Remember, there is no need to rush. Take the trip home real easy, avoiding quick stops, potholes, and sharp turns. When you reach your destination, reverse the order. Remove the livestock first and get them inside, along with the water containers. I like to leave the tank outside to be cleaned up a little later. Position the tank stand in its new location. Bring in the remaining items, some of which will need to be cleaned up before using. If you are moving reef tank into a new tank, you should have it already in place.
This is Actually moving reef tank part 2
At this point, you need to get the livestock situated in a stable environment from their long journey as soon as possible. Start changing over the water in the quarantine tanks with the original water from the moved tank. I usually use 50 to 100% of the original tank water, depending on the water temperature and other parameters of both the old and new water. If you did your homework, they will be about the same. Try to use mostly the old water, with the quantity of new water equivalent to a normal water change, about 10-20%. The percentage used will depend on the difference in both water temperatures and the condition of the old water. If the temperatures are close (within 5 degrees), start floating the bags of fish and invertebrates in the quarantine tank. If you are using a new tank, try to use as much of the old water as possible, up to 80%, adding freshly mixed salt water for the remainder (you should have already mixed this up the day before). Drain the original tank filters from the move and rinse out the bio-media in the old tank water.
You will want to get the filters up and running on the quarantine tanks as soon as possible to save the bacteria contained within. Hook up the wet-dry, if there is one, and protein skimmer on the quarantine tank and get them running as soon as possible. If you are using a new tank, hook everything up to this tank. If you have new filters, seed these with the media from the old filters. At this time, you need to acclimate the livestock to the quarantine tanks and get them out of the bags. If the temperature and water parameters are the same, and the water is 80% or more of the original tank water, it shouldn’t take more than 20-30 minutes, adding some of quarantine tank water every 10 minutes. If there are any differences in the water parameters or the length of time in the bags is more than a couple of hours, the acclimation time should be extended accordingly. Keep the lighting off for at least the balance of the day on the quarantine tanks. Make sure there is plenty of water flow in the tank with the corals. I prefer to keep the corals in a separate quarantine tank from the fish. You will also need adequate lighting, depending on the particular type of coral, by the second day. Generally, the less the fish are disturbed during this period, the better. Feeding should be held off to the next day.
Add some of the original tank water to the 32-gallon plastic trash container and start placing the live rock in the bottom. I run a three-foot length of rigid plastic tubing to the bottom of the container and hook it up to an air pump for aeration. Then, place a powerhead along the wall of the container to move the flow of water in a circular motion. You can fill this container up to halfway with rock and the live rock will keep for quite a while, until you are ready to move it into the main tank. Depending on how much live rock you have, you may need more than one container. Keeping these containers loosely covered will reduce evaporation. You will need to clean the live sand or gravel by rinsing it in the original tank water from the move, and placing it in one of the 32-gallon containers, using the same set-up as the live rock. During the next several weeks, you will start doing 10% water changes every 3-4 days, until the new tank is completely set up. Keep an eye on the fish for any signs of disease or parasites and treat accordingly. If you need to treat the tank, make sure there are no invertebrates in the tank and remove the bio-media to another tank. Only run a sponge filter in the tank for the period of treatment.
Now you have the time to clean up the moved tank and equipment, and set it up the way you want. Once you have the tank and equipment in place, add freshly mixed saltwater and start the system running. Get the temperature stabilized over a couple of days, then add the live sand or gravel. After about a week, add the live rock. At this point, I would move the wet-dry filter, if there is one, to the relocated tank, and get the protein skimmer running. After a few more days, you can gradually start adding in the fish, but spread this over a week or two. Any starfish, hermit crabs, snails, etc can be added at this time. The corals can be added about a week after the fish, spreading them out over a week or two. The lighting will need to be in place and working at this point.
If you are using a new tank, and the old tank was maintained properly and the livestock is in excellent health, then you can set everything up on the new tank, get the old filters running, add the gravel and live rock, and add the fish and corals after everything settles, all in the same day. Just be careful how long the livestock is in the bags, as the water will deteriorate. You may want to add fresh air to the livestock bags. Keep a close eye on the water parameters, especially ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, during this entire period. If you take your time and don’t try to rush the process, you will not have a problem. If there is a problem, correct it immediately before proceeding with any more additions. If the tank you moved was overstocked to begin with, you will need to remedy this situation by giving away some of the livestock, or setting up an additional tank. You do not want to overstock the new tank during this break-in period.
If you followed the above procedure, your tank should be fully up and running within a month. It is crucial that you do not rush this or take shortcuts. This procedure has proved successful for a number of moves, including a 55-gallon, a 75-gallon and two 125-gallon reef tanks. Good luck with your next move, and let me know how it went!
by Marty Ziegler
First published in Gravel Gossip, Diamond State Aquarium Society