Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Moving that effing fishtank...

So, I had a big long post written, but decided to scrap it.

It had all the moves I've done poorly in the past. Rather than bore you with the topic of dead fish, I decided just outline the "Sudz" way of moving a fish tank properly.

First, I'll just say this:  If you can't lift up your fish tank by yourself, then its too big to move on moving day. so, if you have 20 gallons or bigger, DEDICATE AN ENTIRE AFTERNOON/EVENING to it. Doing so will avoid in expensive errors and floating fishies.
Canister filters are easy to transport!

Some important information about your filter:
  • Your Filter is ALIVE. 
  • If it dries out, it dies. 
  • Circulating water through it is like "breathing"
  • If water isn't circulated for 2 hours, the Filter suffocates and starts to die. (even when wet!)
  • If your filter dies, it becomes toxic to your tank when you turn it on again
  • Your filter harbors good bacteria to process waste.
  • When your filter dies, the dead "good bacteria" contributes to that waste, and can no longer process it.
  • Dead Filter = Dead fish with out huge interventions
  • Your filter bacteria can be "weakened" by a move

More advanced stuff about your filter: 
(you can ignore this if you're falling asleep right now)
  • Friendly bacteria consists of 3 different "conversions"
  • Fish poop turns into Ammonia. (NH3)
  • Ammonia is highly toxic to fish.
  • Bacteria starts to thrive...
  • This Bacteria converts the Ammonia to Nitrite
  • Nitrite is highly toxic to fish (jebus, does it ever end?)
  • DIFFERENT bacteria starts to thrive
  • It converts Nitrite into Nitrate (NO2- to NO3-)
  • Nitrate is... safe in small amounts.
  • Nitrate is basically a fertilizer. Plants and water changes handle this to keep it manageable (under 20ppm is ideal)
  • While bacteria thrives and grows very quickly, it takes weeks or months to start a filter from "scratch". 
  • This is why keeping your filter alive is necessary - Because you've got a full tank of fish, and can't be starting a filter from scratch without a serious amount of work, and stress on your fish.

OK, start paying attention again. 

So, when you unplug your filter when you are starting your move, you have 2 hours before your filter dies. Start a timer.

Your mission, should you choose to accept, is to transport your filter and set it up within 2 hours.

Important information about your Tank:

  • Fishtanks are very strong, but brittle. Shock/points will shatter them, but the danger is bending
  • Bending/warping of the fishtank will crack the seals around the edges, and cause slow, or sudden, disastorous leaks a day after you fill it up again.
  • 90% of the tank strength is actually from the silicone that holds it together. (this has always scared the shit outta me)
  • It's important to lift from the bottom, as opposed to the "bear hug" from the side.
  • You cannot move a medium/large sized tank with water or gravel in it. (2 inches gravel + 5 gallons water = ~140 pounds. 
  • Don't even try to move a partially full larger tank (40 gallons or larger), no matter how many people you have. The sloshing of water will put too much stress on the tank.
  • And even then, with the custom stand, Good luck transporting it that way without it sliding off.

Onto the process:

My BEST Move:

About the Existing equipment: (with links)
  • 75 Gallon tank
  • Planted Heavily
  • Discus fish (Beautiful, fragile, EXPENSIVE fish)
  • Fluval 304 Canister Filter
  • Random Power-head
  • T5HO and LED lights
  • Rusty Steel tube stand at apartment
  • Nice new wooden stand at new house
  • 300 watt Heater
  • APC VA550 UPS
  • Light Timer
  • Water Testers (Nitrate, PH, Nitrite, Ammonia,)

Moving Equipment:
  • Involved 2 vehicles: a Mazda5, and a Honda Fit
  • 5x 4 gallon buckets from home depot ($25)
  • Old towels to clean slopped water
  • Gravel Vac/Python no SPill clean and fill
  • 32 Gallon Rubbermaid Industrial garbage can (rinsed, purchased new, with lid) ($40)
  • 100 Watt "backup" heater
  • Air Pump
  • Cardboard. Lots of cardboard.
  • Fiancee, and 2 good friends!

How I Move a fish tank:

Part 1: Prepping it
My Big Bucket-o-Fish
  • Unplug Lights, heater, Power Head (leave the filter!)
  • Drain Nice, Clean tank water (before you stir it up) into big 30ish gallon bucket. This should be about 15-20 gallons worth of water, your filter should still be able to run with your tank this low.
  • Plug in 100 Watt heater, Air bubbler into big bucket of water.
  • Unplug filter and plug back in when moved into big bucket.
  • You now have a big bucket with 20 Gallons of water, and fish, running with your heater, bubbler and filter.
  • Continue to drain "clean" water into a few buckets. (Leave enough buckets for the substrate/pebbles) 
  • Remove Plants and decorations. Be sure to rub them down and remove as much dirt/algae as possible. Put some plants in with the Fish in the large bucket. Put some in your water buckets.
Part 2: Tear Down
  • Drain the rest of the tank down to 2 inches, using a gravel vac. Try and vac the gravel as best you can. 
  • Stir up the gravel a lot when you have two inches of water left. Then start scooping it out and stirring it, putting the gravel into your remaining few empty buckets.
  • Once you have 90% of the gravel out, Drain the rest of the tank.
  • Scoop out the remaining gravel, and start cleaning/scrubbing your tank before it dries.
  • You might have to put some fresh water into your tank to get it nice and clean. Avoid Soaps. Some solvents are OK if properly rinsed afterwards, but I didn't use any. When in doubt, Just use elbow grease and an algae scraper pad from your local pet store.
  • Lay down some cardboard (no staples!) inside the vehcile. This is to prevent a pebble/point (seat latch, etc) in your dirty van from scratching or impacting on the glass. it also provides more uniform support for the bottom of the tank (important to prevent bending)
  • Move the tank, stand, and lighting equipment into a vehicle.
  • Now, if you don't have a UPS, Start the timer of doom. You have 2 Hours from this point.
Part 3: Moving it
  • Unplug your equipment currently running in the big bucket. Plug it back into the UPS, which will now be beeping, warning of a power outage.
  • Move the whole kit and caboodle into your car. Try and be gentle with the fish tank.
  • The UPS (if you have one) gives you an extra 30 minutes to play with. 
  • Drive slowly (smoothly) to your new house. 
  • Move Stand into new location, preferably across multiple floor joists (more on this)
  • Put cardboard or even better, styrofoam, unter the tank, on the stand. it will alleviate any pressure points.
  • Move rest of stuff inside
Part 4: Setup
  • Plug in UPS/powerbar so the filter/heater/bubbler runs again
  • Level Stand (Important: Not level = unbelievable stresses on fish tank, warping... doom)
  • Put small piece of cardboard in bottom of tank
  • Slowly pour/scoop gravel into tank
  • Slide out cardboard piece (was to prevent rocks from hitting glass directly)
  • Continue putting gravel in tank.
  • Fill tank a few inches with 80 degree, dechlorinated tap water.
  • Re-plant Plants, place decorations
  • Put in cardboard/plate something to pour water on so it doesn't mess up your "aquascaping"
  • Pour whatever tank water you saved in your smaller buckets into tanks,
  • Fill tank half way
  • Transplant heater, filter, to new tank and plug in, ensuring the heater is BELOW the water line.
  • Use warm/cold tap water to Equalize temperature between large bucket and tank
  • At this point, your fish tank should be half full of tap water, and half full of your Old fish tank water.
  • Continue to fill your fish tank  Your Big bucket should be about 1/4 full, your fish will be OK in there for about 30 minutes. You can add warm tap dechlorinated water occasionally if its cold in your house, to keep them warm. it also slowly acclimates them to the water they're about to be dumped in.
  • The Fish tank should be about 75% full
  • The filter running should have cleared the water a fair bit. It won't be crystal clear for about a day.
  • Do a Nitrate Test. If its in an acceptable range, (for hardy fish, 80-100ppm, for delicate fish, 20-40 ppm) Proceed to next step
  • Do a PH Test on both your big bucket, and the new aquarium  If its off by more than .4 (in my opinion) you should drip tank water into your big bucket via air hose to make it easier on your fish. when the PH is close, proceed to next step.
  • Transport your fish over by hand/net, or by slowly dumping the bucket. I like the hand method better, particularly with larger fish, because if you dump them all in at the same time, they're likely to dart around, freak eachother out, hit a glass wall and knock themselves out cold. One by one over 15 minutes is Slightly less intense for them.
  • You can take a breather now. (Your filter trickling into the water has probably made you have to pee.)
  • Keep an eye on the fish, and the temperature. The heater being bumped around might have changed its settings.
  • Assemble your lights and put them into place, but DO NOT TURN THEM ON for at least 24 hours.
  • Tidy up the wires, lines, filters, etc. 
  • Do Ammonia, and Nitrite tests every day at MINIMUM. if you ever read any of either of these, start doing 40-50% water changes daily. Your tank is going through a mini "cycle" as too much friendly bacteria has died. It'll take a while to build them up again. Do these tests daily for the first week, then you can ease them off. 
  • Top up the tank. (If you did a bad job at leveling the tank... you'll notice it now!)
  • if you have a magnetic algae scraper, you might want to remove the bubbles clinging to the glass. Its just aesthetics. No Negative impact.
  • Sit back and enjoy your tank - That was a lot of work!!!

Some notes and pointers:

  • If you have a Long move, you can cycle the UPS on and off. Running your filter for 5-10 minutes helps it breathe, almost resetting the 2 hour timer of doom. A cheapish 110volt car inverter would also do here, for longer moves. (note, if you have a good sized heater, you'll need a beefy inverter)
  • Bring Extra towels. you'll slop. Trust me.
  • When your fish are still in the tank, don't stir up the crap. It'll kill the fish. Nitrates are OK, but they're super concentrated int he gravel. if you HAVE to remove your driftwood/deocrations to catch your fish, do so VERY SLOWLY as to not stir up to much crud.
  • Planted tanks are harder to clean. the poop turns into dirt, and if you gravel vac a planted tank regularly, your plants don't do as well. So my tank was filthy.
  • Your Gravel also has a lot of "good" bacteria. Don't rinse it in tap water, the chlorine in tap water will kill the good stuff.
  • Its significantly easier to move a cansiter filter. a HOB (hang on back) filter like an aquaclear (which I love, fyi) Are harder, because you can't keep them running. if you have a hang on back filter, your best best is to rise the media in some tank water, Get rid of that dirty water, and then put all that relatively clean media into one of your water buckets.
  • If your fishtank is less than 55 gallons, put it anywhere against a load bearing wall, and you'll be fine.
  • If your fishtank is larger than 55 gallons, you need to carefully consider where you are putting it. I'd say a 125 gallon tank is the maximum you should have in a wooden house, unless you beef up the floor/frame around it.
  • Earlier I said to try and put your tank in a way that it will be supported by more than one floor joist. This is hard to explain. Your floor joists either run along the X or Y axis of the room. if you have a 4 foot fishtank, ideally, you could have your tank be supported by 3 or 4 joists. (plywood in the floor spreads out the load) If you run it in paralell with your floor joists, the majority of the weight will be carried by 1 or 2 joists. If that doesn't make sense, leave a comment with your questions!
Massively boring post. Next post isn't written yet, but I think it might be about installing a workbench in my garage!

It takes me a ton of time to write these posts! Please leave comments or spread this blog around if you are enjoying what you read!

I'll try to keep up with my new posts, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

See you Friday!

1 comment:

  1. That was almost as technical as if you'd written instruction for me to self-repair my computer - BUT should I ever have to move a fish tank (highly unlikely since I don't own one at present and after reading the foregoing, am very unlikely to do so) I will know how to do it properly -- hire Alex, LOL!!!