Moving??? Some Suggestions for You

by | Jun 9, 2023 | Tanks | 0 comments

Recently a fellow local hobbyist made plans to move to a new house. I was asked to re-home some of his livestock and I offered to give him a hand in the process of preparing them.  Sure you can try to sell everything at a huge loss or if you are getting out completely but give yourself more time to consider which choice is best.

I previously moved a 90 gallon reef system just 20 miles to my current location. I did it all by myself in a single long day (from 8am to 3am the next morning). A new 125 gallon tank setup was already running for 2 weeks.  Since I had to transfer all my livestock over it was very stressful. I would definitely not do that again. The following suggestion is a less stressful alternative.

Similar to a prior article titled “The Great Reset” there are somethings you should plan prior to attempting the task. I will always remind people of the 6Ps (Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance).  That applies to everything in life and not just a business lingo.  The information below should help him prepare for before, during, and after the move.


So what is the goal?  Based on his response the suggestions will be completely different.

Attempting to sell everything off can be tedious due to the time constraints and high value loss. Due to rising costs he will never recoup what he has if he sold on the used marketplace or “Equipment Vultures”. In this case the best alternative based on time and cost were the following. Ultimately saving the rock /sand is up to you with respect to cost versus effort.

  • Re-home all the remaining livestock
  • Clean and Pack all Equipment to be ready to Move
  • Move & Store
  • Determine where the new location for the tank will be
  • Re-set up the system in the near future

Equipment Needed

  • Livestock Removal
    • 5 gallon buckets
    • Large totes to hold live rock and use for citric acid and bleach baths and storing equipment
    • Nets and Specimen cups to catch fish
    • Siphon hose
  • Cleaning
  • Additional storage boxes for some of the peripherals to keep everything together.

Dedicate Time:

  • Plan/schedule a whole day and get it on the calendar for those who are helping ahead of time

Removing Livestock

  1. Arrange for someone or LFS to take the livestock
  2. Remove all sessile and easily accessible organisms
  3. Remove all desirable livestock off or in rocks (use a hammer and chisel as necessary)
  4. Remove all Rocks into totes for cleaning and storage
  5. Power down the system
  6. Inspect your tank silicone and salt creep to see if it needs to be re-sealed in the future
  7. Remove majority of the water into the 5 gallon buckets so you can easily catch/transfer the fish

Breaking Down the System

  1. Take pictures of the system, how it is currently configured and connected for future reference
  2. Remove all lights and mounts
  3. Disconnect pumps, heaters, reactors, skimmers, controllers etc
  4. Remove any sand and remaining water from the bottom of the tank and overflows manually or with the wet/dry vacuum
  5. Remove all water and detritus from the sump with the wet/dry vacuum (if applicable)
  6. Clean each peripheral as you disconnect it to avoid confusion but can be done in parallel if help is available
    1. Note: soaking in citric acid may be necessary to get everything super clean
  7. Clean the tank with water, spray with acid to soften/dislodge coralline algae, and scrape with razor blades
  8. Scrub surfaces down with melamine sponges and silicone seals with tooth brushes
  9. Perform the same in the sump. (If removeable, bring outside to hose out)
  10. Once everything is clean, store it in the totes and create an inventory list to tape on the outside of the tote
  11. Disconnect any plumbing at the unions (if available) to separate the tank from the sump and stand
  12. Remove the sump
  13. Clean the stand

Cleaning the Live Rock for Storage

To avoid headaches in the future it is best to remove as much of the organics from the live rock as possible.

  1. Power wash the loose debris/algae off the surface of the rocks
  2. Soak the rocks in an acid bath (2oz citric acid per quart of water) for a few hours (but not overnight) to strip the bound phosphate on the calcium carbonate rock
  3. Rinse with water
  4. Soak in a diluted bleach/water mixture (1 gallon bleach to 10 gallon water bucket) or 1:10 ratio over night
  5. Rinse with water and inspect/smell
  6. If you still smell organics repeat the bleach and rinse cycle as needed
  7. Soak in freshwater overnight
  8. Pull rocks out to dry (bleach smell will dissipate on its own)
  9. Once adequately dry for a few days, store in tote with some holes to keep ventilated

Cleaning the Sand

  1. Rinse the sand out with tap water till it runs clear stirring by hand
  2. Drain as much water out of the bucket
  3. Pour the sand out on newspaper or tarp to dry
  4. Once dry store back in a labeled  5 gallon bucket, keep it ventilated


Wrap the tank, stand, and sump in moving blankets. Secure them with tape.  An appliance dolly will be best for moving the tank and stand to where its new permanent location is. Once this is done the new journey of re-establishing the system will begin.


Hopefully the above pointers will provide some tips on how to proceed. At minimum it will give you more time to think about how to proceed in the future instead of rushing and selling stuff at a huge loss due to time constraints.

  • Ellery Wong

    Ellery is a mechanical systems engineer at a Fortune 500 technology company. He has automation experience in the automotive, appliance, printing and robotics industries as a product development professional but also has over 35 years of saltwater aquarium experience as a hobbyist. He currently maintains a 9 tank / 540 gallon SPS/LPS/Mixed systems. DIY is his forte!

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