Moving an aquarium isn't easy, but it's easier than moving the fish inside. Some experts recommend selling your fish and starting a new aquarium after the move, because many fish die before reaching their new home. But with careful planning and the right information, it is possible to safely move both an aquarium and the fish — as long as you move them separately.
To move an aquarium, place your fish in a holding container and then drain the fish tank. The aerobic bacteria colony that helps your fish thrive can survive a local move, so save a small amount of the water in a covered container. If you're moving more than a few hours away, start fresh with new water.
Bag live aquarium plants with water and place them on a tray with sides, such as a baking pan or a shallow box. You'll need to move these carefully in the cabin of your car or moving vehicle.
For a short move, place un-cleaned filter media and tank gravel in covered containers. If you're transporting the aquarium a long distance, discard the filter media, but clean the gravel and pack it.
Wrap the glass fish tank in bubble wrap or several layers of plain newsprint for protection. Carefully wrap the accessories, including the pump, heater, lights, decorative materials, aerator, and the lid. Place these pieces inside the tank, if they fit, and pack it all in a sturdy box, with foam padding at the top and bottom. Label the box with the words: "Fragile," "Aquarium," and "This Side Up."
For a short move, set up your aquarium first when you arrive at your new home to increase the odds the fish will survive. Pack it toward the back of the moving van or someplace else easily accessible. For a long move where your fish will be separated from their tank for an extended period of time, make sure to wait a week after the aquarium is established to begin adding fish to help prevent them from going into shock.
Unlike a fish tank, which must be broken down into its components for a move, a terrarium is a self-contained indoor garden that is best moved in one piece.
The exception is if your terrarium has animals inside it. Move your terrarium animals to a separate container for the move. Remove food and water dishes, heat rocks, and any lights. You should clean these objects, wrap them in packing materials for protection, and pack those in a separate box for the move. Remember to mark the box fragile and label it "terrarium contents." You'll want easy-access to this box after your move so you can promptly reestablish your pets in their habitat.
Move a terrarium the same way you would other indoor plants, in the climate controlled environment of your car. Terrariums without the animals inside tend to be heartier than other houseplants, though, so you can wrap the terrarium in padding, such as bubble wrap or a towel, to keep it from breaking.
For a long-distance move, you can unwrap your terrarium from its padding to give the plants sunlight, and bring it into the hotel room with you for overnight stops.
How you move your small animal cage depends on how you're moving the animal it belongs to. It's entirely possible to move a small hamster or bird in its cage. Use a seatbelt to secure the cage to the seat of your car, or place the cage on the floor where it can't move. Use a sheet, light blanket, or pillowcase to cover the cage. Likewise, dogs may be more comfortable moving in their own crate.
If you're moving a larger cage, like a ferret cage or a big bird cage, move the small animal separately, in a pet carrier or a cardboard box with air holes.
Whether you're transporting the cage with your pet inside or not, remove any food and water bowls or bottles to avoid spills. Clean the cage thoroughly, throwing away any used newspaper or wood chips used as lining. If you plan to move your pet in the cage, place fresh newspaper or a soft blanket on the floor of the cage to help keep the pet comfortable.
If you're moving your pet separately, break the cage down to save space, and pack the cage and any accessories or pet toys in a box. If the cage doesn't fold, place the empty cage in the moving van in a spot where it won't shift or fall. Pet cages shouldn't be packed on the floor of the truck as a base layer for other boxes, but it is okay to place a few small, light boxes on the top of the cage.