aquarium enthusiasts and marine aficionados, observing the warty frogfish is a lesson in the art of disguise and ambush in the depths of the ocean, where every moment brings new marvels of adaptation to light.

Polypterus Lapradei: The Land-Walking Fish

Polypterus Lapradei running on concrete underwater
  • Scientific Name: Polypterus lapradei
  • Diet: Carnivore; consumes various aquatic creature species.
  • Size: Can grow over 2 feet in length.
  • Origin: Native to Africa.
  • Type: Thrives in freshwater environments.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes.

Polypterus lapradei, a captivating species of bichir fish originating from Africa, possesses a remarkable set of talents. These prehistoric ray-finned fish exhibit an uncanny ability to traverse land, utilizing their pectoral fins, and even breathe air thanks to their swim bladder.

Their appearance is nothing short of intriguing, resembling a fusion between a dinosaur and an eel. This captivating blend of ancient allure and unique adaptations makes them a popular choice among fish enthusiasts.

For those who appreciate the wonders of the natural world, Polypterus lapradei is a living testament to the diverse and remarkable life forms that our planet harbors, offering a glimpse into the astonishing adaptability of aquatic creatures.

Epaulette Shark: The Tide-Trotting Marvel

  • Scientific Name: Hemiscyllium ocellatum
  • Diet: Carnivore; feasts on crabs and polychaete worms.
  • Size: Can reach up to 3 feet in length.
  • Origin: Indigenous to the waters of Australia and New Guinea.
  • Type: Inhabits saltwater environments.
  • Available to Hobbyists: Yes, but recommended for experienced aquarists with sizable tanks and budgets.

The epaulette shark, hailing from the shallow tropical waters surrounding Australia, is a fascinating species. These sharks possess a unique survival strategy – they can endure in shallow pools when the tide recedes, and remarkably, they can traverse over exposed terrain to seek deeper waters if needed.

For aquarium enthusiasts, the epaulette shark presents an intriguing opportunity. However, they are best suited for experienced aquarists with ample tank space and financial resources, as their care demands a significant commitment.

These tide-trotting marvels are a testament to the diversity of life in our oceans, demonstrating the incredible adaptability of marine creatures to ever-changing environments.

Final Thoughts

In the world of aquatic wonders, fish with ‘legs’ reveal nature’s endless creativity. While their appendages may not resemble those of land mammals, their unique adaptations have captivated fish enthusiasts. The beauty of fishkeeping lies in the ever-present opportunity to explore the peculiar and discover the extraordinary.

I hope you’ve relished this journey through eleven fascinating fish with legs, and who knows, one day, they might find a place in your tank. Share your favorite aquatic marvel in the comments below!


1. Are these fish suitable for home aquariums?

Some are suitable for experienced aquarists with specific tank requirements, while others may not be ideal for beginners due to their distinct needs. Always research and consult experts before adding any fish to your aquarium.

2. What are fish with legs called?

Fish that can walk or crawl are often referred to as “walking fish” or “ambulatory fish.” They encompass various species with unique abilities, from those that leave the water and breathe air to those that move along reefs or the ocean floor.

3. How many fishes have legs?

There are no fish species with true legs. However, some species have modified fins that allow them to crawl, stand, or even walk. Among the over 30,000 fish species worldwide, only a small percentage possess this capability.

4. What are the legs of a fish called?

The “legs” on fish are modified fins. Many species with walking abilities have sturdy pectoral and pelvic fins shaped like simple legs. In certain species like sea robins, individual fin rays function as legs, giving these fish the appearance of walking on six legs!

5. What’s the most challenging aspect of keeping these fish as pets?

The challenge often lies in recreating their natural habitat, providing suitable tank conditions, and meeting their dietary needs. Consult experts and conduct thorough research before keeping any of these unique fish.

6. Where can I learn more about these fish and their care?

Reputable aquarium books, online forums, and consultation with experienced aquarists are valuable resources for in-depth information and guidance on caring for these remarkable fish.


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