How to Move a Fish Tank in Five Easy Steps

Written By

Machaela Casey
fish tank during the night

The Steps for Moving a Fish Tank

It Takes a Plan

a worker moving a fish tank in a room under renovation

Among all of the questions asked in any move, one of the most common is “how do you move a fish tank?” The answer is: carefully. It takes planning, and it takes the right equipment.  Moving a fish aquarium might seem like a challenge. Don’t worry. We know what to do.

Step 1: Get Organized

Moving a fish aquarium takes time, so plan ahead. You definitely don’t want to move a full fish tank. You’ll need to empty it, safely transport your fish, and re-install the tank at your new location.

Before you even touch the tank, have the necessary supplies ready. You’ll need a fish net, a siphon hose, 5-gallon buckets with lids, and packing supplies. Determine how many buckets you’ll need to transport all fish and live plants. Use the siphon hose to gather water already in the tank and fill each bucket ¾ way full. Leave space at the top of each bucket for air.

Step 2: Pack the Fish

Don’t feed your fish within 24 hours of the move. This will help keep your fish environment clean during transport. Use your fish net to capture fish, and add up to ten fish in each bucket, depending on the size of the fish. Cover each bucket and secure the top with packing tape.

Next, use additional buckets and tank water to house any live plants or coral living in the tank.  Close and seal the buckets. Transport all living items in a temperature-controlled environment, like in the passenger cab of your personal vehicle. Don’t ever include your fish or plants for transport in the trunk of your car or in a moving truck.

Step 3: Empty and Pack the Tank

With all living things out of the tank, you’re ready for the next step. Take out the gravel at the bottom of the tank, but don’t rinse it. The bacteria on those rocks is important to maintaining a healthy environment in your tank. Disconnect any heating and filtration systems and pack them carefully in their original packing if you have it. Next, package all rocks and decorative tank items. Once your tank is completely empty, you’re ready to wrap it.

Always wrap the tank and the lid separately. Wrap the lid in several layers of bubble wrap and secure with tape. Insulate a moving box with foam inserts and place the lid inside. Use a similar method to pack the tank. Fill the tank with foam inserts or blankets. Cushion the inside of the moving box with bubble wrap, and gently place the tank inside. Label boxes containing the tank and the lid as fragile with arrows indicating what side is up.

Step 4: Unpack the Tank

Find a dedicated space in your new home for your fish tank. Set up a sturdy aquarium stand, and then begin the process of re-assembling your tank. Carefully unwrap your tank and lid, inspecting each for small cracks. Once you’re sure your tank is in perfect condition, place it on the stand and refill the tank with the gravel that you removed at your previous location. Refill the tank as much as possible with water from the old tank. Install and start filters.

Step 5: Test the Water and Add the Fish

If adding any tap water to the tank, make sure it’s the same temperature as the water already in the tank, and add a dose of chlorine remover. Wait a few hours for the tank water to come to room temperature before returning the fish to the tank.

Test your water by adding a few fish at a time to the aquarium. If you notice fish lying at the bottom of the tank or staying for too long at the top of the tank, take the fish out and re-test the water’s temperature and chemistry before putting the fish in again. Once all of the fish have been added, the heating system can be secured and made operational. Install the lid carefully and make sure any openings are covered.

Let the Experts Help

Moving a fish tank takes some time, but if you follow a plan, it’s easy. At Nelson Westerberg, we’ve moved fish bowls short distances and transported aquariums across the country. Our professional movers will keep your tank and supplies secure so that you can rebuild your fish habitat successfully in your new location.