How To Move Goldfish Across Country In 7 Easy Steps

How to Move Goldfish Across Country

Relocating is always stressful, even more so when you have pets to worry about. Moving pet fish can be complicated with all the filters and gallons of water you have to carry around.

Obviously though, no one wants to leave their precious goldfish behind. So, in this post, you’ll find an easy guide on how to move goldfish across country.

Let’s get packing!

Table of Contents

How to Move Goldfish Across Country

Transporting live fish means considering a lot of factors: temperature, water, ammonia, and oxygen. Of course, the longer the ride, the more you’ll have to cater to the fish’s needs.

To safely move goldfish in a car ride, follow these simple steps:

Prepare the Package

The first step to moving goldfish is to pick a container. There are several types of containers to transport goldfish, the most common ones are:

  • Plastic bags
  • Buckets (regular and bait)
  • Small aquariums (suitable for short-distance only)

Transporting Goldfish in Buckets

Goldfish in a Bucket for Transfer

For long distances, buckets are the best options, at least logistically. However, knowing how large the bucket needs to be can be tricky.

As a general rule, you should add a gallon for every inch of goldfish.

You want a bucket that’s a bit larger than this measurement. This gives you enough leeway to avoid spillages during the drive.

Get an air pump that connects to your car’s cigarette lighter unit. Alternatively, you can get a portable/chargeable aerator to take on the move.

If the filter media is bulky, get a separate bucket for it. Keep in mind that you can get an all-in-one bait bucket and aeration system to save on space.

Either way, don’t transport any aquarium accessories or plants in the same container as the goldfish. Keep it all shipped separately. This is crucial since there’ll be a lot of sloshing around.

Dechlorinate the Water

It’s better to avoid filling the container to the brim since it might cause spillages. It might also deplete the oxygen content faster. Instead, try to fill two-thirds of the full capacity only and keep it in a stable position.

There are two easy ways to fill the chosen container with water:

Aquarium Water

To pick the portion with the highest quality, scoop water out of the tank top. This way, you’ll avoid scooping out waste into the temporary package.

Using aquarium water is easy if you’ve just finished cleaning and the tank is well maintained.

Tap Water

You can also use tap water to fill the package. Just let tap water sit for a day to allow the chlorine to evaporate out, making the water safer for goldfish.

Dim the Lights

Fish mostly prefer to be transported in the dark to limit the overwhelming stimuli of moving. In fact, it’s more likely that stress will kill the fish during an across-the-country trip, not starvation.

Depending on the package size, you can either put it inside a cardboard box or cover it with a towel. An opaque bucket will save you all this hassle from the get-go.

Consider the Temperature

Thermometer On 70 Degrees

Just because you’re on the move doesn’t mean that goldfish will tolerate just any conditions.

Goldfish thrive around 70° F. If the road is hot and sunny, consider keeping the car’s air conditioner on to regulate the temperature.

When the weather is too cold, you can use the car’s heating system or put the package inside a thermal box.

Air Out the Fish

It might be a good idea to open the package during driving breaks to let some air in.

Using an air pump saves you the trouble of airing the package yourself, but we’d still recommend checking on your fish every now and then.

Feeding the Goldfish on the Move

You might feel inclined to feed your fish during the trip, but it’s not necessary. Goldfish can handle a few days without feeding.

This isn’t cruelty; it just helps reduce the accumulation of ammonia in the water. Remember that ammonia is toxic to fish at high concentrations!

If your trip across the country is going to last longer than just a couple of days, then you can feed the fish. Just try to get the aquarium cleaned out at least once during the journey.

Cleaning the Tank

You can skip cleaning the tank if your trip is less than a day long. For longer trips, you might need to change a gallon every day to keep the tank fresh.

Keep an empty bucket that you can fill with tap water, let it dechlorinate, and then use it for water changes.

How to Re-Introduce Goldfish to an Aquarium

Getting your fish safely to the new location is the hard part; what’s left is re-introducing them to the aquarium. To do so without any challenges, check the following tips:

Replicate All Plants and Decorations

Before moving, wrap up all the plants in plastic bags. After arriving at your destination, set up the aquarium, install the filter media, and put all the plants where they used to be.

Take photos before moving if you need to, just try to replicate the original tank as much as possible.

Keep in mind that time is of the essence here! Work fast, and don’t procrastinate.

Dim the Lights

Once again, keeping the lights to a minimum can help reduce the stress of new surroundings. When you’re done with the setup, turn off the lights before taking the fish out of their temporary packaging.

Float the Fish

Introduce the fish as if they were new to the tank. Float the plastic bags in the aquarium to encourage temperature regulation.

Gradually, you can open the bag and let the fish swim its way into the aquarium.

Feed the Fish

Once the fish start exploring their surroundings, feed them in regulated portions. Maintain a reliable feeding schedule and stick to it, it’ll ease the transition phase.

Moving With a Goldfish FAQs


Here are some of the frequently asked questions regarding moving goldfish across the country:

Q: Should I feed my goldfish before the trip?

A: We wouldn’t recommend feeding your fish directly before a long trip. The more they defecate, the more you’ll need to change their water on the road.

Some people might even withdraw food a day or two before the trip. Feed the goldfish once they are re-introduced to the aquarium in its new location.

Q: Can I move goldfish without a filter?

A: Fish need Oxygen to survive. If you can’t provide an air pump, at least try to leave enough space in the container for air exchange. Opening the tank to let it air out might help, too.

Q: How much earlier should I pack my aquarium for moving?

A: It’s better to postpone packing the fish until the last minute. Gather the materials, check that they are all functioning properly (including the portable air pump!)

Make packing the aquarium the last thing you do before leaving immediately. Meanwhile, unpacking it should be the first task to do when you arrive.

Q: Can I move goldfish on a plane?

Plane Taking Off

A: If you plan on moving your goldfish by plane, check beforehand with the airline company. There might be specific regulations like putting the fish in bags inside a styrofoam box. You should also check to see if there are any additional fees.

It’s also important to consider the TSA guideline regarding bringing live fish in carry-on bags.

Q: Can I move a partially filled fish aquarium across the country?

A: Moving a filled (or partially filled) aquarium is only recommended if it’s within the same house. It’s okay to try to lift it from one room to the other, but carrying it through a long car drive seems too risky.

Wrapping Up

Knowing how to move goldfish across country is crucial for fish enthusiasts who are planning to take long trips soon.

To safely transport your goldfish in a car ride, you’ll need a large bucket, dechlorinated water, a portable air pump, and an opaque covering. Depending on the distance, you might need to change the water and air the bucket out.

Transporting fish aboard planes is a bit trickier. It means that you’ll have to contact the airline beforehand, but it’s not entirely impossible. We’d recommend going by car if you have a large amount of goldfish to move.

In the end, it’s important to drive safely and take breaks to check on your pets, whether it’s your fish, cats or even a bearded dragon! Stretch your legs and get yourself a drink while you’re at it!

Good luck with your move!


I've been a college coach for going on 20 years now and that career has led Jen and I on quite the journey. We've lived in 7 different states and have moved a dozen different times. We've learned A LOT over the course of all those moves and we want to pass on our knowledge to help others going through the moving process.

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