How to Move a Fish Tank Safely

How to Move a Fish Tank Safely

Moving house is probably the last thing you want to do if you are a fish keeper. Moving an aquarium is a long process requiring much care and patience.

Even if you employ a local house removals company to assist you with the move, you still need to ensure the tank is ready to transport.

The best way to move a fish tank

The most important factor to keep your fish healthy and happy during moving is maintaining their stress level as low as possible. You need a comfortable environment supporting their needs and well-being to achieve that.

Moving their tank is probably the furthest from helping them achieve inner peace. That said, sometimes it is necessary, and it is good to know that there are ways to reduce the impact this process will have on your fish.

Equipment needed

Before you begin, you need to ensure that you have all the necessary equipment for the move:

  • Fish transportation bowls or bags. The most important item on the list. Having proper-sized bowls or bags for transporting fish is vital for keeping them alive and calm.

  • Syphon hose. As the name suggests, a syphon hose is needed for syphoning the water out of the tank and into the transportation bowls. Most tanks have this included in their accessory kit.

  • Buckets with lids. More water will remain in the tank once the bags and bowls are full. Use buckets with tight-fitting lids to move all the remaining water to your new home.

  • Battery-powered air pump. While fish can travel short distances in their bowls, if you are planning to move your tank quite some distance away or if there is heavy traffic at the time of your move, you will want to have a battery-powered air pump. This will provide adequate amounts of aerated water for the duration of the travel and keep your fish alive and well.

Once you get all the equipment, consider one final step. Moving a fish tank is not easy. It is heavy and uncomfortable to carry, so you want to get help. This is not a one-person job, regardless of the container size.

A step-by-step guide

You got your equipment, a family member or a friend and are ready to begin. Remember that there are several steps to moving a tank, and there is no real shortcut. Arm yourself with a lot of time and patience if you want to ensure the well-being of your fish.

Avoid feeding your fish

Fish waste is known to increase ammonia levels in the water. While it may not have a significant effect in the tank, while being transported, your fish are in a limited amount of water, which makes it easy to contaminate.

Do not feed your livestock at least 24 hours prior to the move to reduce waste and the risk of ammonia poisoning.

Turn off and remove any equipment

The first step you must complete on the day of the move is to turn off and remove all of the tank’s supporting equipment. This includes heaters, filters, and pumps.

Each piece requires different removal and transportation method, so it is best to read the labels and follow the manufacturer’s suggestions. Keeping all equipment safe is vital for keeping your fish safe and calm once you set up the tank in its new place.

Syphon the water into containers

With the equipment removed and safely put away, it is time to start syphoning the water into the bowls and buckets.

Do that until you successfully move 75 – 80% from the tank into the containers. Saving as much water as possible will limit the number of changes you’ll need to make when setting up your tank at the new location. 

You also won’t have to worry in case where there is no running water at your new place yet.

Remove the fish safely

Now that the bowls are full, it is time to remove the fish from the tank and place it safely in their transportation containers.

Using a fish net to catch and lift them from the water carefully, ensure you move them one by one.

To reduce the amount of stress, it is recommended first to move the fish and then take care of the decoration inside the tank. However, if the decor offers too many hiding spots, it may be wise to get that out of the way first.

Ensure that the lids of the bowls or the zips of the bags are tightly closed, as fish may try to jump out if presented with the opportunity.

Once they are secured, collect all the remaining plants and place them inside the buckets.

Lastly, pick up the remaining decor and store it in water-tight containers.

With the almost empty tank, syphon the remaining water in the buckets, and you are ready to move.

Set up your fish tank in your new house

Now that you have completed this tiresome and time-consuming process, it’s time to do it all over again in your new place!

To reduce the time your fish spend in their alternative containers, ensure that setting up the aquarium is one of the first things you do at your new place. To get it done right, follow these steps:

  • Add aquarium substrate;
  • Refill the aquarium with the water from the buckets;
  • Add all equipment back into the aquarium and turn it on (give the heater enough time to bring the water to the right temperature);
  • Re-plant any live plants;
  • Reintroduce your fish to the tank slowly, as if you are adding them to a new aquarium;
  • If needed, top-up the water in the tank to ensure it is filled to the proper levels;
  • Monitor your tank closely for the next few weeks and keep track of the water’s quality;
  • Ensure proper flooring is present in your new place, which will minimise the damage should any accidents occur during relocation.

Tips on moving house with a fish tank

Despite being quite tempting, never attempt to move a full fish tank. It does not only pose a safety risk to everyone involved but may damage the tank itself, which is quite expensive on its own.

Reach out to your local moving company, who will be able to offer professional assistance in packing and transporting your aquarium safely.


Every fishkeeper knows that moving a tank is a difficult challenge, regardless if you want to just move it to the other room or across the city.

Ensure that you have sufficient time to carefully follow each process step to keep the tank and its residents safe.

Moving the aquarium requires physical strength, so never attempt it alone. When moving house, consider employing house removals services to assist you with transporting the heavy tank.