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Moving Goldfish

Here are some tips for safely moving goldfish.

By Stephen M. Meyer

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Q. I am going to be moving soon. I will be breaking down my 55- gallon goldfish aquarium and hauling its occupants a couple of hundred miles. I have five large black moors that I've had for six years, and I'm nervous that they won't make it. What is the best way to transport them?

A. This sounds like a pretty easy move, so don't be too nervous. First, go to your local aquarium store and see if you can get them to either give you or sell you 10 large plastic bags for transporting fish. I am sure you will have no problem getting these.

Next, pick up five cardboard boxes just big enough to each hold one bag half-filled with water. The box should be shaped so as to contain the bag in a way that creates a depth of water just over the top fin of the fish. Also, pick up some non-iodized salt.

A few days before the move do a standard water change in your aquarium. Fill one of the bags to create enough depth to cover the fish, but not exceeding 50 percent of the bag's volume. This maximizes the surface area between the water and the air in the bag, allowing for good gas exchange. Now pour the water into a bucket to measure the approximate volume.

On the day of the move prepare a double-bag to hold each fish — just put one bag inside another. Then fill each double-bag with one-third aquarium water and two-thirds fresh water (dechlorinated). Again, the bag should be no more than half full, with enough depth to cover the fish.

Add enough salt to create a 0.2-percent solution, roughly 1.5 teaspoons of salt per gallon of water. Salt has been shown to significantly reduce transport stress on your fish. You might also add a half dose of ammonia remover to the water.

Now scoop your fish from their aquarium using a plastic bowl so they remain suspended in water. Do not yank them out in a net because this scrapes off their protective slime coat. Gently release them into their individual bags by pouring them out of the bowl. Blow air into the bag to puff it up and then tie the top closed. Close the boxes.

When actually transporting the fish keep them as cool as possible and keep direct sunlight from getting to the boxes. The cooler the fish, the slower their oxygen consumption and production of ammonia. In warm weather it might be worth transporting at night. Some people put one of those small refreezible artificial ice blocks in each box to cool down the water. (But do not let it touch the bag directly — wrap the ice block in a towel.)

When you have your aquarium set up at your new home, add salt to the water as recommended above. You can reduce the concentration of salt over time as you do water changes.

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