Catching a fish from your aquarium is like chasing a rainbow.
After last night's experience, all I can say is be verrrrry, verrrry careful about what you put into your aquarium. Because, without completely stressing all the tank inhabitants out, killing some coral, and completely dismantling your aquarium, you will never. get. that. fish. out. AGAIN!
I decided to give one of my Banggai Cardinalfish to a friend, who has a very nice, spacious reef aquarium (around 300 gallons with only 5 little, peaceful fish in it). Originally, I had aspirations of breeding my pair of Banggai's (the Ropers). I purchased an adult pair from my LFS since they were huddled together in the store tank, looking amorously at each other. Upon settling into the tank, Mrs. Roper began tirelessly chasing Mr. Roper, exiling him to a tiny little corner in the tank. After weeks of watching this behavior, I realized I had purchased two males. I decided to find a better home for Mr. Roper.
I set up a time to deliver Mr. Roper to my friend. I rolled up my sleeves, got my net and dove in. First of all, out of all the fish in the tank, the Banggai's are deceivingly quick. They sit motionless in the water for hours and then, quicker than you can blink, they're gone. These guys are incredibly fast.
My first tactic was to immerse a plastic trap into the aquarium and then scoot him into with the other hand. I dropped some food in the tank to get all the fish out in the open. I immediately got to work, trying to move Mr. Roper into the trap. He was onto me before I even made my first move. Whoosh! He was gone.
My second tactic was to use one hand to scoot him into a net, and then cover the net with my hand. All this achieved was to upset all the fish in the tank. I chased Mr. Roper around with my net all over the tank, terrorizing innocent victims along the way. Annoyingly, Mr. Roper hid next to Mrs. Roper, his nemesis. Apparently, they were bonded together by their mutual hatred for me. Finally, I stopped after ripping the net on some live rock.
My third tactic was to try two nets instead of one. My hope was to trap him between the two nets. Again, with all the live rock, he just went and hid from me. This is when I started dismantling the aquarium. I lifted rock after rock out of the aquarium, scaring fish, disturbing coral, and countless other inhabitants along the way. Puddles of live rock littered the hard wood floor surrounding the aquarium. Xenia and toadstool coral, stuck on the live rock, wilted pitifully in the open air. Then, bubbles began shooting into the aquarium; taking out the live rock had lowered the water levels precipitously. After filling it time and time again with RO water each time I removed a piece of live rock, I finally figured out that I could just turn off the pumps. Duh.
By now, I had taken almost all the live rock out of the aquarium. I had moved all the coral and placed it onto the sand (getting stung by the Elegance coral along the way). All the fish were huddled in a corner. Pedro, the bluejaw trigger, was stuck behind a rock and the wall, triggers fully erect. He was a pale gray. Poor Pedro. Mr. Roper kept hiding behind him. Finally, I cornered him by the mushrooms. I had one net behind him and one net in front. He started swimming upwards to escape the nets. I moved the nets with him. He hid behind the powerhead. So close, so close. I knew this would be my only chance. I made my move. I scooped upwards with my net and dove in with my hand to cover the net. He leapt out and dove into the depths of the aquarium, retreating behind one of the few rocks that was left.
More than two hours had now elapsed. The fish were trembling in fear. Louie, the yellow wrasse, had disappeared into the sand. My coral was closed up and shedding strands of slime into the water. A large puddle of water had collected onto the hardwood floor. Even the dogs looked shaken, although the thunderstorm going on outside could have had something to do with it. Nonetheless, Floyd was curled up under the table, and Travis was resting his head on his paws behind me on the rug looking at me with big wide eyes.
As I dipped the net into the water one last time, a reddish liquid spilled into the water. Confused, I paused. Only then did I notice large drops of blood splattered all over the floor. Another drop of blood plopped onto the floor, similar to the big raindrops, now splattering the window panes. I glanced at my hand. It was covered in a slippery, crimson liquid. I realized it was blood. I had sliced my knuckle on the razor-sharp reflectors housing the lights in the canopy. I had been so focused on catching Mr. Roper, I hadn't even noticed. I knew it was time to stop.
I carefully put each piece of rock back into the aquarium, using this rare opportunity to scrub off hard-to-reach algae. I put all the coral back into place. Finished up with my planned, weekly water change. Then wrung my hands for the rest of the night, wondering what irreparable damage my tank had succumbed.
This morning, everyone seemed happy to see me, eagerly awaiting their breakfast. Except Phillip, the royal gramma. He is nowhere to be found. I'm hoping he comes home soon. I miss him. The coral all look very happy, even the xenia, which had been exposed to air for about 45 minutes. That stuff is frighteningly tough! Unfortunately, my toadstool coral may have died (it also was exposed to air but not as much and not for as long). It's all closed up for now. I'm hoping Mr. Toad decides to open up shop later today. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Mr. Toad and Phillip. As far as Mr. Roper, he seems none the worse for wear. He wins. Fish 1, Rachel 0.
Mr. Roper, after I first got him a few months ago. He gets to stay in the tank. Mrs. (actually a Mr.) Roper still chases him but he has plenty of hiding places now and gets plenty to eat so he's actually surprisingly healthy.
Lesson learned? This tank is now officially CLOSED! A closed system. No more goes in...and no more comes out. That's it.
For those of you who have to get a fish out (in an emergency), here are some links. Good luck! I hope you fare better than I did.