So, I'm doing my water change, having pulled out all the decorations and rocks, and I try to spot the "hard to find" fish in my tank while vacuuming. I see one, two, three ropefish, all accounted for. Black spotted eel, check. Spiny eel, check. Grey leopard pleco (L264), check. Synodontis ocellifer (juvenile), present. Asian bumblebee cat...Asian bumblebee cat?...there you are. Brand new baby goldy (sunshine, L-14) pleco who was my birthday present? Hello?
HONEY!!!! I NEED SOME HELP IN HERE!!!
We combed through the gravel, no luck. I picked up my 14" Hypostomus hypostomus and closely inspected the tank (he gets in the way, and doesn't mind being picked up when it's necessary, and it was hard enough with my huge Synodontis eupterus and Synodontis angelicus in the way, and the three adult pink tailed chalceus freaking out), and there was no little goldy. So each decoration, which had been out of the tank for probably 15 minutes at this point (no problem for a pleco, thank goodness), was inspected closely.
My stupid log decoration (above) had a little dead-end side branch. It's that piece sticking out of the top. If I tilted it just so, I could see yellow spots and yellow fins all the way at the end. I gently nudged him with the forceps I had lying around (they're for feeding snakes), and he gave me the little squeaky pleco noise that says, "Go away!"
I had to determine whether he was actually stuck, or just happily holed up. I poked around gently with a cotton swab (highly recommended over metal pointy things when dealing with stuck fishies), and I quickly determined that he had gotten himself into a stuck situation. Sometimes they do this in hard resin decorations; they expect it to be organic like they'd find in the wild, and be able to push their way out, but this stuff is unnatural in its rigidity.
I carefully broke off the branch. It snapped off very easily, and I could clearly see my poor little pleco wedged inside. The whole time, we were dipping him in the water as often as possible, so he was doing okay. Now, here is the part you can learn from. I've had to rescue fish from resin decorations before. The trick is to get a pair of pliers, grip the decoration, and break off a small piece at a time, pulling away from the fish, until you get the fish free. Trying to break it in half or cut through it near the fish is going to kill the fish. I broke off bit by bit until I got just over his little head. Now, this is where needlenose pliers work best, but I didn't have any. I grabbed my cuticle nippers to do the very fine work by his head. Tiny piece by tiny piece, I gently removed the decoration from one of the "stuck" points.
Goldy wiggled free, dove into the tank, and hightailed it for the nearest corner.
I finished my tank maintenance and put everything back together. Goldy's amazingly no worse for the wear. The decoration looked pretty decent after that branch was snapped off, so I tossed it back in there. One of my brichardis likes it, so I didn't want to have to replace it.