What To Do With Your Fish Tank When You Move

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante
Credit: Shutterstock / Andrey_Nikitin

Every aquarium enthusiast dreads the day that they must move to a new home with their tank. It’s hard to even know where to start, even if you’ve done it before. We have some helpful tips if you don’t know what to do with your fish tank when you move.

First, you must stop feeding the fish in your tank the day before moving, then you must remove the plants and decorations. Turn off the equipment before you siphon the water from the tank, and make sure to save it in a bucket. Next, you must remove the fish and substrate and put it in separate bags full of water.

Only move the tank if it’s empty, or else it may break. Once you get to your new home, you can finally set your tank back up, reintroduce your fish, and feed them. Follow along as we explore what to do with your fish tank when you move.

Can I Move A Fish Tank With Water In It?

You should never move a fish tank with water in it. A fish tank with water, decorations, equipment, and substrate is quite heavy. The combined weight of everything can crack the glass and create a huge, dangerous mess. Moving a tank with fish in it can also cause physical trauma, and they may even die.

How To Move An Aquarium To A New House

Moving a fish tank to a new house requires a lot of preparation. Before you get started, it’s important to gather a few supplies to make the move easier, such as:

  • Siphon hoses
  • Buckets
  • Plastic bags
  • Fish net
  • Strainer
  • Padded blanket
  • Bubble wrap

You most likely have several of these items at home, especially if you’re in the process of moving. Let’s look at the best tips and tricks to help you move your fish tank to a new house.

1. Prepare The Fish

Naturally, your fish will be confused and even stressed when you move them to a new house. That’s why it’s important to do everything possible to ease the transition for them. It may sound counterintuitive, but you can help them prepare for the journey if you stop feeding them 24 hours before moving.

This is crucial because you must put your fish in a temporary enclosure while moving. If you feed them recently, they will release waste into the water in their temporary enclosure. The size of the bag or small enclosure paired with the ammonia from the waste can harm them.

Fish can go a day without food, so you don’t need to worry about them. Of course, you should feed your fish right away once you set the tank back up at your new house.

2. Remove Plants And Decorations

It helps to remove the plants and decorations in your aquarium before you move the fish and equipment. Ideally, you should place the plants in a small tote or plastic bag so they don’t get smashed. Take pictures of the plants and decorations before you take them out so you can easily replicate the setup.

It helps to put some of the water from your fish tank in the container with the plants. This will help them quickly acclimate when you set the tank back up. You won’t have to worry about the plants getting too dry, and that’s most important.

This is also a great chance to clean the decorations before you put them back in the tank at your new house.

3. Turn Off The Pump And Filters

Before you do anything else, it’s important to turn off the pump, filters, and heater. Turn off each piece of equipment, remove them, and put them in separate bags or containers. Clean them as needed, and protect them with padding and bubble wrap to avoid damage while moving.

Keep in mind that you must quickly set the equipment up when you get the aquarium in your new location. That way, your fish won’t have to go too long without heat and filtration.

4. Siphon And Save The Water

Next, you must siphon the water from your tank before you remove the fish. This is no different from changing the water in your tank as you usually do. Put one end of a siphon hose in a 5-gallon bucket and the other end in your tank. Use suction to pull the water from the tank into the bucket.

Save up to 80% of the water so you can put it back in the tank when you get to your new house. Keep the water in buckets with lids. If you don’t have lids, you can cover the tops with plastic wrap and tape them in place so nothing spills.

Carefully watch the water level as you siphon it from the tank. Stop siphoning the water when it gets to roughly 40% to 50% empty. From there, you can remove the fish before you siphon the rest of the water from the aquarium.

5. Carefully Remove The Fish

Now it’s time for the most important part of the process: removing the fish. This part can be stressful, but you must work quickly to make it as easy as possible for the fish. Catch your fish with a fish net or cup, and place them in plastic bags or miniature fish tanks.

Depending on how many fish you have, you may need to use several plastic bags and containers. The last thing you want is to crowd your fish, as that can make it hard for them to breathe. Fill the bags and containers with water from the tank if you saved it.

6. Pull Out The Substrate

It’s time to remove everything else that’s left in your fish tank after the fish are gone. Siphon the rest of the water and put it in a bucket. Now, you must remove and save the substrate from the bottom of the tank.

It’s dangerous to move with the substrate in the tank because it can move around and crack the glass. There’s no easy way to remove substrate, and it can get messy. You can use a scooper, cup, or even your hands to remove the substrate.

Place the substrate in a bag without drying it so it still retains the bacteria from your aquarium. This will be the first thing that you put back in the tank at your new house.

7. Move And Set Your Tank Up

Now that you’ve removed everything, it won’t be too hard to move the tank. The most important thing to consider is that your tank can break easily. That’s why you must enlist the help of a friend and carefully pack your aquarium with padded blankets, cardboard, and bubble wrap.

Unpack the tank at your new house and set it up on the surface that you’ll use as an aquarium stand. Next, gently put the substrate back in your fish tank and make sure you don’t set it down too hard to avoid cracks. Slowly pour the water that you saved into the aquarium so that the substrate doesn’t stir up.

Put the decorations and equipment back in the tank, then turn the equipment back on. Wait until the water reaches a temperature of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit before you reintroduce the fish. Don’t put all the fish back into the tank at once, otherwise you may overwhelm them.

Pro Tip: Keep the lights off in your tank until all the fish have been re-acclimated to the tank. After that, you can fill the rest of the tank with a mixture of old, siphoned water and fresh water.

Summing It Up

To move an aquarium, you must remove the decorations, equipment, and plants. Next, you can remove the water and save it to put back in your tank. Remove the fish while there is still some water left, then pull out the substrate. Slowly reintroduce your fish to the aquarium when you get to your new house, and let them float in the water in the bag you kept them in.

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Nick Durante
Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

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