Moving a saltwater aquarium

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There comes a point in every hobbyists life when you’ll need to move your saltwater aquarium. This happened to me recently. I had to moved my tank a few hours away. Moving a saltwater aquarium is far more complex than moving a freshwater and significant care needs to be taken in order to avoid or minimize loss of fish, corals and other livestock.

I did great deal of research prior to moving my 75g tank including placing a post over on the 3reef forums to obtain advice from the folks over their that I’ve come to completely rely on. What follows below is the process I used to move my tank. There are many different ways and I am in no way guaranteeing my will work for you. Fortunately it was pretty successful for me. I only lost 2 corals and is purely my fault. You’ll see why below.

Here’s what you’ll need to move your saltwater tank, at least with my process:

Obviously, you’ll need one bucket for each 5 gallons of water. You’ll need one battery powered pump for each 5 gallon bucket that will contain fish, corals or other livestock.

Go ahead and get your supplies and equipment together. It’s better to have a few extra buckets than not enough. Also, consider whether you plan to remove your sand bed or leave it in the tank. For anything more than a 75 gallon tank, I would strongly advise removing your sand bed. The tank is heavy enough without the additional weight of the wet sand.

Here are just a few things to plan out and consider:

* Have some friends available to help you life the aquarium and stand. Trust me, it’s not worth the risk of trying to handle it yourself. One slip and well…you know the rest.
* Get plenty of batteries for your pumps. I ran mine for about 24 hours on a single set of batteries, but I had plenty of extras just in case.
* Write down (or print this article) so that you have everything all planned out step by step. Remember, the longer your fish are out of the tank the more at risk they are of not making it.
* Plan things out in advance. Think through how you are going to transport the fish, tank, lights, pumps, filters, skimmers, and buckets. I rented a U-haul trailer just to carry my tank and fish.
* Find or buy a few plastic containers to carry your equipment in. Boxes work well for dry goods, but you’ll want the plastic containers for any of your wet equipment.
* Packing supplies. I used bubble wrap and moving blankets to wrap my lights, filters, cooling fans, etc. to protect them when we move.

We had a moving company move us, but if you are moving yourself I would strongly advise that you get some friends and family to help you move. Your main job and focus should be on the aquarium. Before starting to actually disassemble the aquarium, go ahead and pack up all of your dry goods and anything not needed to keep the aquarium running.

You’ll want to wait until the very last minute to start the actual process of disassembling the aquarium. Make sure you have all of your supplies handy: buckets nearby, a siphon tube or pump, lots of towels and a helper. Once your ready, here’s the steps I did when I moved my tank:

As I said, I rented a U-Haul trailer. I loaded the aquarium loaded with by sand bed into the trailer along with the stand. I then placed the buckets of water into the trailer as well along with my dry goods and the plastic containers. I put the fish up in my truck with me. It was a bit cool that day and I wanted to keep them as warm as possible. I also had my kids riding with me to keep an eye on them.

We closed on our new home at 10:00 the next morning. Overnight the fish and live stock stayed with me. We went straight from the closing to our new home where I immediately began setting up the tank. Here’s the steps I followed:

Overall the move went very well. I did have some die off, but as I said earlier due to a few mistakes I made. So let me overview those:

* I didn’t plan well for the overnight cool temperatures and as a result it took my water a good 4-5 hours to warm up. Fortunately I had the extra heaters, otherwise it would have been even longer than that. As a result of the cold temperatures, I had a bit of die off on my live rock. Not bad, but more than I wanted. I wanted zero!
* I placed my “hard corals” in a bucket of their own that wasn’t heated. As a result I lost both of them. I should have treated them just like the the rest of my livestock.
* To make the move easier, I kept my sand bed in the tank. I should have removed it and placed it in buckets and washed it before putting it back into the tank. The sand bed was filthy. While washing it out probably would have caused a small cycle, it would have been worth it.

The tanks doing great. I’ve had a bit of an algae bloom in the past few weeks, but I expected that with the bit of die off I had. My nitrates are up and feeding the algae. I’m doing frequent water changes until the levels come down.

Have you ever moved your tank? What process did you use? Did you have any die off?

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