Re:Newbie – inheriting a established tank

Pete Giwojna

Dear roborottie:

When it comes to moving the aquarium, I have to warn you that moving a fish tank from one location to another is a major undertaking that requires careful planning and a great deal of time and effort. Simply relocating a small aquarium from one room to another is a painstaking task that can take all day to accomplish, let alone transporting a larger aquarium across town, even if it’s just a few houses. Aquariums are fragile objects that were never meant to be portable.

But I know you’re up to the task and there are some suggestions I would like to share with you that can make the job a lot easier and safer. You’ll want to unplug and remove any filters, accessories, and the aquarium reflector/light or hood and move them separately. Then you’ll want to siphon all of the water from the aquarium except for an inch or two to make the aquarium later and easier to handle. (if the aquarium has a stand, it’s usually best to move the tank and the stand or cabinet separately as well.)

There are two reasons why an aquarium is usually emptied except for a couple of inches of water before it is moved. The first of these is simply because even a modest aquarium is too heavy to move when it’s full of rockwork and water (water weighs roughly 8.3 pounds per gallon and of course the weight of the live rock and the tank itself are added to the burden you’ll be carrying). That means that just the water in your 12-gallon nano cube weighs about 100 pounds all by itself. Due to its shape shape and smooth surface which makes it an unwieldy object to handle, when an aquarium is being relocated, it is therefore usually necessary to remove almost all of the water and the decorations beforehand in order to make it manageable load.

The second reason this is done is to reduce the chances that the aquarium will spring a leak or crack while it is being transported. If you leave the water and rockwork in the aquarium while you attempt to movement, chances are great that the glass can crack or a leak can develop due to the abrupt change in pressure as the water level shifts and sloshes about while it is being carried or transported. If the nanotube is an acrylic tank, then that’s not really a factor, but glass aquaria are susceptible to breakage and leaks if they are not emptied before they are moved. The chances of a leak or a crack taking place increase greatly if the aquarium cannot be kept reasonably level all the while it is being moved.

For these reasons, it is usually best to empty the aquarium of water save for a couple of inches before it is moved, and you must take special precautions in order to preserve your biofilter and maintain the beneficial nitrifying bacteria throughout the move. Unless it’s a very short move, you must be careful to keep the live rock and biological filtration media moist (immersed is best) and oxygenated throughout the move.

Save the water you siphon out of the aquarium prior to relocating it, and it can be used to refill the aquarium once it’s in place at its new destination (large Rubbermaid vats or clean, new plastic garbage cans that can hold 30-50 gallons of water are very helpful for this).

Before you attempt to move the aquarium be sure to carefully read the article in Conscientious Aquarist by Amy Janacek titled "Moving and Transporting Your Livestock and Tanks," which is available online at the following URL:
At the end of the article, you will find links for further discussions on the subject of moving and relocating an aquarium that should also be helpful. After checking out Amy’s article and the relevant discussions, you should be able to tackle the job of moving your aquariums confidently!

Best of luck getting relocated, roborottie! Here’s hoping everything goes smoothly!

Once you have the aquarium moved safely and it’s up and running in its new location again, you may want to participate in Ocean Rider’s training program for new seahorse keepers, which will tell you everything you need to know about keeping seahorses happy and healthy. Let me know if you want to try the free training course and I will get you started right away.

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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