Most pets require special attention during a move, but moving aquariums with live fish is among the most difficult tasks during relocation.
Because of the extensive effort and risk involved in moving aquariums, you may want to consider other options—such as selling or giving the aquarium and fish to a friend. You can always start fresh with new fish in your new home.
That said, it isn’t impossible to move the tank and fish from your old home to your new place. With some research and advance planning, you should be able to manage the transfer.
The biggest concern when moving a tank is preserving the established bacteria colony that lives in the filtration system. Since tanks must be completely drained and emptied before moving, holding back a gallon or two of the old tank’s water will preserve a section of healthy bacteria. This water can make it easier to help establish a balanced environment in your new location.
Keep in mind: Bacteria will begin to die within a few hours of being moved into a stagnant, anaerobic environment. Moving your water is only an option for trips of a few hours or less.
Fish are difficult to move and some may perish in transit. Most aquarium fish can’t tolerate minor changes in water quality, temperature, lighting conditions, or physical trauma like sloshing, noise, jolts and vibrations. You can move fish by hand over short distances (a few hours at the most) in individual, insulated containers either sealed with oxygen or equipped with portable aerating equipment.
Long-distance moves may require carefully packing and shipping fish by air, which can be very expensive. When calculating how long the fish will be in transit, be sure to consider the total take-down and set-up time, including how long the new aquarium will need to “season” before it’s ready to accept fish.