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Tips for Safely Moving a Fish Tank

Packing your belongings into boxes and moving to a new home is a major undertaking, especially if you have a pet. Even relocating with a pet fish can be difficult. Because your aquarium is fragile, heavy, and requires special care, moving it is a project in and of itself. When learning how to transfer a fish tank, you must consider safely transporting both your fish and their delicate home.

Today we'll discuss how to transport fish safely over short and long distances. The most convenient way to transport fish over long and short distances is to use a plastic bag, aquarium water, and pure oxygen, which can be purchased at fishkeeping stores. Let's go over the best ways and methods for transporting your fish safely in greater detail.


Packing Supplies Required for a Safe Move of Your Fish Tank

Having the necessary supplies on hand will assist you in preparing for each step of moving a fish tank. It can also help you in avoiding damage to your aquarium. As a fish parent, you may already have many of these supplies on hand. Your supply list for moving your fish tank should include the following items:

  • Fishing nets
  • Siphon hose 
  • Clean 5-gallon buckets or tubs with secure lids 
  • Fish bags (or similar plastic bags) 
  • Packing tape
  • Wire strainer or colander 
  • Water conditioner 
  • Blankets, bubble wrap, and padding
  • Wet/Dry vac 
  • Leveling shims

Collect the necessary supplies to empty the tank.

A fish tank must be empty to be moved safely. Leaving rocks and gravel in place during the move can be an expensive mistake. The following items will assist you in creating a temporary home for everything inside the tank.

  • Fishnet. Remove the fishes, as well as any live coral or plants, with this.
  • Five-gallon buckets and plastic bags for plants and fish. 
  • Plastic bags can transport small fish to another room or home less than an hour away. Larger fish necessitates the use of five-gallon buckets with lids. 
  • Separate buckets should be used for live plants, which should also be completely submerged in water during the move.
  • Siphon the hose. This will assist you in transferring water from the tank to the five-gallon buckets.
  • Packing materials. The tape will be required to secure lids during the move. 
  • Additional boxes will be needed for fish tank equipment, decorations, and the fish tank itself. 
  • A label maker is useful. You can also label each bucket and box with masking tape and a marker.

Turn off the power and remove the filters and equipment

Fish can become extremely stressed when they are moved. You can plan to move the fish tank last and set it up first in your new place in the grand scheme of your move.

To begin, stop feeding your fish 24 hours before the move to keep their transport containers clean during the move. Once the tank is set up, remember to provide them again regularly.

Next, take a photo of your current fish tank setup so you can remember where everything is. Then turn off and remove any extra equipment you may have, such as a filter, pump, fan, or heater. Keep filters damp and, if possible, pack all equipment in its original packaging. 

To move the fish, syphon water from the tank.

Don't move the fish until you're ready to move the tank. In any way you can, try to reduce the time in containers. Leaving the fish in the tank while you remove other items, on the other hand, is a bad idea. To reduce stress, remove the fish before disturbing the rest of the tank.

You want to create a surrounding in the moving container as close to the tank as possible before moving the fish. Fill the fish containers with a little tank of water using a syphon.

Then, using a fishnet, carefully transfer the fish into the buckets. Now fill the remaining containers according to the number of fish in each, leaving plenty of space at the top. Each five-gallon bucket can hold a few smaller fish that get along.

Remove any remaining items from the fish tank

Live plants and coral are the only other items that necessitate special care. Use the fishnet to remove any large rocks or decorations that can be dried and packed separately before moving these items. After that, immerse the coral and plants in their bucket of fish tank water. 

Save the remaining water by syphoning it

To simplify the move, you'll want to save as much of the original tank water as possible. Because water preparation can be time-consuming, this step is critical for saltwater fish tanks. If you cannot save enough water from refilling the tank, prepare water as directed and store it in another five-gallon bucket. It may take around 48 hours or more for new water to be ready to fill in the tank, so plan ahead of time and have extra on hand just in case.

Take away any gravel or sand

Remove the sand and gravel from the tank and give it a good rinse and pat-down after you've removed all of the water and accessories. Remember to label everything and keep it separate from the "dry" items.

Insert the fish tank into a cardboard box

Fish tanks are extremely fragile, and thus one wrong move can permanently damage the glass or seams, so proceed with caution. First, after emptying the existing tank, thoroughly clean and dry it. Roll and wrap the lid in bubble wrap and pack it separately. You can cut a piece of foam board for the tank's bottom and fill the rest of the tank with packing paper. Wrap the entire tank in bubble wrap and place it in a cardboard box. The original box is ideal, but any container with two inches on each side of the tank will suffice.

Now fill the space in the box with packing material and seal—label the box with an arrow indicating which side is up. If the tank is too large, wrap it in bubble wrap and strap it safely and securely into the moving vehicle with nothing around it that could fall on it. Take care when moving the fish tank.

Move the fish tank slowly because the position of the fish tank inside the moving truck is important. If you hire a professional moving service, make sure they understand the box contains a fragile fish tank. Lifting and lowering the tank should be done with caution. 

Some additional moving tips

  • When moving, do not stack anything on top of the fish tank. Also, avoid putting the fish tank on top of other boxes where it could fall off or tip over.
  • Place the fish, coral, and plants in a temperature-controlled environment, such as inside your car. Kindly do not leave them in the garage or outside for an extended period.
  • Let the fish tank come to room temperature gradually before filling it with water if you move on a particularly hot or cold day.
  • Reassemble the fish tank. Ensure you know where you would like to put the fish tank before starting. If possible, plan out this location before your moving day by measuring different spots with painter's tape.

The following are the basic steps for reassembling a fish tank:

  • After the tank has reached room temperature, carefully inspect it for cracks or chips. First, unpack all of the accessories and begin filling the tank with the base gravel or sand. Then, arrange the rocks, accessories, and necessary equipment without turning it on.
  • Half-fill the tank with the prepared fish tank water; after that, add the coral and plants. In the end, return the fish to the tank using fishnet. 
  • After sifting away any built-up waste in the fish and plant containers, use the water from the containers to fill the tank the rest of the way. 
  • Once the tank is set up, you can wait an hour or two before turning on equipment like the pump or heater. Many of the particles disturbed during setup will not have a chance to settle if the pump is turned on too soon.

The five golden rules of tank relocation

  1. Enlist the assistance of others - it will be faster and easier.
  2. Allow yourself the entire day - it always takes twice as long as you think it will. 
  3. Do it during the day - if you have a disaster at night, no one will be there to help you or your fish. 
  4. Stay calm - your fish don't need you freaking out and making bad decisions.
  5. Monitor - check the fish every half hour and check the temperature and water quality.



You should avoid transporting fish whenever possible because it stresses them out and can be harmful, if not disastrous, to their health. If possible, use a strong plastic bag, plenty of good aquarium water, and, if necessary, pure oxygen.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long can a fish be kept in a bag?

A plastic bag may be the best way to transport fish, at least over short distances, but there is limited oxygen. A fish must not be kept in a bag for more than twenty minutes. Although, this can be extended to a couple of hours, depending on the size of the pack. The more dissolved oxygen there is, the larger the bag and the more water there is in the bag. 

How long will fish survive in buckets?

A fish should not be stored in a bucket for more than three hours. On the other hand, a fish could survive in a bucket for a few days if you have got a water pump circulating air and water throughout the bucket. Keep in mind, however, that fish require more than just air. They, too, require filtration. 

Is it possible for a fish to survive in a closed container?

No, it does not. A fish must not be kept in a tightly-closed container. Closed containers are not appropriate for transporting tropical or other types of fish.

A small closed container will have little oxygen, and fish, of course, need to breathe. If you plan to transport a fish in a closed box or a container, ensure it is only for a very limited amount of time, 1 hour or less.

Can you transport fish to Tupperware?

If you have a large Tupperware with adequate space to hold plenty of water, you can transport fish in a Tupperware container for up to a couple of hours.

How can you fly with a pet fish?

Realistically speaking, any prolonged flight will not be ideal for fish survival. Feed requires the water to be at a certain temperature, and they need oxygen too. Any sturdy and large enough container for a pet fish to travel in for an extended period will be too large to handle for airplane travel. In other words, if possible and avoidable, you should never get on an airplane with a pet fish.

Also See: What will Movers not Move | Things to Prepare When Moving into a New Home