Moving day for an Aquarium
By: Redfish01


These steps were compiled from forum posts and excerpts from Badman’s Tropical fish website and put together in this form by Redfish01 (Tom). Thank you!

Step by Step:

  1. Break down Tank first. Move the tank first or last.
  2. Drain some of the water into containers to hold the fish. Put fish in containers.
    Save about 1/2 the water in other containers to move with you. I use 5-gallon gas or kerosene containers (they were purchased specifically for tank RO water–you should never use one that actually held gas or kerosene.
  3. Take the filters–putting bio-media in plastic baggies full of tank (don’t use tap) water to keep it moist for the trip.
  4. Drain the tank. Remove the decor and substrate.
  5. Move tank. Set it up. It is nothing more than a complicated 50% water change.

Reasoning behind complete breakdown of tank:

The reasoning behind it is the weight factor and avoiding any stress fractures caused by that to the tank itself.Tips:

Float the bio media in the coolers or baggies you have the fishes in. I would not rinse out the substrate. If you don’t want to put the bio media in the tanks–just bag the filters. They will do ok for a few hours.

If you decide on the cooler route rather than bagging them Use several coolers. Don’t put the plants in the same cooler as the fish. Don’t place more than 2-3 fish in any one cooler.

Open the coolers up and paddle the water a bit every now and again so that it maintains oxygen levels to support fish. Maybe even want to think about some battery operated air pumps.

Smaller tank moves: (5-10-20gallon):

I believe it would not be necessary to remove all substrate if handled delicately to avoid tank stress fracture.

Additional thoughts and helpful Hints:

A thought about using Styrofoam containers is they’ll keep the fish dark, and this is generally less stressful on the fish as compared to a clear or translucent Rubbermaid that lets a lot of light in. Most stores will provide plastic fish bags free of charge (or maybe for a very small fee), and they really aren’t that difficult to tie. Aim for 1/3 water 2/3 air, and the fish will be good to go for several hours in the bags. Rubber bands are best in my opinion for maintaining a tight seal, I usually double them up and they hold pretty well. If using containers, (buckets w/lids or Rubbermaid containers) you can put live plants in with the fish and as long as the fish are small and won’t hurt the plants if they thrash around, everyone should be fine and the fish might appreciate the cover provided by the plants.

You could even put the filter media in a plastic bag with only the water that’s on the media when it’s placed in the bag, and as long as the bag stays sealed and moist, it should be fine. The same goes for plants actually. Additionally, as long as the bag is sealed, no water will escape and the plants won’t dry out. I’ve had plants in bags for several days at a time with no problem.

Basically, keep the media/stuff that needs to be wet, wet or moist, the rest of the stuff (rocks, decorations, gravel, etc…) doesn’t really matter. Water is heavy and the less of it you have to carry, the happier you’ll be. Also, even if you drain as much of the water out of the gravel as you can and leave it in an open container, there will still be a lot of moisture trapped in it for several days to come.

Moving an aquarium really isn’t that big of a deal. Just think things through and have a plan before you start, and it should go without a hitch. Also, since water is heavy, I prefer to transport as little of it as possible. Plants, filters and even the fish only need minimal amounts of water, and since the fish will be in the water for a couple hours and doing a fair amount of pooping, I wouldn’t count on using that water over again anyway, so don’t make things heavier (or harder) than they need to be.

Quick Summation:

  1. Catch fish and put into a tub or bin, keeping filters running in tub. (Don’t feed fish day before or day of packing them)
  2. Break down tanks and get them packed.
  3. Get cars all packed without the fish.
  4. Pack bio filter in a bag with an ammonia source (I would use a cocktail shrimp that has been soaking in tank water)
  5. Get tank water and pack the fish in individual bags. Stack neatly so they don’t get sloshed around to much.
  6. Pack fish in car.
  7. Kids take potty break before leaving.
  8. Go

Final Thought:

I think with a little patience, moving with the thought of our fish friends in mind, good planning, and using as much of the existing tank water as possible make for a seamless and less stressful experience for our finned friends.

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