Gone Fishing in a Reef Aquarium?
by Brian Dunat
Everyone in the hobby has been at a Local Fish Store (LFS) and has seen a fish that “catches” their eye. It brings back memories of seeing a new, shiny bike at a toy store that you can’t live without. Well the difference is with a bike, it’s easy to put it back into a car and take it back when it doesn’t work out. Once you introduce a new fish to an established reef aquarium without the proper research, it’s much more difficult to get the fish out and take it back to the LFS. Once you realize a new fish isn’t “compatible” with your reef aquarium, you are faced with very little options. Catching a fish in a reef aquarium is not like catching a goldfish in a hexagon tank, it’s more like playing the game Operation after an intense bicep workout. Several years ago, this occurred in one of our reef tanks when I saw a Marine Betta, also referred to as the Comet, at a LFS. I purchased the fish and added it to my reef tank as I didn’t have many small shrimps or fish in my tank at the time. At first, the Marine Betta was a great addition. Very shy but very showy and an intriguing fish to watch as it stayed close to the rock work during most days. When feeding time came around, it had quite the appetite for PC Mysis and any type of larger, meaty foods like cut up silver sides or krill. As my reef aquarium became more established, I began to add Cleaner, Fire and Harlequin shrimps to my tank. The Harlequin shrimp was the last addition, and the shrimp that made it clear it was time to catch and remove the Sea Betta. As my Harlequin shrimp was setting up to snack on an Asterina starfish, the Sea Betta shot out of a cave and nipped the claws off the shrimp. Next the Sea Betta enjoyed a Harlequin snack. I tried to catch the Sea Betta using a fish trap, but the Sea Betta was far too smart for the trap. I tried to corner the Sea Betta with a few nets, but he was quick to dart into the rock work of the reef. As some have noticed, the Sea Betta’s are a lot like a fresh water Crappie; a large mouth and a huge appetite. If anyone has gone Crappie fishing, it can be fun experience by dropping a #4 hook covered with a silver side minnow into the water and having it dart across the top of the weeds until a Crappie darts out and nabs the minnow. Based on the technique for catching Crappie, I found a small #4 hook, some 4lb fishing line and thawed a piece of krill. After rigging it up, I dropped the krill into the tank and the Sea Betta shot out of the rock work and success!. The Sea Betta was hooked and was pulled from the tank. After quickly unhooking him and releasing him to my frag tank in the basement, he was fine. By the next day, he was already back to eating PC Mysis. Since then, he was returned to the LFS to find a new home.