What is the best way to make a house move as easy and as safe for your fish as possible?

Moving house can be a very stressful experience not only for us but for our fish as well. The following is a brief description which highlights the key areas to concentrate on when moving your aquarium and its inhabitants to their new home, in your new house. By following these recommendations you should be able to successfully establish a healthy aquarium including a fully functional mature filter in a relatively short period of time, safe in the knowledge that your fish will have undergone very little stress during this process.

Positioning of the aquarium in the new home

The first area to concentrate on is the correct positioning of the aquarium within the new home; this should be in a position that is esthetically pleasing to the eye but also fit in with its surrounding fixtures, an area within the house which receives moderate sunlight, and is consistent on temperature would be suitable. Incorrect positioning could result in excess algae growth which may lead to poor water quality; direct sunlight would not be suitable.

The aquarium should either be the first or last piece of furniture to be moved. Whether you choose to do this at the start or end of the move is of course down to you. The most important thing is to complete the move of the aquarium as swiftly as possible without interruptions and delays for the welfare of both the fish and the filter bacteria.  


Safe moving and handling of fish

When you want to remove your fish from the aquarium, we would advise you to contact your local aquatic retailer, explain to the retailer that you will shortly be moving your fish and the aquarium. Most retailers will be able to supply you with fish bags and white poly boxes. The Poly boxes are essential if you are moving any distance or the fish you are moving have been kept in a warm water environment, I.e. Tropical or Marine. These boxes will help to maintain the temperature of the water within the bags for the fish. The boxes also supply the fish with a more secure and stress free environment during the move.

When bagging the fish (depending on the size or quantity of fish) try to fill the bags with around 25% water and as much Air or Oxygen as possible. We would also advise securing the bags with rubber bands. To practice this procedure before hand could make the job a lot more efficient. 

Once the fish are securely bagged and boxed, don’t panic too much, yes time is of the essence, however you have around 12 hours before the water quality and oxygen deplete enough within the bags to begin causing problem for the fish.

Remove all aquarium rocks and ornaments.

It is extremely important to keep as much existing mature water from the aquarium as possible. Water barrels or R.O water containers will be perfect for this job, again most aquatic retailers should be able to help you here.


Filter Maintenance and its media

Now it is time to prepare the filter for the move. The filters, in whatever capacity, are the heart of the aquarium. Without these fundamental systems it would be almost impossible, to keep fish in the capacity so many of us do today. Filters  in their make up are an  extremely complex living system consisting of many different types of bacteria which in turn are responsible for their part to play in gaining good water quality thus providing a safe environment for us to keep fish. These bacteria which colonise the filter media break down the organic and inorganic material which can occur within the aquarium. Fish waste both solid and liquid will be broken down by these bacteria.

Therefore, it is extremely important to keep as many of these bacteria alive for as long as possible during the move.

Depending upon the type of filter we advise removing the filter media {sponges, ceramic noodles carbon etc} from the filter and placing it in a bucket of tank water, if it is possible oxygenate this water when you can, perhaps using a battery powered air pump. This will keep many of the aerobic bacteria alive.

So, you now have the fish, water, and filter media taken care off along with all the electrical equipment which was used on the aquarium.

All you should be left with is an empty aquarium with only substrate left present. Its is now that the tank and cabinet can by moved to your new home, take care when moving the larger components of your system, securing the aquarium and cabinet correctly in the desired vehicle for the move can prevent any costly mistakes.


Introducing your fish to their new home


Once the aquarium and cabinet are in position, in the new home, it is time to start adding the water back into the aquarium. Depending on how much water was saved prior to the move will determine how quickly you can add your fish back into the aquarium.

Let assume we saved 50% of the tank water. Once filled with the existing water, the aquarium should now be half full, at this stage we advise adding all electrical equipment, ornaments, plants and air stones back into their desired positions. Immediately after this it is extremely important that we get the filter back working and fully operational.

It is inevitable that some of the important bacteria mentioned above will have died during the move, this is unavoidable. Fortunately these bacteria even at small levels are extremely productive and will multiply very quickly, by keeping the filter media in water and if possible oxygenated during the move, we will have insured that a large amount of these bacteria have been kept perfectly healthy.  This along with keeping the already mature aquarium water will certainly go a long to speeding the process up and gaining a fully mature filter system in a relatively short space of time.

It is now time to begin filling the aquarium to its full capacity, whilst doing this I would advise turning the heater up by two or three degrees, this will speed the process of warming the aquarium water back up to the desired levels. Once full I would also advise adding a dechlorinating agent to the water as a precautionary measure.

Once again you should now have a fully operational aquarium; all that’s left is to do is re-establish the fish…………

The fish are likely to have been in the bags now for some time now. Carefully lift the lid on the poly box allowing a little light into the bags or box. Do not under any circumstances show the fish too much light too soon, fish can be light or photo sensitive just like ourselves. Exposing them to too much light too soon will stress the fish.

A gradual increase in light over a period of fifteen minuets will be fine; this will allow them to adjust to the natural light surroundings.


Begin by floating the fish in their bags in the aquarium. At this stage once all the fish are floating in their bags, do a check on the tank temperature using a glass thermometer or similar instrument. The fish will need floating for around twenty minutes in their bags. This will allow the water in the bag to adjust gradually to the surrounding water in the aquarium, of course with the fish in the bags they too will acclimatise at a steady rate which is safe to them.

If they are not given correct time to acclimatise they will suffer from temperature shock which can have very severe effects on the fish’s health and well being.

Once the fish have been floated for the twenty minute period, begin opening the bags, whilst doing this I would advise rolling down the sides of the bags and gently allowing some water from the aquarium to enter the bag, this will not only finish of the acclimatisation procedure but, just as importantly it will allow the fish to adjust to the very slightly different water parameters, which will have been brought about by the influx of 50% new aquarium water.

Repeat this process around 3-4 times, keep a close eye on all your fish during this period, it is also extremely important that all aquarium lights are kept off at all times during this acclimatisation period.

Once the fish have adjusted to the water quality and temperature, it is now time to release them into their new home.

You may notice at this stage that some of the fish will swim straight to the bottom or hide behind some rocks or plants, do not panic this is only natural, in time they will adjust to their surroundings. We advise monitoring the fish carefully for the next 12 hours, and begin feeding around 24 hours after the move.

After the fish have been reintroduced, leave the aquarium lights off for around 5-6 hours.

Other small checks that are useful are to check that the filter is running correctly, return the heater to its correct temperature, and test your water quality on a weekly basis, monitor fish's behaviour, and make sure they are all feeding correctly.


Water Quality

Testing your water quality will enable you to see that all water parameters are safe for the fish and that the filter has successfully matured to its previous state. If you are concerned by any of the results shown in the water test, consult your local aquatic retailer for detailed advice.


Provided you take care to follow the procedures mentioned above, we are confident that in a very short space of time you will once again be able to appreciate your beautiful aquarium.

Happy fish keeping




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