Moving Tip #3 – Fish & Aquariums – aargh!

Moving house when you have fish tanks adds a whole new level of complication to what can already be a stressful event! This article provides a few guidelines to help make moving your tanks easier and safer, and minimise the stress to your fish (and you!).

Make sure you know exactly where the aquarium is to be set up in your new home. The aquarium should either be the first or last piece of furniture to be moved. Whether you choose to do this at the start or end of the move is of course down to you. The most important thing is to complete the move of the aquarium as swiftly as possible without interruptions and delays for the welfare of both the fish and the filter bacteria.

Do not feed the fish for at least 24 hours before moving – 48 hours would probably be better, especially if the journey time will be longer, or the time taken to set up the tank again will be extended. A day or two without food will not harm any fish, and will minimise wastes in the transport container, which definitely could harm the fish. This is particularly important for large predatory fish, which may regurgitate food when stressed, which will rapidly pollute the water.

Safe moving and handling of fish

When you want to remove your fish from the aquarium, we would advise you to contact your local aquatic retailer, explain to the retailer that you will shortly be moving your fish and the aquarium. Most retailers will be able to supply you with fish bags and white poly boxes. The Poly boxes are essential if you are moving any distance or the fish you are moving have been kept in a warm water environment, i.e. Tropical or Marine. These boxes will help to maintain the temperature of the water within the bags for the fish. The boxes also supply the fish with a more secure and stress free environment during the move.

When bagging the fish (depending on the size or quantity of fish) try to fill the bags with around 25% water and as much air or oxygen as possible. We would also advise securing the bags with rubber bands. To practice this procedure beforehand could make the job a lot more efficient.

Once the fish are securely bagged and boxed, don’t panic too much. Yes, time is of the essence, however you have around 12 hours before the water quality and oxygen deplete enough within the bags to begin causing problem for the fish.

Remove all aquarium rocks and ornaments.

It is extremely important to keep as much existing mature water from the aquarium as possible. Water barrels or R.O water containers will be perfect for this job, again most aquatic retailers should be able to help you here.

Filter Maintenance and its media
Now it is time to prepare the filter for the move. The filters, in whatever capacity, are the heart of the aquarium. Without these fundamental systems it would be almost impossible, to keep fish in the capacity so many of us do today. Filters in their make up are an extremely complex living system consisting of many different types of bacteria which in turn are responsible for their part to play in gaining good water quality thus providing a safe environment for us to keep fish. These bacteria which colonise the filter media break down the organic and inorganic material which can occur within the aquarium. Fish waste both solid and liquid will be broken down by these bacteria.

Therefore, it is extremely important to keep as many of these bacteria alive for as long as possible during the move.

Depending upon the type of filter, we advise removing the filter media {sponges, ceramic noodles carbon etc} from the filter and placing it in a bucket of tank water, if it is possible, oxygenate this water when you can, perhaps using a battery powered air pump. This will keep many of the aerobic bacteria alive.

So, you now have the fish, water, and filter media taken care off along with all the electrical equipment which was used on the aquarium. All you should be left with is an empty aquarium with only substrate left present. It is now that the tank and cabinet can by moved to your new home. Take care when moving the larger components of your system, securing the aquarium and cabinet correctly in the desired vehicle for the move can prevent any costly mistakes.

Introducing your fish to their new home
Once the aquarium and cabinet are in position, in the new home, it is time to start adding the water back into the aquarium. Depending on how much water was saved prior to the move will determine how quickly you can add your fish back into the aquarium.

Let assume we saved 50% of the tank water. Once filled with the existing water, the aquarium should now be half full, at this stage we advise adding all electrical equipment, ornaments, plants and air stones back into their desired positions. Immediately after this it is extremely important that we get the filter back working and fully operational.

It is inevitable that some of the important bacteria mentioned above will have died during the move – this is unavoidable. Fortunately these bacteria, even at small levels, are extremely productive and will multiply very quickly, by keeping the filter media in water and if possible oxygenated during the move, we will have insured that a large amount of these bacteria have been kept perfectly healthy. This along with keeping the already mature aquarium water will certainly go a long to speeding the process up and gaining a fully mature filter system in a relatively short space of time.

It is now time to begin filling the aquarium to its full capacity, whilst doing this we would advise turning the heater up by two or three degrees, this will speed the process of warming the aquarium water back up to the desired levels. Once full, we would also advise adding a dechlorinating agent to the water as a precautionary measure.

Once again you should now have a fully operational aquarium; all that’s left is to do is re-establish the fish…

The fish are likely to have been in the bags now for some time now. Carefully lift the lid on the poly box allowing a little light into the bags or box. Do not under any circumstances show the fish too much light too soon, fish can be light or photo sensitive just like ourselves. Exposing them to too much light too soon will stress the fish.

A gradual increase in light over a period of fifteen minutes will be fine; this will allow them to adjust to the natural light surroundings.

Begin by floating the fish in their bags in the aquarium. At this stage once all the fish are floating in their bags, do a check on the tank temperature using a glass thermometer or similar instrument. The fish will need floating for around twenty minutes in their bags. This will allow the water in the bag to adjust gradually to the surrounding water in the aquarium, allowing the fish to acclimatise at a steady rate which is safe to them.
If they are not given correct time to acclimatise they will suffer from temperature shock which can have very severe effects on the fish’s health and well being.

Once the fish have been floated for the twenty minute period, begin opening the bags, whilst doing this I would advise rolling down the sides of the bags and gently allowing some water from the aquarium to enter the bag, this will not only finish of the acclimatisation procedure but, just as importantly it will allow the fish to adjust to the very slightly different water parameters, which will have been brought about by the influx of 50% new aquarium water.

Repeat this process around 3-4 times, keep a close eye on all your fish during this period, it is also extremely important that all aquarium lights are kept off at all times during this acclimatisation period and for at least 5-6hrs after.

Once the fish have adjusted to the water quality and temperature, it is now time to release them into their new home!

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