Tips for Safely Moving a Fish Tank

Full article 12 min read
Moving a Fish Tank

It’s time to move your scaly friend! Moving is complicated, especially if you have pets because they are emotionally attached to the house they’ve grown up in and aren’t ready to move. Plus, they have their own needs that need to be taken care of by the owner, like their food, water, and exercise.

Fish tanks can be especially tricky to move because if they’re not handled correctly, you could end up with a broken tank and fish on the floor. The fish tanks are so delicate that they must be wrapped properly to avoid damage. So how do you move your fish tank safely? Here are some tips:

Gather Your Pet’s Supplies

First, gather all your fish pet supplies together. This includes their food, water, medication, and any toys they may have. It would be best to pack a bag with any other supplies you may need, like a net, bucket, or algae scraper.

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  • Buckets, bags, or containers for fish: You can’t transport your fish tank filled with water and fish. The tank is supposed to be clean and empty so that it’s easier to carry. You’ll need to transfer your fish into temporary holding containers. For small tanks, use a bucket or container that can hold all the fish and water. If you have a large tank, you may need several buckets or bags.

Make sure the buckets or containers have aeration: Fish need oxygen to breathe, so make sure the buckets or containers you’re using have some way for the fish to get oxygen. This can be done with an air stone or by filling the container partway with water and leaving it open so that air can flow in.


  • Buckets for plants: If you’re moving plants with the tank, you’ll need separate buckets for them. Transporting the plants in water can damage their roots.
  • Packing tape or duct tape: Tape is essential for moving a fish tank. You’ll need it to seal the bag or bucket you’re using to transport the fish in and to attach air stones if needed.
  • Fishnet: A fishnet is necessary for catching your fish and putting them back in the tank when you get to your new home.
  • Siphon hose: A siphon hose is used to drain the water from the tank. You’ll need to have one ready to use when you get to your new home so that you can fill the tank with water to put your fish back.
  • Packaging peanuts or foam: When packing the tank, use either packaging peanuts or foam to help protect it from breaking.
  • Other packing supplies: You may also want to pack other supplies like newspaper, bubble wrap, or cloth to help protect the tank.

See Also: Long Distance Moving with Pets – Planning Guide

Get your fish into transport boxes as soon as possible.

Now that you have all your supplies together, it’s time to move your fish into their temporary containers.

  • If you’re using a bucket then gently scoop the fish out of the tank with a net and put them in the bucket. Be careful not to touch them too much, or they may get scared and die.
  • If you’re using a bag then put the fish in the bag and seal it up. Make sure there’s plenty of air in the bag so the fish can breathe.
  • If you’re using separate containers: Fill each container with water from the tank and add enough fish to each one. Again, make sure there’s plenty of air in the containers so the fish can breathe.
  • It’s important not to feed your fish 24 hours before the move so that the water remains clean. Don’t stress that your fish haven’t eaten; they can stay without food for a few good days if they’re in good shape.
  • Also, keep the water from the tank aside when emptying it because fishes tend to stress out when moving to a new environment. When shifting them to containers, make sure you add some tank water and make them feel comfortable as much as possible.

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Make the Tank Ready for Transit

Once your fish are in their transport containers, it’s time to get the tank ready for travel.

  • Empty the tank water into a sealable bucket so that you can use the same water to put it back in the tank when you reach your new place. Fishes would want to feel comfortable in the tank with the same water since they’re moving to a new place.
  • You can add the plants in a bucket and seal them so they don’t fall out during the move.
  • Then clean out the debris and decorations from the tank and pat it dry.
  • Clean out the pebbles and keep them in a separate box or bag.
  • Clean up all tank equipment and dry them, then put them in a box or container so that they can be re-installed when you reach your new place.


Pack Your Fish Tank

Now it’s time to pack your tank!

  • If you’re using a cardboard box, cut out a hole in the side for the tank to sit in.
  • Pack the tank with newspaper or bubble wrap so that it’s well-cushioned.
  • Pack any decorations and equipment in boxes or bags and label them, so you know where they go when you get to your new place.
  • Put the tank in the hole you cut out and tape the box.
  • If you’re using a plastic storage container, just pack everything in it like you would a cardboard box.
  • Once everything is packed, make sure to label the container so you know what’s inside.

Load Your Car/Truck

Now it’s time to load everything in the car and head to your new home!

Make sure you have plenty of room in the car for your tank and all your packing supplies. Never keep anything as fragile as a fish tank under heavy boxes or around heavy boxes. The fish tank box should be surrounded by cushioning to avoid accidental damage to the box while traveling.

Take your time getting to your new place, and always keep an eye on your tank. Once you’re there, carefully unpack the tank and set it up in its new home.

Reassemble Everything

It’s time to reassemble your tank!

If you packed everything in boxes, it should be simple to put everything back together. If you didn’t pack everything in boxes, you might have a bit of a harder time remembering where everything goes. Look around the house and find the perfect spot for your fish tank where it’s visible to everyone in the house but also out of the way.

  • Carefully unpack the tank, place it safely on a counter far from the edge, and wipe it with a dry cloth. Also, check for any cracks in the tank, and if there are any, take it back to the store you bought it from.
  • Fill up your tank with water and add a de-chlorinator to the water to eliminate any harmful chemicals. Let the tank sit for about 24 hours so that the de-chlorinator can work its magic.
  • Start by putting the tank in its place and attaching the filter.
  • Next, add the pebbles to the bottom of the tank.
  • Then, add the plants and decorations.
  • Last, add the water and plug in the filter.
  • Wait for the tank to cycle before adding your fish.


Your fish tank is now ready to go!


Having pet fish is an exciting way to bring life into your home, but it can be challenging when you need to move. The accessories and equipment that come with a pet, like a tank, filter, etc., require a lot of maintenance and must be handled carefully and in a delicate manner. Fishes need to be looked after a lot and ensure that they get enough food and oxygen. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to safely move a fish tank! Follow our tips and tricks to ensure that everything goes smoothly the next time you must relocate with your fish tank.


How do I know if my fish tank is leaking?

If you notice water on the floor, your fish tank is likely leaking. Take it back to the store you bought it from and ask for a replacement.

Can I move my fish tank if there is still water in it?

It’s best not to move your fish tank if there is still water in it. Please wait until the tank has been emptied and all the equipment has been cleaned before packing it up.

Can I move my fish tank if there are fish in it?

No, you should not move your fish tank if there are fish in it. The stress of moving can be too much for the fish, and they may die. Wait until you’ve moved to your new home and set up your tank before adding any fish.

I don’t have any packing supplies, what can I do?

If you don’t have any packing supplies, you can use a plastic storage container to move your tank. Just make sure to pack everything in like you would a cardboard box.

My fish died during the move; what happened?

It’s possible that the stress of moving caused your fish to die. Make sure that you add a de-chlorinator to the water before adding it to the tank, and try to keep the move as stress-free as possible for your fish.

What if I forget something when packing up my tank?

If you forget something when packing up your tank, such as a filter, you can always stop by a pet store and buy a replacement. Just make sure to keep the receipt so you can return the filter if it doesn’t fit in your new tank.

How long should I wait before adding fish to my new tank?

Wait at least 24 hours before adding fish to your new tank. This will give the de-chlorinator time to work and eliminate any harmful chemicals. If you add fish too soon, they may get sick.

What if there are already fish in my new tank?

If there are already fish in your new tank, you should acclimate them to the freshwater. Add a small amount of freshwater to the tank every hour until the tank is filled up. This will help the fish adjust to the freshwater without getting sick.


Written by

Alex Sherr is the founder of My Long Distance Movers, a blog that provides moving information and resources for people who are relocating. He has more than two decades of experience in the moving and relocation industry, and he is passionate about helping people relocate smoothly and efficiently. When he's not writing or blogging, Alex enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.