Photographing Fish

I’ve been trying to come up with a method of photographing fish so that they look natural or as close to it as possible. Since I don’t want to drop the money for an expensive underwater setup, some kind of aquarium seemed to be the way to go.

Looking around at Home Depot, I found 11″ x 14″ sheets of lexan plexiglass for about $3 so I purchased three sheets along with some glue, silicone sealant and a plexiglass cutter. I tried using the cutter, but my eyes kept creeping over towards the table saw sitting in the corner and my patience quickly disappeared. I placed masking tape on both sides of the plexiglass along the line I wanted to cut and the table saw breezed right through it. Lower the blade so that it’s just higher than the thickness of the plexiglass and whatever you do, ABSOLUTELY WEAR SAFETY GLASSES IF YOU TRY THIS!

I cut a two inch strip off the short side of two of the sheets of plexiglass allowing me to glue together a box approximately 12″ wide, 11″ tall and 2″ deep. I made it only 2″ deep with the thought that a fish wouldn’t have room to avoid me by swimming to the other side of the tank. I cut a 5″ x 14″ strip from the other sheet of plexiglass, making it a bit larger than the bottom dimensions of my “box” to give it some stability. Some more glue and a whole lot of sealant and I had a working prototype of a portable photography aquarium.

But would it work? Dayna and I took it out to Chilton Creek, small enough that we could catch a few fish using a dip net and out of the way because I hate having an audience. Here are the results:

Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum) - Photo by Dayna Swofford

Southern Redbelly Dace (Phoxinus erythrogaster) - not yet in breeding colors

I’m not sure of the species on that last fish. I can’t find my copy of “Fishes of Missouri” and I’m pretty helpless without it. It was only approximately 3/4″ long and I’m sure it’s a minnow/shiner, but beyond that I don’t know. I’ll update this once I’ve identified him, if I do.

Anyway, I believe the aquarium was a complete success. I plan to use it much more extensively later in the year after it warms up. I have a seine, but it’s much too cold to have any fun using it right now and I’d like to get out the mask and snorkel and go looking for a madtom or two.

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