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An old trick revisited (netting fish)

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,131
Location
Germany
I have probably had too much time on my hands while working on my master's thesis and the situation that I already expected to rehome some of my Dicrossus, so in late march I decided to try something I remembered from a Zoo documentary. Training my fish to be easier to net, especially from a fully decorated tank.


First step was to get the fish to learn: The pipette means food. Then I witheld the food until they all approached it and the first picked at the pipette. This was the easy part.

Second step: Habituating the fish to the mere presence of the net. For that I started to just put the net in the tank. In the beginning I put it on the bottom, so it was simply there. I moved it up and closer to the feeding spot gradually.

Next steps would be:
a. Moving the net even closer to the feeding spot, if possible under it holding it in hand. (Right now I just hang it to the rim.) Holding the net in hand means some movement. I don't want the fish to be startled by that.
b. Moving the net through the tank before and after feeding. (So even free-hand netting might be possible.)

The video was shot about ten day ago at the time of posting this, so (a.) is almost fully achieved by now.

I know it takes time and patience, but when you know you have the time for growouts or planned rehoming of fish it's probably an easy way to prevent stress for all involved, fish and human alike.
 

rasmusW

Active Member
Messages
271
Thanks for the tip. I should try this for sure.

I suggest you try teaching them to play chess as their next trick

-r
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,131
Location
Germany
I can't play it myself. Or rather: Not good enough to teach anyone. :D

But I can play checkers. hehehe...

But I give it a few years and the pencils play xo on them.
 

anewbie

Active Member
Messages
476
Sadly my fishes are too smart for such tricks. Put food in they will eat it - even from hand; bring net near aquarium - they run and hide. I need mini-blind folds for them.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,131
Location
Germany
Sadly my fishes are too smart for such tricks. Put food in they will eat it - even from hand; bring net near aquarium - they run and hide. I need mini-blind folds for them.
In my experience it's really just a game of patience and persistence. It took me weeks to get to this point. And of course one can have setbacks.
 

Mazan

Member
Messages
74
Sadly my fishes are too smart for such tricks. Put food in they will eat it - even from hand; bring net near aquarium - they run and hide. I need mini-blind folds for them.
I often use a net in my large planted tank for retrieving trimmed bits of pearlweed that get everywhere. The emperor tetras swim straight into the net, I think they would be very easy to catch if I had to! None of the other fish seem bothered by the net either, though it might be different if I tried to catch them.
 

anewbie

Active Member
Messages
476
I often use a net in my large planted tank for retrieving trimmed bits of pearlweed that get everywhere. The emperor tetras swim straight into the net, I think they would be very easy to catch if I had to! None of the other fish seem bothered by the net either, though it might be different if I tried to catch them.
Tetra are generally not an issue; nor are guppies. The two species i have the most problem with are swordtails and most (not all) cichild. the thing about the cichild is they have a natural curiosity and will usually come up to me but once i've netted one they become much more leary when they see the net. The swordtails - crise i don't know what are in these guys but they are very painful to catch. As for kribs - once they settle on a spot then they become pretty easy to catch because they rather be caught then give up their spot.
 

Mazan

Member
Messages
74
Tetra are generally not an issue; nor are guppies. The two species i have the most problem with are swordtails and most (not all) cichild. the thing about the cichild is they have a natural curiosity and will usually come up to me but once i've netted one they become much more leary when they see the net. The swordtails - crise i don't know what are in these guys but they are very painful to catch. As for kribs - once they settle on a spot then they become pretty easy to catch because they rather be caught then give up their spot.
Yes, I agree about the cichlids the first one is usually easy but after that the rest get wary....I recently had to catch some Copella to move them to a different tank, the small ones were quite easy and of the six adults I caught 4 fairly easily. The last two were a nightmare though, I had to take nearly all of the water out before I could get them!
 

Bowluvr

Member
Messages
33
Location
North Carolina
I have done something similar to this, but just by putting the food into a large net and setting it in the tank. The fish learned that the net = food, and they acclimated to going into the net pocket to eat. It can be tricky to get the net to set up in the tank just right, though, with the pocket open so they go inside. I like the pipette idea better, and a lot of my fish are already trained to that (pipette = live food). Thanks for the share!
 

Bowluvr

Member
Messages
33
Location
North Carolina
I have done something similar to this, but just by putting the food into a large net and setting it in the tank. The fish learned that the net = food, and they acclimated to going into the net pocket to eat. It can be tricky to get the net to set up in the tank just right, though, with the pocket open so they go inside. I like the pipette idea better, and a lot of my fish are already trained to that (pipette = live food). Thanks for the share!
Feeding in the net seems to work best with fry in a grow out tank, or other fish that haven't had many bad experiences with nets. Is the trickiest with smart fish (cichlids) with longer memories who've been caught a time or three.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,131
Location
Germany
I have done something similar to this, but just by putting the food into a large net and setting it in the tank. The fish learned that the net = food, and they acclimated to going into the net pocket to eat. It can be tricky to get the net to set up in the tank just right, though, with the pocket open so they go inside. I like the pipette idea better, and a lot of my fish are already trained to that (pipette = live food). Thanks for the share!
It's too late for another feeding tonight (won't put the net in when not necessary, that's counterproductive to the training effort), but I'll take a picture of how I fix the net to the rim of the tank tomorrow.

And yes, I know the trick with the food directly in the net, problem is, when you want to get territorial species habituated, it is not helpful to put the net with the food in a territory. So only the fish that lives in that territory gets really used to it.
The upper third of a tank is no man's land among dwarf cichlid, though. So all come up for food equally. Also with the net positioned UNDER them and tilted towards the glass, there is much less room for them to escape.
 

Bowluvr

Member
Messages
33
Location
North Carolina
It's too late for another feeding tonight (won't put the net in when not necessary, that's counterproductive to the training effort), but I'll take a picture of how I fix the net to the rim of the tank tomorrow.

And yes, I know the trick with the food directly in the net, problem is, when you want to get territorial species habituated, it is not helpful to put the net with the food in a territory. So only the fish that lives in that territory gets really used to it.
The upper third of a tank is no man's land among dwarf cichlid, though. So all come up for food equally. Also with the net positioned UNDER them and tilted towards the glass, there is much less room for them to escape.
Feeding time in most of my tanks are a free-for-all. Even my Abacaxis male, whom the female hates on almost constantly, will cross borders to get some chow. She still tries to chase him, but she's usually almost as distracted by the meal as he is. He ignores her then. I don't keep the shyer species, though, so that might be a part of it. I also don't keep heavily planted aquariums. Low-medium at best, and all plants easily movable (wood, pots, etc.). When I have net-trained, it's usually been to make the inevitable catching out of juveniles from a grow out tank go a lot faster. I get 50-70% in that first scoop (while they are in the pocket looking for the meal that is supposed to be there), and then only have to chase down the remaining ones. But, yes. The pipette (or my hand, depending on food type) above a net that they get accustomed to seems like a game-changer.
 

Mazan

Member
Messages
74
I definitely agree about having the net underneath the fish, it is much less of a threat to them than something that comes from above.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,131
Location
Germany
Even my Abacaxis male, whom the female hates on almost constantly, will cross borders to get some chow. She still tries to chase him, but she's usually almost as distracted by the meal as he is. He ignores her then.
Pretty much what I see with my checkerboards recently. One has become the tank boss. The pecking order is clear, the tank is well structured, most of the time they are foraging among the leaves and wood. But during and after the feeding the dominant male is giving out punches for about an hour. Sometimes two cross paths by-chance then one can see a bit of chasing, but it dissipates quite easy. I see similar levels of aggression with my Nannostomus eques and there is no need to intervene.

When I have net-trained, it's usually been to make the inevitable catching out of juveniles from a grow out tank go a lot faster. I get 50-70% in that first scoop (while they are in the pocket looking for the meal that is supposed to be there), and then only have to chase down the remaining ones.
I remember that from my Rift Lake times. This time I just wanted to be able to get them out if needed without taking apart the whole tank. And now it seems to turn out not necessary at all.

And yes, I grew them out in the display tank.

The pipette (or my hand, depending on food type) above a net that they get accustomed to seems like a game-changer.
True. pipette, hand... anything they can identify as a target works. If you like take a green rubber ball on a pencil.

I definitely agree about having the net underneath the fish, it is much less of a threat to them than something that comes from above.
1:0 for behavioural biology. :D
 

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