I'm going back to school, but that involves a six hour move. I'm looking forward to it, but here is what pains me: my system is up and running, the plants are growing like crazy, the fish are happy, and my ammonia/nitrite/nitrate levels are great; but I have to break the whole thing down and move it.
Has anybody had to do this before? I really hope so, because I can't figure out what will give my fish the least stress while simultaneously preserving the beneficial microbacterial environment that has established itself.
If it helps at all, here is a prioritized list of what I want to survive:
1) The fish. They are butterfly Koi, so they are somewhat resiliant.
2) The nitrogen bacteria. They make the whole show run in balance, which makes them very valuable.
3) The medium. It's all lava rock, so it is pretty tough. But the real concern with the rocks is maintaining the bacterial colonies that are established there.
4) The plants. They are growing bigger than anything than I've ever had in a traditional garden.
5) The water. I hate to be so blase about the most essential molecule to all known life, but transporting 130 gallons of water is not practical. And there is readily available water where I'm moving.
So, how do I preserve my system? Will I have to start cycling from the beginning, again?
Keep in mind, I have to disassemble the system, drive it for 6 hours, reassemble it, and get it running again.
Any and all tips are deeply appreciated.
Rob, I have moved a system before but not that distance. From a biological point of view, I can add a few pointers:
1) You only have 24 hours max from cutting circulation until aerobic nitrifyers will start doing anearobic work in order to survive. Perhaps giving yourself a 12 hour window is safer. If you keep the media moist (even if you gently rinse the media before moving it with system water you will not wipe out all the bacteria) you then have 12 - 24 hours to flow water over them again before contaminating the system.
2) Fish can go a day or so without food, but are you planning to transport them in an open tote or re-bag them? If you can bag them again in water and inflate the bags with pure oxygen, you will give the fish as much chance as the bacteria - 24 hours in the bag MAX (if your densities are low).
3) the plants can go the longest of the lot - just remove them from the media gently and keep the roots moist (and keep them sheltered/shaded). They will outlast all the other stuff. You may want to trim some leaves off just to reduce stress.
Thus the question is how long does it take to dismantle, pack, move and re-assemble? If nothing goes wrong, you can pull down, move and re-assemble on the other side in time, with perhaps some risk to the fish. A more conservative approach is maybe that you can do everything the same, but keep the fish going seperate from the gravel media and the plants on the other side until you have a positive indication that the nitrogen cycle is fine and that you have been able to salvage enough plants to deal with the waste coming from the fish. This is likely what I would have done.
How big is your transport? Is it closed or open (plants transported 6 hours in the back of a pickup will be totally dehydrated by wind.) Are the grow beds small enough/light enough to be moved with plants in place? A van or covered truck would be handy.
You could likely transport fish in a container with a battery powered aerator or an inverter powering the aerator. Biggest trick is to avoid sloshing the fish out of the container. A full container with a fairly sealed lid (other than to allow the aerator to work) can help against the sloshing problem.
The media if kept from drying out will keep at least the starters of your bacteria colony alive but as Kobus says, you will see a glitch in bio-filter operation after a long move like this. But you probably shouldn't feed the fish for a couple days before the operation and not feed them again until they are installed in their new home for a day or two and things are cycling well again.
Stop feeding days before the move. You want to purge the fish of waste befoer bagging them. 1 part water to 2 parts air in the bag. Oxygen is better. Don't worry about bringing the water to start the new system. Your media will be fine just keep it in it moist, not wet. When you get there just add the new water, but continue not to feed for a few days. Any dead bacteria will break down and be converted by the other still living bacteria.
Breath. I moved mine 12 hours away, and did it in two days. Depending on how many fish you have a big cooler with a bubble box work even better than the bad. Just bring you declorinator and buffers to amend the new water. Remember that natural environemtns take beatings all the time, and yet they survive.
Thanks for all the advice, it is greatly appreciated.
So, just to give more info to everybody, the fish tank is a 100 gal. Rubbermaid watering trough, the grow bed is a 50 gal. Rubbermaid watering trough, and there is a 30 gal. Rubbermaid trash can for a sump tank (with all of that Rubbermaid, I should get an endorsement). All the PVC connectors are connected with teflon tape only. There is a frame that holds the 50 gal. bed over the 100 gal. tank. The greenhouse itself is just steel tubing and the cover; it is easily assembled/ disassembled in a bit less than 30 minutes. The green house floor is a simple 8' x 6' deck. I'm going to use a large, enclosed box truck for the move.
Based on everybody's advice, here's how the plan of action is looking so far:
Pre-step: Stop feeding fish a couple of days before.
1. Remove most of the rocks from bed into 5 gal. buckets. Place plants in these buckets. Move some of the water to 5 gal. buckets to keep rocks moist and plants with a source of water. Load onto truck.
2. Remove pump from sump. Move fish to sump.
3. Move rest of water from 100 gal. to other 5 gal. buckets. (yes, lots and lots of 5 gal. buckets in this plan.)
4. Label PVC pipes and disconnect.
5. Load 100 gal. tank onto truck and strap lock into place. Add water from other 5 gal. buckets to half full, add fish and aerate with battery powered pump.
6. Cover 100 gal. tank with 50 gal. bed still holding some rocks to weight it down.
7. Load deck, frame, and greenhouse onto truck. Place PVC into now empty sump tank and load onto truck.
9. Reassemble in reverse order. Add water as needed.
Post-step: Wait a day or two to resume feeding the fish.
Sound good? Is anything being forgotten or overlooked?
Looks good. In a pinch, throw the fish in a tube with some sort of aeration on arrival. Remember that a fish not digesting is not using a whole lot oxygen.