Moving an aquarium and your collection of fish can be tricky but if you plan ahead and take practical steps you can:

  • reduce the stress on your fish
  • increase fish survival rate
  • minimize the chance of aquarium breakage
  • keep filters & heaters in good working order during transport

Most moving companies will not transport your fish but some will move the actual aquarium, as long as you are willing to sign a damage waiver since a bump in the road and a shifting load can easily cause damages. You will need to take care of moving your fish in your own vehicle.


The following suggestions can be helpful in preparing for your move:

  1. Moving an Aquarium: Tip #1: Preparing to Move the Aquarium

    While the fish are still in the aquarium, disconnect the power and allow the tank to cool down for about 30 minutes. You will need to preserve the water and use it to transport your fish, the aquarium filter and any plants.

    Soften a net in warm water and use it to gently place each fish into a sealed bag filled with oxygen.

    Place the holding bag into a padded, compartmentalized container so that an even temperature can be maintained. You may wish to use a battery-powered air pump or an air stone too. You don't need to worry about feeding the fish since they will be too stressed to eat and food will degrade the quality of the water. In fact, it can be beneficial to stop feeding the fish for a day or two before the move to prevent contamination.

    Never attempt to transport a partially filled aquarium as damage to the seals is likely to occur.

  2. Moving an Aquarium: Tip #2: Preventing Breakage to the Aquarium

    Make sure you have bubble wrap and old towels or blankets on hand. You will need them to wrap the aquarium, the filter media and heaters. Keep in mind that the heater glass is extremely fragile so extra care will be required to wrap it safely to prevent breakage.

    Cover the tank with blankets and bubble wrap carefully securing with tape. You may want to put extra padding in and around the corners in case the edge are bumped.

    Take apart the filter system and individually wrap the smaller pieces and pack carefully in a large container, ensuring that lots of tape and bubble wrap are used as the filter media is especially delicate. Do not try to move the aquarium without removing the decor and gravel first or you will run the risk of having them bang against the glass and breaking it. Use containers to stack and transport your aquarium decor and stacking rocks. Make sure you don't overload the containers to avoid damage to each item and to make for easier transportation.

    Using a scoop, place the aquarium gravel into plastic buckets and be sure that the lids are closed tightly to avoid spillage or contamination.

    It is important that all containers that are used are clean and chemical-free.

    If you need to move the tank even a few feet make sure that you have two or three people to help or use a rolling trolley to carefully transport it.

    Taking these precautions does not guarantee that breakage will not occur since shifting loads and unpredictable road conditions cannot always be anticipated, but following these tips will minimize the likelihood of damage occurring. Transporting a large aquarium is a difficult task and if you don't want to take it on yourself, you always have the option of signing a damage waiver and having your tank transported in the moving truck.

  3. Moving an Aquarium: Tip #3: Reassembling the Aquarium

    Once your aquarium arrives at your new destination, choose a location that is within close proximity to plugs and outlets and that offers a stable and even surface. Make sure that the tank will not be placed in direct sunlight or be placed too close to high traffic areas.

    Add the transported gravel and plants to the tank first. Then gently fill the tank by syphoning in filtered water without disturbing the landscaping and reassemble the attachments, the lights, heaters, pumps and filters.

    Check and adjust the temperature, pH balance, chlorine and saline levels to ensure optimal water integrity and add a dose of stress reducer to the water to help calm the fish. Make sure that the temperature of the water in the tank is the same as that in the containers holding your fish.

    Slowly acclimate your fish to the new location by placing the holding bags into the aquarium to equalize the water temperatures and then gradually adding some of the new water to the bags to let the fish adjust. It's best to start with your hardiest fish first to establish the nitrate cycle and then gradually introduce your other fish, just as you would when adding new fish to your aquarium. Keep a close eye and slow down the process if you notice any distress.

    Once all the fish have been added, be sure to test the water integrity on a daily basis and pay close attention to how your fish are behaving. With patience and keen observation you should be able to return the aquarium habitat to normal quite quickly so that you and your fish can both enjoy your new home!

    DISCLAIMER: These tips are suggestions only. GoGetter does not specialize in fish care so these are simple commonsense guidelines. It is always best to consult with your local pet store to see about what products or tips they might have to help keep your fish happy and safe on the move.

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