Managing Aquarium While Moving House

Managing Aquarium While Moving House

An aquarium is a big setup, and fish are not like any other pets. It is what worries fish keepers while moving house. Moving an aquarium from one room to another is a daunting task, let alone moving to another house. However, when you are shifting to another city or apartment, you are left with no other choice.

If you are in this situation and fretting, this guide will help you manage your aquarium while moving it. In our guide, we have mentioned every essential step you need to take. A little planning ahead makes things less stressful for you and helps fish adjust to the new setup.

Taking Help

If you are hiring companies that help with moving, consider your half-work done, as they are pros in handling delicate items like glass aquariums. Collaborating with them will make the work easy as they will handle the aquarium, and you can work with your fish. Or else, you can take advice from local fish shops experienced in packing and transporting fish from one locality to another.


Irrespective of what you choose, planning everything well in advance helps tremendously. We have outlined a detailed generic plan that involves what you should do a few weeks before moving, on the final day, and a few days after moving the aquarium. This plan does not go by any thumb rule, so you can adjust and alter it as per your tank size and the requirement of fish and aquatic plant species.

Even though the guide may feel elaborate and intimidating, planning ahead can make things easy and fuss-free on the final day. The article is designed to help aquarium owners think through some major issues they may encounter while shifting. Based on them, solutions can be tailored that suit the situation.

Moving How Many Tanks and Where

There are two options while moving an aquarium- taking it to a temporary location for some time or taking it straight to the new home.

Even though the first option looks more stressful, it is useful when there’s a lot of work pending in your new abode, like decoration, wooden work, etc. It will be good to complete all the pending tasks before moving the aquarium.

If your friends or other family members have experience in fish-keeping, you can ask them to look after your pets for a few days until you shift the tank in your house.

Another thing you need to consider is the number of tanks you need to move. In the case of multiple tanks, more time will be required. Likewise, if the tanks are large, they will take more time to drain and refill. While five tanks of 30 liters each can be moved in one day, five tanks of 300 liters would take a lot more time.

So, all these factors should be considered while moving the tank from one place to another.

Here are some tips and tricks from the experts that will help make things easier, whether you have one tank to move or many tanks.

Things to do a Month before Moving

If you think moving house is just a business of a day or two, you are wrong, especially when you have aquariums. Here are the things you need to start checking at least a month prior:

  • Check out for help: If you need assistance from movers and packers, call them a month in advance and book. Tell them that you have glass tanks so that they come prepared accordingly. Provide them with the date, time, address, and routes.


  • Check water parameters: If possible, look at the new home’s water parameters. You can do so by testing a water sample against different parameters like pH, temperature, etc. If the new place is too far to go just to take a water sample, check the postcode on the website of the water provider.

Make sure the water parameters of the tap water of the new place are the same as your current water parameters. It is mainly because when the fish moves from its present situation to much softer or harder water, it can make them stressed, which is really bad for their health.

Therefore, you need to ensure that the water supply of your new place should be somewhat similar or, if not, how to adjust it to the current situation to make it suitable for fish.

Locate the nearest fish shop: You may never know what problems you may encounter in the new place with your fish. So, keep the contact details and opening and closing times of the nearest fish shop handy.

Things to do Two Weeks before Moving

  • Remind: Let your helpers know that the date for moving is about to come, so stick to the plans and stay prepared.
  • Purchase the necessities: Buy every essential thing you would need for moving the aquariums, such as fish bags, fish boxes, plastic boxes, insulated carriers, bins, elastic bands, and other important items.

Things to do A Week before Moving

If only a week is left before D-day ensure that you know the following:

  • Are there any tight corners from where taking the tank out could be problematic
  • Where you’ll be placing your aquarium in the new home
  • If the place is suitable for a glass tank and gets enough light
  • Does it have enough power sockets within reach of the tank
  • Do you need to purchase additional power extension boards/leads
  • Water parameters are suitable for the fish and aquarium plants
  • You have a water conditioner and enough fish food

Apart from these, ensure you know the route and how long it will take to reach the new place. Apart from this, you must also practice the perfect art of tying the fish bag. So, whenever you are free, take out one fish bag, put some water inside, and secure the top tightly, so there is no leak. Practicing in advance will ensure no mishap on final packing.

Things to do One Day before Moving

While there must be a lot of the hustle and bustle one day before moving, you need to keep the following points in mind for your fish’s sake:

  • Feeding: Feed your fish less than what you feed them every day. It will keep the quantity of poop less, especially in the bags and containers in which you’ll pack them.
  • Run through the timings: If you think tying a poly bag with fish will take only a minute, think again. These little things may look small but take longer than expected, so make sure you have enough time to handle all this work.
  • Pack and label: As you pack the stuff, do not forget to label the packages. Keep essentialities like airstones, air pumps, airlines, etc., separate from the rest of the items so you can find everything easily whenever required.

Dismantling the Aquarium for Moving

Before breaking down the aquarium, take some good photographs of it from different angles. You can look at these pictures while setting up the tank at the new place to reassemble the decor and other hardware at the exact spots.

Even after having the aquarium for the past five or ten years, we seldom acknowledge the placement of hardware and how piping was set up. It is when the pictures will come in handy.

Breaking it down

If the tank is small, with only a few fish and little plants and decor, dismantling becomes an easy task. However, if your tank is high-tech and heavily planted with lots of fish, you might need a good time to dismantle it.

If there are many fish and plants, transferring them into a big plastic tub would be a wise decision. Keep the filter, heater, and airstone in the tub so that fish can thrive well inside for some hours while you take the tank apart.

Removing different hardware of aquarium

  1. Lights– Switch off the lights for at least a night before dismantling the tank. It will allow the lights to cool down and thus make it easy to take off. Once you remove the lights, take the cable ties, coil them, and secure them.
  2. Heaters- To remove the heater, start by switching it off; don’t remove it immediately but let it cool down first. Once removed from the water, pack it nicely in bubble wrap.
  3. Filters- Switch off the filter and close all the openings or valves. Before you remove the filter, let it run as long as possible so that the water stays clean for longer.
  • Internal filters- It is essential to keep the internal filters in perfect condition to prevent them from worsening. Therefore, either fit the internal filter in the bucket so that it stays wet or take the media out and keep it wet and safe.
  • External filters- Work through the pipes and dismantle them. in this time, you can clean the pipes with a brush too. Now gather all the things and keep them together so that you get everything in a place when setting up the tank in a new place.
  1. Plants– If you have aquatic plants in your tank, it is advised to take them out and wrap them in a damp paper or kitchen towel. There is no need to keep the aquatic plants in water until they are healthy and damp. Make sure they won’t dry up soon. Since aquatic plants are delicate, ensure they don’t get crushed during transit. So, keeping them in a box will do the needful.
  2. Aquarium wood– Aquarium woods are usually sturdy. You can keep them safely inside a box or plastic bag. Try that the aquarium wood does not get dried completely.

Another thing you need to remember is some fish species love hiding inside the aquarium woods. So, before you take it out for packing, ensure no fish is hiding inside it.

  1. Decoration– All the decor items used in your aquarium can be removed and put inside a plastic box safely. Again check that no fish are hiding inside them.
  2. Substrate– Dealing with the substrate may feel daunting, but it becomes easy when you know the right ways. Usually, how to manage the substrate depends upon what substrate you are using.
  • Gravel and Sand– Once you have removed the hardware and other things from the tank, remove the entire water and shovel the gravel and Sand using a clean dustpan.
  • Soil type substrate– If soil substrate is present under Sand and gravel, siphon out the Sand’s top layer, followed by removing the water and finally shoveling out the soil.
  1. Water– Now, the tank would be left with water. Do not make the mistake of throwing this water as it makes the fish feel safe and ‘at home’.

Emptying the Aquarium

Take some plastic jerry cans and fill the aquarium’s water inside it. Since the water chemistry of this water is the most suitable for fish and aquatic plants, make sure you use it while setting up the tank in your new place.

Also, while packing the fish in the fish bags, make sure you have used the same water to keep them stress-free. Fish are slightly shocked when transferred from a large tank to small plastic bags. You don’t want to stress them more by introducing them to water with completely different water parameters, right?

While siphoning the water out from the tank, make sure there are no fish left in the tank, or else it will siphon out too in the jerry can.

If the tank is large or you have more than one tank, use tubing with a wide bore. It will hasten the aquarium emptying process.

Note: It is essential to empty the tank before transporting because they are designed to stay intact only when stationary and fully supported. Aquariums can’t take any load while being carried themselves. So, if you think little water, some decor pieces, and hardware won’t harm the glass, you are wrong. Remove every bit of them and make the glass container empty. There should be no stress on the seals and joints of the tank.

After emptying the tank

Once most of the water has siphoned out with the tube, and only the last few millimeters are left, take a sponge to remove the rest. Soak and squeeze the sponge out in a bucket. Repeat the process until the tank is empty.

Make sure the tank is dry before handling it, as a wet tank is prone to slipping.

Transporting the Aquarium

While transporting the aquarium, you need to handle it with care. For this, you may need to check the following points:

  • Cover it with bubble wrap, an old blanket, or a duvet. If you use your own vehicle, ensure the tank fits perfectly inside.
  • If you are transporting the aquarium through a van, ensure it is tied and secured properly with straps at the tie-down points.
  • Use ratchet straps to tie the tank tightly to keep things safe and prevent them from sliding during transportation.
  • Keep the tank on an even surface and pad it out if needed.
  • Ensure the joints and seals are not stressed.
  • If metal fastenings are in the van, pad them to avoid cracking the glass during transit.

While carrying the tank from room to vehicle, ensure you have sufficient people to help. Even though the tank is empty, don’t misunderstand it to be lighter. While big tanks are quite heavy, small tanks also require an expert to move.

So, once you have picked the tank up, you can’t put it down halfway to the vehicle. So, make sure you are doing things professionally and not like an amateur. Glass tanks are costly, and breaking them while moving could become a costly affair.

Transporting the Fish

Usually, fish are kept inside fish bags while being transported. These bags are designed to fit fish of different sizes. However, not every fish can be transported inside a plastic bag as some are notorious enough to puncture them, inviting their own death.

For instance, if you have fish species like catfish with sharp spikes or some species with sharp fins, place them inside a plastic box instead of a plastic bag. Fish plastic boxes come equipped with watertight lids that ensure no fish species die in transit.

As the vehicle turns or changes speed, water moves too. If the lid is not watertight, the water may find its way out. It is another reason why most fish die during transportation. So, double-check that your plastic boxes are secured tightly with the lid and there are no chances of water escape.

Another thing to keep in mind is to avoid putting two aggressive fish species together. They may fight and harm each other during the journey. So, check fish compatibility before keeping them together.

If possible, try to maintain a dark ambiance for the fish as it reduces their stress level.

How to Bag the Fish Correctly

First of all, you need to check the size of your fish and see if the fish bag will give them enough space to swim. A suitably sized fish bag will ensure that fish will travel with less stress.

Big and tall fish bags are the best, as they allow you to knot and secure them tightly. At the same time, check if the plastic is strong enough to hold water and fish for a long duration.

Only a quarter of the plastic bag should be filled with water as the air inside the bag is equally essential for fish survival. You need to keep the following points in mind while bagging fish:

  1. Use tank water– Take some water from the aquarium and pour it inside the fish tank. Take someone’s assistance for this step. Add your fish and top up water if required.
  2. Seal the corners– Take a piece of tape and cover the bottom corners of the bag. It will allow the bag to round them off. Also, this step will prevent any small fish from getting caught while placing the bag in the box.
  3. Secure the fish bag– The most important step in bagging the fish is securing the fish bag perfectly to ensure no leakage. For securing, make some twists and turns around the top section of the bag. The bag will fill with air and puff up.

While twists make the bag firm, tying the top with a knot will secure it. If you are not able to tie the knot perfectly, secure the top section with tight elastic bands. Repeat the same for the other bags and make your fish ready for transportation.

  1. Placement– If there are multiple fish bags, it will be wise to pack them together. You can use a plastic bag or a strong cardboard box for the purpose. When all the fish bags are packed together, it will keep any heat in the water.

Where to Keep the Fish in Vehicle

The best part of placing the fish in the vehicle is the middle, which should be as equidistant from the wheels as possible. This area usually does not face major bumps on the road and ensures a smoother ride for fish.

If the fish are large in size and not able to turn around after packing, keep its face sideways. It will ensure their nose won’t band the container with each brake.

Factors to Consider While Transporting the Fish in the Vehicle

Once you have made all the adjustments and placed the fish inside the vehicle, your work doesn’t end here. Here are the points you need to consider for fish’s safer commute-

  1. Keep the fish warm and cozy

If the journey is only about an hour, things may not fall apart; however, in the case of long journeys, you need to keep the tropical fish warm. For this, keep the fish bags inside insulated or polystyrene fish boxes. You can also keep the bags inside a strong and hardy cardboard box, followed by wrapping them with bubble wrap or blankets.

It will allow the temperature to stay warm and light to stay dark. Both these are necessary for a healthy fish journey. You can also get some heat packs from a local fish shop or online. These packs are designed to use in the fish boxes while transporting them to keep fish warm and cozy.

On the contrary, if you have coldwater fish species, there is no need to keep them too warm. Such fish are not affected until the change in water temperature is sudden and drastic.

  1. Water Aeration

Like water, the air is equally essential for the fish’s survival. It helps in gas exchange that ensures fish will thrive in the journey. Since aerating the water in the bin or box is not possible like we do in aquariums, putting a battery-powered air pump helps in aeration.

  1. Ensure the filter bacteria is safe

To ensure that your internal filter keeps working, you must try keeping it wet or at least damp. In case you are moving the fish by keeping it inside a bin or bucket, and it is big enough to have a filter, try running it using a battery-powered airstone. It will allow the water to keep flowing over the media.

However, if there is no way to keep the internal filter wet with a battery-powered airstone, remove the media, keep it damp, and secure it inside a bag.

Once you reach the new place, pour water into a bucket and start running the internal filter. Remember to pour only the tank’s water in the bucket and not water straight out of the tap.

Final words

So, this is how you plan before moving your aquarium. If you think moving a tank is as normal as moving furniture, you are wrong. Since it involves live creatures (fish and aquatic plants), proper care is necessary.

We hope this guide will help you understand the basic requirements as well as the steps involved in shifting a fish tank from one place to another home. Following the right steps is the only way to keep your fish and plants safe during the journey and prevent them from dying.

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