It is always difficult to move pets to a new house, but when those pets happen to be tropical or saltwater fish, it can be especially stressful on those pets, and on you. Needless to say, there is a world of difference between placing a dog in a crate, and somehow getting a 70 gallon aquarium full of rare fish through a drive which may take several hours, if not days.
Almost universally, both local and long distance movers will not handle the transportation of living things. They may be perfectly willing to transport the physical aquarium as part of their moving services (empty of all its contents, of course), but moving the fish themselves is going to be a DIY project.
Here’s how to do it.
Ask the Experts
First things first: speak to someone at your local pet store, or aquarium center. These people deal with transporting fish every day, and they are going to have some of the best advice. Be sure to visit them with plenty of time before moving day, so that you give yourself enough time to plan this out properly.
Gather Your Gear
Generally speaking, to move fish you are going to need a few standard items:
• 5 gallon buckets, cleaned, with lids
• A siphon or pitcher to transfer aquarium water into the buckets
• A fishnet
• Battery operated air pumps
• Battery operated aquarium heaters
Make sure that you have all of these items on hand before moving day to make this transition as smooth as possible. Trust me, you’re not going to have time to run to the pet store that day.
Leave it for Last
Anyone who owns fish knows how susceptible they are to stress. That being said, the less time they are in transit, the easier it is going to be on them. This is why it is a good idea to leave your aquarium as one of the very last things you pack. This lets the fish stay in their familiar environment for as long as possible, and it also makes sure that the aquarium is readily accessible when you arrive at your new home, since it was one of the last items packed.
Keep Air, Temperature, and Feeding in Mind
Once you have moved the fish into the 5 gallon buckets, be sure to keep an eye on air content and temperature. Some fish need supplemental air pumped into the water, and some do not. Many tropical and saltwater fish do require a certain water temperature, and there isn’t much room for error.
If you are traveling in the winter, it may be necessary to use a heating element, but if you are traveling in the summer, it may also be necessary to keep the buckets covered, so that they do not overheat from sunlight. Check the fish frequently, but not so much as to stress them out further.
As for food, it’s a good idea to hold off on feeding them during the move. This reduces the amount of waste in the water, and stressed fish do not tend to eat anyway.
Prioritize Aquarium Setup at the New House
Setting up an aquarium can be a lengthy process, so make sure that you are prepared to begin as soon as you get to your new home. If possible, have a spot picked out ahead of time, and begin setting up the gravel, plants, lights, filters, etc. as one of your first orders of business.
Your fish will already be in water from their aquarium, but it may still be necessary to wait before transferring them directly back in. If you are adding new water, you may need to allow some time for bacterial growth, or conditioning.
The bottom line is this: the more prepared you are ahead of time, and the sooner you address your aquarium upon arriving at your new home, the better chance you stand of having all of your fish survive and acclimate to their new surroundings.