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catching fish

Catching fish in the aquarium

There are plenty of reasons why we need to catch aquarium fish. We do not do it as a hobby, or a competition like professionals do at lakes or the seaside. Still, we usually catch fish in an aquarium because there is urgency or only when necessary.

This urgency can be, for instance, setting up a new tank, cleaning up the aquarium or moving fish to another aquarium. No matter the reason, it can become quite a challenge for us. Especially in a larger aquarium if we have tiny, fast fish. This resembles a game of cat and mouse, and a simple fish net might not be enough.

Moreover, imagine you were being chased by somebody at your home. Such an uncomfortable situation may lead to some negative consequences. It is crucial to do it as safely as possible to reduce the risks associated with it, and we will establish that in this article.

catching aquarium fish

Prepare another fish tank

Before you start catching fish, you need to prepare something. The first thing that must be done is to prepare the place for your fish once you snag them. It is wise to use the same water from the aquarium to avoid problems with water quality. The water parameters should remain similar in terms of temperature, pH etc. It is forbidden to pour the tap water into the bucket and add fish to it. All the chemicals within this water can harm our livestock.

A separate tank is beneficial when it comes to holding newly purchased fish, sick fish that need a peaceful environment to recover or isolating fish species that can't deal with other fish in the aquarium.

Remember to place your new inhabitants in a quarantine tank with identical water conditions to your main tank before reaching their final destination. This will help you to reduce the number of aquarium fish that will need to be caught in the future.

Implementing this tip and running this type of fish tank can help you quickly discover whether your new fish have any diseases, preventing them from passing them onto other aquarium fish. You can quickly treat the fish with specific medications if any illness is detected.

two aquariums

Catching aquarium fish with fish nets

The most common way to catch fish is to use a fish net. It comes in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. There is a belief that the most effective nets are similar to natural colours, black or green ones. Such a colouration gives a false sense of security to fish. White coloured nets can spook the fish.

The size also matters. Remember that the bigger the net, the easier you will catch the fish. Despite a net being the obvious solution, it is not always the best choice because sometimes you have to manoeuvre the net in fish tanks with dense vegetation and many aquarium decorations. In this case, a smaller net would be more helpful when catching only one fish. Moreover, using a large net can lead to catching some unwanted fish. Additionally, a large net might make it harder to catch only the desired fish if your aquarium is heavily stocked.

The next thing that you might consider doing is removing aquarium decorations if possible. This will simplify the process and help you to avoid obstacles, and fish will have fewer places to hide from the net. You don't have to take everything out. Start by removing the obvious items that stop you from catching fish. Then observe the situation and make changes for the next time. Remember what caused problems and remove them in advance. Don't be afraid to remove devices like the aquarium cover, filter media, heater or the CO2 kit if necessary.

And now, prepare yourself for a long wait. Catching fish is challenging and requires some experience. Place the net slowly in a fish tank, preferably on the bottom of the aquarium's edge. Don't move it for a few minutes to make your fish see that this object is not a threat. Sustained fast movements can cause stress.

Lure your fish

A reasonable option is also to catch your fish by luring them. Put some sinking pellet or other food inside the fish net, wait until the fish swims close enough, and gently lift it out of the aquarium. You can also try to catch fish by placing food at the top corner of the tank. Before doing that, place the fish net underneath. When they eat, they become distracted, and it is the best occasion to slowly pull them out.

If this bait does not work, another attempt to catch fish has to be chosen. This one can cost you multiple approaches. Use the fish net to herd the particular fish into a corner and trap him against the wall. There are many videos available on the Internet that show that process.

Take the opportunity: if it is possible to do it at once, perform a water change when you need to catch a fish and wait until the water level drops. The low water level limits escaping options.

a fish net

Other ways to catch aquarium fish

As you can see, catching fish can lead to a headache. But don't worry. Here are other ways to catch your fish:

Two nets

It can be said that this solution doubles the effects. Two nets make everything easier. Once you learn a particular technique, your fish will be grateful and less stressed, and you won't get crazy waiting until the fish enters the fish net.

As the title says, two fish nets are required- a small net and a larger net. Place the large net in a fixed location in the tank. It can be a corner or a place where your desired fish likes to spend time. Of course, keep the net handle in your hand on standby. The second net should herd your fish to the other one. Once your fish reaches the stationary net, close it with a smaller one and lift it to the surface.

Reminder: keep your fish outside the water for a minimal time. Most fish can't breathe the air oxygen. How would you feel if somebody cut your air supply?

a fish net

Bare hands

Don't worry; we are Just kidding. Doing it with bare hands is almost impossible unless you have a huge fish to move. Nevertheless, trying to catch them in that way may be difficult. Most fish are slippery, and you won't be able to hold them.

In addition to that, some fishes are dangerous too. Imagine holding an electric eel or others that may have sharp teeth with strong jaws and sharp or venomous fins. It's not possible to catch it at all safely.

Plastic bottle

Some aquarium articles mention a plastic bottle used as a trap. This DIY (do it yourself) is for somebody who does not have access to a net and is used for juveniles.


  1. Find an empty water bottle.

  2. Cut off carefully the upper side with scissors and remove a cap.

  3. Invert the cut side of the bottle and slide it back into the bottle. Use a rubber band to keep it still.

  4. Place some fish food inside the bottle and submerge the trap at the bottom of the tank.

  5. Wait until the desired fish swim in, cover the exit and take it out.

Another hand

It works similar to the method with two fish nets. If you do not own a second one, use your hand to direct your fish to the net.

What should I not do?

There are a few things that you should avoid in general when it comes to catching fish:

  • Do not stress your fish- it's better said than done because it is known to everybody that netting fish is always unpleasant for them. Just try your best to minimize the potential harm.

  • Do not swing your fish net rapidly. This leads to excessive stress, disturbs the substrate, and causes dirt and debris to mess up your water column. Remember- smooth motion, reasonably easy, isn't it?


Whichever method you use, bear in mind that this is not a piece of cake unless you are experienced and patient. Try to deal with each one of the fish gently to prevent injury. Some fish are exceptionally delicate, and if you hurt your fish's pectoral fins, there is no cure for that. However, catching fish is sometimes necessary, and it is done to protect them, so in general, they will benefit from this situation.

catching a fish in an aquarium