How To Properly Transport An Aquarium With Fish?

Transport an aquarium with fish and plants to a new location is usually difficult. You can’t just unplug all the wires and move the tank with the cabinet and contents in one go. But with careful planning, you can make the move much easier for yourself and make sure that the fish remain healthy and happy when moving to a new apartment.


Step 1. Prepare everything you need

Before you start, make sure you have everything you need for the move.

 If you take the time to get ready at the beginning, you won’t have to worry about trying to find something when you are already in the middle of the process. Here’s what you need:

  • Landing net
  • Large plastic containers for transporting fish, plants and aquarium water (make sure they are new or very well washed)
  • Siphon and hose
  • Plastic bags
  • Scotch tape
  • Bubble wrap
  • Foam sheets
  • Wrapping film
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Thermal bag

Step 2. Prepare the fish for the tranportation

move the aquarium

It is recommended that you stop feeding the fish 24 to 48 hours before the day of the move. (Don’t worry – fish can survive for a week without food, so they’ll be fine!)

If you have small fish and the travel time is no more than an hour, you can put them in plastic bags filled with water from the aquarium. Place the packages in a thermal bag (refrigerator bag). In the heat, you can put cold accumulators in a thermal bag, and in winter, on the contrary, put heat accumulators or a bottle of warm water.

For longer journeys or when transporting large fish, transport them in large containers such as buckets or kegs with lids. Make sure the buckets are clean and not used for storing chemicals. Fill the buckets with water from the aquarium, and then plant the fish, about 3-4 large fish per 20 liter container. Add a fish transport conditioner to the water as a stress reliever. Cover the lid with duct tape to prevent spills during the move. 

If the trip takes more than an hour and the fish start to choke – use a battery powered compressor, or a regular compressor with an uninterruptible power supply during the move.

Step 3: clean the aquarium

To prepare the aquarium for the move, unplug all appliances, then carefully dig up all plants and decorations (rocks, driftwood, etc.). Place the plants in a container of aquarium water. Clean and dry the decor and accessories, then carefully pack with bubble wrap (fragile) and wrapping film (strong). Remove and pack all equipment carefully, including light, filter and heater. Ideally, the filter should be non-drained water, covered hoses and packed in a separate sealed plastic container. Remember that the colony of nitrifying bacteria in the disconnected filter will begin to shrink within 10-15 minutes after disconnecting from the network.

Step 4: drain the water

It is easiest to use a siphon hose at this stage, especially if you have a larger aquarium. It’s best to try to take as much water with you (at least half the volume) in order to fill the aquarium in a new place. It is much easier for fish, plants and microorganisms to adapt and minimizes the risks to their health. Transport water in large buckets with lids and tape the lid on before moving them.

Step 5: pack your aquarium

Remove cover and light and pack separately in bubble wrap. It is best to pack your aquarium in a box if you can find one large enough. Place the tank in a box, use foam or foam to fill in any gaps around the tank to prevent it from shifting. 


transport an aquarium with fish

Step 6: Transport the aquarium

It is best if you can transport an aquarium and fish in your own vehicle to keep them safer. If you have booked a move, make sure the movers know that your cargo is very fragile and should take extra care when loading it.


Step 7. Set up the aquarium

Once in your new home, immediately start setting up your aquarium. 

  • Set the background. 
  • Rinse and backfill soil, install driftwood, stones and decorations
  • Add a third of water and plant the plants. 
  • Top up with the rest of the water, making sure it is at the correct temperature and composition. 
  • If it was a short trip, you can use the old water you took with you to refill the tank and re-run it through the filtration system (turn on the filter as soon as possible, you can turn it on in a bucket of old water to reduce downtime and death bacteria).
  • If the journey was long, use the starter bacteria to start the filter. 
  • Top up the lacking volume of water using special conditioners. You must make sure that the temperature, the pH balance, chlorine and ammonia levels returned to normal before adding fish again. It may take some time to get everything adjusted.

Step 8: plant the plants again and start the fish

Once the water conditions are back to normal, you can add tenants again. Carefully scoop them out of the bucket with a net or bucket and place them in the water. If you have used bags to move fish, you should first dip the bags in the water to get the fish accustomed to the temperature, and then release them into the aquarium


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