Why not just take the shell, keep submerged in a shallow amount of water (separate container, obviously) and use your thumb and index finger, or thumb and middle finger, to break pieces of the shell away, starting at the opening and working your way down the spiral. This should avoid crushing or cutting the fish.
I had the exact thing happen to me except it was a Compressicep. I used a pair of pliers and gently squeezed the shell until it broke and removed him ok. your experience may vary on that, however. escargot shells are pretty easy to break unlike turbos. The fish may have eventually came out but I wasn't going to take the change if I didn't have to. I don't use shells for my altolamps anymore. I use barnacle clusters which they seem more than happy to breed in and there is much less chance of them getting stuck and I can remove them easier if I ever had to for some reason.
Thanks for all your replies but I am pleased to report that as of this morning he is out of the shell. I had favored the needle nose pliers (breaking the shell apart) approach and was also concerned about air pockets. I guess this was one of those newbie scenarios that won't concern me so much in the future.
What's more my pair of gold occies have clearly paired up after a week in the tank together so all's good for now.
as an interested owner of 2 A. calvus this question has left he curious. has anyone had a fish (specifically calvus or comps) not be able to exit a shell and subsequently died? my other thought was whether to break the shell in or out of the water. thanks!
I have had hundreds of Altos enter and exit shells. I have never come across one that has been stuck in the shell. If they got in im sure they can get out. Also remember that Altos will flare their fins and push out their scales which will lock them into the shell, so if u dont have patience and want to take him/her out don't pull at the fish.
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