Moving house is a stressful experience on its own, and moving a fish tank adds a whole new dimension to the amount of organisation required in a move. Aquariums maintain a very specific environment for your fish to live in, and without the correct conditions they can quickly become ill or die.
It is essential therefore, to plan well in advance exactly how you are going to carry out the move, and to do it in as short a period of time as possible. By being well prepared and following some simple steps you can make the moving of your aquarium a quick and easy process with the minimum of danger to your fish.
Don’t feed you fish for at least 24 hours before the move. This will not harm your fish, but will reduce the amount of waste in the transportation bags, which could be harmful.
Get plenty of fish bags and polystyrene boxes; most aquatic retailers will be happy to supply you with these for the move.
Poly boxes are essential if you are moving tropical or marine fish as they can help to maintain water temperature in the fish bags. If you have fish with spiny fins or fish, which might bite through the bag, you can use buckets or containers with sealable lids.
Positioning the aquarium in your new house
The positioning of an aquarium is very important, and you will need to decide on the location of the tank in your new home before you commence the move. The position should be pleasing to the eye and you may want it to be in a prominent position; but it should also be located away from direct sunlight and in an area, which maintains a consistent temperature. Incorrect positioning or direct sunlight might result in excessive algae, which will cause poor water quality.
The aquarium should be either the first thing to be moved or the last. It should be done as quickly as possible without any interruption to keep the fish healthy, to maintain good water quality, and to protect the filter system.
Handling and moving the fish
Bags or containers should be filled to around a quarter or a third with water, the rest should contain air. Fish require oxygen to breathe but the water can only hold so much at a time; having plenty of air in the bag allows oxygen to be dissolved into the water to keep the fish well.
Bags can be sealed with an elastic band to hold the water and air inside. When the fish have been bagged and put into poly boxes you have around 12 hours to complete the move before the water quality and oxygen levels begin to deplete.
Transporting the tank and filters
You are on a time limit as soon as you have caught the fish and bagged them up, so it is important to get the tank and filters, as well as the mature tank water, to the new house as soon as possible. You can save time by removing the decor from the tank before you remove the fish.
Decorative things like bogwood, rocks or plastic plants can be transported in a bag or bucket, and keeping them moist will retain some of the bacteria, which have built up on their surfaces. Living plants should be bagged up with a small amount of tank water to keep them alive until they can be returned to the tank in the new house.
Any heaters should be switched off at least 10-15 minutes beforehand to allow them time to cool while still immersed in the water. Completely empty the tank in advance of the move, never try to move it with water or gravel still inside it; the weight may crack the tank, or weaken joints sufficiently to cause leaks. It is essential to take as much of the mature tank water with you as possible, and you should fill as many water barrels or containers as necessary.
Filters are the lifeblood of an aquarium and create the perfect environment for your fish. They are live systems, which contain many different types of bacteria, all of which play a part in providing good quality water for fish to live in.
The bacteria break down materials in the tank, including fish waste, which could otherwise contaminate the water; and it is important to keep these bacteria alive during the moving process. The filter media can be removed and put into a bucket of tank water to be transported; if you have an air pump it will help the bacteria to stay alive if you use it to aerate the water in the bucket.
Finally clear out any remaining gravel or substrate and get ready to move the tank. Dismantle any part of the tank or cabinet you are able to and transport with the utmost of care. Make sure the tank is firmly secured in the van before setting off, and drive slowly.
Introducing fish to the new home
Once the tank is in position in your new house, you can start to reinstate the water, ornaments, and filters. Replace the existing tank water that you have saved, then reinstate pumps and heaters, and return the substrate, the decor, the rocks and plants.
The filter system should be replaced next, and although some of the bacteria will have died during the move, you should have saved most of it and bacteria will breed quickly to replace any that is lost.
Top up the tank with fresh water until you reach the desired level; turn the heaters up a few degrees while you do this to speed up the warming process. You can also de-chlorinate the water as a further safeguard to protect your fish when you return them to the tank.
All that remains is to return the fish to their aquarium. Lift the lids to boxes and container slowly, try not to expose fish to too much light too soon as they are sensitive to bright light in the same way that you are.
Float the fish in the aquarium while still in their bags to begin with for about twenty minutes, then slowly roll down the sides of the bag to allow the water to mix and give the fish time to acclimatise.
Keep aquarium lights off during this process. Once the fish have adjusted to the water temperature and quality, you can finally release them back into their tank.