How To Move House With Tropical Fish

Moving all your possessions to a new home is tricky enough, but if you have a tank full of tropical fish to shift as well it can be quite a challenge.

Tropical fish are notoriously sensitive to environmental changes so it is vital that you do all you can to make moving a stress-free experience for them – and you.

After a recent house move, we did some research on how to make the journey as smooth as possible. Fortunately, after taking the following precautions, all our fish arrived at our new home safe and sound.

First you’ll need to get together some water containers large enough to hold about half the water in the aquarium, some bags for the fish to swim around in during their journey and some polystyrene fish boxes to insulate the bags from the cold.


It’s best to avoid feeding the fish for two to three days before transporting them as this will reduce the level of waste contamination in the water and keep them healthy.

Fill the bags one third full with water from the aquarium as it’s important to maintain the fishes’ established environment. Never fill the bags to the top as they will suffocate.

Carefully transfer the fish to the bags using a fine mesh net, making sure not to put too many fish in each bag; no more than five to 10 small fish, or one to three large ones in each, based on an average size bag of 20 ins by eight. Add two or three drops of water conditioner to each bag to help the fish cope with the stress and seal the bags, trapping as much air as possible.

Wrap the bags in newspaper before placing them in the box and put a hot-water bottle in there to keep them warm. Don’t use boiling water – hot tap water is fine and wrap the bottle in a towel.

Next it’s time to remove the substrate from the bottom of the tank and rinse it using the remaining water from the aquarium – tap water should not be used. It should then be placed in a suitable container for transportation. The filter media should be left wet; don’t be tempted to rinse it under the tap as this will destroy the beneficial bacteria that has built up.

Having put yourself and your fish through so much inconvenience it would be a pity to go through it all again after you’ve moved in so now is a good time to think about upgrading your aquarium.

However, a word of caution – it’s important never to downsize the aquarium if the same number of fish are going to occupy it, and if you’re thinking of increasing your stock you’ll definitely need a bigger tank.

When the aquarium is in its new location add the substrate and original water, topping up with lukewarm tap water. Ideally the overall water temperature should be between 22 and 25 degrees for tropical fish, and room temperature for cold water species.


Before adding to the aquarium, tap water should always be treated with a water conditioner to remove chlorine, chloramines and heavy metals that are harmful to fish. Adding a dose of a proprietary biological supplement directly to the filter media will also help replenish any beneficial bacteria that have been lost in transit.


Before reintroducing the fish, float the fish bags in the tank for about 15 minutes to equalise the temperature before releasing them. Again, avoid feeding for two or three days to allow beneficial bacteria to build up in the aquarium filter.