How to Moving Your Fish Aquarium to Your New Home

If you have a fish tank it can be a daunting task. In this how-to, we dive into moving your fish tank into your new home without damaging the tank or hurting your fish.

Just think that if you need to move the fish tank just a couple of inches can be a challenge, now you must move it into a new home. This is not a piece of furniture that you and some strong people can just lift a carry. The fish inside will need special care, and the tank will need to be moved safely to prevent any cracks or damage.

*If you have a heated, coral, or tropical tank, additional steps may be needed.


Gather Supplies to Empty the Fish Tank

When moving a fish tank, it must be completely empty. This means you must remove all gravel, rocks, and plants. If you do not remove these items, it can end up being a costly mistake. The following supplies will help you have and create a temporary home for everything inside of your tank.

  • Fishnet - This will help capture and remove your fish as well as any live plants or coral.
  • Plastic Bags – Only use plastic bags if you are going to be moving smaller fish to another room or to a new home less than a half hour away.
  • Five-gallon Buckets – These are needed to move any larger fish or live plants. Make sure to keep fish and live plants in separate buckets. Also do not forget to get lids for your buckets. Live plants should be completely submerged in water.
  • Siphon Hose – Transfer the water into the 5-gallon buckets. Then place your fish and plants into them. You will be able to use this water in your new tank as well. It is already cultured water and will help initiate the new water added at the new location.
  • Moving Supplies – You will want to tape the top of the lids to ensure that they do not open during transportation. Also, additional moving boxes will be needed to store fish tank equipment, decorations, and the tank itself. Make sure to label each box, so that reassembly of the aquarium is quick and easy.

Moving the Fish

Turn Off Filters and other Equipment

Just like any other animal, fish can become stressed from a move. When planning your move, plan to move the fish tank last and set up the tank first thing.

One of the most important tips is to stop feeding your fish 24 hours before you move. This will ensure that their transport containers or bags will stay clean. Once you have the tank back up and running you will want to continue the normal feeding schedule.

If you are going to want the aquarium set up the same way as you have it currently, you will want to take a picture with your phone. Not only of the tank’s insides but also of the equipment. Turn off all equipment such as filters, heaters, pumps, and fans. Keep all equipment damp and pack away in original packaging if possible.

Siphon Water from Tank

Try to minimize the time the fish will have to spend in the transport containers. DO NOT move fish hours before your move. Also, do not remove scenery such as plants and rocks while fish are still in the tank. This can cause stress on the fish. Remove the fish before your start to disturb the rest of the tank.

When siphoning the aquarium, you will want to use the tank water to fill the transport containers. You want to create an environment as close to the tank as possible.

Now place your fish in the containers with a fishnet. DO NOT over fill your container with fish. This will deplete the Oxygen levels in the water quick, and your fish will not last very long in the container. If you are going to have to place the fish in the containers for longer than an hour, we recommend getting oxygen tablets or an air system.

Remove Remaining Items

Once all the fish have been removed from the tank, all that should be remaining are the plants, coral, and gravel. Before moving any of these items, remove any large rocks or other decorations that are abled to be dried off and packed away in a box separately. Next, you will want to submerge your living plants and coral into 5-gallon buckets. Make sure to use tank water for these as well.

Siphon and Save Water

To make the transfer of the tank to your new home, you will want to keep as much of the original aquarium water as possible. This is especially important when it comes to saltwater aquariums. If you are not able to preserve enough of the water to refill the tank, you will need to take the proper steps of preparing new water for the tank. There are fish supply stores that sell premade water, this can be a crucial part of your moving budget. If you are going to prepare your own water, it may take 24-48 hours for that water to be ready to be placed into the tank.

Remove Sand or Gravel

Now that you have the water and equipment packed away, it is time to remove the sand or gravel from the tank. As you are removing it make sure to pat it down and give it a good rinse. If you are using live sand, you will want to place this in a bucket with tank water as well. If not, then you can store the gravel or sand dry.

Pack the Fish Tank into a Moving Box

Tanks are either made of acrylic or glass, which makes them extremely fragile. One wrong move or step can spell out disaster.

First, take the time to thoroughly clean and dry the tank. Pack the lid and lights separately with bubble wrap.

We recommend picking up foam to add protection when packing the tank. Depending on the tank size is a factor on which moving box you will need to get. Larger tanks may need to have multiple boxes put together to transport. If you have the original box for the tank, then that is even better. Also use packing paper to fill in any voids between the tank, box, and foam.

Once you have the tank packed in the box, seal it up and place arrows indicating which end has the top of the tank. If the tank is large and you do not want to create a box for it, wrap it up with moving blankets and bubble wrap. When placed in the moving truck, secure it in place.

Moving the Fish Tank

First and foremost, take your time with moving the tank. Positioning the tank inside the moving truck is key. If you are using professional movers, make sure they know that the box is fragile and what is inside. When you lift and lower the tank, take the time to move slow.

Additional Tips:

  • DO NOT stack anything on top of the tank. Also, do not place the tank up high or on top of anything where it can have the chance to fall over or tip.
  • All living creatures, plants, and coral should be transported in a temperature-controlled environment. The best place is in the car with you. DO NOT leave them outside or in a garage for very long.
  • When moving and it is extremely hot or cold outside, make sure to let the fish tank come to room temperature before filling with water.

Reassemble Tank

Now that you are starting to unpack your truck at your new home, the very first item you should do is reassemble the fish tank. Make sure to have a planned location for the tank and mark it off with painters’ tape before moving day if possible.

Steps for Reassembling

  • Once the tank is at room temperature, carefully inspect the tank for any cracks or chips.
  • Unpack all the equipment and start to fill the tank with your gravel, sand, or live sand. Next arrange your rocks, decorations, and equipment. DO NOT turn the equipment on yet.
  • Fill your tank about halfway with tank water or prepared tank water. Now is the time to start adding your corals and live plants.
  • It is time to place your fish in the aquarium. Use a fishnet and carefully place them back into their home. Once the fish are in, use the water from the buckets to fill the rest of the tank up with water. If there is any waste in the containers, make sure to sift it out.
  • Once the tank is setup, wait about an hour or two before turning on any equipment such as pump or heater. If you turn on them on to soon, the particles in the water that have not settled yet may damage or clog up your equipment. During this time is when these particles will settle.

After the setup, you will want to monitor your plants and fish for signs of stress. You can now resume your normal feeding schedule.