Moving to a new house with pets requires organisation and care to keep the animals safe and healthy during the journey. Fish can be one of the most difficult pets to transport safely.
If you have a fish tank in your home, and you have decided to move, transporting your fish as well as their habitat will likely be one of your biggest jobs come moving day. If you have a local pet shop or aquarium it can be a good idea to visit them to get some in depth advice on how to move your fish on the day, and the best practices for different species.
We have also compiled 10 tips that can help make your move with your finned friends easier and keep them safe.
1. Consider their journey
Like with any pet, the main concern with moving house is putting them under an unusual amount of stress. Stress can cause fish to become very sick, change their appetite, alter their behaviours or in extreme cases die. The longer your journey, the more time the fish may be subjected to increased stress and the possibility of getting ill. Remember that even if you get to your new home promptly, there may be delays in picking up the keys or unpacking.
Use the time before your move to consider the journey the fish will be taking and whether it is a viable option for them at all. Sadly, you may find it is in their best interest to give them away and get some new fish once you are in your new home. Alternatively, if you know someone close who has a tank you could leave the fish with them, then collect them once you are moved in and you can get them home and in the tank as quickly as possible.
2. Get the right equipment
If you’re committed to moving your fish and tank, there is a lot of equipment you are going to need to make sure you can effectively transport the fish, as well as the tank itself safely. To remove and store the fish for the journey, you’ll need one or two nets, plastic fish bags with rubber bands to keep them closed and an insulated polystyrene fish transporting box. You’ll also need watertight containers for transporting the décor and the water from the tank.
You will need some specialist equipment, such as a dechlorinator, an air pump and a testing kit to measure the PH of the water. These can be found, along with any information you need on their use at a pet or aquatics store. Other equipment can be stuff you already have in your home, such as measuring jugs to scoop out the tank water, and old towels/blankets to wrap the tank in for transportation. You could also use any bubble wrap you have spare from the rest of your packing.
3. Prepare in time
Moving a fish tank full of fish is not something you can organise on the day of moving, or even the day before. It is important to do what you can to prepare it for the journey. This means replacing 25% the water in the tank at least two weeks before moving day and making sure the filters are clean. This will ensure good conditions for the fish and the tank when they are moving.
You should also make sure to not feed your fish for up to 24 hours before the move, don’t worry this will not hurt them. Fish tend to regurgitate when they’re stressed, and you don’t want them swimming around in that when in containers during the move. It will also minimise the amount of waste in their containers.
4. Empty and clean tanks
It is important that you never try to move a fish tank with the fish still inside! However, remember to save as much of the water as you can, so the fish can be reintroduced to water they recognize and have adapted to. Make sure to take out any decorative items, plants and gravel in the tank before removing the water into a receptacle. You should keep plants submerged in water through the journey, so they stay wet and healthy. Gravel should also be kept in water as it contains living bacteria that is helpful for the fish.
Once the tank is empty, you should take the opportunity to give it a good clean, removing any scum or dirt that has built up while it was occupied. It’s also a good idea to check on it’s condition to see if it is still in good shape, and to check if there’s anywhere you should be particularly careful when transporting it.
5. Consider replacement
Though your plan may be to transport your tank ‘as is’ to your new home, you may find upon inspection that there are sections of the tank that are fragile or damaged. If this is the case, you must consider whether it will survive a long journey or whether it might be better to just replace the tank or its parts for your new home.
For this reason, it is a good idea to try and inspect your tank before the move, as moving day may be a little too late to try and buy a new tank. Especially as you need to get the fish set up in it as soon as you can, when you arrive.
6. Check the removal company
A majority of removals companies will have a policy of not transporting live animals, including fish. So, you should be aware that you will most likely be responsible for transporting your fish in your own vehicle. The removal firm can likely transport your empty tank and equipment as long as it is clean and dry.
There are dedicated removal companies out there that have the knowhow to transport fish. However, if you choose to use one, be very careful to check their reliability before hand and not risk your precious pets. The best practice is still always to take care of transporting them yourself.
7. Keep species together
You can transport multiple fish in one bag, if it is big enough. If you have multiple species of fish in your tank, make sure you transport them separately, only mix fish in bags with fish of the same species. This is because different species tend to react differently under stress. Some may give of harmful toxins or attack other species, meaning you could end up losing your fish on the move due to friendly fire.
If you want to anticipate how your particular fish will react, it may be a good idea to contact an expert and get their advice on how to distribute your fish between your bags.
8. Keep them dark
Though it may seem best to have your fish open to the light, as they are when they are in the tank, this is not the case. When transporting your fish, they should remain in the dark. This is because they will experience less stress under such conditions. The insulated polystyrene boxes you use shouldn’t have any light coming in from the sides. Just remember to keep the lids securely on to keep your fish calm.
9. Prioritize unpacking
Fish will be at their best when in their tank and acclimatised. Obviously, they can’t be that way during the move, but when you get to your new home, your priority should be on getting the tank set up and your fish reintroduced to the environment.
Remember not to just chuck them back in the tank. Even though it is the same water, the temperature, its alkalinity, its PH, or other factors may have changed on the journey. Introduce them as you would to a new tank, placing them on top of the water in bags, and gently adding more of the tank water to help them adjust.
10. Keep an eye on them
Once your move is complete, and your fish are safely back on their tank, it is important to keep a close watch on them. Being in a new environment can cause fish to become unsettled, and it may take them a few weeks to fully adjust. For this reason, it’s good to only feed them every other day for the first two weeks, to again minimise the amount they regurgitate from stress.
Make sure you are regularly checking the cleanliness and the PH levels of the water to ensure that the environment is at the right conditions for them. You should also check nitrates and ammonia levels; if they are above zero, don’t feed the fish until the levels settle back down.
Another key thing to remember is to not buy any new fish until you are sure that your current fish are comfortable in their new home. Having unexpected new housemates would amp up anyone’s stress levels.
Fish are very fragile creatures, so it’s vital you carefully consider their needs when trying to move them to a new home. However, you must sadly remember that due to their delicate nature, you may not be able to avoid losing one or two during the journey.
This advice is for the best practice with transporting all kinds of pet fish. But if you have any more detailed concerns about your fish, or the process of setting up or taking apart a tank, it’s always a good idea to contact aquatics experts.