Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Moving an Aquarium

Panda goldfish
Panda goldfish


Sooner or later most of us will face a situation where an established tank has to be moved. With some advanced planning it needn't be the nightmare that it first might seem. The following list ect have been compiled working on the principle that if it possibly can go wrong it will go wrong, so be prepared.


Collecting everything that you will need.

  • Nets (I find one large and one small works best for me).
  • Plastic bags - allow two for each fish so that they can be double bagged to help avoid accidents.
  • Large plastic bags for tank water - this will help avoid stressing the fish with 100% new water.
  • Insulated box - especially if the fish are to be moved some distance.
  • Container for live biological filter media - this will survive better in air than submersed, but it must be protected from drying out and from cold.
  • Plastic scoop/shovel for removing the tanks substrate.
  • Bubble wrap - for protecting heaters/light tubes ect during transit.
  • Cardboard boxes - always useful.
  • Heater packs for winter if cold is going to be a problem. Even a plastic bag full of hot water and well wrapped up will slowly release its heat.
  • That you have enough Dechlorinater and Stress Coat for the move.
  • A spirit level - To set the stand up at the destination.
  • Spare fuses - just in case the plugs get a little wet during transportation and new fuses are required.
  • Small screw driver for above.
  • New packing for the stand if it isn't on level ground at the destination.
  • New polystyrene base for the tank to sit on. (don't re-use the old compressed one, it may not be effective).

Double bagging

Double bagging is where one bag is placed in to another bag but placed in it so that it is up-side down, this avoids having corners where fish could easily become trapped and die. Another method is to simply tie each corner off so that the corners become rounded.

Many fish auctions and fish shows insist on this method being used to transport fish.

Making a start

Clear a working space around the tank itself then before trying to catch any fish remove the plants, stones and bogwood so that the tank is relatively clear from obstructions and places to hide. This will make catching the fish less stressful for all concerned. Also lower the water level by about one third will help in two ways. firstly it will make catching the fish easier and secondly it will help prevent any of the fish jumping out unnoticed.

Catch and bag the fish, this will be a lot easier if there is someone to help hold the bags then tie the top and pack them in the insulated box. When bagging them make sure that there is a large air gap above the water, this is important because that air has to last until the fish are unpacked.

Once the fish are all bagged they will be ok for several hours if enough air has been placed in the bag with them. They will use less air and feel less stressed if they are kept at the lower end of their temp range and in the dark.

  • Remove the remaining hardware such as heaters filters ect and pack them away.
  • Remove the substrate and pack that safely to avoid a spillage.
  • Place some protection around the tank itself and everything is ready to go.

At the destination

The area where the tank is going should have been prepared by making sure the space is:

  • Clear from obstructions.
  • That there is a route to the site for the tank and stand and that there are no tight corners or small doorways blocking access.
  • There is a power supply within reach.
  • The ground is both strong enough and reasonably level.
  • Someone is there to help with all the lifting and carrying.

First job is to set up the stand in its position and to make sure it is level, don't rush this part and keep checking the level once the tank is in place and the substrate added, if the tank isn't level it isn't stable and is more at risk of tipping over or in the case of very large tanks there is far more risk of the tank failing due the extra stresses placed on it.
Once the tank is level use as much of the original water as possible to refill it then add the hardware like filters, heaters, air pumps but not lighting at this stage. Then decorate the tank with the plants and bogwood ect.
Although this might seem like the perfect opportunity to clean the substrate or even replace it all together, it isn't. The substrate will be packed full of helpful bacteria and other chemical elements which the fish are accustomed to, and keeping things as much like the fish are used to will be more helpful overall than washing the gravel.

Don't be tempted to completely fill the tank at this stage, it is better for the fish if they are placed in the water that they are used to so only add enough new water to cover the heater and for the filters to function.

Once set up and running turn off any lighting (even room lighting) and partially close the curtains before opening the box with the fish in it, remember they have been in darkness for some time and suddenly bringing them out into bright conditions will stress them even further after what will already have been an extremely traumatic day.

Introduce the fish to the tank in the normal way by letting the temp equalise before releasing them and then leave them to settle down. At this stage add some stress coat to their water which will help protect any small abrasions they have received during capture/transit.

Next Day

Add new dechlorinated water to fill the tank. Use the lighting as normal.

Check that each fish is present and looking healthy, even with the best of care and preparation it isn't uncommon for one or two fish to find the whole experience a little to much and one or two fish may be lost, particularly older ones which are very well established. If one or two fish are lost it doesn't necessarily mean that you have done something wrong so don't make things worse by trying to rectify none existent problems.

However careful you are there is always a risk that one or two fish will find the strain of being moved to much and will die as a result, it doesn't mean that you did something wrong it's just the way it is. But it is important that any dead fish are removed from the tank before the water quality begins to fall and affect the other fish.
The fish should be checked carefully on a daily basis like this for the next few weeks, feeding time is the ideal moment to check them because that is when they should all be easiest to see and you will also notice if they are all feeding properly.