Moving to a new house is one of the most exciting yet stressful times of your life. This process can be especially stressful if you’re trying to move your fish tank safely from one location to another. It’s not the type of situation where you can get together with a few strong friends and move the tank effortlessly. Even moving a fish tank a few inches within the same table can be challenging and stressful. Factor in that each fish requires special considerations in addition to removing the tank to prevent leaks or cracks, and you might be stuck wondering what the best approach is.

We’ve outlined some helpful tips for moving with a fish below.

#1. Consider Your Fish Tank Moving Options

It’s a delicate process to move your fish tank from one location to another, but hiring professional movers to help with the process can eliminate your stress. Before you take your fish out of the tank and transfer them into the right containers, here are some options to consider.

  • Assess how risky it is for your fish to move as it’s common for fish to become stressed and refuse to eat while they are on the move. Keep in mind that even after the move is over, it could take some time for your fish to adjust to normal and regain their appetite.
  • Always do what’s best for your fish. If you are moving a long distance, consider finding trustworthy friends or family who already have established aquariums that can accommodate your fish instead of moving them between locations.
  • Plan ahead before your move to make sure the details are ironed out. You’ll need to minimize the amount of time that your fish spend outside of your carefully controlled environment, so make sure that you’re planning ahead. Your fish should be the final thing that you prepare before you move and the first thing you address when you arrive at your new location.

#2. Gather All of the Necessary Supplies

Another important part of moving fish tanks is to compile the necessary moving supplies ahead of time. This will help the process go smoother and prioritizes the safety of your fish.

  • A fishnet is useful for catching and transferring fish into temporary moving containers.
  • Buckets are helpful for temporarily transporting your fish. For example, there are many 5-gallon plastic buckets that come with leak-proof lids that can keep your fish safe and comfortable.
  • Use a siphon hose to drain the fish tank.
  • If you have a smaller fish and you’re moving locally, you can use plastic bags as long as the move of the fish will be completed within an hour.
  • Furniture blankets help to protect the fragile fish tank decorations or equipment including light fixtures, heaters, and pumps. You can also use bubble wrap to add a protective layer to the fragile glass tanks.
  • Packing paper is useful for wrapping the majority of the accessories and equipment pieces of the fish tank.
  • Packing tape helps keep the packing paper secure during transport.
  • Cardboard boxes can house and protect all loose fish tank elements during the move.

#3. Prepare the Fish Tank for Packing

Now that you have the right supplies, it’s important to prepare the tank itself for the moving process. We’ve outlined the steps to follow below. 

Remove All of the Aquarium Equipment

Start the aquarium moving process by removing all of the aquarium equipment. Be mindful that fish can easily become stressed during the moving process; you’ll want to stop feeding the fish roughly 24 hours before the move. This also helps to keep their transport container cleaner during the process. Don’t forget to feed them on their regular schedule as soon as the tank is established in the new location.

Another helpful tip during this step is to take a picture of the current set up of your fish tank. This will help you remember where your fish equipment was positioned. During this step, you’ll also want to turn off and remove other equipment including the filter, pump, heater, or fan. Make sure to keep the filters damp and use the original packaging to wrap the equipment if you still have it.

moving fish tanks

Siphon the Water from the Fish Tank

Rather than moving your fish hours in advance before moving the tank, you’ll want to do so as close to the move as possible. Minimizing the time that they spend in exterior containers is safer for them, however, don’t make the mistake of keeping the fish in the tank while you are trying to remove other items as it can cause additional stress to the fish.  

Before you physically remove the fish from the tank, work to create a similar tank environment in the moving container to keep your fish as comfortable as possible. Use the siphon to fill the containers with water from the tank.

Next, carefully move the fish into the buckets using the fish net. Fill the container with as much water as necessary depending on how many fish you have, making sure to leave plenty of air at the top. 

Remove the Decor, Gravel, and Sand

Once the fish are safely removed from the tank, you’ll want to remove the remaining items in the tank. If you have items such as coral or live plants, these will require special care so they don’t die during the transportation process. Before you take out these items, you’ll want to use your fishnet to take out large rocks or decorations; feel free to take these items out and dry and pack them separately. Once the tank is cleared beside the live items, take out the coral and plants and put them into their bucket that’s filled with fish tank water. It’s at this point that you’ll also want to remove the gravel or sand that you have remaining in the tank. 

#4. Pack and Move the Fish Tank

Next comes the step of fragile cargo moving which includes packing and moving the fish tank. Here are some specifics to consider.

Pack Your Fish Tank

As you know, fish tanks are incredibly fragile. Even one wrong move and the entire tank could end up shattering or the seams could become damaged beyond repair. Always proceed with caution! The first thing you’ll want to do is take the time to clean and dry the tank once everything has been completely removed. Don’t rush this process and make sure to be thorough so your fish has a clean tank to return to on the other side of the move. 

You should pack the lid separately and use bubble wrap to keep it safe during transport. You can cut a piece of foam board that fits into the bottom of the tank and use packing paper to fill the remainder of the tank. Next, wrap the whole tank in a layer of bubble wrap and carefully set it inside the cardboard box. If you don’t have the original fish tank box, you can use a box that gives at least two inches on each side of the tank. Fill any blank space inside of the box with packing material and seal it shut. Make sure to use a marker to label which side of the box should be left up.

how to move a fish tank

Carefully Move the Aquarium

Don’t rush this process! Make sure to take your time moving the fish tank. In the case that you’re using professional movers, you’ll want to coordinate with them so they are aware that the box is fragile so they handle the move with extra precaution. 

Here are some other helpful tips on how to move a fish tank:

  • If possible, avoid stacking other boxes or items on top of the fish tank while you are moving. On the same note, try to avoid putting the fish tank box on other boxes as it could fall over and break.
  • Move the fish, plants, and coral in a temperature-controlled environment such as inside of your car rather than on the moving truck. You’ll want to avoid leaving these items outside or in a garage for extended periods of time.
  • If you’re moving on an extremely cold or hot day, let the fish tank reach room temperature before you fill it back up with water.

Reassemble the Fish Tank ASAP

Before you move forward with setting up your fish tank, you’ll want to establish exactly where you want to set it up in your new space. You can always use painter’s tape to map out different spots where your fish tank could go. Once the tank has reached room temperature, carefully look it over to see if there are any cracks or chips. If you notice any damage, you’ll need to get a new tank altogether. 

Start by unpacking the accessories to fill your fish tank and put the base gravel or sand across the bottom. Then, add the rocks, accessories, and any other necessary equipment before you turn the tank on. Use the prepared fish tank water to fill the tank approximately halfway followed by adding the coral and the plants. As the final step, use the fishnet to carefully add the fish back into the tank and fill the rest of the tank to the appropriate water level. When the tank is fully set up, you’ll want to wait a couple of hours before you turn on the pump or the heater; doing so too early doesn’t allow the disturbed particles to settle on the bottom of the tank. 


Moving with fish may seem daunting, but the above guidelines should help you along the way. As long as you are careful in the process, it is completely possible to safely move a fish tank from one residence to another. If you’re worried about doing it yourself and you’d rather a professional team come to take care of the process for you, our friendly and experienced team is only a phone call away. For a fish tank moving quote, contact our team at Alliance Moving & Storage today!