Monday, July 20, 2009

How to Move an Aquarium Part 2: Moving Day

My apologies for being a bit late on this, but moving is one of the most stressful life events, and all the planning in the world can't prepare you for everything. It took the internet company 2 weeks to sort out the internet to finally work at the new place, so my blogging has been limited.

Just as a recap, this is the story of moving my two aquariums, a 10 gallon and a 46 gallon bowfront, both fully planted. The goal was to move them without messing up the aquascape too much and without completely emptying the aquariums, while keeping all fish alive.

On moving day, I brought out the plastic tubs and a siphon tube and siphoned out about 5 or 6 gallons of the tank water into it (less for the 10 gallon). Then I caught each fish one by one and put them into the water in the plastic container. This was easily the hardest part of the whole day. I nearly ripped up each and every plant to try to catch the fish. The hardest by far were not the Otocinclus catfish as I had expected, but the Rummynose Tetras. They had a distinct ability to swim under the carpet of Blyxa japonica and would not come out without poking and proding. Once I had all fish in the plastic tub, I put some plants in with them to provide cover and oxygen. I also put the container's lid on to keep it dark and prevent as much stress as I could. You have to be careful though, since a sealed container will eventually run out of oxygen and the fish will suffocate. Only leave the lid tightly on when absolutely necessary.

With all the fish safely ready for transport, I turned my attention to draining the remaining water. I made sure to turn of and disconnect my canister filter, CO2, and lighting and packed them up separately. Using my Python, I drained the water down as far as I could (about 1/2" of water left above the substrate).

I packed the stands, tanks, and plastic containers into the rented van and trunk of my car with the help of a friend and made sure they were well secured and padded. The last thing I needed was for the plastic container to become a permanent home. I used glass covers to keep the moist air inside and a spray mister to make sure the plants didn't dry out. I carefully made the drive over to the new place with all pieces and fish arriving safe and sound. Now it was time to set everything back up.

I had planned out where I wanted each aquarium to go in the new place, so this wasn't hard. I set it up and began to fill it with tap water, along with dechlorinator. While it was filling, I took a bowl and began scooping some of the water from the plastic tub into the tank. That way the water parameters would be a little bit closer to the old tank. I was only moving across town, so the water was the same as the tap water in my old place, but if it's very different, you'll want to use as much of the old water as you can to mitigate the difference.

Once the tank is fairly full, you can start catching the fish in the tub and putting them back into the tank. Watch them carefully for signs of distress. The temperature should be roughly the same. Too great a difference could kill them. Reconnect all your equipment, top off the tank, and you're back in business!

Quick Tips:

  • You're going to be sweaty, stinky, and gross after you move a tank. Don't plan on any social events after!
  • Catching fish with lots of plants and driftwood is a nightmare. Try to remove whatever you can without affecting the aquascape too much.
  • If you run into problems catching fast little fish, keep at it. Eventually they will get tired and slow down. Just try not to harass them any more than necessary, since it will stress them out. Having a friend to help with another net is priceless!
  • Keep your filter full of water so the bacteria inside can survive the trip.
  • Set up the tank as soon as you can at the new place. The less time the fish spend in the temporary plastic container the better. Certainly don't keep them in there for longer than 6 hours, or you may need to add a temporary bubble filter or change out some of the water to prevent fouling.

Overall, the whole process was fairly easy. No fish or plants were lost and everything is getting back to normal. The key here is patience and planning. I didn't move both tanks on the same day along with all my other furniture. That would have been just plain crazy. I would recommend planning plenty of time to move an aquarium, and then double it. It always takes longer than you expected, especially if you have expert hiders like the tetras! Good luck!


  1. I prefer to leave the plants out of the tubs or buckets that the fish go in. I don't think the plants output O2, but rather absorb it, except during active photosynthesis. If it's dark, there's no O2 happening.

    I know that a bubbler is supposed to cause O2 exchange only indirectly via the surface to air exchange, but I think that's better than nothing.


  2. That's true Warren. Once the lid goes on the plants will probably switch to using oxygen, not creating it. But they do still provide welcome cover.

  3. I am having problem with fresh water plants. they are not healthy, very slow to grow. Please have a look at any tips

  4. Looks like your aquarium may be a bit low on light Sahari. Try getting a more powerful light and things should pick up.

  5. On a 46 gallon tank, how much water did you actually move? I am considering purchasing a 46 from a friend and moving his, but not sure on the whole move process and what to do? how much water should i move? any advice?

  6. It’s true – moving home is one of the top stressful things to do right up there with getting married and a death in the family! So imagine how stressful it is for the fish who really don’t understand what’s going on. These are great tips, very helpful, and I’ll be putting them away in storage for the day I’m due to move myself and my 3 aquariums early next year.


Popular Posts



Planted Aquarium Books