How to pack an aquarium before moving home
For starters, be aware that statistically fish tend not to survive long transits - so be prepared for the eventuality of losing some of your fish. Having said that, if you are an aquarium enthusiast and are willing to take the risk here is some advice for minimising it.
Moving an aquarium involves quite a bit of work, and as a rule of thumb, the larger the fish tank, and the more fish inside it, the more work it will involve. So if you can, try to donate some of the fish before moving, especially if you have shoals of identical fish.
Careful planning is the key to success in moving an aquarium.
Step 1: Transporting your fish
Although you should do all this the last minute before moving house, you will need to be prepared with the right containers. A tried and tested method of transporting fish is simply placing the fish in zipper-seal bags or standard bags sealed in a loose knot or using a rubber band. If you envisage a long trip (lasting more than 6 hours) you should feed the fish less for a couple of days prior to the move – this will minimize their excretion and hence the water in the bags remains cleaner for longer.
Ideally these bags should be placed in a thermal isolator such as a picnic cooler or a cooler bag. Try to segregate fish by their species and ensure that every bag has sufficient water for the entire fish to be comfortably immersed even when the container gets slightly tilted.
Step 2 – Moving the aquarium equipment
The filtration system of an aquarium is probably the second biggest issue. Beneficial bacteria begin to die soon after oxygenized water is removed. So remove the media from your filter and place it in its own bag with water from the aquarium. Fill the remainder of the bag with as much air as possible. Place this bag in the cooler along with the fish if there is space.
Disassemble your tank and place your aquarium plants in bags with some water. Aquarium plants can survive a fair amount of time if their roots are kept wet. However if you plan a long move (more than a day), discard the water completely.
Step 3 – Loading and transit
Once the fish and the equipment have been taken care of, empty the aquarium from all the water and protect it with packing materials. Remember never to lift the aquarium from the side walls but always from the base.
In transit, the two most important things for the safety of the fish are temperature and oxygen so try to keep the temperature in the cooler as stable as you can. You can use heat or ice packs according to the situation.
For very long distance relocation you will need to replenish the oxygen inside the bags. You can do this simply by opening them and allowing fresh air inside. If you happen to have a battery operated air pump you could pump in air for 10 minutes or so inside each bag and then reseal it.
Step 4 - Unpacking
As soon as you get to your destination, reassemble your tank without delay. Fill it with new conditioned water and allow the filter and heater to run for a while to assure that they function properly before actually placing the fish.
The best way to return the fish into the aquarium is to actually place them still inside their sealed bags. Allow 10 to 15 minutes for the water inside the bag to reach the same temperature as that of the new water in the aquarium and then gently unseal the bag and allow the fish to swim out.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article was created with the help of staff at a removals firm in London to help aquarium owners who are planning to move home or office and wish to transport their aquarium and fish.