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How to Transport Fish

Tips on moving fish.

One of the most unique challenges of moving is transporting a fish tank. Each aquarium has its own ecosystem that keeps your fish calm and healthy. Follow our tips to reduce the stress on your fish and sustain their home in your new one.

Moving fish while packing for a move

Before you move: Preparing the Fish and the Tank

Moving a fish tank takes time and planning. If you’re taking your fish with you, you’ll want to follow these steps to keep their temporary homes safe during transit:

  1. Change 20% of the water in the tank every day for five days before moving.
  2. Don’t feed your fish for 24-48 hours before the move. Don’t worry; previously well fed fish can survive a week or more without food.
  3. If your move will last a week or longer contact a pet store that will board your fish. Have a signed contract confirming what responsibilities the store will have while taking care of your fish. Some pet stores will pack and air-ship your fish to your new home.

Moving day: Steps to protect your fish during the move

Fish tanks are one of the last things you want to pack and one of the first to unpack. Follow these steps once you’re ready to move the tank:

  1. Try to save 80% of the water from your tank.
  2. Depending on the length of your trip, use either plastic bags or 5 gallon buckets with water from the tank to transport your fish.
  3. Make sure the bag/bucket has enough air for your fish.
  4. Take any plants from the tank and place them in bags with water from the tank to keep good bacteria on them alive.
  5. Remove remaining water and any decorations from the tank to prevent cracks.
  6. For a short move, put your filter media (do not clean it) in a sealed container, such as a new pail or other chemical-free, hard-sided container. For long moves, either clean or discard your filter media.
  7. Pack pumps, heaters, and other accessories like any fragile appliance.
  8. Transport your tank while it’s empty. Having items in the tank increases the risk of cracking the bottom of it and causing future leaks.

Tip: For trips less than two hours, you can put your fish in plastic bags. For trips more than two hours, use buckets.

After the Move: Setting up Their New Home

It is crucial for the survival of your fish that you set up the tank properly so that they can adjust to their new home. These steps will help your fish adapt to their new surroundings.

  1. Carefully return rocks and decorations to the tank.
  2. Begin refilling the tank with the water you saved from before you moved.
  3. Set up your filters, heaters, and pumps.
  4. Return the live plants to the tank.
  5. For fish in buckets, you can either pour them or use a net to transfer them back into the tank.
  6. If you had your fish in bags, let the bags float on the tank water to balance the temperature between the bag and the tank. Once the temperature has normalized, you can pour the fish into the tank.

Your fish will need some time to readjust to their new surroundings. Since travelling is such a big stress for fish, try to treat their move like you added a new fish to the tank. Make sure to keep a close eye on the water and conditions inside the tank. After a few days your fish will calm down, and your aquarium will thrive in your new home, and provide all the beauty and enjoyment you expect.

Please Note: Even with the best precautions, the stress of travel may prove too much for some fish. Some experts even suggest you sell your fish and buy new ones after you arrive. However, if you must move your fish, follow the procedures above to increase success.

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