How to Catch Aquarium Fish Like a Pro
One of the more frustrating parts of the aquarium hobby is trying to catch or move your fish. Just try chasing around fast and slippery fish using a flimsy net with a ton of aquarium decorations in the way. Our years of experience in running aquarium fish stores have taught us a lot about how to catch the correct number of fish and what kind of fish they are. Learn about our favorite technique for netting fish that not only saves time but also saves your fish from getting stressed out.
Before you start…
Not all aquarium nets are created equal, so make sure you start off with the right tool for the job. You should inspect the net for holes or tears that could allow animals to slip through. Select a larger net that covers more surface area and makes it easier to capture your target. Also, consider what kind of fish you are trying to catch. Baby fry and shrimp should be handled with care using a net that has a fine mesh to stop them from getting out. However, if you are chasing faster or smarter fish (like African cichlids, loaches, and rainbowfish), get an aquarium net with coarse mesh or tiny holes because it decreases drag through the water and allows you to move more quickly when needed.
Aquarium Co-Op fishnets have a coarse mesh to reduce water drag and strong carbon fiber handles that won’t flex. There are no metal parts to prevent rusting.
The Easiest Way to Catch Aquarium Fish
Let’s now discuss the correct technique. Remain calm, collected, and cool. If you get too agitated, then your movements can communicate your anxiety to the fish, making them more likely to become stressed.
1. Try not to stand above or tower over the fish tank because some fish may view you as a predator and become frightened even before you get started. A stool will allow you to reach the tank from the ground if the tank is very low. 2. Hold the net closer to the net rim and not at the very end of the handle. This position gives you more control to make faster movements. 3. Set up a trap so that one of the tank’s front corners faces the net. 1. We are using the left side of this example. Therefore, place the net so that its right edge is flush with the glass and the net’s bottom is against the ground. 2. This arrangement creates a gap at the left end of the net for the fish to enter. 3. If it’s more convenient, you can also use large pieces from fish tank decorations to set your trap.
To set the trap, place the net in the front left corner and hold the right side against the tank wall. The only way fish can enter is from the left side of the net.
1. Because a fish net tends to be slower than your hand, the key is to use one of your hands to “chase” the fish into the trap while the net stays mostly fixed in place. 1. Place your hand in the water (with fingers stretched open to look larger) and sweep the fish from the right to left side of the aquarium. 2. At the end of the sweep, move your hand towards the front left corner of the tank so that the fish enter the net. 3. To prevent fish from jumping over the top of your aquarium’s net, you will need to keep your hand higher in the water.
One hand holds the net handle, while the other uses the other to move behind the net and sweep fish from one side to the next. When the fish reach the left side of the aquarium, move your hand towards it so they swim away from you.
1. Once the fish have entered the net, close the trap so that the left edge is flat against the front window.
Once you have caught the fish you want, close the trap to ensure that the net rim touches the aquarium’s front wall.
1. The net should contain the desired fish, while the unwanted fish can be let loose. 1. Move the desired fish further into the net. Place your hand against the glass to cause the desired fish to swim further into the mesh. You can gently move the net from one side to another if necessary to keep them hidden. 2. Lift the net rim slightly away from the glass (in a corner of the net that is furthest away from the desired fish) so that you can release the unwanted fish. 3. If all of the fish (including the unwanted ones) keep swimming deeper into the net, you can use your hand or finger to push or chase out the unwanted fish.
In this case, we want the powder blue dwarf tourami to remain but the red platy to be released. We opened the net slightly on the right and gently guided the platy out with our hands.
1. Keep the net in the water for as long possible. 1. Avoid rotating the net horizontally when removing the fish from the water. It can cause panic and increase the chances that they will jump. 2. Instead, pull the net straight up vertically and quickly out of the water. This causes the mesh of the net to drop and traps the fish. 3. The more times you lift the net in and out of the water, the more scared the fish may become, which in turn makes them harder to catch.
Move the fish net vertically to the surface of the water. This method causes the net mesh to drop downwards, trapping the fish in the net and minimizing their chances of escape.
To help you better visualize the technique, here is a video demonstration of how we catch fish at our fish store:
To make it easier to net your fish tanks, remove any ornaments and hardscape. This will allow you to have more room to move. You can lower the water level to a few inches if you have a planted tank. This will prevent the fish from swimming over the net. Finally, don’t forget to check out our favorite aquarium net that gives us the best advantage for catching fish.