By Matt (aka kingborris)
I am writing this article based on moving the average tank of approximately 20 UK gallons running with an internal filter. I know many people have larger tanks, but as far as I can see the process is about the same, just scaled up a bit (a few more buckets required!)
The first stage in moving a tank is to plan and be prepared. Work out exactly what you have to move, how far (and how long) you have to transport it, and where it will go at the other end. If you can work out a tank location before you actually move, it saves a lot of messing around and time wasting at the destination. Things such as availability to water supplies and power points need to be considered. There is nothing worse than setting a tank up only to realise that you haven’t got anywhere to plug the filters in!
The next thing to consider is buckets for holding fish and water. Some people like to bag up fish for a move, but personally, I like to move them in as much water as possible. This allows more water to be taken to the new location and with a greater volume of water, the heat loss will be reduced. I would say the best tool for this is your standard black plastic dustbin (cleaned without detergents first). Another couple of buckets are also needed for gravel and plants.
About a week before, its worth doing a slightly more thorough than usual gravel clean. This will save on having lots of gunk floating around when you uproot everything. As usual, don’t clean all the gravel, but maybe 50-70%. It will also allow your filters to compensate for any loss of bacteria due to having the gravel cleaned.
First stage of the move is to siphon some water into a smaller (10-15ltr) bucket. Carefully remove all the plants (if you have any) and put them in this bucket. This is also a good time to remove unwanted snails where possible. Having no plants will make catching fish way less stressful for both you and the fish. Once all the plants are in, a bit more water (till the bucket is half full) can be added. I then recommend covering the bucket with a damp cloth or towel, as this will stop any leaves from drying out and help prevent spillages. Leave the tank for a little while to allow the filter to clear any disturbed gunk from the water.
When you ready to move, siphon some more water into the dustbin (or similar) until there is enough water to hold the fish in. Internal filters can be placed in here, along with a heater stat. If these are fully covered by the water, they can be plugged in and turned on, keeping the water moving through the filter. Now its time to catch the fish and place them in this bin too.
Once all the fish are caught, some more water can be siphoned off to fill the bin to about ¾ full. Be careful to watch for jumping fish at this stage. With all the fish in the bin, and with the filters still running, the bin is OK to be covered and left while the rest of the tank is dismantled. I use a bin bag (or any other sheet plastic) taped tightly over the top to cover it. This will stop fish jumping out, keep them in the dark (less stress) and stop spillages en route.
If more buckets are available, then more water can be taken along. Just fill them up and cover them as before. If the tank has a fine gravel or sand substrate, I siphon the gravel and more water into another bucket. If the gravel is too large to be siphoned, then the gravel can be removed with a scoop or similar. The gravel bucket can have more water added to keep any bacteria present wet, and with more of a chance of surviving.
The tank is now empty and can be cleaned (no detergents!) of any stubborn algae or dirt.
Now all that needs to be done is to unplug the filter and heater from the bin with the fish in (leave them in the bin) and the whole setup is now ready to move.
At the other end, simply plug the filter and heater back in, and fill the tank with gravel. Where any water was removed and thrown away, an equal amount of warmed dechlorinated fresh water can be added to the tank. I then like to mix (by adding the fresh to the bin and bin to the fresh) some of this new tank water and the old water in the bin to ease the transition and any temperature differences. After both the tank and bin water have been mixed, add much of the water from the bin to the tank. The fish can now be transferred over, and the filter and heater added and turned on. All the other plants and décor can then be added.
External filter: This will just have to be turned off at the last minute and reconnected ASAP at the other end.
UGF: The gravel will need to be kept wet to preserve the bacteria for the biofilter.
Air powered sponge filters: Can be kept running in the bin with a battery powered air pump.
Long distance move: A battery powered air pump and stone would be useful to have running in the bin with the fish.