This exercise is very similar to moving an aquarium from house to house, but escapes some of the disruption and the need for transport. This leads to another plus in that virtually anything that is strong enough and seawater safe could be used as a temporary holding vessel. If transport were required the containers would need to be able to stand the rigours of the road.
Obviously the first thing required is the new aquarium, and a sump if one is to be used. The aquarist should have decided if the new system is going where the old one was or if there is somewhere suitable elsewhere for it is to be positioned. If the second is the case then procedures are a little easier. Normally, however, the new aquarium is to go where the old aquarium is.
Be sure that the floor is strong enough to support the increased weight of the new aquarium if it is bigger. Any doubt, get qualified advice.
A full check should be made that all necessary upgrades of equipment are available. If the new system is of a similar size to the previous one perhaps upgrades of the equipment will not be required. If the new system is substantially bigger than the old one a check of the protein skimmer should be made to ensure its capacity is suitable. Likewise calcium reactors and other equipment. The bottom line is that the new system should be complete, the realisation that equipment should have been upgraded during the transfer is not disastrous but could have been avoided.
The old aquarium cannot be moved with seawater, rocks and sand. Seawater safe containers are required to hold these temporarily. They cannot be placed in the new aquarium until it is in position. The containers can basically be anything. The capacity required can be generally judged from the net gallonage of the old system.
Have a supply of cloths standing by to mop up the inevitable drips or spills.
It is a good idea before the move – a day or two before – to draw a basic diagram of how the reef looks with its corals. This will assist in the placement of the rocks/corals in the new system.
Talking of rocks, it could be that further live rock or rock is required for the larger aquarium to increase the size of the reef. Or maybe the aquarist is to redesign the reef, or leave it as it is to increase swimming space. If further rock is required, arrange to collect it as early as possible on the day of the move or as near to the move as possible.
Obviously, the net gallonage of the new aquarium is going to be more than the old one if it is larger. If more rock is to go in this will offset it somewhat. Take the gallonage of the old system away from the gallonage of the new system and prepare new seawater to the normal specific gravity and temperature in advance.
It is a good idea to talk to a friend (or more depending on the size of the aquariums) so that physical assistance is available for lifting. Don’t forget to have a few beers on hand!
Right then, the day has arrived and all is ready. The first thing is to move the old aquarium. The night before the light control should have been set so that the lighting does not activate on the day of the move. The first action is to turn off the heaters and protein skimmer etc.
This is going to be a stressful time for the fish (and corals), and so even though the desire is just to speedily get on with it, try and be as gentle as possible.
Take as much seawater out as possible without over exposing corals and put it into the waiting containers- the containers should be half filled. Take the top layer of rocks out and place them into the containers, displacement will raise the seawater level. Continue doing this until the rocks are out. Beware of damaging corals.
If there is a sump, then this can be emptied, moved and then used as a container.
Once the old system is down to seawater in the bottom, the question of the fish arises. It is best to have a container empty of rock but fairly full of seawater that has been removed from the old aquarium. Now the fish can be caught – they will try their best not to be and it may be that two nets will shorten the process, or they can, one at a time, be chased into a container. As already said, try to avoid over stress, but stress itself will not be avoided. Gently release the fish into the container. Hopefully, the delay in transferring them back will be short. If there is any doubt about their welfare, put in an airstone and a small heater (hang the heater up away from the bottom as the stressed fish will try to hide behind it – it is the only object available to them).
The old aquarium is now ready for moving. If there is seawater left in it, remove and save as much as possible but avoid any detritus that is present.
Your friend or friends can now bring their muscles into action. Move the old aquarium to its pre-designated place. If the stand is to move, now is the time.
While the area is clear, any dust etc that could not be reached can be cleared.
Again with friendly help, the new stand can be put in place. Check with a spirit level that all is well front to back and end to end. All should be well if it was with the old aquarium. Ensure that it is exactly where it should be and that there is access to the electricity supply.
The new aquarium can now be put into place. Make sure it is properly supported under the base plate.
If a sump is to be used, then it can be placed into position. Connect the seawater down-feed and, if it is required, silicone the joints. Silicone takes 24 hours to cure so when the tank is filled do not allow the seawater to reach this overflow.
Once the sump is in place, if silicone has been used place the switched off heaters temporarily in the display aquarium. Fix in position circulators such as powerheads.
Now put seawater into the display tank, if there are containers with seawater in but without rocks and fish use this first. Try to use the old seawater first as far as possible, not the new mix. When the seawater has risen high enough to take the first rocks, place these in. Then take more seawater, then more rocks. As before, be careful with the corals. Eventually, all the rocks will be in and covered in seawater.
When putting the rocks in attempt to be reasonably accurate, but do not delay too much as some adjustments can be made later. At this point, reasonable speed is important.
Once the seawater is high enough, and there isn’t any danger of falling rocks, turn on the heater(s) if they have been put temporarily in the display aquarium. Once the circulators are covered sufficiently, turn them on.
Using remaining seawater, including the new mix if necessary, bring the level up. If silicone has been used, do not cover this up. If silicone was not used, bring the level fully up- if a sump has been fitted this will now start to fill from the overflow. The heater(s) can be turned on if they were placed in the sump as long as they are well covered with seawater. Once the sump is full, turn on the return pump. Check for levels once it has been running a little while.
The fish can now be gently transferred from their holding container to the new aquarium. If seawater has been used from their container it will not cause problems to them, as long as they have sufficient remaining. Remember to turn off the small heater and air stone if used. The heater should be allowed to cool in seawater before removal.
The system is now heated, has filtration and is stocked. Now is the time for that beer!
If it is not late, clearing up can be done. In any event, if the old aquarium needs to be moved again get the friendly muscle to assist while there.
All is not yet done of course. If silicone was used on the pipe work to the sump, once it is dry (after 24 hours it should not be sticky or give off a smell) the seawater can be brought up to the proper level. Once there, the return pump can be turned on. Final level adjustments may need to be made. In addition, the heater(s) that were placed temporarily in the main aquarium can be transferred to the sump. Make sure they are switched off and allowed to cool in seawater before they are moved.
The protein skimmer can now be put in place and turned on, as can any other equipment.
The lights can be positioned and connected, but it is a good idea to let the fish settle a little before turning them on. A full day is a decent period (the corals will not suffer).
Check for leaks, these are unlikely. Check the proper functioning of equipment. Make sure the seawater temperature is correct.
When the lighting is activated, adjustments to the reef structure can be made. Do this carefully, as the fish are de-stressing and there isn’t a desire to stress them again.
Account for the fish – are they all there? They need time to feel secure, this will be after they have explored and got used to their new home. There may be some bickering over the new housing arrangements.
Try some food, but feed like a miser to start. Make sure food does not get left to rot.
It’s done! Keep an eye on the fish for any problems following the stress they have endured over a period of a week or two. Aquarists should routinely keep an eye on them anyway.
All that’s left is to watch the new reef develop. If the friends left any beer, get one out and just enjoy.