How to Move a Big Fish Tank to Another Room?

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Moving your fish from one aquarium to another is demanding enough as it is. Moving your tank into a different room is an entirely different problem that requires a different and systematic approach.

The problem is even more delicate when the tank is big enough that you can’t move it on your own. Having a lot of equipment to move is another issue to consider.

Let’s see how you should handle the moving process to make sure everything goes smooth and clean.

Moving a Large Fish Tank – Step by Step

If you think you will never have to move your fish tank, think again. Several situations may arise that will demand you to find another location for your aquarium. These include:

  • Reparation or redesign work taking place in your tank room
  • Ascribing a different purpose to the tank room that doesn’t include the aquarium being there
  • Heating or lighting problems in the tank room
  • Esthetic reasons
  • Control your children’s access to the tank better, etc.

The reasons can be numerous, many of which you can’t even foresee right now. So, when they do appear, it’s best to have a strategy in place to process the moving easier. Here’s what to do:

1. Prepare the New Location for Your Tank

If your aquarium is of considerable size, you may have difficulties moving it into the ideal place. First, measure your tank and the area where it’s supposed to go. This will give you a proper idea of how to fit the tank and arrange it esthetically.

Then, you need to clean the place and remove anything that may get in the way during the moving process. You don’t want to stumble into something, lose your balance and break your tank and your wallet with one move. Clear the entire path from the tank to its new location to make the transition as easy and eventless as possible.

2. Disconnect the Aquarium Equipment

You can’t drag all that equipment with you because you risk breaking it. Not to mention, it will make the tank heavier in the process. Disconnect the heater, pump, the filtering system, and whatever else you have installed.

I recommend keeping the filter into a bucket with tank water until the moving process is complete. This will protect the live cultures of beneficial bacteria that constitute the tank’s biofilm. Make sure to unplug the equipment from any electrical source before getting them out of the tank.

Water and electricity don’t go well together, and you don’t want to experience that firsthand.

3. Remove Aquarium Water

The goal is to gain easier and faster access to the fish and any aquatic decorations you might have. If the tank is on the large side, removing 50% or more of the water is necessary to ensure ease of access. Make sure you keep enough water to keep your fish comfortable while you remove the underwater decorations.

Your fish will experience some stress in the process, but nothing you should worry about. The moving will only last for a short duration, after which everything will return to normal.

4. Remove the Tank Decorations

This is a crucial step, especially if your tank decorations are rather massive and heavy. The purpose is to make the aquarium as light as possible, which is already near impossible if the tank is glass-made. You don’t need the tank decorations to weigh the tank down, making it even more difficult to maneuver.

Not to mention, the decorations could swing and move during the moving process. This can scratch the tank walls or damage your decorations, leading to unnecessary financial burdens.

5. Remove All Fish

First, do it slow and do it delicately, especially if your fish are more sensitive by nature. Every human intervention will cause the fish some level of stress; nothing you can do about it. But, at least, you can make their entire experience as least traumatizing as possible.

Use a fishnet to gather all fish and move them into a separate container, be it a bucket or a temporary tank. Just make sure to use tank water during the process. You can’t place your fish in tap water during the move since tap water contains chlorine, which is toxic.

Placing them in their own tank water will keep them stable and comfortable and minimize their stress during the procedure.

6. Keep the Aquarium Pump Running

The pump will create surface agitation and improve oxygenation in the water. This is necessary to keep your fish safe and comfortable as well as preserve the beneficial bacteria. These bacteria can die off fast if they lack optimal living conditions. 15 minutes with no air pump can be enough to cause these cultures of microorganisms a lot of problems.

Just set up the air pump in the same temporary container holding the fish. Doing so will preserve the water’s quality and protect the cultures of live bacteria long enough to set up the main tank again.

7. Remove the Remaining Water

After you’ve removed the tank decorations, equipment, and fish, you can now remove the rest of the tank water. Don’t throw it away, since you will reuse it. Just clean the tank’s walls of algae deposits, dispose of the dirt and fish waste present, and save the clean water into a different container.

You will refill the tank using the same water once the moving process is complete. Keep in mind that you might lose water along the way, which isn’t a problem. Just set up the tank in its new location, fill it up, add the fish, and prepare a new batch of water to replace what’s been lost.

If you’re using tap water, give it at least 24 hours to breathe and eliminate the chlorine naturally. You can also boil it if you’re looking to speed up the process. You can then mix the tap water with some tank water prior to pouring it into the main tank. This will mix up the essential minerals and imbue the new water with bacteria for a seamless water change.

8. Remove and Clean the Substrate

You should remove the tank’s substrate prior to moving for 2 reasons:

  1. Weight management – The substrate alone will weigh several pounds in a massive tank. That amount of weight will destabilize the tank during the moving procedure and increase the risk of accidents.
  2. Cleaning purposes – You should definitely clean the substrate prior to rearranging it into the tank. Cleanse all the fish waste, traces of algae, and food residues that may be stuck in the granules. Do so using tank water, not tap water, so as not to poison the substrate with chlorine.

9. Move the Tank

You can now move the tank into its new location with as much care as possible. Get family members or friends to lend a hand and, most importantly, cover the tank in a blanket. This will prevent accidents like bumping it into furniture, door frame or scratching it along the way.

Using a blanket or a sheet will also provide you with better grips on an otherwise slippery glass tank. Move it into location, gently arrange it according to your vision, and make sure it’s stable on all sides. You don’t want it to swing or tilt once you start adding weight to it.

10. Pour the Aquarium Water Back

I’m referring to the first 50% of the water that you’ve removed to gain easier access to the fish. Your aquarium should now be 50% full, ready for the fish to arrive.

Since we’re talking about a lot of water volume, use a smaller cup to transfer the water. This will provide you more control over the process, preventing unnecessary spillage or even chipping or scratching the tank with a heavy and uncomfortable container that you can’t handle properly.

11. Move the Decorations and the Fish

Yes, in this exact order. The goal here is to minimize your fish’s stress, which is why you should add the decorations first. This way, you won’t bother your fish anymore once you’ve helped them settle in.

Make sure all your decorations sit neatly in their place. When you add the fish, do it gently. Use your fish net to catch them and relocate them or use a bag for an even more seamless transition. If you have schooling fish in larger groups, a bag would be better; the fishnet will do if you have 1-2 large fish.

After you’ve moved the fish, pour the rest of the water, again, carefully not to make too many waves. This can disturb the aquatic life and damage the plants and decorations.

12. Set Up the Aquarium Equipment

Fit everything back in place, make sure they’re tight, and plug everything back in. Check for water spillage or any wet areas around nearby electrical sources before doing so. Moving a large tank tends to get messy despite your best precautions.

You can plug everything to the main power source only once you’ve determined it’s safe to do so.

13. Monitor the Tank

The goal here is to make sure there’s no ammonia buildup and that your fish remain comfortable and happy. You should monitor your tank’s dynamics for at least several hours which is enough to give you a good impression of the system’s stability.

You should also remember that moving the tank around the house will cause a lot of stress to its inhabitants, despite your best efforts to minimize it. Some fish species may be more sensitive than others, at which point it helps to Seachem StressGuard Slime Coat Protection.

This is an ammonia reducer that comes with several benefits in the package, including:

  • Boosting your fish’s regenerative properties, aiding in wound healing
  • Counter dangerous ammonia and other toxic compounds
  • Calms fish and prevents stress during transportation or handling
  • Provides the fish with a protective and healing coating

If your fish show no signs of ammonia poisoning and seem healthy and active, you can consider the tank relocation a success.

Wrapping Up

Changing the tank’s location will always come with a multitude of risks along the way. This is why you should adopt a methodical and composed approach, the backbone of which I’ve offered here on full display.

Follow my guide and be thorough about it to prevent any regrets later on.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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