How To Move an Aquarium

One of the most difficult things in a home to move is an aquarium. Not only do you have to worry about the fish inside, but you have to worry about the delicate nature of the home in which they live. Arriving at your new home with a broken tank is not an option, so it is very important that you know how to prepare and move your aquarium before moving day arrives. Here are some tips from the experts on how to approach this not-so-unique situation.

 First Things First

Moving a fish tank is not as simple as picking up the tank and loading it into a moving truck. Most aquariums can weigh hundreds of pounds when they are full of water, meaning that they will have to be drained. Beyond that, relocation of a tank means you will be dealing with marine water, which can damage other items you are moving and the floor or furniture that is nearby. As such, be prepared with towels and other cleaning needs to combat any spills that may occur.

When you are ready to begin the process, which should be as close to the day of the move as possible, get the following things ready before pulling out your fish net.


  • Travel Tanks – prepare travel tanks for your fish, who will be pretty stressed out by the changes going on around them, by filling them with water from the tank itself and an air stone. Travel tanks should be sturdy and well sealed to prevent spillage.
  • Buckets or Water Containers – Most experts recommend that if you move, you should take the tank’s water with you when possible. As such, prepare buckets or other water holders for the trip before you begin draining the tank.
  • Aquarium Plants – If your tank contains plants, take a few of them and include them in the fish travel tanks. This will reduce the stress on the fish and help prevent jumping while you are in transit.


Packing the Tank

Now that you have your materials on hand and ready to go, it’s time to prepare and pack the tank and fish for the trip. You’ll obviously start by filling your travel tanks with enough water for the duration of travel so that your pets are safe and happy. Once they are filled, you can catch your fish and place them in the travel tanks. Be sure to turn on the air stones if they require power at this point so that the water is well oxygenated from the very beginning of things. If you’ve used multiple smaller containers, place them all in a sturdy box so that they are easier to transport and so that limited amounts of light get into the travel tanks. This can help further reduce the stress of the fish.

Once your fish are out of the tank, drain the rest of the water into waiting containers if you’ve chosen to take the water with you. If you are going to refill your tank with new water at your new place, then simply dispose of this water.

For moves that will only take you down the road or a few hours down the street, breaking down the aquarium completely is not required. Once most of the water is out, as long as you have help, it is possible to simply load the tank into your car or the moving truck with the landscaping intact. If you are moving over longer distances, experts recommend that you completely drain the tank and remove all of the decorations and rocks as well. This will prevent these items from shifting around during the ride and causing damage to the delicate tank and the seals that keep the water inside.

If you find you need to remove the landscaping, bag it all up and pack it in a small moving box with a descriptive label to be offloaded first when you arrive at your new home. Then, stuff the inside of the tank with towels or old linens to help protect it. Finally, wrap the outside with moving pads or blankets to provide further protection throughout the long distance move.

Arriving Home

Once you arrive at your new home, you should work on setting up your aquarium as soon as you possibly can. Your fish may already be in danger of stress related illness or death, so the sooner things are set up, the sooner they can get settled. If you’ve brought the old water with you, put it back into your tank when you have it located right where you want it. Remember, tanks that are full of water can weigh hundreds of pounds. Choose a new location carefully, as you may not have a choice but to leave it there once it is set up.

After you’ve put the water back in, fill the tank with fresh water to the top. Plug in filters, heaters, and any other outside attachments that you have as part of your aquatic ecosystem. With everything looking like it should, take a moment to test the water chemistry and adjust it using your chemicals as needed. Once everything is in order, transplant your fish back into the tank and let them settle into their new home as you settle into yours.