HOW-TO: Relocating/Moving Your Tank


Active Member
I've seen a number of people over the last few months ask about how to move their tank. I've moved 5 times in the last 18 months. I've moved a Red Sea Max twice, 14g Biocube three times, a 120g once, A 10g AGA, a 20g AGA, and tomorrow will be moving a 12g Aquapod to my office. Next week I'll be upgrading my 20aga to a 28g Nano Cube Quad CF. The 20g AGA will become a new home for a frog fish - my wife loves them!
I have moved hundreds of miles - I swear I'm a gypsy. But in all these moves, I have not lost a single fish, coral, or invert. I can say honestly and without reservation that this method works if done right.
Here's how I do it.
First, you need these things:

1. Buckets/Rubbermaid Bins for Live Rock
2. Buckets/Trash Cans for Water (KEEP YOUR WATER!)
3. An insulated cooler or Styrofoam container (see pic #1 below) for your inhabitants. Something about 25% the size of your tank.
4. LOTS of THICK (3mm minimum) trash bags
5. Nut/Bolt Organizer (see pic #2). You can get them at Home Depot. Get as many as you need, depending on how many corals you have.
6. Power inverter for your car ($30 at Target)
7. Powerhead
8. Heater
9. Airstone (Not required, but a good idea)
10. Extension Cord
11. New Saltwater on-hand - 20-30% of the total volume of your tank (e.g. for a 40g tank, have 8-12g's available)
Note: Line ALL your buckets/bins with at least two 3mm trash bags. Water may still leak, but at least it's manageable - the trash bags help break up the water movement during travel
Step 1:

Start moving your live rock into the buckets/bins. Make sure there are no snails, inverts, or sixline wrasses hidden in the crevices of this rock. Siphon the water out of your tank and fill these live rock buckets/bins with tank water. Make sure the live rock is completely submerged in the bucket/bin. Close the trash bags over the top and set them aside.
Note: If you're moving in the winter months, make sure not to keep these live rock bins in cold areas. Although your live rock is capable of handling temperature changes, It would be best to keep your live rock bins in the cab of your car during transport. The rock can handle 65-70 degree temperature, but any further below and the live rock could die from the cold, causing your tank to cycle when you return your rock to your tank.

Step 2:

Set up your insulated cooler or styrofoam container. Your fish and other live inhabitants will be transported in this container. If you feel weird about transporting your corals and your fish in the same container, separate them using two coolers. However, having smaller tanks, it always worked best for me to keep them all together.
Step 2a:
Take the bolt organizer and rip the top off it. If you want, you can remove some of the partitions inside this bolt organizer as well.
Step 2b:
Place two garbage bags inside your cooler and fill the cooler about half way with tank water. Submerge the bolt organizer in the cooler and place at the bottom. (See pic #3)

Step 2c:
Take all your corals and lay them down inside this bolt organizer. The corals will be heavy enough to keep this container still during transport. The plastic partitions help keep the corals from touching/stinging each other. Because there's no lid on the bolt organizer, they'll still get circulated water.
Note: I've never had a problem with the bolt organizer squishing any of my inhabitants, even my hippo tang who loves to nudge himself into any crevice he can find. I think because it's pitch black, it doesn't motivate him to dig himself into anything.
Step 2d:
Place your snails, inverts and fish inside this container.
Step 2e:
Place your powerhead, airstone, and heater inside the cooler, letting the cords dangle out. I placed my powerhead inside one of the partitions in the bolt organizer so it wouldn't move around. The heater can go anywhere. the airstone doesn't need to be completely submerged, but just make sure it has contact with the water.
Step 2f:
Fill the cooler a little more, about 2/3 full, and knot the trash bags, letting the cords hang out (See pic #4). I used an extension cord to plug in the heater, powerhead, and airstone pump. Keep this extension cord plugged in to your house as long as you need. I also taped the lid of my cooler shut. If you do this, make sure you don't crimp the line for your airstone. Once you're ready to go, move your cooler to the car and plug the extension cord into the power inverter. Your tank inhabitants have heat, air, and water movement. They'll be fine for up 24 hours like this. I've only kept them in there for that long once, and still want to stress that the less time they spend in there, the better, but they can handle extended periods of time like 24 hours.
Continued on second post....



Active Member
Step 3:Move the remaining water in your tank to buckets/bins and close the trash bags over them. The water does not need to be kept in the cab of your vehicle - it can be stored in cooler places. However, do not allow this water to freeze. Be sure you are able to tell the difference between your tank water and your new saltwater.
Step 4:

Leave all your sand in your tank along with enough water to keep your sand completely submerged. One gallon of salt water weighs 8 pounds. My 34 gallon Red Sea Max could handle 272 pounds of water. Factor in the 30 pounds of live rock and you've got a tank that can probably withstand 300 pounds of pressure. Having said that, it can certainly
handle 20-30 pounds of sand during transport. In every scenario, I've left the sand in the tank. It's best this way. Just make sure the tank is covered so nothing gets into it.

First, set up your tank/stand/etc. Place the live rock back into your tank, along with the water that was in the live rock buckets/bins. Put the old tank water back in there as well. Start removing the water from the cooler your inhabitants are in - as much as possible. Use the new saltwater to top off the tank. Get your tank up and running. Wait until it's back to a comfortable temperature (78-80 degrees) and move your inhabitants over - use whatever method you prefer. Some like the drip method, others prefer bagging and floating their inhabitants first. I've done both. Dispose of the remaining water in your cooler and YOU'RE DONE!


Well-Known Member

On behalf of all the folks who must move the tank...THANK YOU!
I also have moved...only 3xs...your info will work great.....HOWEVER..sand is too heavy to keep in the will break the seals and rock, unless over 24 hours out of water does not need water kept on them. That too would be too heavy to move....

Maybe could make this a keeper for others to be able to consult when needed.


New Member
i am geting ready to move and when i do i will be going from a 125 down to a 120 i am wondering what to do with my sand i am running a dsb on my current tank and will be on the new tank as well so i am just trying to figure out the best way tomove it with out causing any spikes or starting a new cycle thanks for the advice


GREAT THREAD (i wish i had its info when i inherited the 125g 2 months ago. but i faired well due to other information on this forum. i like the 10-12 gallon rubbermaids to transport water and rock because they are easy to move with two people.
and as an amendment to step #1.. find as much help as you can! AT LEAST ONE PERSON PER 25 GALLONS


I moved a few hundred miles not too long ago.
First of all, you should not feed for a few days before moving so your fish arent producing alot of waste while in the transport bags/containers. I did the move quick (24 hours from breakdown to set up), so i bagged all of my fish, put them in a cooler, sealed it and did not disturb it until i was ready to put the fish back in.) As tempting as it is, dont peak at your fish durring transport, it just stresses them even more.
I kept my deep sand bed in the fuge undisturbed, and also left the sand in my main tank undisturbed. ( i can see this being a problem in a much larger tank)
I would recommend sucking off about 5-10 gallons of water to put your fish/inverts/coral in before disturbing anything
. You dont want to be putting them in the water that has all sorts of junk stirred up in it because you already broke down your rock stack. After moving toss the water that you transported the fish in!
I also would not recommend using all of the same water from the display. I only kept about 10% of my old water and used 90% freshly mixed.


Active Member
Originally Posted by Jayson417
How can i move the sand from my 46 to my new 75 without causing spikes?
What would be the steps?
I don't think you'll have to worry about a spike, but you may get a cyano outbreak, which is normal and it goes away. It normally happens whenever you stir up the sand a lot when you haven't done anything with it for a while. Each time I overhaul or move my tank, I shake up my sand as much as possible with about 1 inch of water above the sand, kicking up as much dirt into the extra 1 inch of water as possible. Then I vacuum out the inch of water. It does a pretty good job of cleaning up the buried detritus that may cause a small cycle.
Keep in mind that when you move the sand/rock/water, you'll need to let it run for a few hours so it can clear up... you want your water clear and the temp right before you add your inhabitants.


Active Member
Originally Posted by calbert0
First of all, you should not feed for a few days before moving so your fish arent producing alot of waste while in the transport bags/containers.
I disagree. The move will be stressful for your fish... make sure they are stong, because you're certainly not going to feed them during transport. I get the reason why you wouldn't want to feed them, but it will be stressful, and if they're hungry before the move, then stressed when you return them to the tank, they may not survive... shock AND starvation is never easy for a living thing to get through.
Originally Posted by calbert0

I also would not recommend using all of the same water from the display. I only kept about 10% of my old water and used 90% freshly mixed.
I like keeping the same water because it doesn't shock the fish as bad. If it's vastly different than the water they've been swimming in for months, it probably won't hit them as hard when you start putting everything back together. It wouldn't be bad to use freshly mixed, and if that's what you prefer, then totally - go with it. But for me, it takes another piece out of the puzzle when you don't have to re-mix most of your tank. The choice is yours.


Active Member
Originally Posted by Flower
sand is too heavy to keep in the will break the seals and rock, unless over 24 hours out of water does not need water kept on them. That too would be too heavy to move....

I agree with you about the sand being too heavy in larger applications. On my 34g, it wasn't a big deal. But if you're moving a 120g, that's easily over a hundred extra pounds of sand inside the tank, on top of the weight of the tank itself. It would be awful to move.
On smaller applications, you don't have to worry so much about the tank warping and stressing - 30 lb's of sand isn't going to destroy the seams in a 30g, especially if the tanks seams are designed to withstand literally ten times that weight in water and rock.


FYI most garbage bags are full of toxins to keep smells in, try using food safe bags they might be tricky to get your hands on but you can get them


Great thread! I'm not thinking about moving for a while, but my 125G 6' long tank is on wall-to-wall carpet that I would really like to replace between now and next Spring. I was thinking they would have to cut around it, but this gives me food for thought. Thanks


Thats pretty much how I moved mine, the downside to it is that i found that the LR should really be firmly planted on the bottom glass of the tank when you do your setup and with all the sand in there from the move thats really not possible. So either way you need to take the sand out. next time im going to put it in 5 gal buckets with water on top to keep it wet. put my LR base in and then add my sand inside of large baggies to the bottom of the tank open and distribute.


So i finished my move, took alittle over 8 hours, We merged a 55 and 46 into a 75 and took down the other 2. I bought a dust pan "plastic" and used that to scope the sand perfectly flat so i didn't disturb it.
We completed the move two days ago and everything is going good. One issue we ran into was our Jebo Skimmer 180 is now making tons of micro bubbles again which is a pain and now its been two days and the bubbles are still there.
Thanks for the help :)


New Member
excellent thread! I will be moving back home once college is over and will revert to this thread before the move!
thank you.