You might have moved all kinds of heavy furniture and appliances for moving your home. But when it comes to moving your fish tank, it is completely different than any other belonging in your home. Though moving each piece has its own unique process and needs a unique set of tools, moving a fish tank needs a responsible outlook. Because here, you will be moving your scaly companions who have stress levels of their own.

By the end of the move, you aren’t the only one who will be stressed and exhausted. Your pets too tend to get anxious with the move and then adapt to their new environment. So to make the move easy both on you and on your fish, follow some simple steps, and get help when needed. Because that huge tank is fragile and can shatter if something goes wrong. Don’t worry though, we’re here to help. Here are the steps to safely move a fish tank.

Equipment Needed To Safely Move A Fish Tank

You must keep this equipment ready at least a few days prior to your move. You can designate a day a week before to go and collect all these supplies. You can also keep your local aquarium informed about the move in case you need any last-minute tools:

  • Fish Nets: To remove your fish from the tank and transfer them to a bucket or container.
  • Siphon Hose: This will help you remove water from the tank.
  • Containers To Transport Gravel: Make sure they have lids so water doesn’t spill.
  • Buckets To Transport Tank Water: Try getting larger 5-gallon buckets if your fish is big, and keep less fish in a bucket to give them space to swim.
  • Fish Bags And Rubber Bands: For your smaller fish, keep only one fish in a small bag.
  • Water Conditioner: Helps lessen stress levels and restores the slime coat your fish loose due to netting and transporting them.
  • Battery Operated Air Pump: This will go in the bucket when you move your fish in it.
  • Moving Pads Or Bubble Wrap: To secure the edges of your fish tank as it is moved.
  • Wet Vacuum: You will use this when your aquarium has been emptied, to clean it dry.
  • Dolly: To support your aquarium as you carry from its location to your vehicle and then to its new location in the new house.

See also: List of Best Moving Equipments

Things To Remember Before The Move

You must consider many factors before you actually start to move your fish tank, so that you don’t face any hurdles when you are in the middle of the process.

  • Identify where you want to place your fish tank in your new home, and see if that place, be it a table or a floor, is strong enough to hold your fish tank.
  • Locate a place that has an electric supply near it because you will need it for the oxygen supply plus the light, heater, and the filter.
  • Measure the pathway from where you will be carrying your fish tank, check if the passages and turns in pathways are wide enough to accommodate your fish tank, as it turns and passes from that spot.
  • This may sound too detailed, but it is better to check the water supply and its pH values at your new home. Because even a slight change in alkalinity might affect your fish.
  • Try to check weather apps to predict the weather on your moving day. Try avoiding moving your tank on a very hot or a very cold day as extreme temperatures can be stressful on the fish.
  • Take out time and clean the filter two weeks before you move the tank.
  • Avoid feeding your fish 24 hours before the move, so that their waste has passed. This is important as it will keep the water clean when moving. And don’t worry about them going hungry because fish can easily go on without food for two days or even a week.

Steps For Moving Fish Tank

When the day of the move arrives, and you are ready with all your weapons, take all safety precautions. Check for signs of changed behavior in your fish and start the moving process.

1. Empty The Tank

Remove everything from the tank one by one, start with the water. Once 70% of the water is out, gently take off the fish with a fishnet. Transfer them to a bucket of water that holds the same tank water. You must try to save as much water as possible, at least 70% of the water from your fish tank, to transport it to your new location. That’s because the same water is the main environment for your fish and having that will help them adapt better. This helps restore the biological balance in your fish and also reduces the stress levels they face due to the move.

You can do this by transferring the water from the fish tank with the help of a siphon hose to large containers with a lid or a bucket. When your fish is out, remove the rest of the water and now remove the plants, decor items and gravel from the bed. Then wipe the fish tank, wipe the equipment too and pack them up together. But don’t wipe the filter too dry, keep it a little damp and pack it up in a sealed container. Then, you can vacuum your fish tank dry. It’s important to put your gravel in water and pack it in a watertight container so that the nitrifying bacteria in it stays alive.

2. Secure Your Fish

Depending on the size of your fish, decide how you want to secure them for moving. The larger ones can go in the buckets, get the battery-operated pump for this purpose. Remember to leave some space above the water’s surface in the bucket. The smaller fish can be packed in fish bags, ask your local aquarium shop to fill some oxygen in each bag and tie it up. They will happily do so with some minimum fees.

Again, make sure the water filled in the bags is from the tank itself. When placing the bags anywhere, place them sideways, so that the surface area increases and your fish can have maximum space to move. This way, the oxygen too consistently settles in the pouch. It is better to pack this within another fish bag so as to secure it against any leaks.

3. Don’t Forget The Plants

Even though you think plants can survive without water for the move time, you are mistaken. They should be placed in water or in a water tight container, or you can even pack them in a wet towel or a wet newspaper. This is done so that it retains its good bacteria. If you have a lot of plants, just put them in a bucket of water that has a lid cover, so the water doesn’t spill during the move. The other reef inhabitants apart from the plants should also be transported the same way. It is best if they too are transported in the same tank water because just like the fish, their biological balance too is important.

4. Pack The Tank And Decor Items

Aquariums are delicate and need to be packed with a lot of care. First, take off the lid and pack it up in bubble wrap, secure the wrap in place with packing tape. Now fill the tank with packing paper. You can opt to place the light inside the tank, or choose to pack it separately. Pack the box in bubble tape or moving pads, add foam on the sides and edges, and secure everything with tape.

Lastly, place this in a big moving box. The box should be big so that it has space for the tank along with the foam, but it should not be so huge that the tank will move every time the box moves during transit. But in case there is still space around the box, rather than looking for a smaller box, just fill the gaps with some packing paper, this will do the trick and keep the tank in place during transport. Even a little crack in its surface can render it damaged and will eat up your time when you try to repair it or arrange for a new tank. So pack it very securely, double-check if the moving pad you wrapped it in is firmly in its place with the use of ample packing tapes.

Your task doesn’t end here, take a marker and label the box as fragile, also draw arrow marks indicating upside, so it doesn’t get moved in an upside-down position. Pack the decor items and artificial plants separately, try not to pack things like rocks with your fish or plants as their weight can harm the beings.

Also Read: Guide To Best Cheap Moving Boxes

5. Move The Tank

It is better to carry the aquarium in your car when you move, to keep them extra safe. If you can’t fit the tank in your car, make sure your movers know that your tank is very fragile and they must pay more attention to it while lifting and moving it. Place the packed tank on a dolly, and slowly carry this to your transport truck.

Though we recommend that you carry your fish tank and the fish in your own car because it is a fragile item and you don’t want it clashing with other belongings like heavy furniture in the transport truck. An additional benefit of this is that when you carry the tank and fish in your car, you can regulate the temperature because of the car’s cooling system.

6. Set Up The Fish Tank

When you reach your destination, putting your fish tank together should be your first priority, because you don’t want your fish to be in buckets and small bags for a long time. So, complete this one task before you unpack and set up other essentials. You must have already decided where the tank is going to be located, so now just carry it to that room or spot and unpack it.

Now place the fish tank in such a position that there is enough space behind it to accommodate the filters and other equipment, or the wires running towards the electric board. The first thing you do now is check if there are any cracks in the glass. Once everything looks undamaged, start making the habitat in your fish tank. For this, put the gravel or sand at the bottom of the tank.

Then set up the equipment in their place. Bring the plants and other reef habitats out of their watertight containers and place it in their positions. After this, place the decor items and fill the water. This should be the same water from your tank which you packed for the move. Then, gently put the fish in their home with a fishnet, and pour the remaining water from the fish bags and buckets into the tank.

Allow the water to settle in the room temperature, this can take a few hours, and only then activate the heater and the pump. Install the lights but keep them turned off for a few hours so that your fish get some time to adjust to their new surroundings. Feed your fish only 24 hours after the move, and if they refuse to eat, don’t worry, it will take a day or two for them to settle.

7. Care After The Move

Your work doesn’t end with the setting up with the tank, you still have to keep a lookout for some things. Like whether your fish are showing changed behavior or not eating as usual. If things seem off even after a week of the move, don’t hesitate to call an expert. You can try finding a vet in your new town for this purpose.

There can be another thing you should keep an eye out for, and that is cloudiness in your fish tank or marks of nitrite spikes. The reason for this could be ‘New Tank Syndrome’, which happens when the balance within the tank has been disturbed due to the move and the new climate. If this happens, you can place additional carbon in your filters so that the cloudiness lessens. If that doesn’t work out, try to cut back on feeding. Keep checking the temperature of the fish tank and accordingly adjust the heater. You must also check the levels of ammonia and nitrite in the water a week after the move, and if you find the level elevated, take appropriate action or consult an expert.

When you and your fish have happily settled in the new home, visit the local aquarium shop in your new town and enquire about their supplies. The people working at such shops also have contacts of vets and can recommend the best ones for your fish. Once you have figured out all this for your little pets, you can continue with setting up the home!

See Also: Moving with Pets – A Detailed Guide


Do I need professionals to move my fish tank?

Though you can move your fish tank on your own, professionals can lessen your moving load. Getting fish tank movers will cost you around $250. The movers will expertly use their equipment to safely move your aquarium.

Can I move a fish tank without draining the water?

Never. Moving your fish tank, even if you are moving it in the same house without draining the water is a huge risk. Even if your fish tank is smaller in size, don’t lift it with water or even sand/gravel as the weight and moving water can damage the tank. This can also act as a safety hazard to the ones carrying the fish tank.

Also Read: Top Local Moving Companies in the US