This took a lot of organisation! I needed to move to a house around 10
minutes' drive away, so only a short journey, but the whole activity
took several hours.
First, I syphoned half of the water into a large, clean, crate, with lid. Although it would lose temperature as soon as I did this, it was the best way to remove clean water (remember to syphon from the top and not the bottom as is more usual!) - before everything got stirred up. I kept this water for reinstating the tank at the other end.
Next, I removed the plants and rocks, as carefully as possible. This made it easier to catch the fish. Plants will be fine for hours, as long as their roots are kept damp. However, when you move them beware of stirring up dirt from the gravel and making the water cloudy.
Now came the most difficult part - catching the fish. I had already obtained several bags and rubber bands from a pet shop. I put a small amount of water into each bag - enough to just cover the fish, the most important thing is to give them plenty of oxygen - and caught three small fish for each bag, trapping plenty of air as I sealed each one. Catching fish isn't easy, especially once they have realised something is up! My favourite tactic was to trap the fish in the net against the side of the glass, and slide him up to the top with my hand over the net. It isn't easy though, so do whatever comes most easily! I had to take frequent breaks to allow the fish to settle down again, although I was aware that captive ones would be cooling down.
At this point, I had to turn off the pump and heater, as the lack of water would have caused them to burn out. They should only be used when completely immersed in water.
Finally, I syphoned the rest of the water out as fast as possible, throwing it away, and put the gravel into a bucket. The gravel was rinsed thoroughly and the tank wiped clean. I was aware of how long this was taking and how cold the fish must be, so I was very quick with this part. However, NEVER try to lift the tank with water in it. Even a small tank is awkward with water sloshing about. The pet shop told me a horror story about a man who dropped a tank, which broke and sliced the end off his nose. I didn't try it!
Finally we could load everything into the car, and drive carefully to the new house. I had already prepared a stand for the tank so it could be put in situ right away. I added the cleaned gravel, put the saved water into the tank, and topped it up with warm water treated with AquaSafe, until it was full to the line, and about 25°C. I turned on the pump and heater, and started adding plants and rocks, being as quick as possible - you can reorganise the tank later. When the pump came back on it threw out murky water - it took a few minutes to settle.
I put the bags of fish on top of the water, as if I had just bought new fish, so they could acclimatise for 15 minutes. They had cooled down somewhat, so it was essential to prepare them. A final check that the rocks and plants were stable, and I could release the fish. They were very anxious to hide, and I left the light off for the rest of the day. However, they perked up within a few hours, and there were no casualties at all!
It is also a good idea to add a bacteria treatment such as Denitrol when so much water has been changed, and a skin treatment like Melafix where the fish have been netted and may have small abrasions.
If you are moving further than me, you need to keep the filter sponges wet, warm and preferably aerated in order for the bacteria to survive. I'd guess mine remained in situ in the filter for a couple of hours and were fine, but you could always keep your sponges in a bag half full of tank water - exactly as you transport your fish. I would also get a polystyrene box to keep the fish warm - if they will be out of the tank for a long time I would also stop by the LFS and ask them to top the bags up with oxygen, and when fish are transported commercially they use heater pads and a small dose of meth blue to help the fish - if you really have a long haul to your new destination. If that's the case, seek further advise from your LFS or another expert to help make your move a success.
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This page last updated: 05 February 2008
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