Nobody who has bought a fish for his/her reef tank has the intention of catching and removing it ever. But the truth is, sometimes an aquarist has to catch a fish and remove it for the sake of the other tank inhabitants. The problem is, catching a fish in a reef tank is a lot tougher than it seems.

You can catch a fish in your reef tank by using a jar, trap, hook, net, water removal, distraction, or confinement method. You’ll also need to be patient to catch a fish in a reef tank.

It is not like every fish will give you trouble. Some are very easygoing. And some are, of course, very troublesome.

For example, if you have Damselfish in your tank, there is a heads up for you – prepare yourself for a battle and to win it, read the full article, learn about all the methods, apply the appropriate one, and accomplish your mission successfully!

How To Catch A Fish In A Reef Tank

Why Do You Need To Catch A Fish?

As already said, you have to do it for the sake of the other inhabitants of your reef tank. It often happens that the fish you have bought has started killing the other fish. Some fish can eat your corals too.

So, for the safety of the good inhabitants, removing the bad one is the only option you have.

7 Proven Methods To Catch A Fish In A Reef Tank

The methods have already been mentioned. This part of the article will describe all of them separately and tell you how you can apply them and what you need in order to apply them.

1. Using Fish Trap Methods

Fish traps are very popular for catching a fish in a reef tank. But you have to be patient because it takes some time before the fish gets used to the trap’s presence in the tank.

The most effective way to use a fish trap is to put it in the tank and leave it like that for at least a day for the fish to become used to its presence. Then, the next day you will keep food in that trap but will not try to capture the fish.

When you give the fish enough time, it gets used to the trap being in the water and does not anticipate that it may be a threat. Once the fish starts swimming in and out of your trap, take action, and trap it.

You can use store-bought traps to catch the fish. There are two types of traps available in stores.

The Sea Side Aquatics Fish Trap:

This trap has a trapdoor where you can keep food using the feeding tube. The tube lies in the trap center. When your fish gets into the trap to eat food, you will have to pull the line. It will remove the pin that holds the door, and the door will fall and trap your fish.

There are various trap dimensions: small, medium, and large. Which one you will buy depends highly on the size of your reef tank and the size of the fish you want to catch.

Fish Transport Bag:

Whenever you go to a store and get a fish, do not throw the transport bag away. It works great as a fish trap. But it requires some patience. Also, to work properly, it needs the tank’s water flow to turn down.

When the target fish will enter the bag, pull the fishing line to close the bag. But don’t do this too fast. It might tear the transport bag.

If the bag does not stay open, attach it to the tank glass by using an algae magnet with the water flow going into the bag. That will make it stay open.

Egg Crate Fish Trap:

Go to a hardware store and buy yourself a sheet of egg crate. Cut it into 4 equal rectangular pieces with a side cutter, attach them with zip-ties, and make a tube. Cut two end squares.

Then, attach one of them to one end of the tube. Attach the other one to the tube’s opposite end by tightening zip-ties loosely and make a trapdoor.

After that, attach the fishing line to that trapdoor, operate it through one of those squares so that it closes the door when you pull it.

When you are prepared to catch your fish, put the crate trap on the sand. Let it rest there with its door open. The rest of the drill is already known to you.

2. Using Darkness Methods

The darkness methods will require you to stay up late at night if the lights of your tank stay on until 11 PM. The methods usually turn out effective when they are applied within an hour of the lights going off. The room also has to be dark.

Scooping With Net:

When the room and the tank both are dark at night, the fish become very lethargic. They will be asleep when you show up with a flashlight.

If the fish you want to catch sleeps in a place you can access, turn your flashlight on pointing it to the spot. The light will freeze it and then you can scoop it up with a net. It is as simple as that!

But it is easy only when the fish sleeps in an open place. What if it sleeps in a hole? Well…

Startle From Sleeping Hole:

This method will require you to investigate the tank for several nights with a red flashlight. A red flashlight is specifically needed because the fish cannot see it. It allows you to see where all the inhabitants take place after the lights are turned off.

If you see that your fish is sleeping in a hole, one that is accessible, here is how you should catch it:

  • Take a syringe and fill it with tank water
  • Put a portion of airline hose on the end of that syringe
  • Put the other end of that hose into the hiding hole of the fish
  • Cover the hole with a big net
  • Squire the syringe water right into the hole. As you do it, your fish should come out into the net. Its lethargic state should allow you to catch it.
  • You can keep it in a container alone till you deal with it the next day.

3. Using Net Method

Net methods will also take several nights to take some preparation before you work it. Told you, it literally takes a test of your patience!

First, you have to get a big net and put it in the tank around the edge of its glass. Take a turkey blaster and use it to squirt the food between the glass and the net.

Continue feeding the fish in this way for at least 3 days in a row so the fish senses no danger. Once the fish becomes used to eating in this way, move the net to the glass on the last day when the fish is distracted by the food and trap it.

4. Using Mirror Distraction Method

This method is a lot similar to the net method mentioned above. But it is very useful for catching an aggressive fish.

First, keep a mirror against the outside of the glass near the top of your reef tank. It will be easier if you use a hairdresser mirror that has a handle.

After placing the mirror, wait till the fish begins attacking its reflection. While it is doing that, take a big net and then trap it.

5. Using Fishing Line & Hook

If you have already tried the other methods and got no result, try this one before you give up!

To apply this method, you need a tiny barbless hook, some fishing line, and a tiny portion of meat that your target fish likes.

It will take some time because you have to keep the other tank inhabitants away from the food on the hook. To keep the crowd away, you can use a turkey blaster and put some food in it. And then, you can put more focus on catching the target fish with the hooked bait.

The reason why I am requesting you to apply this one before giving up is that this method has worked out successfully for a lot of tank owners when the other methods have not.

If you decide to apply this method, be sure that the hook’s size matches the mouth of the fish. There are a variety of sizes available in outdoor stores. Go to any of the stores and buy the right hook for your fish.

6. Using An Egg Crate Divider

This is the last method before you hit the last resort. Let’s talk about this one now.

You can use the egg crate already mentioned in the fish trap methods. Cut out a piece of the crate that can fit in the tank. With that, cut out another piece that will fit over the rock and create a wall.

Then, feed the target fish at one end of your tank. Slide the crate wall in and let another person keep it in place. Now, you have to try to capture your fish by using two pieces of nets. If there is little space for the fish to swim, it will help you catch it faster.

You can also use a small net to make the fish swim toward a big net. But this can be a little tougher to do. If you want to cut the area in half, you can make another egg crate wall to do so. It will be helpful too.

7. The Last Resort – Water Removal

This is the last and worst method. It takes up a lot of your time and effort. The larger your tank is, the more problematic this method is.

The water removal method requires you to remove all the rocks and at least ¾ of the water. You can put the water in some Rubbermaid Brute trashcans. When the rocks and water are removed, you can at last start trying to catch your target fish.

When you catch the fish, make sure you put each of the rocks back at its place. It would be a great idea to put a heater in the trashcans so that they keep the water warm. You can also place another heater in the bed of sands in order to keep the tank water warm.

Moreover, you have to ensure that the rocks stay damp. Otherwise, the bacteria on the rocks will die. And that is the last thing you need in a situation like this. Because if the bacteria die, it will require you to go through the cycling process again.

I would request you to apply this method if only you have tried the other methods and failed to catch your fish. Because, first of all, the process is very time-consuming and stressful.

Secondly and more importantly, when you are done with removing the things and catching your fish, you will have to place all the rocks back exactly at their place. If you fail to do that somehow, it may cause disruption in the environment of the tank. That is definitely not something you would like to deal with after going through this hectic process. That is why it is called the last resort.

So, make your decision considering all of these things if you want to use this method. Of course, if it is the only option left, you will have to apply it. In that case, good luck!

Final Words

From the discussion above, it should be pretty clear to you that one common thing in almost all of the methods is that they all are lengthy processes. They will take you days to catch one single fish. And none of them guarantees that they will work out properly at your first attempt.

Then again, it is not something you can avoid because it involves the well-being of the other tank inhabitants.

So, let me give you a good piece of advice now. How about you do something before buying a fish that will save you from all the trouble?

Research! A 15-minute research will tell you about all the characteristics of the fish you plan to buy. From that research, you will easily understand whether you should buy the fish or not. This way, a little research will help you create a safe environment for the tank inhabitants saving your time and effort both.

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