Moving Your Tank Help

I've seen this topic around a lot especially lately, so I thought I would share some of my experience with moving my tanks a couple of times. If you have ever thought about it, you probably spent hours and hours setting up your tank to get it just the way you wanted. Moving a tank can be one of the biggest frustrations (right next to catching a damsel of course!). This is just my experience, and some things to consider next time you have to move a system!

Items Needed:
These are some things I use when I have to move one of my tanks. Some of it isn't completely necessary but I've found it all to be really helpful.

Buckets / 5 gallon pails / Bags


A moving vehicle (if moving) and some straps and pillows

Heat packs / Coolers (If moving 2 hours or more)

Friends (and as a courtesy, beer and snacks is preferred )


The first things you're going to want to do is choose where the new tank is going, and if you are; moving your tank to a new location, or moving your contents to an already set up system. I'm going to be discussing moving a whole system because it's a lot more frustrating and confusing. After you have found a location, be sure to take the time to make sure there is a big, clear path between your setup system and the location of the new system. Note that for a bigger system, you're going to need some help. I'd recommend;

> 29 gallons : Can be moved alone

> 55 gallons: 2 or 3 people
> 100 gallons: 4 or 5 people
> 200 gallons: 8 or more people

If you're moving
less than a 55 gallon, you can skip the next section (in blue).

So you're moving a big tank. After you've found your location, you need to prepare to move your delicate livestock. The first thing you can remove is your corals. Since you're moving a big tank, the corals may be out of the tank for a couple of hours, so you need to drain some of the water from the tank into some buckets. If you have spare heaters, it can be a good idea to throw one in the bucket along with a powerhead if you have a spare. Spread all the towels on the floor and begin removing all your corals into the buckets. IF you have sponges, use bags and don't remove any of them from the tank because air exposure isn't good for them.

Okay now, on to the process of moving!

First, remove all the equipment that you can easily remove from the tank. Drain all reactor lines, and remove all pumps. This step will take you longer than you think so do it first so you minimize the amount of time your livestock is out of water. Unplug your heater first because it should cool down to prevent damaging it by removing when it's hot. Take off your lighting and remove your powerheads last. Keep it organized. I use a label maker to label where everything is going. It might seem extreme, but I run a lot of gear on my tank, and some of you may have even more. Kalkwasser stirrers, GFO/Carbon reactors, phosban, bio pellets, etc. Remove your skimmer, and take the cup off first so you don't spill any organics back into the tank. If you have a sump, use your return pump to pump the water into buckets, it's the easiest way to get it out.

Okay, so you have all your equipment out now. It's time to remove your livestock. Begin removing your corals, and take care to keep all sponges in water by using bags instead of buckets, then floating them in the buckets to keep them warm. Remove everything you can, taking as little live rock with you as possible.

*Note: If you have a big tank, be sure you have heaters and the appropriate powerheads etc in the buckets.*

You can use your return pump to remove the water from the tank into the buckets. Just set it in and flex the tubing into the pails. Just take care that the pump isn't anywhere near where it can cause trouble (near corals etc), and DON'T remove more than half the water, and even less if you have bigger fish in the tank. This is just to remove enough so you don't splash any water and it's easier to work in the tank.

Now would be a good time to move what you have removed to the location of the new tank. Always put it farther away than you're planning to put the tank. Take your lights, reactors, and corals to the new location. This is especially if you are moving your take to a location that isn't in your house. This brings me to an important point:

IF you are traveling, see the chart below and take the appropriate precautions.

Less than 30 minutes drive: None needed

1-1.5 hours: You need to get a decent sized cooler for your livestock. You can even use lunch pails from walmart, they are a cheap and easy way to keep them warm.

2-2.5 hours: Bagging your corals and putting them in a cooler is absolutely necessary. You don't need anything besides a cooler but it's very important that you use one.

3.5+ hours: I haven't had any experience moving a tank this far, but once you get into several hours you are going to need to keep the corals warm. You may want to use heat packs. Always remember: Never put a heat pack directly on a bag. It can break it, and it can heat the bag way too much and kill your corals. Tape them to the top of the cooler or box.

Okay great, so your equipment is now either someone else in your home, or packed up and already moved to it's new location (if it's close enough to make two trips). Your corals are already packed up, leaving your live rock, substrate, and fish still in the tank. I recommend moving the sump when you move the other equipment, after you have drained the water and before you put the corals in the buckets. This keeps the water as warm as possible. The sump should be very easy to move since you already took all the equipment out of it. Just lift the sump and put it in with the other gear. You should leave the substrate (DSB or Mineral Mud) in the sump.

The next step is to remove as much live rock you can so you can get your fish out. It can be really hard to remove fish with the live rock there so just take extra care to remove the rock very slowly and carefully so you don't hurt the little guys. Remove piece by piece and place the LR in more buckets if you have it. You can also use heavy duty plastic bags. Put it in some boxes and pack it right up.

IF you're moving the tank to a new location in the home, you can take your sump and LR straight away and set it by the other equipment.

Tips for catching fish:

The best way I have found to catch fish is using egg crate and two nets. Cut a piece of egg crate and put it in the tank. Use it to corner the fish and then use the nets (one on each side) to scoop up your critter. Put them in bags if going far, and buckets if you're going close.

Now you can filter out the rest of the water, into spare buckets or down the drain. You want to save as much of the water as you can, until you get within an inch or two of the substrate bed.

So, you've moved your equipment, your sump, your corals, your fish and the live rock. All that's left is your stand and display tank. The display tank should ONLY have the substrate and maybe 1/4th inch of water in it. This is the part where you call your buddies (if you have a big tank). Pack up the tank and stand and put it in the moving vehicle.

Tips for moving heavy things:

Straps are an incredible way to utilize leverage on moving heavy objects. Deadlifting hundreds of points incorrectly is a fantastic way to screw up your back. Always lift with your LEGS and never your back. Never put heavy things near breakable things in the moving vehicle and I recommend putting the display tank and sump on a blanket with at least one pillow on each side. Your stuff WILL shift during travel, and the last thing you want is to have a cracked tank and a van full of corals. Take your time with this part, and really plan ahead. Only you know where you're going and how many trips it's going to take so plan accordingly.


Okay, you've packed everything up. You had a slice of pizza on the drive, or on your (brief!) break moving to a new location in the same house. Now you have to set everything back up. Like I said in the beginning, make sure you have a clear path. Take the stand out of the moving vehicle and place it in the location.

Tips for a good location, things to consider:

Weight. Unless you want your tank to fall through the floor, take the time to make absolutely sure you have all supports you need in place.

Light. You don't want direct sunlight if possible. It can give you algae blooms. I've never had a problem with this, but apparently a lot of people have.

Grounded outlets. You're going to need POWER. Even my 6 gallon Fluval Edge uses an entire power strip, and my main tank uses 4. Make sure you have enough power to power your system.

Placement. Aesthetics. Don't put the tank in the middle of the bathroom. Find a place where you can see it from a couple of locations if possible, or where you spend a lot of time.

I suggest plugging power strips in and mounting them inside the stand (or wherever you're going to place them) first. It can be a huge, giant, PITA to navigate to outlets with the tank in the way.

Bring in the corals and fish, and set them near the tank location. Set the tank on the stand and begin dumping just the water in.

Now you can float the fish and corals in the tank water.

You can take your time routing equipment now, just keep a heater running in the tank. If you own a canister filter (they are REALLY useful at times) you should run it now to remove sediments from the tank. You will be surprised at how fast it will clear out. I own a marineland canister filter, it was $100 and worth every penny. Start routing your powerheads, heaters, sump, plumbing, overflow, etc etc.