How to Catch Aquarium Fish without a Net (5 Easy Alternatives)

There are many reasons why you would want to catch a fish that is in your aquarium.

It could be that there is an injured or sick fish that needs to be put in an isolation/quarantine tank for treatment or recovery.

It could also be to remove an aggressor or a fish that is being bullied. Other reasons could be to move fish between tanks or to sell or trade fish.

The aquariums are usually decorated with plants and other decorative rocks or castles.

Using a net can destroy the decors and can harm the plants that are growing in the aquarium.

Small tiny fishes and shrimps usually have many places to hide in the aquarium due to its landscape decorations.

They cannot be caught so easily in the fishing net.

For any of the above reasons for the simple reason that you do not have a fishing net, let me guide you on how to catch an aquarium fish without a net.

Ways to catch fish in an aquarium

If you don’t have a net or don’t want to use it, you can still catch a fish.

But before you do that, observe the size and speed of the fish.

Remember that many attempts can put a lot of stress on the fish, not only making it unhappy but also making it more vulnerable to disease.

Use a Bowl or a Jar

If you don’t have a net, you can try and catch a fish using a deep bowl or a jar.

It’s just taking water out of the aquarium but also trying and get the fish along with it.

This world’s well in many cases, especially if you don’t have a lot of rocks and decorations where fish can hide and make it difficult for you to reach.

Also, make sure you have something that doesn’t have blunt edges or anything that can hurt your fish.

This technique works well when having fewer fishes and no or fewer objects in the aquarium (such as rocks/decorations)

Use a Baited Trap

You can find some commercially manufactured traps that can help catch the fish without a net or any other equipment.

You can also create a simple trap out of a common plastic water bottle.

Here is how to create your own trap using a plastic bottle:

  1. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, carefully cut off the top one-third of a well-rinsed two-liter water bottle.
  2. Next, invert the top portion of the bottle into the bottom part so the threaded opening is facing inwards.
  3. To secure the pieces together and prevent the top part from following inside the bottom part, apply aquarium safe silicone super glue gel where the two sections meet.
  4. After the adhesive has dried, bait the trap with fish food you know the fish will eat and place the trap on its side at the bottom of the tank. Depending on the size of the fish you need to capture, you may need to widen the opening of your trap.
  5. Wait for some time may be an hour or so and then check back. Do not wait for many hours. This is because if a fish is trapped, it might feel suffocated and can even die inside the trap

Below is a video that shows how to create a baited trap and catch fish without the net:

Try Removing the Rock Technique

This technique involves removing the entire rock in which a specimen is known to be hiding.

The rock is transferred into a rigid container underwater. The rock, fish, and all are then moved to their new home.

In order for this method to work, very specific conditions must be in place.

It’s important that the fish be hiding in a cave, groove, or cranny in the rock. The rock must be easily accessible to be taken out whole, without tearing it apart.

It is important to remove objects that get in the way and use caution and care when catching the fish.

Use the Recession Method

This technique deprives the fish of one advantage and that is the ability to escape in multiple planes.

When everything fails, lower the water level in the tank almost all the way to the bottom. It will increase the odds of a successful capture in your favor.

This method is not suitable for reef systems though. If you do this, it would leave most of the coral reef high and dry (some species are may be impacted more than others)

If you decided to do this, you need to make sure that it’s done quickly and efficiently.

This way, the rock work is exposed to air for only a short period and will make sure that the biofilter isn’t compromised.

The best way to expedite the process is to use a hefty pump and tubing to rapidly transfer water from the tank to a separate container and then back.

Use Your Bare Hands

You can use your hand for small harmless fishes.

This technique requires skill and patience. You need to observe, watch, and practice until you become an expert.

Remember to cup your hand so that the fish is not harmed.

You have to be quick while using this technique with the other container ready with water and nearby to quickly drop the fish.

Precautions You Need to Take Before Catching Aquarium Fish Without a Net

You will quickly discover that catching fish is not that easy and requires a good amount of patience and practice.

The first step is to remember that fast movements will startle the fish in the aquarium into hiding.

Also, sustained fast movements will push fish away from whatever trap that you are setting up.

Remove the Aquarium Decorations

Depending on the fish size that you want to catch in the aquarium, and the population of the aquarium, sometimes it becomes necessary to remove aquarium decorations in order to catch the fish.

You may want to start by removing any large decorations from the tank, as well as any items that may get caught while you remove the fish or fishes.

Also, consider removing any large items that may prevent you from catching and taking out the fish from the aquarium in a smooth motion.

Alternatively, you may want to leave the decorations in the tank until something starts to get in the way.

Just remember what caused problems so next time you can remove those items beforehand.

Some examples of the things you may need to remove include an aquarium filter, aquarium light,  fish tank heater, aquarium cover or even the tank itself can get damaged in the process of catching the fish.

It is important to remove the objects that can be in the way when you’re trying to catch the fish. Also, be cautious and careful when catching the fish.

Keep a Bucket or Another Vessel With Water Ready

Keep a bucket, bag, another aquarium, or whatever you are using for transport, ready before you start trying to catch the fish.

Make sure the container is prepared and very accessible to the fish tank you are catching the fish from.

Clean the Container that You are Going to Use to Catch Your Fish

Make sure you thoroughly clean the trap, the container, or whatever equipment you are planning to use to catch the fish.

Double-check to make sure you’re not putting something not cleaned in the aquarium as it can harm the fishes.

This will prevent the water from getting contaminated and the fish getting sick. Also remove any uncut, sharp edges that may harm the fish.

Remember Your Safety Comes First

Always keep your safety a priority.

If you are catching a fish with sharp teeth, strong jaws, sharp or venomous fins, or anything that can harm you in other ways, always be alert.

Remember that a fish that can bite off a finger or sting you should never be held.

Consider the safety of fish

Fishes are fragile creatures. You need to consider their safety.

For example, some of your aquarium fishes may have a rigid spine in their dorsal, in the anal pelvic or pectoral fins or in their gills, at the base of their tail, or under their eyes.

These organs need to be protected. Use the containers/ traps carefully to prevent injury.

Mimic the conditions of your main aquarium

Another important thing to remember is to mimic the conditions of your main tank as close as possible to the other tank that you are placing the fish in.

This will reduce the stress for your fish when you move them from one tank to the other.

It should be fairly easy to maintain identical water conditions in each tank as long as you use the same tap water and water conditions.

In fact, the water quality in your second tank may actually be higher than your main tank as it would be freshly filled.

This is a benefit for ill or sick fish because you want them to be in a clean tank so that they recover quickly.

Now, you know there are other ways apart from the net to catch fish, give them all a try.

See what works best for you and let me know how you succeeded. All the best!

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