Moving a fish tank can be a tedious process. Learn how to move a fish tank to a new house without damaging the tank or hurting the fish.


Moving a fish tank even a few inches can be a challenge. It’s not as simple as getting a few strong friends and shimmying the tank to a new location. Each fish requires special consideration, and you’ll want to remove the tank safely to prevent leaks or cracks in the glass.

If you need to know how to move a fish tank to a new home, we’ll show you how to make sure the tank is prepped and ready to go as soon as possible.

*Additional steps may be needed if you have live coral, tropical fish, or a heated tank.


1. Gather supplies to empty the tank.

To move a fish tank safely, it needs to be empty. Leaving rocks and gravel in place for the move can become a costly mistake. The following supplies will help you have a temporary home for everything inside the tank.

  • Fishnet. Use this to remove the fish as well as any live coral or plants.
  • Five-gallon buckets and plastic bags for fish and plants. If you are moving small fish to another room or to a home that’s less than an hour away, you can use plastic bags. Larger fish require five-gallon buckets with lids. Use separate buckets for live plants that should also be completely submerged in water for the move.
  • Siphon hose. This will help you transfer water from the tank to the five-gallon buckets.
  • Packing supplies. You’ll need tape to secure lids for the move. You’ll also need additional boxes for fish tank equipment, decorations, and the fish tank. A label maker is beneficial. You can also use masking tape and a marker to label each bucket and box.


2. Turn off and remove filters and equipment.

Fish can become very stressed from moving. In the grand scheme of your move, plan to move the fish tank last and plan to set up the tank first in your new place.

First, stop feeding your fish 24 hours before the move, which helps keep their transport containers cleaner during the move. Remember to feed them again on schedule once the tank is set up.

Next, photograph your current fish tank set up, so you remember where all the equipment was positioned. Then turn off and remove any additional equipment you have like a filter, pump, fan, or heater. Keep filters damp and pack all the equipment in its original packaging if possible.

3. Siphon water from the tank to move fish.

Don’t move fish hours before you plan to move the tank. Try to minimize the time they spend in containers in any way possible. However, keeping the fish in the tank while you remove other items is a mistake. Remove the fish before you disturb the rest of the tank to minimize stress.

Before moving the fish, you want to create an environment in the moving container that is as close to the tank as possible. With a siphon, fill up the fish containers with a little bit of tank water.

Next, move the fish carefully into the buckets with a fishnet. Fill the remainder of the container accordingly depending on how many fish are in each and leave plenty of air at the top. You can fit a few smaller fish that get along into each five-gallon bucket.

4. Remove remaining fish tank items.

The only other items that will require special care are live plants and coral. Before moving these items, use the fishnet to remove any large rocks or decorations that you can dry off and pack separately. Next, submerge the coral and plants in their own bucket with fish tank water.

5. Siphon and save the remaining water.

To streamline the move, you’ll want to save as much of the original tank water as possible. This step is crucial for saltwater fish tanks since water prep can be time-consuming. If you cannot preserve enough water to refill the tank, take the proper steps to prepare water, and put the prepared water in another five-gallon bucket. It might take 24-48 hours for new water to be ready for the tank, so be sure to do this in advance and have extra on hand just in case you need it.

6. Remove gravel or sand.

Once you get all the water and accessories out of the tank, remove the sand and gravel and give it a good rinse and pat-down. Store this separately with the “dry” items and remember to label everything.


7. Pack the fish tank inside a cardboard box.

Fish tanks are extremely fragile, and one wrong move can damage the glass or seams beyond repair, so proceed with caution.

First, take your time to thoroughly clean and dry the existing tank once it is empty. Pack the lid separately by wrapping it in bubble wrap.

Cut a piece of foam board for the bottom of the tank and fill the remaining tank with packing paper. Wrap the entire tank in a bubble wrap layer and put it inside a cardboard box. The original box would be ideal, but a box with two inches on each side of the tank will also work.

Once the tank is inside the box, fill the blank space with packing material and seal—label the box with an arrow indicating which side is up. If the tank is too big, use the bubble wrap on the sides and strap it securely into the moving truck with nothing around it that can fall on it.

8. Move the fish tank with care.

Take your time moving the fish tank because the positioning of the fish tank inside the moving truck matters. If you’re using professional movers, make sure they know the box is a fragile fish tank. Lift and lower the tank with care.

Some additional moving tips to consider:

  • Do not stack anything on top of the fish tank when moving. Also, don’t put the fish tank on top of other boxes where it could potentially fall off or tip over.
  • Move the fish, coral, and plants in a temperature-controlled environment like inside the car with you. Don’t leave them in the garage or outside for very long.
  • If you move on an especially hot or cold day, allow the fish tank to come to room temperature slowly before filling it with water.

9. Reassemble the fish tank as soon as possible.

Before you set up the fish tank, make sure you know where you want to set up the tank. If possible, plan out this location before moving day using the painter’s tape to measure different spots.

Basic steps for reassembling a fish tank:

  • After the tank is at room temperature, carefully inspect the tank for any cracks or chips.
  • Unpack all the accessories first and start to fill the tank with the base gravel or sand. Next, arrange rocks, accessories, and the necessary equipment without turning it on.
  • Fill the tank with the prepared fish tank water about halfway. Next, add the coral and plants. Finally, use the fishnet to add the fish back to the tank. Use the water from the fish and plant containers to fill the tank the rest of the way after you sift away any built-up waste in the containers.
  • Once the tank is set up, wait an hour or two before turning on equipment like the pump or heater. If you turn on the pump too soon, many of the particles that were disturbed during set up won’t have a chance to settle.

After set up, check on your fish often for signs of stress and resume feeding. If you have trouble with any of your fish or plants, contact a local fish shop for advice. Good luck!

About the Author

Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann has written about self storage and moving since 2015, making her our storage expert. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has published over 150 articles on moving, storage, and home organization. She is also a contributing writer at The Spruce and Martha Stewart.

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