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Moving a Marine Aquarium

In this guide, I assume that the entire tank is being moved to a different location.


It's best to move on a Friday, so if anything goes wrong, stores are still open, including the next day.

Ensure that there is enough saltwater at the new location in containers. You can't take all the water from your previous tank; the last bit is difficult to remove and contains a significant amount of debris.

Remove the coral pieces from your aquarium and place them in plastic bags with water. Larger pieces can be transported in Styrofoam boxes or buckets. Fill them with enough water to keep the coral moist during transport. Place the plastic bags in the Styrofoam boxes to maintain the coral's temperature.

TIP: Make sure the temperature in your house is relatively warm. You might sweat a bit more, but the water will cool down less quickly.

Siphon as much water as possible from your aquarium into containers. The more 'old' water you can take, the smoother the restart will be.
Also, siphon water into several buckets. You'll need these for the fish later.
Siphoning the water now has several advantages.

Once you've siphoned the water to the level where the fish can still swim, you can remove the rock. Place it in the Styrofoam boxes. Ensure they are adequately moist, especially during longer-distance moves.

Next up are the fish. The water will not be clear now, especially with small fish or shrimp; it's challenging to see them. Wait a bit until the dirt settles; it won't hurt. This is also a chance for you to catch your breath.

Catch the fish (with a net or preferably with a plastic container to prevent damage) and place them in buckets with water. Ensure the buckets have a heating element and an airstone. Don't put fish together that can't tolerate each other at close quarters.

Seal the buckets with the lid. If you don't have buckets with lids (but hey, doesn't our salt come in such buckets?), you can use a plastic bag secured with a rubber band over the bucket.

Now that the aquarium is empty, siphon off the last bit of water. This goes down the drain. Be very careful not to have missed or forgotten any animals!

Once everything is empty, disconnect the equipment.

Load everything into the car(s) and drive carefully to the destination. Water in containers can splash, causing containers to fall. Always ensure that they are securely positioned. Also, make sure the aquarium is stable and protected. You can wrap it in blankets or pack it in styrofoam.

To make transporting the aquarium easier, you can rent glass suction cups from a hardware store. This will give you more grip on the aquarium. An extra hand from friends is also welcome here.

Once you've arrived at the destination, make sure that the livestock comes inside as quickly as possible. Also, ensure that the temperature indoors is higher again to prevent cooling.

When the livestock is inside, follow the aquarium and equipment. Place the aquarium in its place and level it. Make sure this is done correctly because adjusting an aquarium when it's full is impossible.

Now reconnect all the equipment.

Now you have the choice to start building with live rock or to fill it with water. Some prefer to stack dry; others prefer to do this underwater. The choice is yours.

When you start filling, begin with the 'old' water. If there is no rock yet, don't fill to the brim. The rock also takes up space, and flooding is something we can't afford now.

Once the 'old' water and the rock are in your aquarium, top up with the prepared fresh water.

Ensure that the water is heated IMMEDIATELY. The 'new' water should also be at the right temperature already.

Now place the corals back in the aquarium. Friends who know what they're doing are handy here. Let one or two unwrap the corals while you handle and place them in the aquarium.
The corals don't need to be in their 'right' place yet. It's more important now that they are in the water.

Finally, put the fish and other animals back.