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When you move your fish tank, you're affecting not only your fish's home, but your living space as well. While the logistical difficulty of the move will depend on such factors as the size of your tank and the distance of the move, any move is a stress to your fish. Proper planning and preparation will help ensure the move goes smoothly, whether you're lugging your tank to the next room or packing it up for a trip to a new home miles away.


There are a few basic principles to keep in mind whenever moving your fish tank. Removing fish from their established environment is highly stressful to them. You will have to put your fish in a holding container while moving the aquarium.

Try to duplicate as much of their familiar habitat as possible in their temporary enclosure. For example, use water from the tank. But more importantly, conduct the relocation in the shortest possible length of time, so that balance in the new setup can be re-established immediately and your fish can move right into their new home.

Fish tanks are delicate and not exactly easy to lift. Moving and transporting aquariums pose major risks to the integrity of the sealant that keeps the glass panels together. Breakage is always a possibility as well. If your tank is large, be sure you have enough people to help you carry the setup to its new location. Handle the tank very carefully and keep it level as much as possible during the move.

Moving an aquarium can get messy. You will need to drain most of the water off before moving the tank. Then you will need to put the water back once the tank is in its new location. With all this handling of water, no matter how careful you are, accidents are bound to happen. Be ready for any splashes and spills, and be prepared to attend to a little mess to counter the effects of marine water on your floor and/or furniture finish.


Moving your tank requires you to remove the fish, drain off the water, move the tank, put back the water, then put back the fish. The process is straightforward enough, but before you pull out the net to catch your fish, be sure you have made the following preparations.

Make sure your new location is ready. Clear the destination area, clean the surface if necessary and make sure the surface is level. Check on the availability of power outlets, and prepare extension cords, if necessary.

Prepare the holding container for the fish. Depending on the quantity of the fish and the length of time they will be in their temporary habitat, provide a relatively large container to minimize their stress. It is a good idea to use a loose-fitting cover to prevent the fish from jumping out. A somewhat opaque receptacle is ideal because fish are less active in the dark and therefore, less prone to stress.

Make sure the holding container is clean and toxin-free. Needless to say, the holding container should not be so large that it's difficult to carry to the new location.

Have buckets or containers ready to use to transport the tank water. If you are using the same water for the relocated tank, you will need to have clean containers to hold the water until the new tank is in its new place. If you are using new water, make sure it has been properly prepared in terms of chemistry and temperature.

Have some rags or towels ready to absorb splashes and spills. You will also need them to clean off the spills and smudges on the outside of the tank walls after the relocation. Use old newspaper or rags to protect nearby carpet and flooring from splashes or spills.

Prepare your fish net. Let the net soak in water for at least 10 minutes before use. Soaking will soften it and minimize damage to the fish. Also soak the necessary siphon hoses. Make sure they are clean and have not been used to siphon anything other than clean water.

How to Move Your Aquarium

Now that you know what to look out for and have made the appropriate preparations, here's a step-by-step guide to moving your aquarium properly.

First, siphon a sufficient amount of water from your tank into the fish's holding container. If you have plants in your tank, transfer a few plant stems from the tank to the holding container to reduce the shock the fish will experience in their temporary habitat and also to discourage or prevent them from jumping out.

Then, gently and carefully catch the fish with the net and transfer them to the holding container.

Unplug and remove all external attachments that may fall off or get in the way when you move the tank. You should provide aeration and an aquarium heater to the holding container to ensure the fish have enough oxygen while their new home is being set up, especially if you are moving a large tank, which normally takes some time.

Continue to siphon water from the tank to the buckets you have prepared for transportation to the new location. Leave only enough water in the tank to keep the gravel bed and landscaping undisturbed. If you have a freshwater set-up, you don't need to uproot the plants.

With the necessary assistance, lift the tank and bring it carefully to its new location. Set it down as gently as possible.

Bring the water containers to the new site and refill the relocated tank by siphoning the water back in. Do not pour water directly from the buckets because this will upturn the gravel bed and destroy the landscaping. Add new water as necessary to fill the tank to its ideal water level.

Reinstall the external attachments you had removed and plug in the heaters, lights and aerator pumps.

Test the water's integrity including temperature, pH, salinity and chlorine content with a test kit and adjust as necessary. You can add a normal dose of a stress-reducing product for fish, such as Stress Coat or Stress Guard.

As soon as the tank's conditions are back to normal, gently return the fish to the tank using the fish net. Make sure the temperature of the water is exactly the same in the new tank as in the holding tank, or acclimation will be required. You can dispose of the water in the holding container because, depending on how long the fish stayed there without the benefit of filtration, the water may already be polluted.

Clean up the spills, put away the buckets, sit back and enjoy your new setup.

Long Distance Moving

Transferring your aquarium to a place more than a day's travel distance away will require special handling of your tank and your fish. Some professional movers have the skills and protective materials to transport your tank safely, but you may have to handle your fish's requirements yourself.

If you must do the relocation on your own, remember to provide the adequate long-term traveling environment your fish will require. Be especially mindful of extremes in temperatures and leakage. Don't forget how fragile your aquarium can be.