What should I do if I move house?

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Moving house can be bad enough, but what if you need to move your fish as well? Jason Scott has some tips.

Plan ahead
Have plenty of watertight polythene bags for the fish, rubber bands and something to transport them in, like an insulated box or a cool box. Many aquatic retailers can supply you with these. You will also need something in which to transport as much aquarium water as possible.

Don’t feed the fish for at least 24 hours prior to the move as this will minimise water contamination while in transit.

Prepare the aquarium
Half or more of the water should be syphoned into food grade plastic containers to be used to re-establish the aquarium once it reaches its destination. Switch off all electrical equipment half an hour before starting this process.

Next remove any decoration and plants as this will make catching fish easier. Pack the fish and plants as detailed later.

Now the substrate and equipment can be removed. Do not clean the filter or substrate in tapwater as this would kill vital bacteria necessary for maintaining water quality. If you must clean these, do so in waste aquarium water. Ideally the biological media should be removed from the filter and packed in a similar method to the livestock, but with little water.

Before you attempt to move the aquarium, it must be emptied of all water and gravel. Moving an aquarium with water or substrate would not only be extremely heavy, but risk damaging it. 

Packing and transporting fish
The fish should be packed in those polythene bags, taking care to place large or spiny fish separately from others. Where necessary, livestock should be double bagged to help prevent punctures.

It is difficult to say how many should be placed in each bag, but certainly fish above15cm/6” should be packed separately. The bags should be filled with approximately 30% water and 70% air, and fastened with rubber bands or nylon tie wraps.

Once the fish are packed they should be placed in a dark insulated container, and a coolbox or polystyrene fish box is ideal.

Do not open this box until you finally reach your destination, as this will distress the fish and valuable heat will be lost. Avoid leaving this box in direct sunlight or extremes of temperature. 

Setting up on arrival
When you reach your new house, the aquarium should be set up as soon as possible, using the water removed earlier.

Ensure the aquarium is placed on a flat, level surface of sufficient strength, away from extremes of temperature and direct sunlight. Top it up with tapwater, not forgetting to add a water conditioner.

Once it is full, switch on all the equipment and wait for the water to reach temperature.

When correct, acclimatise the livestock in the normal way before releasing them. Leave the lights off during this procedure and for the rest of the day.

Do not feed the fish for a further 24 hours and after this time the fish may be fed lightly. Keep a close eye on water quality, especially ammonia and nitrite for a further couple of weeks and take remedial action if necessary. After this your aquarium should be well on the way to re-establishing itself.

This article was first published in the December 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.