Quite often, aquarists need to get fish out of a tank, maybe a fish is injured (sick) and needs treatment, or the owner wants to put it in a quarantine tank to stop disease-causing parasites from spreading to other members of a community.
Whatever the reason, knowing how to get your fish out of an aquarium is an important skill all fish keepers should hone, especially those of us with planted or decorated tanks.
The easiest and agreeable way to catch and remove fish from an aquarium is by using a net, but don’t be duped, netting is still an art that requires skills, patience, and a generous amount of tricks to implement without stressing your fish.
For this reason, in this article I’m going to share some kickass tips on how to catch aquarium fish, both with and without a net, and even in a planted tank.
How Do You Get Fish Out of A Tank?
As I’ve stated above, catching aquarium fish can be a challenging and frustrating task, and it is not uncommon to chase after a fish without success even after several attempts.
So, before you remove all contents in your fish tank to catch a single animal, consider either of these tricks!
Trick #1 —
Take a large net and dip it in your tank with the opening angled towards the water surface, then place some food inside the net and wait for the fish to go for the food to capture it.
This method may take a long minute, so plan ahead of time, and not feed the fish for a day or two before trying to get it out, this should help speed the process.
Moving a net in the water to catch your fish can cause a lot of stress to the fish, so try placing some sinking pellets or a wafer in the net to attract them, or use the net to herd your fish into a corner, trapping them against the wall of your tank.
Trick #2 —
A second way to catch aquarium fish using a net is to move it slowly inside the tank following the fish you want to get.
Slow movements are less startling to the fish and will increase the chance of the fish staying near the net.
That said, when you have the fish in (or nearly in) the net, a quick motion will help to get the fish into the net before it gets away.
In comparison, the first method is ideal for catching fish that love to swim at the top and middle-top halves of the tank. Whereas, the second one is efficient to catch top dwellers as well as bottom-dwelling fish like loaches and catfish, albeit more stressful.
Trick #3 —
When still using a net to catch your aquarium fish, the third alternative, which is somewhat of a variant of the second trick, is to use a net to guide your fish into a small acrylic box or a plastic container.
Once they are inside, flip the container up and cover it with the net until it is out of the water. This way, you will use a net, but not to catch the fish.
How to Catch Aquarium Fish Without a Net
Using a small colander to catch aquarium fish is a good option when you don’t have a net
When using a net to catch your aquarium fish, so often the gills or fins will get stuck in the net, which may hurt them. It’s also not uncommon for fish keepers to misplace their nets, for this reason, there is a need to know how to catch aquarium fish even without a net.
One brilliant alternative to using a net is to catch your fish with a square colander. It works perfectly ok, plus you can clean it in a water-vinegar mix afterward then let it dry.
You can also use a large cup to catch your fish if you have a tank too small for a colander. If you have no plants and decor in your aquarium, you can even use your hands to catch the fish, only make sure you handle the fish with care not to hurt or stress it.
As a last resort, particularly when you don’t have many fishes, like in a quarantine tank, you can remove most of the water, and pour the fish and remaining water into a bag.
A good hack when catching larger fish, gently scoop them in your hands.
Tease them close to you with tasty food, then trap them against the glass and slide them up to the surface. If you do this carefully and with patience, they usually submit.
For small fish, a colander is the best option, or any old takeout container or Tupperware with holes poked in it.
How to Catch Fish in a Planted Aquarium
In heavily planted tanks, it’s difficult to catch fish without tearing your plants up. That said, a juice or soda bottle fish trap is arguably the best bet on such instances.
This trick includes cutting the top of an old soda or water bottle just below the shoulder; the cut-off part should resemble a funnel. Make sure you cut it in such a way that the funnel fits snugly into the bottom piece of the bottle.
Before placing the trap in the tank, you also want to drill a series of holes at the bottom of the bottle to allow water to drain out when you pull up the trap.
The holes also let excess air out of the trap while in the tank.
Once you finish preparing the trap, place it in the tank water and let it fill.
To pick your fish’s curiosity and lure them into the trap, drop some food inside. Live foods work particularly well for meat-eaters because the movements get the fish’s attention quite easily.
Also, remember to suspend your trap at the depth you prefer, placing it at the bottom is recommended when trying to catch bottom-feeders and swimmers, but for mid-level fishes, you may want to place the trap on driftwood, decor or strong plants.
Lastly, in case you don’t have a spare plastic bottle lying around or maybe you are afraid the sharp edges on a cut bottle might hurt your fish, you can choose to use a clear plastic baby bottle instead.
Cut off half the tip of the nipple on the baby bottle, then invert it so the remaining part of the nipple points into the bottle cap. This way, your fish can swim in but can’t swim out. This way your fish won’t get hurt on the nipple because it is quite soft.