Moving and Packing Tips

Moving With Fish – How to Move an Aquarium

Relocation is just part of our lives. Job opportunities, better property market, education or love, whatever the reason may be, there will be a couple of moves in your life and it can be stressful. Relocating everything you have and leaving memories behind is not easy. And it’s even harder when moving with a pet. Some of us may love it, because of the opportunity for a fresh start, others may hate it because of fear of change. Whatever the case is, we get to keep at least some of the memories through our belongings. And one (or a couple of things) we can’t leave behind is our pets. Today we are going to jump into the deep and talk about the hard work and planning involved with moving a fish tank.

This article is for:

  • People that have fish for pets;
  • People relocating with their aquariums;
  • People that are often moving their fish tanks.
Table of Contents:
Needed Items
Clean plastic bucketsSyphon hose
Masking tapeSharpie
Bubble wrapBlanket

How to move a fish tank

So how to transport a fish tank from one property to another? Depending on the distance of your move, the answer to this question will vary. However, we will concentrate on the most important steps involved in such activity and talk about the most common scenarios, our clients find themselves into.

How to move a fish tank short distance

For short-distance moves, you can just unplug your filtration system and heater, and drive very carefully to your new home. In this situation, we advise to remove any heavy landscape decorations from the aquarium to avoid possible injuries to your beloved pets, or cracking the aquarium.

Admittedly, it is not the best approach. However, if you are not moving to another city, but rather 15 minutes away, it is an option.

Here are a couple of tips to make this as safe as possible:

  • Let the water reach optimal temperature;
  • Remove heavy landscape decorations;
  • Drain half of the water into a bucket to reduce the weight;
  • Put a lid over your aquarium;
  • Take a cab or better yet, ask a friend to drive you;
  • Regulate the temperature in the vehicle if you can;
  • Wrap the aquarium in a blanket to protect it from incidental bumps here and there;
  • Keep the fish tank in your lap. Or sit next ot it in the back and keep it steady, if its a big one.

Water heaters and oxygen pumps should be disconnected from the sockets and left to cool down. This is the perfect time to clean the tubing from any algae and other build-ups. Afterwards, use the masking tape and your sharpie to label each cable, as well as the tubing. This will make your job easier when setting the tank at your new place.

So far so good, but for a longer move, you will have to take a couple of extra steps.

See how can you benefit from the professional removals service.

How to move an aquarium long distances

First of all, you will need to drain half of the water from your aquarium into buckets. Don’t throw it away, you will need approximately 80% of that water for your fish later when setting the fish tank at your new property. By using the old water, you will save most of the ecosystem, established in the aquarium, and will prevent the shock that your fish may fall into, if you throw them in an entirely new environment/water.

Now that your aquarium is half full (wink), catch your fish with the fishnet and drop them into the bucket in which you just drained the water.

Remember to use well-cleaned buckets. Traces of different chemicals may destroy the microflora in the aquarium, or even harm your fish. Preferably, the buckets will have lids that could be sealed off to prevent splashes.

After all of the fish are relocated inside the buckets, continue draining the rest of the water.

Following a thorough clean, the tank is ready to be packed for the move. Don’t use strong detergents! This can hurt your fish or damage the corner seals of the aquarium.

How to drain a fish tank

The best way you can do that is with a syphon hose and the help of gravity. All you need is the initial force that starts the draining process. You can use a syphon hose with a pump, like the one on the picture, but if you don’t have one at the moment, just suck on the other end of the hose until the water starts flowing. Let it fall freely in the bucket. Pay attention to the water flowing through the hose, you don’t want dirty fish water in your mouth.

There is a third option. Push the syphon end from the top surface of the water all the way to the bottom. The force from your push may be enough to start the flow of water through the hose, but this method is not so consistent, especially for smaller aquariums and it will not work with a regular hose.

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How to pack an aquarium for a move

Fish tanks are very fragile. You have to carefully protect the edges and surface walls. We recommend letting the aquarium rest on a thick piece of cardboard, make sure it is a bit wider and longer than your fish tank. Fold the edges upwards and duct tape them in place. Now grab your bubble wrap and carefully wrap the aquarium all around. Leave the opening uncovered. You can use strips of duct tape to keep your bubble wrap secured in place. Fill the inside of the aquarium with more bubble wrap and crumpled sheets of paper. Finally, put the lid on, if your aquarium has one.

After your fish tank is well wrapped, place it in a box and fill any gaps with more bubble wrap and sheets of paper. A lot of packing materials will be used in this process, but it is necessary. Even if you tap your aquarium in a corner somewhere and there is no visible damage, there might be a broken seal. This is why protecting the corners is so important.

Once all of this is done, you are ready to transport your fish tank.

Moving your fish tank is almost like a second move. It requires a lot of work and attention. It is best to do it once all of your belongings have already been relocated by the removals team. It is important to remember that they won’t take anything living in their cargo. You can pack and send the aquarium itself, but you will still have to transport the fish on your own.

For everything else

Fantastic Services can transport your everyother belongings exept pets. If your aquarium is well packed or prepared for the move by our professional packers, we can easily transport it with the rest of your belongings.

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How to pack aquarium landscape decorations

If you have sand on the bottom of your fish tank you can just put it in one of the buckets with water. Avoid using those with fish in them, so as not to stress the animals.

Rocks, caves and other heavy aquarium landscapes could be transported in those same buckets, as long as there are no fish inside. Otherwise, you risk for a rock to squish one of your fish while you are breaking or taking a sharp turn. If you don’t have enough space to fit the landscape elements in the buckets, wet some towels with water from the aquarium and wrap the decorations in them. This will keep any microorganisms that may live on them alive, while you re-assemble your fish tank.

Corals should be kept in buckets with water from the fish tank. Other decorative vegetation may be kept in the buckets, or wrapped in wet towels, however it might be best to consult with a local expert, because some plants may need special care before or after they are relocated.

And last, but not least!

How to transport fish when moving

We have already established that moving fish in buckets is probably the best way. You can attach battery operated heaters and oxygen pumps if needed. You can’t do this with plastic fish bags. Besides, they are usually hard to find, as most pet stores don’t keep them in stock. Not to mention, they could easily be punctured while moving, in which case you can lose a member of the aquarium.

Remember to wash the buckets well, because there might be traces of chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Rince the buckets and dry them out before putting your fish inside. Avoid using detergents that foam up. It will be harder for you to rinse those and they could be harmful to your fish. You can use alcohol-based detergents, just leave them out in the open to let the alcohol evaporate before transporting fish in them.


  • Don’t throw all of the water from your fish tank, and if you do, make sure you buy water from a merchant that you trust. You can always make your own if you have the needed equipment.
  • Pack your fish tank well for the move. You can send it with the rest of your belongings.
  • Removals specialist can provide you with packing materials or pack your fragile aquarium professionally.
  • Don’t leave rocks and other landscape elements in one container with the fish while transporting them.
  • Give water heaters time to cool off before the move.
  • Pack fresh filters to install at your new place.


Do you have any tips that you could share from your experience? Please, use the comment section below to do so. We may include them in the article if you want us to, and we find them useful.

Image source: depositphotos / mikdam

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