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How to Move an Empty Glass Aquarium Over 75 Gallons in Size

Kylyssa Shay has successfully kept aquatic creatures for decades. Her fish-care advice has been published in "Aquarium Fish Magazine."

Wave front saltwater aquarium the day after moving

Wave front saltwater aquarium the day after moving

How Do You Move a Big, Empty Fish Tank Without Big, Strong Helpers?

About six years ago, I moved house from a third-story apartment in one complex to a second-story apartment in a nearby one. The move was so short I can literally see my old apartment’s balcony from the new one. It would have been a piece of cake except that I own a really nice 95-gallon wave-front glass aquarium that weighs just over two hundred and twenty-five pounds empty.

Anyone who has experience with carrying glass fish tanks will likely understand that the weight really isn’t the major issue; it’s that there’s no good place to hold the darned thing by. A large aquarium is inherently difficult to lift and carry, much less transport. If you grab it from a top edge, you can break it. If you hold it from the bottom corners as you must, it cuts into your hands something fierce. Add into that the fact that I didn’t have any really big guys to help me move it this time around and you’ll see why it was such a big production.

Read on to learn how the great aquarium move of 2013 was accomplished!

How Did You Get Your Aquarium Up Three Flights of Stairs to the Third Floor in the First Place?

When I moved into the third-floor apartment, two very large, very strong guys carried the tank upstairs and plunked it onto the stand. Even so, it took them quite a bit of effort because they had to handle it gently. So I had to figure out how to create something better to hold onto than the bottom edges of the tank and figure out how to gently distribute the weight of the glass somehow so four much, much smaller people could carry it.

This hand-sewn sling with padded handles made carrying the aquarium easy for four small people.

This hand-sewn sling with padded handles made carrying the aquarium easy for four small people.

Making a Custom Webbing Sling to Carry the Aquarium

Materials:

  • Scissors
  • Fishing Line
  • Needle
  • Tow Strap
  • Flannel Material

Methods, Reasoning, and Testing:

My solution was to buy a twenty-seven-foot long flat webbing tow strap rated for up to 3,300 pounds and turn it into a sling made specifically for my aquarium. I measured the tank because, being a fancy wave-front model, it has irregular measurements. I started with a long oval loop which, when the sides of it were fourteen inches apart, would stick out about a foot on either end, allowing for a ten-inch handle on each end.

Using a 16-pound test fishing line, I sewed the loop together with an overlap of about eight inches to ensure strength. I stitched along both sides straight along the edges and then looping over the edges. Then I stitched across it in zigzags, going in both directions, so the zigzags created crossed x type lines. Then I sewed straight through the middle. As I sewed, I tied off the line every ten to twenty stitches just in case any of it unraveled.

Using the same technique, I created another loop that would stick out about a foot on either side of the width of the tank when its sides were about fourteen inches apart. I sewed the second loop onto the first cross-wise using a great overkill of stitching.

To give the sling further strength and to distribute the weight of the tank a bit better, I sewed a strap on either end of the longer loop just where the straps would go under the tank and one more on each side between those straps and the straps of the side handle loop. After I got this all sewn together like a crazy woman, I sewed flannel from two old, torn pairs of pajamas into the four handles to give them some bulk so they wouldn’t be hard straps cutting into my helpers’ hands. Then I wrapped the handles in thick layers stitched through with fish line.

I made my partner play tug-o-war with the sling with me, and I’m sure we exerted at least a hundred pounds of stress on the handles, and the sewing held up marvelously, and the grips were quite soft and comfortable.

How It All Worked Out on Moving Day

Once the tank was empty and as dry as I could get it, I laid the sling on the floor beside it where it stood on its stand. Then I taped duct tape to the sling to secure the strap to the tank, not to provide extra sturdiness, but simply to keep the sling centered where it would do the most good.

Transferring the tank from the stand to the sling went well, but the duct tape refused to stick on parts of the glass, but enough did to hold it centered. If I do it again, I’ll wipe down the outside of the tank with rubbing alcohol before trying to duct tape it. There must have been some salt residue that was holding moisture and preventing the tape from sticking.

The four guys, including my partner who is about five foot one inches tall and fine-boned, lifted the tank easily with the device and the handles were comfortable to use. However, it was a very tight squeeze going down the staircase with one guy on either side. It would probably be a lot easier with a regular rectangular tank because it was that wave-front bulge that kept making things tight. We’d made the error of putting my partner (the small guy) on the small side and a larger guy next to the part where the tank bulges out, but it still worked out great.

The sling made it easy to lift into the bed of the pickup truck we used for the move. We loaded the stand in, too, because it had to get installed before the tank could go into my new apartment. I haven’t explained much about it because it is actually very light although bulky and two small people can move it down and up stairs easily.

I rode in the back of the truck and kept the aquarium from sliding around using my feet to wedge it securely against the side. My strongest helper rode in back as well, keeping the stand from sliding around even though we secured it in place with bungee cords. I do not recommend this for anyone taking their tank a greater distance than the two blocks we moved mine. Actually, if I moved the tank and stand again, even for such a short distance, I’d use a big wad of blankets and spacers of some kind to hold both tank and stand secure. But the schedule was very tight, so it worked out well.

My helpers put the stand in place, and I made sure it was level and square on the platform I’d prepared.

It was easy to pull the tank from the pickup bed by the strap because the truck has a nice bed liner. The guys got the tank upstairs pretty easily, but it was, again, a very tight squeeze in the hallway to our new apartment and in the doorway.

I pulled the duct tape off and slid the sling out from under the tank. The guys on the ends of the tank slid it onto the stand, and the transfer was accomplished!

Have You Ever Moved a Large Glass Home Aquarium?

© 2015 Kylyssa Shay

Share Your Experiences Moving Big Fish Tanks

Dmiller000 on July 17, 2020:

I did exactly the same thing as Todd, 150 gallons, by myself, Dolly with pneumatic tires and moving blankets to protect the glass from the metal frame of the dolly. Royal pain in the ass

Todd on November 19, 2018:

Wanna try something fun move a 150 g tall aquarium by your self, was only able to do it because i used a flat bed tow truck and only had to go down 2 stairs spaced 6 ft apart, i made a dolly with big inflatable caster wheels for it, still not easy

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on September 26, 2015:

Yes, I think children have a hard time realizing how fragile the tank actually is because it's also so strong to hold hundreds of pounds of water. Good luck with your new tank.

James from The Eastern Bypass on September 26, 2015:

It is a great article. I am planning to buy one.Handling it is the tricky part especially in a house with children

Nivas from Salem on September 10, 2015:

Greetings from Smartrunner...!!

Thanks for sharing useful info.... Right now I have 50 gallon tank and my flowerhorn is using that tank. I planned to buy large tank for my flowerhorn and this info will helps me.....

Kylyssa Shay (author) from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on August 30, 2015:

Thank you. It's also proven useful for moving tube TVs and other heavy things without good handles. It's surprising how much easier it is to move things when their weight is well-distributed and they have cushy handles.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 30, 2015:

I don't have an aquarium, but as an ex truck driver, I appreciate the skills applied to move different types of things.

Interesting read.