How to Move a Fish Tank

Moving can be a complicated endeavor, as you strive to get all the belongings and occupants of your home to a new home safely. When some of those occupants reside in an aquarium, it gets a little bit more complex. While dogs and cats are easy enough to transport, few of us know how to move a fish tank to a new house without incident. Fortunately, Firefighter’s Finest Moving & Storage falls into the category of people who know how to move a fish tank, and they’ve got advice to help you do it safely.

Why is it such a challenge to move an aquarium?

There are a few reasons that knowing how to move fish tank, fish, equipment, et al is such a specialized skill. First, aquariums are large. They’re cumbersome and heavy, and even when they’re empty, they’re a challenge to move. However, a more important factor is that fish are very sensitive creatures. To keep them happy and healthy, you have to keep their stress levels low and maintain their environment so that it will comfortably support their well-being. No matter how well you understand how to move an aquarium, this is a truly difficult task. You might think you can just move them inside the tank, but this would be a major mistake. Moving a fish tank with fish in it will not only put your fish in physical danger, but will heighten their stress to an extreme that they may not be able to survive. You should not even move a fish tank with water in it, because this causes safety hazards to you and the tank. Even if you empty some of the water, the tank will be a risk of broken parts and compromised seals. If you are wondering how to move a fish tank long-distance, consider carefully whether this is something you want to do. Any trip longer than 48 hours can be detrimental to a fish’s wellbeing.

Gather the Equipment You Will Need to Move the Aquarium

For the process to run smoothly, you will need a few pieces of essential equipment. Make sure you have all of these on hand before the move even if you need to buy or rent them from your local pet store.

  • Aquarium Fish Net
  • Bowls or Bags for Transporting Fish
  • Clean Plastic Tubs or Buckets with Lids, for Transporting Water and Plants
  • Syphon Hose
  • Battery Powered Air Pump for Keeping Water Aerated as the Fish Travel

Steps For Moving An Aquarium

Once you’ve gathered your equipment, make sure to have friends on hand to help, then follow these steps to move your fish and fish tank safely.

  1. Don’t feed the fish. Stop feeding your fish at least 24 hours before moving them. This may seem unkind, but healthy fish can survive for a week without being fed. By avoiding feeding them, you’ll allow them to empty their digestive systems and keep the water cleaner and safer during the move.
  2. Turn off the equipment and remove it. Turn off the heater and let it cool down for about 30 minutes before taking it out of the water, to avoid sudden temperature changes. Once you remove it, wrap it carefully in bubble wrap or towels to protect it during the move. Remove your filter media in a partially filled bag of tank water, to keep its helpful bacteria alive. If it’s a long move, though, you may need to clean the filter media or discard it, then start from scratch when you arrive at your destination. Pack your filtration system carefully, treating it like the fragile appliance it is. Air pumps are the least delicate pieces of equipment, but they should also be unplugged, removed, and safely packed away for transport.
  3. Begin syphoning the water. Once you’ve packed away the equipment, syphon about 75 to 80 percent of the water into your lidded buckets or containers. You will also want to syphon some into the containers in which you will move your fish and plants. Save as much of the water as you can, so that the fish will have a familiar environment at your new home.
  4. Remove the fish. You can move your fish in bags or sealed buckets with battery powered air pumps to keep the water oxygenated. If you use bags, pack one fish per bag, with enough water to keep the fish submerged. Let the bag fill with air, then seal the top, and place each bag in a Styrofoam container. Don’t stack the bags, and make sure you periodically open and reseal the bags to replenish the oxygen. However you transport them, use opaque containers, because fish are less stressed in the dark.
  5. Remove the plants and decor. Live plants can be gently lifted from the aquarium and placed in water-filled containers or bags. Store any artificial decorative items in water proof containers, taking care not to pack any boxes that are too heavy to lift.
  6. Syphon out the rest of the water. Syphon out as much water as possible, saving it to use in your aquarium’s new location.
  7. Remove the gravel or substrate. Even if you’re only moving a short distance, it’s always best to remove everything from the tank. Gravel and substrate can be heavy, and leaving them in place can cause damage to the seals on your fish tank.
  8. Move the fish tank. If you’re just moving it to another room, get the space ready for it before you begin. You don’t want to risk holding it for too long or setting it down on a surface not designed to hold its weight. If you are moving to another location, pack up the tank with a carboard box and packing supplies like bubble wrap, Styrofoam, and packing tape, to ensure it survives the trip.
  9. Reassemble your aquarium. Start this as quickly as you can, so that your fish don’t have to spend too much time in their temporary housing. Start by adding the substrate, then any décor pieces on top. Refill the aquarium with the water you’ve saved in containers, bringing it to about half full, then add the equipment and turn it on once it’s in position. Make sure to run the heater for a sufficient amount of time to heat the water before adding the fish. Replant any live plants, then reintroduce your fish to the tank slowly, the same way you would if they were brand new fish. If they were transported in bags, let them float in the bags on the surface of the water for about 45 minutes, keeping the lights off for a few hours to reduce stress. If you need to top off the water, do so with dechlorinated water. Monitor the tank for about a month, to make sure the quality of the water is correct, and the fish and plants are doing well.

Professional Movers Who Will Do The Job Right

When you need professional movers to help you get everything and everyone in your house moved safely, call Firefighting’s Finest Moving & Storage. We are dedicated to providing efficient, safe, and professional commercial and home moving services, as the reliable moving partner you can trust. Founded in 2001 by two off-duty firefighters, we’ve grown to serve not only the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but also Houston and Austin as well. A locally-owned-and-operated business, we exceed all state and federal requirements for a moving company and can handle all of your moving needs. Call 844-715-6625 or visit our website for an estimate.