How To Move A Fish Tank Without Harming the Tank & Fish

Moving a fish tank even from one place to another in the same house can be very hectic. That means shifting it to another place is more challenging, and you have to know how to do it right. 

Every fish in the tank will need special treatment on its own. You have to be very careful, for the sake of fish and the tank, not to crack or leak. If the seal gets damaged, you need to put extra effort into resealing the fish tank

Moving a fish tank to a new home is a highly complex process that demands you to know what you are doing. 

The article below will help you understand the whole process regarding how to move a fish tank. Read through so that you can be well prepared and ready to move as early as possible.

How to Move A Fish tank (Preparation Steps)

The preparation steps are vital. If you want to move your fish tank, it’s important to remove the water before carrying it.

You’ll have to remove all heavy materials like gravel or sand for a moving process not to cause any damage; otherwise, your mistakes can cost significantly more than they should’ve been!

Here are some tips on how best to prepare:

Step 1: Get the Essentials Ready

Prepare the Essential tools


It is essential to use fishnet to catch the fish, shrimp, or other invertebrates and live coral before moving them to a temporary container.

Plastic Bags, Buckets, And Containers:

These items will be necessary for carrying the fish and plants. If you are moving the fish to a distance of less than an hour, you can use plastic bags.

However, you will need a sizeable five-gallon bucket for bigger fish, and it must have a lid. Live coral plants, put them in separate buckets, and ensure that they are entirely submerged in water.

Packing Paper and Tape:

You will use the tape to ensure that the lid is secure when you are moving.

Packing paper or boxes will help carry the tank. Because most tanks are glass-made and fragile. Packing paper and boxes will keep your tank secured.

Siphon Hose:

This will be helpful when transferring the tank as it will prevent breakage.

Insulating Foam Sheets:

This will be helpful when transferring the tank as it will prevent breakage.

Step 2: Move Fish To The Buckets

Relocating the fish is the first thing that you should do when moving a tank. Pour water from the tank into the containers that you will use to transport the fish.

It is very stressful for the fish when they are being moved. Make sure that you prepare early and move the tank last. You should also ensure that you know where the fish tank will be set at the new location. 

For the transport containers to remain clean through the transportation period, ensure that the fish is not fed 24 hours before moving. That enables them to pass all the waste, and the filtration system will have enough time to clear off. 

You don’t have to worry about the fish because it is safe for them to go without feeding for up to a week. Once the tank has been set up, remember to feed the fish on schedule.

Below are essential tips to note to move the fish safely.

Move Fish to A Container

Choose the Right Container

If it is a less than an hour short path, you can use fish bags. Place one fish in one bag and make sure that you double the bags to be safe. 

The water should be filled up to 1/3 so that they can have enough oxygen. Seal the fish bag with a rubber band and ensure that it is tightly sealed. 

If the move is over an hour, then use a bucket; the bigger the bucket, the more the fish it can hold. 

A five-gallon bucket can hold up to 4 fish when transporting. Ensure that the buckets are filled halfway, and the lid seals tightly. 

You can reinforce with duct tape if you are not sure about the covers.

Right Way to carry fish in a container

Removing Fish From The Tank

Catch the fish safely with a fishnet one at a time, placing them in their respective travel containers. It will also be easier to collect the fish if you have removed all the decorations.

If you are using fish bags, you can start by placing them in a cooler. You can also add bubble wraps so that you can increase their safety. 

The buckets should be tightly sealed and put on a flat surface when traveling. 

Please don’t place the containers where they will experience direct sunlight so that the water can remain at room temperature because dissolved oxygen level reduces as the water gets warmer

Using a battery-operated air pump during travel hours is an excellent way to maintain oxygen levels. 

If you are traveling for very long hours, you should talk to your local pet store owner for advice. They are the right person who can advise you on safely transporting the fish or help you with air shipment transportation. 

You can also decide to rehome the fish to someone who has an aquarium. Check the video demonstration to know more about reducing fish stress for movement. 

Step 3: Draining the Water

This is one of the most straightforward steps, using the siphon to drain all the water from the tank. Try and save as much water as possible to use when you arrive at the new place. 

Using old water in the new place will help preserve beneficial bacteria and provide a familiar environment to your fish. It will be great for the fish and minimize any health risks. ( I guess you know about the nitrogen cycle)

You can use large 5-gallon buckets to transport the water, ensure that they are tightly sealed with a lid.

Drain and Save the Water of old fish tank

Step 4: Take Out Decors and Pieces of Equipment

For tank preparation, you have to ensure that everything is carefully removed, including accessories and plants. As discussed earlier, pack all the fish and plants in buckets that are tightly sealed.  

The décor and accessories should be cleaned and dried, then apply paper and bubble wrap. Photograph the fish tank before removing anything so that you can know where everything was before the move. 

Please turn off any switched-on equipment and then carefully remove them. Pieces of equipment that need to be removed include the filter, pump, fan, and heater. Ensure that the filter is wet (Keep bacteria intact) and inside its original packaging. 

Remember also to give special treatment to live coral plants. Rocks and gravel should be patted off before you pack them.

Bring out Décor and equipment, clean the tank

Step 5: Cleaning The Tank

When moving the fish tank, it’s an excellent opportunity to clean up before proceeding. Now you can perform extensive cleaning of your aquarium! Follow my article about cleaning a fish tank step by step if you need some help with all that grimy stuff in there.

Step 6: Transporting The Gravel/Sand

After siphoning off all the water and carefully removing the accessories, it is time to remove the sand and gravel.

Rinse it and then pat it down for more accessible storage and transport. Store it separately together with other dry items, and don’t forget to label all of them.

Step 7: Pack Your Tank

Pack Up The Tank in A Right Way

Remove the tank’s lid, pack it separately, and don’t forget to cover it in bubble wrap. It is recommended to load the tank in a box and get it large enough to fit your tank.

If there are any remaining gaps in the box, fill them up with insulating foam so that it does not shift around. To avoid any scratches in the tank, fill it up with clothes, papers, or foam.

You have to acknowledge that fish tanks are exceptionally delicate, and even a tiny move can damage them by breaking the glass. You will end up having a breakage that is beyond repair.

Don’t also forget to clean and dry the tank before you package it. Before filling it up with paper, place a foam board at the bottom of the tank.

If you have the original box that the tank came in, it will be perfect for the transportation of the tank. Label the package you have packed the tank in to show the side that is up clearly.

During the Move

There are a few different ways to transport your fish tank that can save you some money and ensure safety.

If the size of the tank allows it, use your own vehicle for transportation – this way, no transporting company will be needed!

However, if not possible, please inform movers beforehand about any particular circumstances with which they should keep in mind: how fragile or heavy the item may be; what shape does it have (round/square); etc., so they know what precautions need to be taken when loading up their truck.

If you are using a transport service, keep your fish cool by placing them in a container and moving it into a covered truck.

After The Move

Finally, you have successfully reached your new home with everything intact. It is now time to unpack everything and set up the fish tank in its new assigned place.

Make sure that the tank is fully established before you put in the fish. Below are some of the steps to follow for a successful after-move reassembly.

What you need to do after you move the tank to new place

Step 1: Unpack the Tank

When you arrive at your new home, don’t forget to unpack the fish tank first. It needs special care and attention, just like it did when you packed up things from your old place.

I recommend a sharp knife for slicing through all of those packing tapes but be careful not to scratch or damage anything with the blade when doing this delicate task.

Step 2: Place It in the New Place

Now it’s time to place the aquarium in a new place. Using shims, ensure that the fish tank is at the required level. That will ensure that the tank remains stable so that it won’t wobble.

Ensure that there is enough space behind the tank if you have external filters and other equipment that require placing outside the tank.

Once you are sure that it is stable, add the sand/gravel and the other decorations using the pictures you took.

Step 3: Set Up the Aquarium

Ensure the tank is at room temperature, and carefully inspect the tank to ensure no chips or cracks. 

Now fill up the water halfway and then put in the plants and corals. Use the remaining water to fill the tank all the way and pour away any waste that has built up. 

Install filter, heater, pumps, etc., all the power-driven accessories properly, but don’t power them up now. After you have set up the tank, give it an hour or two so that particles can float and you can easily remove them. 

You can now turn on the types of equipment like the heater and pump. However, testing the water condition in a changed situation is always a good idea. You can use my favorite API water test kit for it. 

Step 4: Put In The Fish

Once you have made sure that the aquarium conditions are okay, go ahead and add the fish. Make sure that you scoop them carefully with the fishnet while you place them in the water.

If you used fish bags, put them in the water for some minutes and then release them after getting used to the temperature. You are already familiar with this technique, I believe; this is for temperature acclimation.

Can You Move A Fish Tank With Water In It?

There are some important reasons you should not risk moving even a small- to medium-tank with gravel and water in it. You have the potential of damaging parts inside the tank as well as causing leaks during transport.

The risks outweigh any rewards because if there is an accident, then your fish will be killed or injured due to lack of oxygenated water, which could happen when their home gets damaged during transportation.

However, you can try moving a partially filled aquarium across the room only. But some things need to be considered before moving the fish tank with water.

The first thing is to ensure that the base will support the weight of both the aquarium and its contents. And, of course, you cannot move a giant aquarium in this way.

How Much Does It Cost to Move A Fish Tank?

If you hire movers to move a fish tank, most companies will demand a minimum fee. Even if you had the tank moved inside your house, it would have been around $250. They will do everything to take the aquarium apart and put it back together.

For moving across the town, they will charge depending on many factors, including transportation distance, size of the aquarium, number of items with it, etc.


As you can see from above, moving a fish tank is not such an easy task. However, if you follow all the above steps, you will know how to move a fish tank without any problems. I hope these tips help you get your fish safely to their new home. 

If this sounds like too much of a hassle and needs some professional assistance, you might want to hire the experts or professional fish moving service, and they will do a great job.

Tell me what kind of questions or comments you have to provide more helpful information for my readers on successfully moving a fish tank without any problems!

Sujit Modak

Leave a Comment