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Moving Aquariums Handout

Bob Fenner  

This is another in the series of handouts you may find useful to make available to your staff and customers as handouts. They provide a standard guideline, making sure a uniform, concise,

workable position/solution is available. These promote your company by associating your good name with the goodwill of necessary information being shared. We present copies to our customers inside the new aquaria, as handouts they may take on visiting our outlets, and we mail them in response to inquiries to make sure our customers have adequate instructions.

Moving Aquaria

From time to time all aquatic systems have to be moved. This handout details steps to safely and efficiently get a system from one place to the next.

I) Materials needed: As with all projects the first step after planning is gathering the necessary tools and materials for the job. For moving aquaria these are:

Siphon(s) of large and small diameter.

Hoses with adaptors for filling and emptying.

Water treatment chemicals.

Test gear; thermometer, test kits.

Nets; large and small.

Trash cans and/or buckets.

Bags and/or liners and rubber bands.

Gloves for everyone doing lifting.

Possibly a large, flat board, hand truck, cart, water 

pump and hoses.

Truck or adequate size car with blankets, cardboard, et al. for mechanical Insulation.

Depending on how far, how many organisms are involved, you might need an air pump and airstone, kiddy wading pool with net

      cover, heater, extension cord.

Adequate help to do the job.

II) Next consideration must be given as to the final destination of the system. Do you have a key to the building? Is the electricity and water on, if necessary? Are there other people you need to contact? Basically, is the pre-designated area ready to receive the system?

III) Once you've gathered all the tools and materials together and you're sure the sites are ready, you can make preparations to:

A) Drain the system

B) Remove livestock, if any

C) Remove as much weight from the system as possible

D) Move the system

E) Re-set Up

F) Re-introduce livestock

A) Dewatering: 

In general as much of the system's water should be saved as practical. If a good percentage of the upper water column can be moved with the system (in separate containers)

shock on your livestock will be lessened considerably. Take a few moments to test your water's pH, salinity, and/or temperature and write the information down. Typical considerations of venting water to waste apply.

1) Know where you're dumping! Toilets and sewer clean-outs are OK. Sweetwater or street drainage is a no-no in some communities. System water may not be suitable for landscape irrigation.

2) Take care not to clog drain lines with sand or gravel. Unless you're siphoning out the substrate on purpose, screen the discharge.

3) Keep your eye on the discharge! Overflows, spills, hoses flopping out are big potential problems.

B) Removing Livestock:

As previously mentioned, as much water should be saved and moved with the system as practical. This is best coordinated with the moving of livestock.

1) In as large an uncontaminated container as you and available help can safely lift, fit a doubled polyethylene fish bag or doubled trash-can liners.

2) Siphon, pump, scoop water into the bags about half full.

3) Net, bail, hand catch livestock and move to bags.

4) Depending on the duration of the trip and concentration of livestock the following techniques apply from most to least intense:

5) Add mechanical aeration

6) Anesthetize livestock

7) Add oxygen to bags and band closed

8) Leave bags open

9) Close with ambient air and band closed In the best of possible worlds an already operating system would be available to put the livestock in at the new locale and you'd be able to take your time taking down the existing system. This is rarely the case so the rest of the moving process must be carefully planned.

Store the livestock container(s) where they will be subject to the least environmental change in light, heat and vibration until you're ready to move everything. They should be the last thing loaded and the first to be unloaded.

C) Removal of mass from the system:

1) All equipment should be turned off and removed from the system.

2) Rock, gravel and ornaments should be taken out of wood/glass tanks, glass tanks, fiberglass tanks, acrylic tanks, in other words, all systems to reduce scratching and mechanical stress and facilitate lifting.

3) If the system is in line for a routine cleaning, this may be your chance. Gravel may be vacuumed while the system is being de-watered; other ornaments may be bleached or acid-washed (See Bleach, Acid-washing Operation).

4) If a stand is involved, much of the equipment may be safely stored and moved inside it. Gravel, rock, other hard materials should be moved in lined, water-tight containers.

D) Moving the system: The hard part.

1) Many systems are attached or embedded into what they've been set on. There is a fine art to breaking them free. After the top cover, hood(s), and all else has been removed from the system, gentle pressure and/or a padded push or pull may be applied to the upper edge of the longest edge of the system. This can be done front and back until the bond between the system and it's base is broken.

2) Next slide the system, tilted in such a manner as to get hands or tools underneath to lift and move it into your truck, car, or next room.

3) Care must be taken if the system is drilled through with fittings exposed not to jar these areas. The system may have to be laid down on it's face during transport.

4) In some cases it is possible and appropriate to move the system on its stand. Another useful technique involves placing the system onto a flat padded board slipped underneath to facilitate carrying.

5) Lift carefully: As we all know, lift with your legs and not your back. Know and respect your limits. Share the load with your help. Use a hand-truck or cart if available. Well fitted gloves are very useful. Edges which may not seem sharp will still scrape exposed skin if the load takes a sudden shift.

6) Imagine the worst scenario when loading your equipment, livestock and system when packing the transport vehicle. Fit cardboard, towels, carpet scraps under and between each item. If all is  set, jamming on the brakes should not spell disaster.

7) Drive carefully. Take your time. You're organized and everything's going as planned.

E) Re-Set Up:

1) Move the livestock container(s) in from the elements.

2) Bring in the stand, if any, and place in pre-designated space, leaving adequate room for getting around and for the equipment.

3) Center the system on its stand.

4) Return filters, gravel, rock, ornaments, other equipment as you wish.

5) Refill the system with water slightly warmer than that in the organisms' shipping containers.

6) Treat water and check parameters compared to before move; adjust if necessary.

7) Turn on pump(s), heater(s), filter(s), but leave system lights turned off if possible.

F) Reintroduce Livestock: (See Acclimation Operation)

1) There are several techniques for this: I suggest you blend the new water in the system with the shipping water slowly to reduce chemical and physical differences and shock to your livestock. This can take the form of mixing water back and forth of floating bags.

2) Ultimately pour out, net back, and replant the livestock.

3) Many people are of the opinion that flavine dyes, salts, other chemical preparations are useful in the shipping, post-shipping phases of moving livestock. You should generate your own opinion from local sources about the efficacy of such action.

In summary some variation of the above steps and precautions will apply to the safe, efficient moving of any aquatic system. Use this operation as a check list in planning your moves.

Need further help? Call us! We're here to help. (Your name, # here)


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