How to move a fish tank to your new home

How to move a fish tank to your new home

Like most living beings, fish like to move around. But only when they do so on their own accord in natural environment. Moving to another location in a bag of water is another experience. And no doubt, a stressful one. Unfortunately, too many people have lost their dear pet fish during the move.

However, there are things you can do to minimize the stress and make sure your dear fish arrive at the new home safe and sound. All you need to do is invest some time and energy in preparation.

Here are the aspects to consider when moving with fish.

Fish Tank

A fish tank should be the last thing to pack and the first thing to unpack during the move. Naturally, the larger the tank, the more challenging it is to move it. Make sure your aquarium fits in the doorway of your new location.

Don’t forget to empty the tank before you move it. Any items left in the tank can cause cracks that will lead to leakages in the future. Drain all the water, too.

Pack the tank accessories (thermometers, heaters, filters, dividers, decorative rocks, plants, lighting, etc.) as fragile items.

Moving Containers

Choosing the right container is crucial for the fish’s well-being. You can opt for a thick plastic bag they sell in aquarium shops. The bigger the bag, the better. We do not recommend using regular plastic bags, but if you must use one, make sure it is not damaged in any way and therefore will not leak. For extra safety, put one bag into another. Take care of the corners, too. Tie them up in knots with rubber bands or, better yet, tape them up. Otherwise, small fish may get stuck in the corners, suffocate or get squashed. Dedicated bags sold at aquarium shops often come with rounded corners.

The fewer fish you have in the bag, the better. It is also a good idea to move baby and adult fish in separate bags.

For larger fish, a good alternative to bags are plastic buckets with lids. In this case, there is no danger of fish piercing the plastic with their spikes. Besides, you will be able to open the lid and let fresh air in. And lastly, it is much easier to release fish into the tank from a bucket than from a bag.

Ideally, fish containers should be darkened to keep the light out. Bright light scares fish and makes them nervous. A good container option is a thermal bag. Apart from providing a dark space for fish, it has an extra benefit of keeping the necessary temperature which can be an issue when moving with fish in cold or hot weather.

fish tank


One of the major concerns of a beginner aquarist is what to do with the water from the tank and where to get new water once you have moved. The best solution here is to move the tank water in parts beforehand. However, this may be a challenging task, especially if your aquarium holds 80-130 gallons of water. In this case, it will be wise to settle the necessary amount of water at your new location in advance and bring around 20-30% of siphoned water from your tank with you.

How do you bring water from your tank? Obviously, together with your fish! Transporting fish in their natural environment is very important. Every aquarium has its own microclimate that fish get used to. Use clean aquarium water (without any small particles) to move your fish in.

You can add some fresh (settled) water, too, but the aquarium water should make at least two-thirds of the total amount. Put some plants from the tank into the bags with water to help preserve the micro-climate.

As for the amount of water in the bags/buckets, proceed from this ratio: 8 to 12 one-inch-long fish per 1/2 gallon of water. If you must put more fish, take care to fill the bags with oxygen. Also, it is very important to remember that the amount of air should be at least twice as much as that of water.

Once you have arrived at your new home, do not release fish straight into the tank. It is vital that the temperature in the aquarium water is the same as in the bag. Put the bag into the tank as it is and wait for the temperatures to become the same. Then start adding water from the tank into the bag in small portions monitoring the well-being of your pets all the while. When the amount of the aquarium water begins to dominate that in the bag, it is safe to release the fish. Do it very gently, using a scoop net.

Other Things to Consider

  • Never, ever try to move a fish tank together with fish, even if you move a short distance. You will end up splashing the water all over, while the tank itself may crack under too much pressure.
  • Stop feeding your fish one day before the move. Don’t feed them during the trip, too.
  • The longer the move takes, the more stressful it is for your fish. If it takes up to three hours, chances are, you will transport your pets safe and sound. If, however, it takes much longer, consider leaving the fish with your neighbors/family/friends.
  • Different fish don’t react to a moving procedure in the same way. Smaller fish (like guppy) generally take it easy — it’s the larger ones (like torpedo barb) that suffer the most. Keep that in mind while planning the move.

If you don’t feel competent enough to handle the whole procedure on your own, entrust the matter to a moving company who are experienced in relocating fish. They know all the ins and outs of the process and will make sure your beloved pets will stay happy and healthy after the move.

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