Tips and Tools for Safely Catching Your Fish

Home aquarium owners know the struggle of wrangling a fish out of a tank. Fish are slippery, agile, and fast. They're also fragile and can easily injure their fins, scales, and body. The information and tips below explain the how's and why's behind safely removing fish from your tank.

Why do we remove fish from tanks?

There are several reasons to remove fish from tanks:

  • Disease
    • Isolating sick fish before their illness spreads is vital to a healthy aquarium.
  • Breeding
    • Breeders often move fish into isolation tanks or breeding boxes to ensure successful mating and to keep their fry, or babies, safe.
  • Unwanted breeding
    • Fish will breed if the opportunity is there. Installing a divider and gently separating males and females of similar species is an easy way to combat this.
  • Conflict
    • Some fish are aggressive or territorial and need to be moved into a separate part of a tank or a tank of their own.
  • Maintenance
    • For the occasional deep cleaning or tank overhaul, keeping your fish safe in another temporary container is a must.

Tools for Removing Fish


Nets are the most common tool for moving fish. They range in size from 2" to 10" inches or more. The handle is an important consideration, as you want one that is long enough and doesn't bend. Telescopic handles are versatile for both use and storage. The netting is usually nylon and comes in regular and soft. Nylon can vary in the spacing of the threads, with small nets typically more tightly spaced for smaller fish. The spacing of the netting doesn't matter too much if it's not too big for your fish, but tighter netting creates more drag in the water. You'll also want a net that doesn't bend or distort over time, won't harm your fish, and is easy to maneuver in the tight spaces between plants and décor.

Fish Traps

There are different fish traps, and a unique trap is the bubble trap. This trap sits on the inside wall of your tank and, once the fish is inside, you release the bubble, which quickly floats to the top, trapping the fish at the surface. With a little creativity, breeders also use breeder boxes as fish traps. Food makes a great lure for getting fish into any trap. 

Transport Bags

It's useful to keep the bag or cup you received your fish in as a tool for getting them out of the tank. With the cup, place it in the water and wait until your fish is near the top before you gently scoop them inside. As the water rushes into the cup, the current pulls your fish into the cup.

With a bag, you'll want to put it deeper in the water and lure them in with a little food placed in the back. Once your fish is inside, pull the bag toward the top of the tank and empty a little water out if you need room to seal it.


The last thing you want to do is frighten or hurt your fish. Being caught is stressful for fish and can be stressful for you, too. Remember to be gentle and patient.

The following steps focus on using a net, but the steps are still applicable to the tools listed above.

  • Let your net sit in the water for a few minutes, then slowly move it around so your fish becomes accustomed to its presence and movement.
  • Adding food to the net, trap, or bag helps lure fish inside.
  • Slowly and gently move your net towards your fish and the side of the tank.
  • Try and wait for your fish to come to you, especially if there are many fish in your tank.
  • If waiting doesn't work, move your net closer until you've trapped your fish in the net with the tank wall blocking the other end.
  • If your fish needs herding, your hand makes a great tool. Spread your fingers to increase size and decrease disturbing the water. Ensure that your hand is clean, especially from chemicals left by soap or hand sanitizer.
  • Once safely in the net, hurry it to the surface. A quick movement will draw the net and fish down, while slow movement will slacken the next and give it more room to escape.
  • If you're worried about injuring your fish with this method, using two nets works too. Take one net and another smaller net and move them closer together to create your trap. As you bring them together, move the smaller net into the bigger one to create an escape-proof seal.

Your best tool in your fish-catching kit is patience. Rushing the catch creates a stressed fish and a stressed owner, and stress leads to accidents. You can explore our range of nets and dividers and find more helpful information in our blog. For more information about our products, stores, and services, please use our contact information.

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