How to Move an Aquarium Within Your Home


Moving Header

There may be several reasons why you wish to move an aquarium in your home and no matter the reason, the task can be daunting. Whether you are temporarily moving the aquarium to allow for new flooring or the room to be painted, or you wish to move it because it’s not in the right location, it all needs a little bit of planning.

Having done this many times for customers as well as myself this article gives you the roadmap to help you plan and execute a successful tank move.


This article is part of an ‘Aquarium Moving’ series:
* If you are looking to move an aquarium to a new location in Town – CLICK HERE
* If you are looking to move an aquarium across the state or country – CLICK HERE

Using my experience of moving many aquariums safely I wanted to create this series to help you make a plan for when you next need to move your pride and joy!

All links to products in this article take you to Amazon.com


When this type of short distance move occurs, the aquarium, all its equipment, and its livestock will be going back just as it was before the move so it’s more a case of having a temporary home for the livestock and a plan on what to move and when.

I had to do this to my own aquarium when I was in my early 20’s as my parents wanted a new carpet fitted – I can tell you that it was almost a 24 hour process so be prepared for a long day! Since then I have learned many tips and techniques that drastically improved the moves!

This article is mainly focused on moving a saltwater aquarium with fish, invertebrates, and coral but many of the steps apply to freshwater aquariums, just ignore the salty bits!

It all begins with planning…

How to Plan an Aquarium Move?

Planning an aquarium move needs to begin weeks beforehand. Things to consider are temporary storage containers, water transport, the same or new sand, having all the consumables & tools ready, arranging helpers or movers, and forming a list of things to be done before, during & after the move.

This is the part that can make a tank move easy and stress-free or the worst day of your life! Depending on what is happening to your aquarium, will depend on when you need to start thinking of your plan. Are you just moving it from one room to another, or do you have to move it out of the room for a day or two?

Notepad

You need to sit down and start writing down every idea that you can think of about your tank move. Just brainstorm, no idea is useless at this point.

Spend a few days making this list. New ideas may pop into your head and you need to just make a note and add them to the brainstorm.

Ask friends and family to think of ideas. They may have a different view to you and suggest some really good things you may not have realized.

Once you have your brainstorm, start to try and lay out the ideas in a logical order following this timeline:

  • One week before the move
  • The day before the move
  • The day of the move
  • The day after the move
  • The week after the move
  • Two weeks after the move

Because this is such a short move the planning is far less than moving across state for example, but this will start to give you an idea of what needs to be done and when so you don’t forget anything. This will also allow you to allocate the correct amount of time to each task. Don’t forget to add buffer time!

One to Two Weeks Before Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Confirm the exact day for the move, and ensure the contractors (or whoever is making you move the tank) are booked for the same day!
  • If additional help is required get asking – family, friends and local aquarists are all great.

One Tip is that even empty aquariums are heavy – Make sure you have enough bodies to carry the aquarium.

75G Glass Tank = 100lbs Rough Empty Weight
120G Glass Tank = 190lbs Rough Empty Weight
210G Glass Tank = 350lbs Rough Empty Weight

If you want more info on how much aquariums weigh please Click Here

You can rent suction cups handles and dollies from most Tool Rental Stores


Begin to assemble your supplies:-

  • Rubbermaid Totes & Bins are great for livestock storage
  • Clean all storage totes and bins thoroughly using vinegar and rinse well with water!
  • Obtain a heater, Powerhead and Thermometer for each tote/bin:
  • Dr. Tims One and Only Nitrifying Bacteria Culture (Fresh & Saltwater Versions) – Find them Here
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate Test Kits – I recommend Salifert – Find them Here
Brute Trash Cans Are Great, Especially if you Get the Wheel Dolly for Them – See Here
  • Get some big fish nets – Makes catching fish so much easier!
  • Build a frame to hang lights over coral totes if its a reef tank and it’s going to be several days
  • Ensure your totes are large enough for the amount of livestock you have
  • Collect old towels & cardboard to walk on – You will use lots!
  • Collect salt or RO/DI water ready for the move
  • Collect empty salt buckets or new 5-gallon pails from a hardware store – Clean thoroughly
  • If you are planning any aquarium or equipment upgrades, ensure you have all the supplies and new gear
  • If any specialist tools, adhesives, or sealants are required, ensure you have them all

Three Days Before Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Confirm with the contractors again and confirm they are showing up at the right time!
  • Confirm your help is still available!
  • Stop feeding the livestock
  • Give the sandbed/gravel a really good vacuum with a Gravel Vac like This One
  • Blast the rocks with a turkey baster and do a good 25% water change
  • Ensure the new/temporary location is ready and the area is clear between the two locations
  • Assemble all your moving supplies into the locations they need to be at
  • Test all the new pumps and heaters to ensure they work and hold the correct temperature

The Day Before Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Make up enough water for a 50% water change. Store in a Rubbermaid trashcan by the aquarium’s new location
  • Ensure the water is heated to the correct temp, salinity is correct (if required), and agitate with powerhead
  • Ensure this trashcan is not in the way! Trust me I made that mistake once! – Wheeled Dollies are King!
  • Begin to move as much of the equipment that is not required as you can:
    • Food
    • Medications
    • Maintenance tools – Keep these handy
  • Get all the tools required close by
  • Have a good dinner and get a good night’s sleep! Tomorrow could be a long day!

On Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Get up early and have a good breakfast!
  • Check all your temporary storage totes are ready to go and not in the way
  • Ensure the new water is mixed (if required) and up to temperature
  • Lay out cardboard on the floor and cover it with the old towels everywhere you plan to walk
  • Begin to remove approx 50% of the water into a storage tote that is out of the way. This is for your livestock containers! A Python Vacuum is great for this as it has a long hose
    You can find one Here at Amazon.com

One Tip is to ensure there is a person on each end of the hose! Hoses pop out of containers very easily!

  • Remove all the ornaments or Live Rock and Coral and place them into a container with some of the aquarium water you just removed
    • Install heater, pump, thermometer
    • If its coral, get the lights moved onto their temporary frame and ensure the light schedule remains as it was – Turn down the light intensity 50% to prevent bleaching or place the fixture higher
Rubber Maid Totes are Great Storage Containers
  • Try to begin catching fish and invertebrates now there is nothing but water and substrate in the aquarium
  • Try not to disturb the substrate to keep the water clear to see
  • Transfer livestock to containers with some of the old aquarium water
    • Install heater, pump, thermometer
    • Ensure the livestock that is in the totes can tolerate each other in a small space – Use the chart below if it is a saltwater aquarium:
Saltwater Fish Compatibility Chart
  • Remove all remaining water from the aquarium – NEVER move an aquarium with water in it. The dynamic loads could crack the tank or impose loads that could allow it to burst in the future!
  • If the sand bed is over 3 inches deep remove it and dispose of it as the bacteria and matter stored deep within it will foul the second it’s all removed and mixed together
  • If the sand bed is under 3 inches deep remove the sand or gravel and place it in a bin with water, a pump, and a heater. This will help preserve the beneficial nitrifying bacteria living within the sand
  • Remove all the filtration and place in a storage container with old tank water
    • Install heater and a pump
    • This ensures that all the beneficial nitrifying bacteria living in the filter media will survive the move ready for when we need them at re-installation!
  • Ensure the areas and walkways are clear of tools and equipment
  • Move the aquarium, stand, and any additional equipment well out of the way

During The Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Once all the room is vacated, ensure no dust or contractor mess can work its way to your aquatic holding area. Tape up the door seams etc. These are great for that:
These Door Zippers From Amazon.com Work Great
  • Now its time for some chores while the contractors do their work:
    • Ensure regular spot checks of all the storage totes for temperature, salinity (if required), and livestock
    • Make sure no fish have jumped out onto the floor
    • Clean all the equipment with some old aquarium water so it’s like new when it’s re-installation time – DO NOT use clean tap water to wash filter media – You Will Kill the beneficial nitrifying bacteria!
  • Take a break when you can – DO NOT HAVE A BEER! – Just yet. You need your head clear!
  • Order in pizza for your helpers and relax while you can!

Aquarium Re-Installation:

Once you have the room back and everything has dried, its time to start getting the aquarium back together:

  • Get the aquarium and stand installed and ensure it is perfectly level
  • Get all plumbing connected and electrical extension cords etc neatly secured
  • Begin to reinstall your aquascape with your Live Rock while placing in the substrate – Always place your rocks on the glass and not on the substrate

If you require new substrate you can find a really nice selection Here at Amazon.com. Here is also a handy sandbed calculator so you know how much to get. You can find the calculator Here


  • Begin to fill the aquarium with the water you first removed from the aquarium and stored in a container – Heated and moving with a pump
  • As your aquarium begins to fill and covers all the equipment you can start to fire up the filtration and leak check
  • Fill 50% of the aquarium with old water and have the other 50% with the new water you had previously made and heated ready

One Tip is to slowly pour/pump your old tank water through a filter sock and onto a dinner plate/saucer as it goes back into the aquarium. This will help remove any sediment from when it was first removed and keep sediment from being stirred up.

  • Once you are sure there are no leaks, completely fill the system
  • Run all the pumps, filters, and wavemakers to ensure everything is running as it should
  • If you have chemical media reactors installed, leave them empty for today to allow the mechanical filter to remove the suspended sediment
  • Check all the water parameters before adding your livestock

Because your livestock are going into a new environment I highly suggest you acclimate them just like you did when you bought them home for the first time.

If you need any tips on fish acclimation check out this article. It works for freshwater too, just leave out the salt parts:

How To Acclimate Saltwater Fish

  • Begin to slowly acclimate each fish over 30 minutes and add your livestock with the most aggressive and territorial fish going in last
  • Reinstall the lights and canopy and leave the lights off for the rest of the day
  • Do not feed the fish
  • Add in a recommended dose of Dr. Tims One and Only – This will help boost the growth of the nitrifying bacteria. You can find it Here at Amazon.com in both fresh & saltwater versions
  • Have a thorough inspection of all the equipment, pipes, connections, and cables to ensure everything is working perfectly

Fire up the grill and give all your helpers a well-earned steak and a few cold ones!

Barbecue

The Day After Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Inspect all the equipment and ensure it is all running as it should with no leaks
  • Replace the mechanical filter media with new to help clean up the water
  • Do a full panel of water tests, especially ammonia

One Tip is that your aquarium will probably go through a mini nitrogen cycle. Make sure you begin to test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate daily for the next week or so to monitor any spikes.

  • Keep the lights at 50% for today but allow them to ramp back up 10% each day until back at your full setpoints. If lights are not dimmable, adjust the length of ‘On Time’ each day by 10%
  • Do a very small feed to the fish and check every fish for signs of distress and appetite

Two Days After Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Do a 10-20% water change
  • Replace the mechanical filter media as the water should now be clear
  • Begin to add some chemical media back into your media reactors if you have them installed. Up to 50% works fine
  • Keep testing your water and monitoring for signs of distress

One to Two Weeks After Aquarium Moving Day:

  • Slowly begin increasing feeding back to the original amounts
  • Remove any fish that show signs of distress and place them into quarantine
  • Begin your regular maintenance routine
  • Monitor for signs of high Nitrite or Ammonia and do a water change if values begin to rise too high.

I hope you found this helpful and gave you some ideas on how to plan your move!

With you thinking about moving an aquarium you may find these articles helpful too:

Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I have been an avid aquarist for over 30 years with a passion for Saltwater Aquariums. I love to pass on my knowledge to help others get the same amount a pleasure out of this hobby as I do. View my About Me page to find out more about me & my mixed reef aquarium.

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