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Moving with my fish for the first time

768 Views 16 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  limpert
Hi friends,

It's been a while, but I know there is no better place for fish-keeping advice! :)

I'm moving across town in a few weeks (about a 25 minute drive) and I'm starting to plan ahead for moving my two tanks.

Here are the specs of the two tanks...

1. 60 gal acrylic mbuna tank (12 adults and a few juvies): filtered by dual Marineland c-360 canisters, sand substrate, lots of rocks

2. 29 gal glass brichardi (8 adults and a new batch of fry): filtered by a Marineland eclipse system (bio-wheel power filter), sand, lots of rocks

Here is my plan (please let me know if I'm missing something):

First, I'm going to set the fish aside in two separate large rubbermaid bins and run one of the c-360s on each and throw the bio-wheel into one of the bins and just let it float. I figured, with this set-up there is no need to rush as the fish and bio filtration will be fine indefinitely. Fortunatley, I live in FL and I don't think I'll need to worry about a heater in the tanks as the house stays in the mid to upper 70s all the time anyway.

Second, now that the fish and filters are out of the way and chilling in their temporary homes. I can break down the tanks and move them first. That way I can have them set up and ready to go at the new place before the fish and filters are even transported.

Third, come back for the fish/filters, and here is where I'm a little unsure... I'm guessing that transporting large rubbermaid bins full of water and fish is not only going to be very heavy, but messy, and potentially disastrous if one of them collapses underneath the weight while being carried. So I plan to use several buckets, with lids, half full of water for the move. I'm guessing 4 buckets at this point, but I'll probably be prepared with a couple extra just in case. So then I'll pack them all up, keep the biowheel in one of the buckets and keep the canister filters full of water for the move too (to keep the bacteria alive).

Fourth, arrive at the new house... quickly set up filters and then acclimate the fish to their new homes.

Am I missing anything? Suggestions for a better way to handle it? Should I empty the canister filters and let the media sit in it's own bucket of more oxygenated water or do you think it will be fine during the trip? Do I need to drill some holes in the lids of the buckets for the fish?

Thankfully it's a pretty short move so I think my plan would be ok even if it's not ideal, but again if you have any suggestions, they would be greatly appreciated!


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I would caution against trying to drive with buckets of water. While the buckets might be held so they don't tip over, the water will be moving at the speed of the car. When you and the car stop, the water will keep moving and splash out. I go for plastic trash can liners, tie them shut with string, rubber bands, or wire, and place them in cardboard boxes. With the bags half filled or at least enough to cover the fish comfortably, there is enough air left four several hours of driving. Divide fish into separate bags if they might tend to hurt each other during the trip. Wedge the bags into boxes and fill empty space with crumpled newspaper so that the bags stay steady rather than tumbling around the box when you stop and start. It has worked for me on several moves of a day or more driving.

I would treat the media much as I do the fish but with a little less care. Keep it wet and moderate temperature and it will be good to go. No letting the car get 110 while stopped for lunch!
Eric, I moved about yr and half ago. Almost as far as you are planning. The only thing I can think of that might affect it the water at the new house. I thankfully was able to get mine tested the day after we made settlement to see if I need anything different then I did at my parents. other wise you plan is ideal and transporting in buckets with lids is the best way.
Consider moving the fish as if shipping them. Bag them up. Fish can last for days this way. Then put the bags in buckets, boxes, coolers, or whatever is easy to carry.

You can move the canisters without emptying them, but then empty and refill before starting them back up again. Should be fine for a few hours.

Expect ammonia/nitrite spikes and be prepared for it. If it doesn't happen, great, but you'll lose bacteria no matter what you do.

Welcome back, btw. :) I was wondering where you'd been.
+1 for bagging fish. I always bag my larger fish individually in large bags and my smaller ones in groups of 3-4. Keep your media wet.
One thing that distacts a driver more than a cell phone---fish flopping around in the car!!
Very true but as long as the buckets have tight lids there shouldn't be a problem. Friend of mine travels 25 min or so with buckets full of water. The orange buckets with lids at homedepot are great for a few a few travels. I also buckel my bucets up as if they were a person. Most I ever seen on the seat is a drop and that was prob already on the bucket it self.
if you want something spill proof, your local lfs may be able to give you cooler boxes inside cardboard boxes. just bag the fish, put them in the cooler, put the cooler in the box and tape it up. like someone else said, its just like you are shipping fish.

hand warmers in the box will keep it warm.
Thanks everybody! It's good to be back Tim! :)

A question about bagging them... do I need to have an oxygen tank to fill the bags up or something? Or is it just regular air that is normally pumped into the bags? Regardless, what is the best way to do this?
edouthirt said:
Thanks everybody! It's good to be back Tim! :)

A question about bagging them... do I need to have an oxygen tank to fill the bags up or something? Or is it just regular air that is normally pumped into the bags? Regardless, what is the best way to do this?
No, oxygen is not required. The goal is to use a bag large enough so that 1/3 is water and 2/3 is air. With the water and fish in the bag, grab and close the top real quick so you trap air in the bag. Then pick it up by the top and spin the bag several times to twist the top of the bag and seal it. Fold the top twisted part over onto itself and wrap a rubber band around it. Just like you'd get if you bought fish from a store. Here's a video on bagging fish.
Ok, great! Thanks again...

After watching the video, I think I'll need to do a few practice rounds of bagging ahead of time. :)
edouthirt said:
Ok, great! Thanks again...

After watching the video, I think I'll need to do a few practice rounds of bagging ahead of time. :)
Yeah, they make it look so easy, don't they? You can also double bag. After closing it up, lay the bag on a flat surface and pull another bag down over the top. Then pick it up and twist and close the top of the outer bag just like you did before. The water and fish are now in the rounded off top of the inner bag. This takes away the risk of fish getting trapped in the corners of the bag. And if you twist the top of the outer bag tight enough, it takes away all corners, so if the bag were to get turned over (as might happen during shipping), you never have corners for the fish to get trapped in. Try it, it'll make sense when you see it.
This is one of those things done so routinely by pros that we often overlook it. Since it is done this way millions of times a day, I go with it being the best way. Why look for other options for inventing the wheel?
Feel free to bag them, but a 5g bucket(or 3) filled up maybe half way would be just fine for a 25 minute trip.

I made a 4 hour trip to pick up a free (stocked) 55g tank one time and all of them road home in a bucket without any issues.

As soon as I got home I put an air rock and a heater in the bucket while I set the tank up and every fish survived.

That was a 4 hour trip and you are looking at a 25 minute trip.

With that being said, these are YOUR fish(mine were free and I knew I would be selling/trading them eventually anyway), so it certainly wouldn't hurt to err on the side of caution in your case.
I've kept 15 adult mbuna in my big igloo cooler for two days with an airstone, and I've kept other aquarium fish in my 5 gal bait bucket with a battery powered air pump for over a day. I'd be more worried about transporting the glass safely than the fish!
Thanks for all the help everybody. I'm happy to say that I moved the tanks yesterday and although it was a 7 hour stressful experience... everything went well.

Although I'm not totally satisfied with my aquascaping this time around... so that's going to a be a work in progress. :)
Valous said:
...transporting in buckets with lids is the best way.
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