Loading color scheme

Moving Fish Tanks

Packing the cat’s litter box or the dog’s kennel is simple when you’re moving. Moving the pets that live in water is more complicated. If you’re planning on moving soon and have a fish tank there are a lot of steps to take to keep the fish and the tank protected. So let’s dive into moving a fish tank.

 How to Move an Aquarium

As you would when preparing for any move, you need to round up your fish equipment and moving supplies. When dealing with live animals, you want to make sure this process has as little hiccups as possible. Here is what you’ll need: 

To get started, you need to drain the water from your tank and set up a place for your fish, plants, and other supplies to go. Try not to rush this process as moving can be stressful for the fish and too much stress can be harmful to your aquatic friends.

You’ll need a five-gallon bucket(s) with lid(s) to transport the fish. If you have live plants or corals, you’ll want to put them in one of these buckets as well. Large plastic bags or small containers can be used to transport fish too. Check with your local pet store because they may put your fish in bags with air in them like they do when you bring home new fish.

Before beginning the siphoning process, unplug your filters and heaters. The filters should always be left in the tank water to keep the beneficial bacteria alive. The filters should be transported in the water from your fish tank too. If you’re traveling a long distance, it’s a smart idea to invest in a portable heater and battery-operated air pump to use in the container because most pet fish need heated water and all need oxygenated water.

Now it’s time to siphon the water from your tank into the container you’re putting your fish in. Regardless of the container, leave enough room for air as it’s needed for the fish. Try to plan this ahead of time because you want the fish to be in containers as little as possible.

There should still be water left in your tank, and your fish! It’s time to use your net and get your fish into the containers you’re using. If it’s easier for you, remove all the other items from the tanks. Decorations and any large rocks and driftwood can be dried off and put into their own moving box. Any live plants or corals, not the plastic ones, need to go into their own bucket as mentioned before. Save any remaining water in another container, especially with saltwater aquariums. The extra water will help restart the tank in your next home and if in an emergency one of the containers with your fish breaks or cracks.

Your fish tank should now only have gravel, sand, or your substrate of choice in it. Your fish, plants, and decorations should be in containers and boxes. At this point, it’s your choice to remove the substrate from the tank or not. It takes a lot of time to take it all out and if the weight of the tank isn’t too much to handle, it’ll move fine. If you do keep the substrate in, use the lid to your aquarium or Mover’s Stretch Plastic Wrap over the top of it to prevent it from spilling out when hitting a bump in the road.

The next step is to put your fish tank in a moving box. When collecting your moving supplies, measure the dimensions of your fish tank to help you pick the right box because there are a large variety of sizes in both tanks and boxes. The box should have enough room to allow you to add protection packaging. We recommend looking at double-walled boxes like the Dish Barrel® Box or the Heavy-Duty Large Moving Box. Using a double-walled box provides more cushion from the two corrugated cardboard layers, which also allows for the box to hold more weight and prevent the box from being crushed.

Before putting the tank in the box, wrap a furniture pad around it. The pad will prevent the glass of your tank from being scratched while moving and add an initial layer of cushion. For more protection, this is when you can add packing paperpacking peanuts, air-filled plastic padding, or foam board insulation. You want the tank to move as little as possible inside the box. Once it’s locked into place, tape the box and make sure it’s sealed for the move. Write on the top of the box with an arrow or any reminder which side is up.

The tank, fish, and any other box that has decorations, fish equipment, food, water conditioner, etc. should be ready to load up for the move. There are two important things to remember when loading. First, never stack anything on the box that the aquarium is in. Second, if using a moving truck, the back is not temperature controlled and the fish should ride in the cab to keep the water cooler.

Once you arrive at your new home, try to set the tank back up as quickly as possible. It doesn’t need to be set up exactly like it was, but it should have the filter, heater, and minimum amount of water for the fish to destress and get accustomed to their new setup. After you’re done unloading the rest of the belongings, then you can find their permanent spot in your house. Watch your fish over the next few days for any signs of stress or illness as moving can be hard on them. However, if you follow our guide, they should keep on swimming just fine.

How Much Does It Cost to Move a Fish Tank?

Moving a fish tank shouldn’t cost you a ton of money. Chances are as a fish keeper you already have a siphon hose, a bucket, and a net. The costs of moving a fish tank should only be buying moving supplies for safely moving your fish tank. However, that is different if you’re moving to another state and need to ship your fish.

How to Move a Fish Tank without Emptying It

The simple answer is don’t. Even if you’re moving into your neighbor’s house, moving a fish tank without emptying it is asking for disaster. Leaving your tank full of fish, water, plants, and decorations can go wrong in a multitude of ways. First, full fish tanks can weigh a lot. A 10-gallon fish tank will easily weigh over 100 lbs when full of water, decorations, and substrate like gravel or sand.

Trying to move a fish tank full of water in a truck or car might be even harder than trying to carry it somewhere. Any time you break or turn in your car with a fish tank full of water, it is asking for a spill in the vehicle. And no one wants water that contains fish poop all over. The decorations can also be hazardous inside your tank during a move. Fish tanks are typically made of glass, the cute SpongeBob SquarePants house replica is very hard. If that decoration falls into the glass with enough momentum If you try to keep the fish in the tank as well, you’re asking to lose your fish as well. Empty your tank and follow the steps we’ve provided to get your fish and tanks safe and sound to your new home.