Successfully Moving an Aquarium
When it comes to moving an aquarium, whether across the room or across town, success can be assured by your preparations, careful planning and anticipation for any problems that may arise during the transition. Special consideration should be given to the new location, to make sure all is ready beforehand Electrical needs should already be met, and the floor should be stable and sturdy. Obstacles should be removed at all costs to avoid tripping over anything while carrying the aquarium, the stand or anything else related to the move.
Whenever moving an aquarium, the first thing one should do, is start making more water. Even if you save every ounce, you'll need more water at the new location for sure. If your schedule allows for it, prepare a clean sterile trash can or two full of mixed saltwater and have it ready to use. New trash cans can be found at Lowes, Home Depot, or your local hardware store. They make great mixing containers and are equally useful for the moving process itself. Using RO/DI water Reverse Osmosis/Deionized water), salt, a power head and a heater to prepare your new makeup water will guarantee you about 30g of water on hand, or more if you set up more than one trash can full of saltwater. The water should be mixed and waiting at the destination if at all possible.
If you happen to be moving from one house to another, odds are you'll have lots of moving boxes and furniture to deal with. This needs to be done either before or after the aquarium is moved. When it is time to move your livestock, everything else must be put on hold, or let someone else focus on the rest of the move, so you can put all your attention into getting the aquarium broken down and set back up in the new location. Make sure there are no obstacles in your path that will make it difficult to move the aquarium, so it can be done safely.
If your aquarium has a (DSB) Deep Sand Bed of at least 4" and it's over 6 months old, you shouldn't disturb it. Moving an aquarium full of sand is of course much heavier and there is the risk of flexing and damaging the aquarium. Sliding a board under the tank to support it fully would be one way of moving it, and of course have enough people to carry that load. Another option is to save a few cups from the sand beds upper layer. and throw the rest out. If you choose this route, then you have the option to really clean the aquarium well before setting it back up at the new location. It is always easiest to clean it outside with a garden hose, laying it on its side and spraying it out thoroughly. Each side can soak in a half inch of water, and then be scraped clean and rinsed. Rotate the aquarium until all the walls are clean.
What about the livestock itself?
You can bag up corals and fish individually just like your local fish store does. For larger corals and/or fish use large bags, this will ultimately allow more oxygen to be stored in the bag. These can be placed carefully within ice chests, empty buckets, boxes or plastic bins to prevent their shifting and being damaged. Adequate water should be added to each bag, and the bags should be sealed to create a good cushion of protective space around the corals. It's recommended for long hauls to use pure oxygen in all the bags. Your local fish store can help you with this or you can purchase a small oxygen tank to do this yourself. Working with a helper will speed things along. Using your clean sterile trash cans, you can pull out all the live rock and place it in these. As soon as you have the corals and rock out of your tank, drain some aquarium water into the trashcan(s) to keep the rock fully submerged. Wearing gloves while removing the live rock protects against cuts and brushes with bristleworms. Any rock that has corals attached can be stacked directly on top to avoid the animal from getting hurt. Add water until they are fully submerged.
With the livestock in coolers, buckets, boxes, plastic bins and trashcans, it is time to move now! What is the weather like? Are you traveling with everything in the back of a pickup truck or U-haul trailer? Do what you have to to maintain reasonable temperatures for the fish and corals? Perhaps they would fit in with you in the passenger compartment. The live rock and water you've brought along will be okay if the travel time isn't too lengthy. If the drive is short, you might decide to move all livestock first, and come back for the tank on the next trip. When moving the live rock trashcans should only be filled about 1/3 to 1/2 full of rock and water, as two people are able to move that without it being too heavy. At the destination, your livestock will need life support: including air stones, heaters, & power heads. If you opted to move the aquarium and livestock in one trip, the livestock gets precedence and once they are safely hooked up with some equipment within the climate controlled home, you can proceed with moving in the stand, tank and canopy.
Setting up the aquarium once it's in its new location is similar to setting up a new aquarium. Live Sand first and so on. Using a large submersible pump and some tubing, pump the water into the aquarium preferably in between two large pieces of live rock which keeps the sand from blowing around. Once the tank is half filled, start placing the live rock in the aquarium. While wearing gloves shake the rock well in the trashcan it arrived in, to release any trapped detritus, then place it in your aquarium. Getting the rock in the tank is important, avoiding any long durations exposing it to air. If it has corals on it, just put them to the side and then retrieve more rock to start your stack. Try to stack it so that it looks random, yet solid. Nature rarely forms a straight reef wall, so avoid creating a 'brick wall' look. Try to create caves, crevices, dens and areas for water and fish to flow through. The rock should not topple easily, as that could scratch the glass or acrylic or possibly fall and crush a surrounding coral. To be sure, wave your hand strongly near the rock to see if it swivels. Leave enough room between the rock and the walls of the aquarium so you can clean that area easily with an algae cleaning magnet or long handled brush.
Once all the rock has been placed in the aquarium, you can begin adding the fish, corals and more saltwater. This is why it is important to have new saltwater made up in advance at the right temperature, as the water the rock travelled in is now muddy from the shaking and is full of waste. Next, add power heads, the heaters, filters, and turn everything on. The lights can be turned on later.
If you set up the aquarium with new sand, once everything has been put in, you can add the live sand you bagged up earlier. Just pour a cup of sand in a few different areas before the power heads are turned on. Lower the cup or bag of sand down to the substrate and pour it out gently. It is okay for this sand to form little mounds, and there is no reason to stir it in or the need to level it out. You want the micro-fauna to be able to scurry deep into the grains of sand, and once you've turned on the power heads a few minutes later, the sand will begin to level out naturally.
Be sure to test the water daily, watching for ammonia, nitrate, or phosphate spikes. There are products that you can use to reduce these if necessary. Nitrate sponges and Phosphate sponges can help to remove these as well.
Checklist to have on hand for the move:
- Plenty of towels
- Pumps and Long tubing to pump/siphon water out or back into the aquarium
- Extension cords
- Thermometer to make sure the livestock's water is staying stable around 78-82° F
- Hydrometer or Refractometer to check salinity
- Gloves and Fish Nets
- Furniture sliders and/or dollies
- Bags, buckets, trashcans, plastic containers to transfer livestock and equipment
- Test kits
- Friends!!! Have a few to help as needed
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