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I have a 55 gallon with about 30 mbuna. They are about halfway grown. The tank has a ton of rocks, stacked on top of each other, and about 60 lbs of sand (the sand is pretty deep, though the fish dig big holes in certain places). My filter is Magniflow 220, and I also have 2 sponge filters (the thing you hook an airline up to, that sits underwater).

I'm moving about 15 minutes away from my current place. In my past moves, I was moving very far, so I just gave my fish back to the local fishstore and bought new fish. But since I am only moving 15 minutes away this time, I am wondering if there is a way to actually move everything and not have to give my fish back, re-cycle the tank and get new fish.

I think the bio-filter will stay healthy over the 15 minutes, since that's about as long as it takes me to do filter maintenance anyways. I know I can put the fish in a big bucket or two and they will probably survive. Even if I was giving them back, I would have to put them in a big bucket to transport them to the fish store anyways. But I'm concerned about breaking down the tank. Even after I get the fish out, it will take time to remove all the rocks, sand, and water. Can I transport the tank without removing the sand? The sand would be wet, so it would probably weigh more than 60 lbs. If I have to remove the sand, and then put it back, what are the possible effects of that on the tank once I set it up again? Generally, how do people go about moving a tank?

FWIW, my bio filter is pretty strong. I had this same tank setup in a house before the one I'm in now. When I moved, I left all of the media and even water inside of the filter. When I set the tank up again, several months later, it cycled in one week. Previously it took almost a month to cycle.

Also, I should add that these particular fish are very skittish for some reason. When I first set up the tank, for a long time they hid anytime people came near the tank. The other day I did a big water change and filter maintenance, and they were hiding for a few days anytime I came near the tank. The mbuna I had in this tank in my prior place were never skittish like this. So I'm a little worried that these particular fish are not going to handle the stress of the move very well.

I do like the community in this tank a lot though, so I'm hesitant to give them back. I have an equal number of Red Zebras, Yellow Labs and Mainganos. Nice colors and the aggression is more manageable than any of my previous mbuna tanks.
 

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Take a look at the Moving Aquariums article from the Library as it gives the basic steps.

Honestly I would remove the majority of the sand from the tank before moving it for a couple reasons. One, it will make moving the tank easier and reduce the chance of anyone dropping it during the move. Secondly, it will also give you a chance to rinse out a bunch of crud that may have accumulated over time if you've been lax on substrate vacuuming.

I've only moved a set up tank from one side of the room to another and basically followed the above article. I lowered water level 50% first, then removed rocks & decorations, removed fish to containers, and then siphoned out sand substrate with remaining water to buckets multiple times until I ran out of tank water and substrate was low enough to easily move the tank.

Hopefully the article will help and ask any additional questions you may have.
 
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