How to Safely Handle a Fish Tank While Moving House

by Sue Zakos
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It’s not easy to relocate. It becomes much more difficult as you add a pair of dogs to the mix. Our fluffy, feathery, or scaly pets must be carefully included in our travel arrangements, with best practises taking into consideration for bringing them to your new home as quickly and safely as possible (and ideally, with less stress for everyone involved). When moving a fish tank, you must remember not only how you will transport each of your particular fish, but also how you will move their aquarium so that it is ready to occupy as soon as you arrive at your destination. After all, you can’t just unplug it and walk out.

Moving a fish tank is less difficult than you would imagine, as long as you know what has to be done and when. Before, after, and after moving day, make sure you care for your fish and their tank by following the six steps below.

Gather the supplies ahead of time.

You must ship your tank empty, which necessitates devising a strategy for transporting everything inside, including your fish, supplies, plants, and decorations. As a result, the first thing you can do before moving a fish tank is collect all of the required supplies. Any of the objects on the list are likely already in your possession; others would require advance purchase.

Here’s what you’ll require:

Fish buckets, disposable sacks, or pots. Small fish should be transported in plastic bags tied at the tip with a twist tie if the journey is just a short distance (an hour or less). Small plastic cups with lids may also be used. Clean 5-gallon buckets with lids are recommended for bigger fish and/or longer movements.
Buckets for plants are available. During transportation, these would need to be immersed in the tank’s water.
Duct tape or packing tape. If used, for locking lids on buckets or plastic pots.
Fisherman’s nett. To shift your fish from their tank to a transport bin.
Using a syphon hose To drain the water from the tank.
Some packing materials For shipping tools, decorations, and the fish tank itself, make sure you have plenty of packaging materials. Air-filled rubber packaging, wrapping tape, foam board lining, and shipping boxes are also examples of this (cardboard or plastic).
Don’t forget to factor in the movement of any fish-related things you keep outside the tank, such as fish food, aquarium test strips, water dechlorinator, and the table or other surface the tank rests on.

Place your fish in their transport containers as soon as possible.
If you plan to ship your fish in bags, plastic bins, or buckets, you’ll need to get them into their transport containers as soon as possible so you can disassemble and clean the tank. Keep in mind, however, that when fish are taken out of their natural habitat, they are vulnerable to discomfort. Stay as long as possible before loading them into their transfer containers to further reduce tension. Fill the jar they’ll be flying in with water from the tank, leaving air at the surface. This would insure that their surroundings are as relaxed and natural as possible. You can fit three or four fish in a bucket if you use buckets.

24 hours before putting your fish into their transfer bin, stop feeding them. This will assist with keeping the water safe during the relocation. (Don’t worry; fish will go without food for up to a week if they’re healthy.)

Prepare the Tank for Travel

When it comes to moving a fish tank, it’s almost as important to move the structure as it is to move the fish. Start preparing the rest of the tank for your transition until the fish are safely in their cages.
Fill buckets with water from the tank and place plants in them. Allow for air at the top to prevent water from spilling out.
If necessary, syphon the remaining water into a big, sealable bucket. Later, you’ll want to refill the tank with as much of the initial water as possible.
Wipe down the decorations, allow them to dry, and then store them. Cover them in air-filled plastic lining and/or wrapping paper if they’re brittle before packing.
Some pebbles or sand at the bottom of the tank can be transferred to a bucket or other plastic tub.
Remove all appliances and, if possible, clean it down and dry it. Keep the filter wet at all times. Carefully pack all of your belongings.
Wipe down the tank and absolutely dry it.
Make sure all of the crates holding decorations, tools, and other supplies are clearly labelled. You’ll need to bring your fish tank back together as soon as you get to your new house, so knowing where it is will come in handy.

Fill Up Your Tank

Aquariums, as you would suspect, are very delicate and must be treated with caution. If your aquarium cracks or does other damage during the drive, it would be unusable in your new home, so take the time to pack it as safely as possible.
Remove the lid and place it on a piece of air-filled plastic padding. Using packing tape to hold it intact.
Cut foam board insulation to fit the bottom of the tank and position it there. Towels or packaging paper may be used to fill the reservoir.
Place the tank in a moving box and wrap it in air-filled plastic padding. In between the tank and the box, wrap foam board insulation across the edges. The box should be big enough to hold the aquarium and the lining, but not so big that the tank can’t move about. If there is room around it, fill in the holes with packaging paper to keep it from moving during shipping.
Make sure the package is sealed and labelled. Place arrows on the box to indicate which side is up, so the tank does not end up upside down or on its side during transportation.

Load Everything in to the Truck.

You or your movers can load the tank and its related boxes into the truck on moving day, making sure not to stack anything on top of the aquarium box.
Since moving vehicles aren’t necessarily climate-controlled, keep the buckets with your fish in the truck’s cabin or in your car as a protection measure. So you don’t have to think about them turning over while travelling, prop them up and protect them.

Put it all back together.

When you move into your new house, one of the first things you want to do is put your fish tank back together. Take on this mission long before you start unpacking other essentials, since the less time your finned mates spend in their moving crates, the better.
Have a plan for where you’ll put the aquarium. If you don’t have a final resting place in mind, at the very least, limit it down to the space it will be in. This is where you can set up shop.
Unpack the tank and give it a once-over to insure that the glass is free of cracks.
Begin the process of restoring your fish pond after you’ve decided the tank is ready to be refilled. First, lay down the pebbles or sand, and then set up the supplies. Refill the tank with the water you carried over in buckets after replacing the decorations and plants.
Return the fish to the tank with care, using the fishnet. Fill the tank with the water from their moving tanks, extracting any waste first if possible. Get some water from your tap and dechlorinate it before adding it in the tank if you need more to fill it up.
Before switch on your heater and pump, wait a few hours. This would provide time for the water to cool and reach room temperature.
When your fish are healthy in their new habitat, you can resume your daily feeding routine. Have an eye on them on a daily basis to look for signs of discomfort or anxiety, which are normal after a move. If you’re worried, contact an expert for assistance—your nearest pet shop is a fine place to start. However, hopefully, your fish can adapt easily and be swimming happily again in no time!

It can be difficult to move a fish tank even a few metres. It isn’t as easy as enlisting the help of a few close friends and moving the tank to a new place. Each fish has unique requirements, and you’ll want to remove the tank safely to avoid spills or glass cracks.

If you need to know how to relocate a fish tank to a new place, we’ll show you how to get it ready to go as quickly as possible.

*If you have live coral, marine fish, or a hot tank, you will need to take additional measures.

1. Gather the necessary materials to clear the tank.
A fish tank must be empty in order to be moved safely. For the pass, leaving rocks and gravel in place may be an expensive error. The items listed below will assist you in creating a temporary home for anything inside the tank.

Fisherman’s nett. Remove the fish, as well as any live coral or plants, with this tool.
For fish and vegetables, use five-gallon containers and plastic bags. Plastic bags may be used to transport small fish to another room or to a location less than an hour away. Five-gallon buckets with lids are needed for larger fish. Live plants can be moved in separate buckets that are fully immersed in water.
Using a syphon hose This would make it easier to move water from the tank to the 5-gallon containers.
Supplies are being packed. For the transfer, you’ll need tape to protect the lids. Additional boxes would be needed for fish tank supplies, decorations, and the fish tank. It is advantageous to have a label manufacturer. You may also label each bucket and box with masking tape and a marker.
2. Remove all filters and appliances and turn them off.
Moving fish may cause them to get very nervous. Intend to move the fish tank last and set up the tank first in your new spot in the grand scheme of things.

To continue, stop feeding your fish 24 hours prior to the transfer, as this will help keep their transport containers cleaner during the migration. When the tank is set up, remember to feed them on time.

Next, take a snapshot of the new fish tank setup so you can know where it is. Then, if you have any extra devices, such as a filter, pump, fan, or heater, turn it off and uninstall it. If at all practicable, keep filters moist and pack all equipment in its original packaging.

3. To transfer the fish, syphon water from the tank.
Do not switch fish more than a few hours until the tank is to be moved. In whatever way you can, try to reduce the amount of time they spend in tanks. Having the fish in the tank when you remove other things, on the other hand, is an error. To relieve discomfort, kill the fish before disrupting the remainder of the tank.

You want to build an atmosphere in the shipping container that is as similar to the tank as possible before moving the fish. Load the fish tanks with a small volume of tank water using a syphon.

Using a fishnet, gently carry the fish into the containers. Fill the remaining containers according to the number of fish in each, leaving plenty of room at the tip. Each five-gallon bucket will hold a few smaller fish that get along.

4. Remove all leftover objects from the fish tank.
Living plants and coral are the only other things that may need special attention. Using the fishnet to remove any large rocks or decorations that can be dried and packed separately before transporting these objects. Then, using fish tank water, submerge the coral and plants in their own bucket.

5. Siphon the excess water and save it.
You’ll want to conserve as much of the initial tank water as possible to speed up the process. Since water preparation can take a long time in saltwater fish tanks, this phase is important. If you don’t have enough water to refill the reservoir, follow the instructions for preparing water and storing it in another five-gallon container. It can take up to 48 hours for fresh water to be ready for the tank, so plan ahead of time and have extra on hand just in case.

6. Get rid of some gravel or sand.
Remove the sand and gravel and give it a proper clean and pat-down until you’ve removed all of the water and hardware from the tank. Remember to mark everything and keep it separate from the “dry” products.

Within A CARDBOARD BOX FOR MOVING A FISHTANK 7. Pack the fish tank into a cardboard box.
Fish tanks are incredibly delicate, and one incorrect step will permanently destroy the glass or seams, so proceed with caution.

To begin, thoroughly clean and dry the current tank once it has been emptied. Cover the lid in bubble wrap and pack it separately.

Cover the remaining tank with packaging paper and cut a strip of foam board for the floor. Wrap the tank completely in bubble wrap and place it inside a cardboard box. Although the initial box is best, a box with two inches on either side of the tank would suffice.

Cover the blank space with packaging material and close the package until the tank is inside; mark the box with an arrow showing which side is up. If the tank is too big, cover it in bubble wrap on the sides and lock it in the moving truck with nothing falling on it.

Related: The Best Moving and Packing Tips for a Stress-Free Move
8. Take caution before moving the fish tank.
Take the time carrying the fish tank because its placement inside the moving truck is important. If you’re hiring movers, make sure they’re aware that the package contains a delicate fish tank. Carefully raise and lower the tank.

Here are a few more moving tips to think about:
When going, don’t stack something on top of the fish tank. Often, avoid placing the fish tank on top of other boxes where it might slip off or tip over.
Move the fish, coral, and plants about in a temperature-controlled setting, such as inside your car. Do not lock them in the garage or outside for an extended period of time.
Enable the fish tank to come to room temperature slowly before flooding it with water if you’re moving on a very hot or cold day.
9. As soon as possible, reassemble the fish tank.
Make sure you know where you intend to put the fish tank before you set it up. If necessary, use the painter’s tape to calculate various spots before moving day to map out this site.

The below are the basic measures for reassembling a fish tank:
Once the tank has reached room temperature, check it closely for any holes or chips.
Start by unpacking all of the accessories and filling the tank with the base gravel or sand. Then, without turning it on, organise the rocks, accessories, and appropriate tools.
Fill the tank halfway with the prepared fish tank water. After that, you should add the coral and seeds. Finally, return the fish to the tank using the fishnet. After sifting out any built-up waste in the tanks, use the water from the fish and plant containers to fill the tank the rest of the way.
Wait an hour or two after the tank has been fitted up before turning on the pump or radiator. Many of the particles that were disrupted during setup would not get a chance to settle if the pump is turned on too quickly.
Once you’ve set it up, keep an eye on your fish for signs of tension and start feeding. If you’re having problems with either of your fish or plants, seek advice from a nearby fish store. Best of luck!

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