Reading time 7 minutes

Big moves can be as stressful to fish as they are for us. In addition to keeping your fish safe and your tank intact during transport, it is also important to take care of the ecosystem of bacteria in your tank when you move it. This guide will walk you through transporting your fish and your fish tank in a way that makes the process as peaceful as possible for you and your fish. Please note that this is a guide for short term transportation, not moves that take over 24 to 48 hours.


[Edit]Preparing to Move Your Fish Tank

  1. Acquire some items. Your fish tank should be one of the last things you prepare and pack to move, and one of the first things you set up upon your arrival. You will need:
    • Enough clean, sealable buckets (no dirt, soap or residue – wash them with hot water and distilled vinegar first if you need to) to contain most if not all of your tank water.
    • Sealable plastic bags or small sealable plastic containers to carry your fish
  1. Perform 20% water changes 3-5 times before moving your fish tank. Do so in the same week you plan on transporting your fish tank.
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  1. Do not feed your fish 24 to 48 hours before moving your fish tank. They will be perfectly fine without food. Having to digest food whine under the stress of a move can cause unnecessary stress for fish.
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[Edit]Dismantling and Transporting Your Fish Tank

  1. Carefully remove your fish, snails, crabs, and any other animals from the tank. You can do this with fish nets or plastic cups. Put the animals in appropriately-sized containers or plastic bags of aquarium water. Make sure there is room for air in the containers and make sure your fish are not crowded.
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  1. Turn off your filters, heaters, and pumps and drain 80-90% of the water from your tank into clean buckets. Keep enough water in the bottom of the tank to keep the gravel wet during transport. This will help your tank retain much of the good bacteria and make the return of your fish less stressful.
  2. Remove any decorations that could damage the tank during transportation. Leaving the gravel in the tank, remove items like heavy rocks or other large decor. Put any removed decor in a clean container or plastic bag. Any live plants should be removed and transported in containers of aquarium water.
  3. Place your filter and/or your filter media in a container of aquarium water. This is essential to maintaining your fish tank’s ecosystem (also known as its cycle). All other equipment should be transported in a clean sealed container to prevent contamination of the tank when you put everything back together.
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  1. Make sure your tank, buckets, and containers of fish are all secure in your vehicle. You can stabilize them easily in the footwells of your car and secure them to prevent any jostling with blankets or towels. Drive carefully!
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=== Reassembling your tank after transporting ===

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  1. Put your tank on its designated stand or table in its new location. Refill your fish tank with the old tank water that you saved prior to transporting.
  2. Set up all of your equipment inside the fish tank. For example; filters, heaters, pumps, light, etc. Turn them on.
  3. Replace your decor and plants. Make sure you don’t have too many big air bubbles underneath any caves or hides.
  4. Take the bags containing your fish and float them in your tank. This allows your fish to adjust to the temperatures in the tank before being put back in the aquarium.
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  1. Keep an eye on the water temperature in your tank. After it reaches the ideal temperature, wait about an hour. Then you can begin gently pouring your fish back into the tank from their bags.

[Edit]After Setting Up Your Fish Tank

  1. Keep an eye on your fish for the next few days. Your fish will be a little lethargic or stressed for a day or two but will likely return to their normal selves once they adjust. Some fish struggle with moving more than others, so be prepared for the possibility that some may not survive the process.
  2. Keep track of your tank’s water conditions. Sometimes moving can upset the tanks pH levels or cycle. Monitor the water conditions to make sure they remain normal after the move.
  3. Wait 24 to 48 hours before feeding your fish again. Stressed fish are unlikely to be able to eat, which can cause the food to sit in the tank untouched, otherwise they will be too stressed to digest their food efficiently. This can make them more stressed, or even sick.


  • Having a container of stress coat on hand to add to aquarium water a bit before and a bit after the move can help your fish stay healthy.
  • If anything gets dirty and needs to be washed you can safely wash it with water and distilled vinegar, just be sure to let it dry thoroughly before adding it back to the tank.
  • If your move is going to last more than 24 to 48 hours, some fish stores will house your fish or help you safely mail the fish to your new location.
  • Keeping tank lights off can help reduce stress for transitioning fish.


  • Moving is stressful and some fish are more fragile than others. Be prepared for some to be too stressed or not survive the move.
  • Be careful not to put too many fish in one transport container.
  • Be careful not to contaminate anything that is submerged in the aquarium with chemicals or soaps.
  • Do not transport fish in containers with decor or large plants.


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