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Q10159 - HOWTO: Moving a Reef Tank, Part 2
Moving a Reef Tank, Part 2 by Mike PalettaNow that all the preparations are made and all the eventualities within reason have been planned for it is time for the big move. During the move, try to do things as systematically as possible as this will save crucial time. The first thing that you want to do is siphon as much water as you can without leaving the corals high and dry. Don't throw this water out, as this will be the water that you'll use for packing the animals, so fill the bags you are using for transport and place the bags within the Styrofoam boxes. The reason that you want it out first is twofold: first, it enables you to provide clean water for your charges for their trip, and second, you took it out before you started stirring up the tank so the water remains clean and without any detritus. Also by lowering the water level, it will be easier to work in the tank. While the water is being drained, all of the equipment should be unplugged with the exception of the lights, this will reduce the likelihood of any electrical shock while the animals are being removed. Once the water is removed it is time to start taking out the animals. Start first by removing the animals that are easiest to remove, that is those that are not wedged in or holding something else in. Since you are going to remove everything in the tank, removing the easiest pieces will save time in the long run. Carefully remove each piece and then place it in its individual bag. For the more delicate pieces of coral that you have (Acropora, Xenia, Anthelia etc.) it may be necessary to hang these upside down in the bag from a piece of Styrofoam. Simply place a rubber band over their base and wrap this rubber band over a small block of Styrofoam. Then place this block in the bag with the animal hanging upside down. This method of shipping will prevent the animal from being smashed during transit as well as allow any detritus on the base rock to fall to the bottom of the bag rather than sit on the animal.

Once the easy pieces are removed, the larger or more firmly attached pieces should be removed and placed in their bags. Please make sure that all of the bags have adequate water in them for the size of the animal in them. Don't try to scrimp in terms of space or water when placing the animals in their respective bags. The weight of animals and water should be balanced within their boxes both in terms of overall weight in each box, but also in terms of weight distribution within the box so that a box doesn't inadvertently tip over in transit. Also, if you can possibly avoid it, do not place more than one specimen in each bag. Eventually all of the corals and other invertebrates will be removed, leaving only the live rock and fish remaining in the tank. Even though the invertebrates are now in their bags, do not seal the bags yet. This will be done last once everything is packed so that as much oxygen as possible will be in the bags during shipment.

The next step is removal of the live rock, which is slightly different than the removal and packing of the corals. For shipping purposes, it is desirable to have the largest pieces in the bottom of the box. What I do when shipping live rock is first place a couple of thick garbage bags in the Styrofoam box and then fill the bag with an inch of water. Then place the largest pieces of live rock in the bottom of the box with smaller and smaller pieces placed on top. This is done to prevent the larger pieces from crushing the smaller pieces. Next cover the rock with paper towels (a good quality kind that doesn't break down immediately when wet) and allow the towels to touch the water. This will allow the rock to remain moist and clean unlike when newspaper is used which may bleed ink or other compounds into the water and is also denser than paper towels; which may reduce the ability to exchange oxygen. Once again the bag should not be sealed at this time.

The last remaining inhabitants to be removed should be the fish and any non-sessile invertebrates (i.e. shrimp, snails, etc.). These should be captured as quickly as possible and placed in the remainder of the bags that were filled with the original clean water. These bags should then be placed in their own box and not sealed. If a biological filter is part of the tank's set-up it should be shipped just like the live rock, moist rather than submerged.

Once the animals and everything else has been removed, the tank should be marked so that when new water needs to be made up once the trip is completed it can be done in an expeditious manner by simply filling the tank to the mark. The remainder of the water can be drained off and the equipment can then be removed, wrapped and carefully packed for shipping. If possible, use the original cartons for shipping as these will greatly reduce the chances of breakage; particularly for the glass pieces like heaters and electrodes. If these are not available, bubble wrap or like material should be used for wrapping.

These hard goods should then be placed in the mover's van or your vehicle for transit. At this point it is time to do final preparations for shipping the animals. If oxygen is available it should be placed in the bag and the bags should then be sealed and placed in the boxes that should also be sealed. If oxygen is not available then an air pump should be used to introduce air into the bags before they are sealed. If it is hot or cold, heat packs or cold packs should be added to the boxes before they are sealed: try and keep the temperature relatively constant. Once all of the boxes are sealed, they should be placed in their transit vehicle. If they are going to be exposed to extremes of temperature, they should be wrapped in blankets.

If the animals are going to be in transit for less than 30 hours there is nothing that should be done for them during their trip as long as they were packed properly with lots of water. If they are going to be in transit for greater than this period then a few grains of carbon should be placed in each shipping bag. Also if the trip is longer than 30 hours then periodically along the way the bags should be opened to allow for additional oxygen to be introduced. Even better if it is possible for long trips partial water changes should be done for the most delicate fish and corals.

Once the animals have arrived at their final destination, the first thing that should be done is to open the bags to allow oxygen to enter the water. Air pumps should not be used to force air into the water as this may drive off CO2, which would cause the pH to rise and this would result in any ammonia that had accumulated becoming more toxic. Once the bags are oxygenated, the tank should be set up in reverse order of how it was taken down. Water should be placed in the tank to the mark that was made plus an additional 10 to 20% to make up for that which was lost during transit. Salt should be added to this to bring it to the proper salinity and the water's temperature should also be within a degree of the temperature of the water in the bags. This temperature may only be 66 or 68 degrees, but at this point the concern is to not shock the animals and get them into a stable environment as soon as possible. In a best case situation water should be made up for the new tank and left in the new residence before the move. This will reduce the caustic nature of newly prepared seawater on the animals and make it much easier to make the move. Once again this is where it is beneficial to have a new fish friend in the new location. If this is not possible, a water conditioner might be added to the new water at this point to reduce some of the caustic properties which freshly made up saltwater has. Any improvements or changes to equipment should be made while this water is being made up with the primary consideration being not to cause any delay in getting the animals back into their home.

Once the water is in satisfactory condition and the equipment is reinstalled, the live rock should then be removed from its packing box and the paper towels removed. If anything has died in transit, it should also be removed at this time. The rock should be placed together loosely so that large gaps are present between the rocks: rather than it resembling some great wall. Once the rock is in place the invertebrates should be acclimated to the new water for 20-30 minutes with as much water from their bags as possible being placed in the tank so as to reduce any chances for shock. At this point, the fish should also begin to be acclimated for introduction, once the corals are back in the tank. During this time, any extra water that came from the original tank that is in the shipping bags should be added to the tank. While the corals and fish are floating in the tank to be acclimated, the water level should be high enough to start and run the equipment. If any problems exist, correct them. The lights should also be turned on at this time, but not at full strength, as you don't want to shock the animals since they have been in the dark for quite some time. The corals should then be placed in the tank in close to their final desired places. Please note however that they don't have to be placed perfectly as right now we are more concerned with saving time than perfect placement. Once these are placed within the tank the fish can be gradually introduced.

Once the fish are in the tank I have found it advantageous to leave the lights on the first night for 10 or 11 hours in order to allow the fish to get accustomed to their new surroundings. This also allows the corals time to drive off some of the CO2 and waste that they have accumulated while being in the dark by allowing their algae to metabolize these waste products. At this point it might also be a good idea to provide some carbon filtration and good water flow to further remove any waste products that have accumulated. Over the course of the next few days the lights can be placed on their regular schedule.

Going through all of this effort may seem extravagant; however, the final result of a successful move with minimal losses is well worth the effort. If you have a job where you frequently need to move, I strongly suggest that you keep the size of your reef small, in order to reduce the stress on both yourself and the inhabitants that frequent moving will undoubtedly produce.

Mike Paletta is the author of The New Marine Aquarium and Ultimate Marine Aquariums. He has been in the hobby for over 15 years and has written numerous articles for Aquarium Fish Magazine, Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Aquarium Frontiers.
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Article Details
Created on 4/13/2006.
Last Modified on 5/10/2006.
Last Modified by Administrator.
Article has been viewed 3236 times.
Rated 9 out of 10 based on 5 votes.
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