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Moving with Your Fish

How to get Your Fish to Your New Home Happy and Healthy

(The First Tank Guide)

Many people ask about moving with their fish. Though this can be very stressful to your fish, there are many things that you can do to make their experience more pleasant, and to increase the survival rate through this ordeal. Battery powered air pumps and oxygen releasing stones are available in some areas to ease the stress on the fish when you move.

Start by taking down the aquarium last when packing, and putting it up first on arrival. This will minimize the time your fish have to spend in a overcrowded containers and poor water conditions. Hopefully, you will have an opportunity to inspect your new home and select a good location for the aquarium prior to actually having to move. Remember, when you are looking at the new location, to keep in mind that you will want access to electrical outlets, you will want to be close to a source of water, you will want to minimize or eliminate the exposure to direct sunlight, you will want to provide sufficient space for the tank and all of its accessories, and you will want to be sure that the floor you are setting the tank on will support the weight nicely.

Second, take as much of the water from your fish tank as reasonably possible with you. This will minimize the stress on your fish, as they will be able to get used to the new water chemistry slowly over the course of several weeks as you do your regular 10-15% weekly water changes.
An easy way to do this is to get several clean five gallon buckets. Drain water from the tank into these buckets until the buckets are about two-thirds full. If you do not have lids for your buckets, plastic grocery bags often will fit snugly and prevent your water from splashing while still allowing air to get in so that your fish and plants can breathe.
Pull out all of your decorations and place them in spare buckets or boxes for the trip. Carefully inspect each piece to make sure you do not have any fish or animals hiding inside a hole in a rock or a hollow in a castle. Remove live plants from the tank and place them in a bucket or two of water for the trip.
Catch the fish from your tank, and place them in one of the buckets (if you have a lot of fish or if your fish are large or particularly aggressive, you may need to split them between buckets). Take an inventory of your fish to make sure you caught everybody and aren't leaving any behind in the fish tank.
Be sure to drain as much of the water from your tank as you can - even a small volume of water in your tank can cause the bottom to crack or shatter when the tank is tipped or twisted. With larger tanks, you may also want to remove the gravel from the tank to prevent its weight from breaking your tank bottom when you move the tank. Five gallon buckets also work well for hauling gravel.
Remember, the more water you can bring with you when you move, the easier the trip will be on your finned friends.

Get the fish in their tank promptly when you arrive. Set up the heater, filters, and pumps. Remember, don't plug in or turn on heaters or pumps when they do not have water to cool them, or you may cause damage or injury to yourself or your fish. Then return the gravel to the tank if you removed it. After you have the gravel situated, you should begin filling the tank with the water in your buckets. As you fill the tank, place your decorations and plant your plants. Get as much water as you can back into the tank, then net the fish out of their bucket and gently release them into your tank. After all the fish are out of their bucket, add that water to the tank. You may have to top off your tank with dechlorinated tap water from your new home. Once the tank is filled and the fish and decorations have been introduced, let the tank sit for at least half an hour so that temperatures can equalize before you turn on the heater. Once you have the heater an pumps running, remember to check everything several times in the next couple of days to be sure that the heater is keeping things at the correct temperature, that the pumps and filters are working correctly, and that the fish are all doing all right.

Visit your new local fish store. If you have moved to a new city, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local retailers. Look around and see if you can find the cartridges or media you need for the filter system(s) you have, look through selections of food and medications to see what products are available.




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March 18, 2005
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"Thanks for your very informative answer. Everything you said turned out to be so very true. Amazing, especially since you haven't seen my tank!"
August 3, 2003
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