How To Move A Fish Tank a Long Distance

Moving to a new place comes with a number of challenges. A long-distance move can be stressful enough and it becomes even more difficult if you have a fish tank and fish to move.

This is because fish are arguably the most challenging to relocate. The temperature and quality of the water in which the fish are transported in, properly breaking down the fish tank and moving it, then setting it up in your new house and allowing the fish to adapt to the new environment are all crucial steps that you will need to pay full attention to.

Travel is highly stressful on fish. That’s why some experts even recommend that you sell your fish and buy new ones after you move to the new place. However, if you must move your fish tank and fish, then follow these guidelines to minimize the risks:


Begin preparing at least four or five days before the move. Change about 20% of the water in the fish tank every day for four/five days. This will help ensure that the fish tank has clean water when you place the fish in the container or bag them. Don’t feed your fish for about 24 hours before the move to make sure that there is reduced amount of waste in the container or bags.

Bag the Decorations and Ornaments

Remove the decorations and ornaments a day before removing the fish. After removing them, store them in bags that are filled with the water from the fish tank. Doing so a day early allows any residue that might be disturbed to settle back down.

Containers for Fish

For the fish, fill fish bags about 1/3rd with water from the aquarium. By doing this, you will make sure that the water remains oxygenated. It is highly recommended that you use the largest bags possible so that there is more air in them for your fish to use.

It will improve their chances of lasting longer. If you don’t want to use bags or you only have a handful of fish, then it might be a good idea to use a Styrofoam cooler with a lid. Fill it about halfway with water from the fish tank.

Pack the Bags

If you have chosen fish bags to move your fish, then be sure to place them in an insulated cooler. Make sure that the temperature is constant and place stiff cardboard dividers between the bags to keep them upright. Also, make sure to tightly pack the bags in the cooler to prevent them from falling over. If you have placed the fish in a Styrofoam cooler, then make sure to allow fresh air into the container by occasionally lifting its lid.

Safety Precautions

Fish can last a day or two in the above-described conditions. However, keep in mind that different types of fish have different hardiness, so make sure to fully understand how travel impacts your particular fish. Apart from this, you will need to monitor the supply of fresh air and the quality of water more frequently the longer the fish are in these conditions. For a long-distance move, using a Styrofoam container is recommended. Getting a battery-operated aerator would also be a good idea. Also keep in mind that too much jostling upsets the fish. So, don’t leave them in the hot interior of the car or put them in the back of a truck.

Break Down the Tank

Since the waste is in the bottom 20% of the fish tank water, it is recommended that you remove about 80% of the water from the top of the fish tank and save it in gallon jugs. Empty the tank and use an appropriate container to store the substrate. Don’t move the fish tank with the substrate in it as it will stress the tank, potentially reducing its working life.

Set Up in Your New House

Return the ornaments and the substrate to the fish tank, pour in the water you stored in gallon jugs, and start the pump. Float the bags of fish in the water to slowly equalize the water temperature between the fish tank water and the bagged water. Open the bags and allow the water and fish inside to return to the tank. If you did not use bags to move your fish, then measure the temperature of the water in the fish tank and what the fish are in to make sure that they are about equal. Feed your fish lightly for a few days and allow them to adapt to the new environment. Don’t stress them and keep an eye on the water quality.

Moving a fish tank and fish a long distance is far from easy. However, as with all things in life, a little bit of foresight and planning can go a long way in easing the process.