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Suggestions for Moving a Reef Tank

By John J. Meek

Of all of the things a reef tank owner must face, the thought of moving their tank can be most stressful. I will attempt to alleviate this stress and provide some guidelines which, if followed, should allow the move to go smoothly.

First and foremost, plan, re-plan and plan again. Moving your reef is a task that can be relatively smooth and create minimal stress on you and the inhabitants of your reef if done in a well thought out manner.

Things to ask yourself:

How large is the tank?
This has a lot to do with your planning. How many gallons of water will you need to transport? How many people will it take to lift the tank? How big will the truck need to be to move it in? (I used 2 pick ups to move my 100 gallon tank). Obviously, the smaller the tank, the easier it is to move. I have moved tanks ranging from 10 � 100 gallons. Let me promise you that, physically, the 10 is much easier to move but planning and preparation are still necessary.
How much live rock and live sand do I have?
This too has to be carried. You will need to provide enough containers to transport these items while keeping them covered with water.
How many corals and fish will I need to transport?
You will need coolers to transport these in an attempt to maintain temperature.
How long is the drive?
A long drive may require aeration of the water or heating/cooling.
How many friends can I call on?
Make no bones about it. This is going to be work. The more help you have, the quicker the move will go and the less your back will ache when you're finished.
Where will I put the tank once I get there?
The time to decide where to put your tank is now, before the truck is rolling. Why? Time is of the essence. Those fish and corals are stuck in some small cooler with no light and no filtration. You need to get them into their new home as soon as possible.
Do I have power available?
This may seem obvious but I have run into situations where the perfect place to put the tank had no power available. Now is the right time to make the decision of having an electrician add outlets or change the tank location.

OK. We're just about ready. Some additional preparations are needed.

When you move a reef tank, it is best to try and move as much of the existing saltwater as possible. This greatly reduces the stress on the inhabitants of the tank. It is not possible to move all of the water and, in addition, you will not want to use all of the water you have moved. I would suggest that you have enough saltwater mixing at your destination for a 25 � 30% water change. That should be enough to fill your system at it's new home.

Well, it's finally move day. You have gathered enough clean plastic buckets, garbage cans and coolers to transport everything. You have plastic bags to put the skimmer, heaters, probes and anything else that is wet in. It's time to get busy.

Unplug the heaters, lights, pumps, etc. and let everything cool down. This is important. If the heaters are removed when hot, they may crack. The lights need to be cool so that they can be handled if necessary. The ballasts need to cool down so that they can be carried. And you are going to be wet. Electricity and water are not a good combination.

Lift off the hood and set it carefully aside or load it into the truck. Siphon some water into the cooler(s) reserved for the fish. This will ensure that they have nice, clean water in which to swim while they are being transported.

Begin removing the corals and placing them into the cooler(s). When you have filled the cooler, siphon enough tank water into it to cover the corals. Remember that water is heavy and that you need to be able to lift the cooler when it is full. Continue until you have removed all of the corals. Now, the live rock. Place it into buckets and again cover with water siphoned from the tank.

So, now you have a tank with some fish, water and sand. And the water is murky. The fish are next.

Carefully, capture the fish. The best method I have heard of is not to net them but to use the net to corral them into a glass. That way, they are never out of water and the stress is kept to a minimum. Once all of the fish and invertebrates have been moved to the cooler(s), siphon as much of the remaining water as possible into the garbage cans or buckets as you can. Remember to reserve enough buckets to hold the sand. Scoop the sand into the bucket(s). It should be wet enough as is to move without adding water.

After the tank is empty, disconnect all of the plumbing and place in plastic bags for transporting. Carefully lift the tank off of the stand and load it into the truck. Finally, load up the stand and all of the other items. Fire up the truck(s) and head for your destination.

You have arrived. Move the stand into place. Level it. Place the tank on the stand. Hook up the plumbing. Add the sand and rock. Put some water in the tank. Add the corals. Fill the tank with water being careful not to put the detritus that has settled into the bottom of the containers back into your tank. Top it off with the fresh saltwater that you have mixing. Plug everything in and ensure that all is working properly. When the temperature is stable, acclimate the fish as you normally would and then add them to the tank.

Sit back, relax and enjoy. You deserve it! It's been a long day.

Note: also have a read of James Wiseman's talk on Moving Reef Tanks .

Created by liquid
Last modified 2006-11-24 18:41