How to Ship Live Fish

Live fish in a bagFish are sold and traded quite frequently these days with increasing availability to shop online; these trades and purchases often require live fish to be shipped via some kind of mail service. While to the novice, it may sound as if shipping live fish is harmful to the fish, with the appropriate packing and shipping procedures, fish can easily arrive at their destination healthy and safe.

  1. Two days prior to shipping the fish, they should not be fed. By not feeding the fish, they are less likely to soil the shipping bag while they are in transit.
  2. Fish should be placed in a plastic bag that measures from 1.5 to 2 milliliters; longer bags tends to work better and allow more space. Be sure to put only one fish in each bag. If the fish are small, two fish can safely be placed in the bag.
  3. Label each bag with an adhesive tag with a clear description and other important information about each fish.
  4. After properly labeling the bag, fill with the least amount of water necessary. The bag should contain no more than one third water and be sure to pump the bag with oxygen or air prior to closing it. Do not breathe into the bag because this could harm the fish.
  5. Twist the bag tightly and use a rubber band to securely tie the bag closed.
  6. The bag containing the fish should be placed inside a box that has been labeled “Live Fish” inside and out. It is best to insulate the shipping box containing the fish with packing peanuts and thermal insulation; Styrofoam shelving may be placed between each bag.
  7. Shipping should take place immediately after packing.
  8. If dropping the fish off at a post office or mail center, be sure to confirm the delivery date; inquire about expedited shipping. If possible, use express mail or an overnight shipping method; especially if the weather is cold, humid or hot. The faster the fish can be shipped the less exposure to harm caused by the climate.
  9.  If the fish will be shipped to a location that requires airplane transport, leave some slack in the bag. The slack will allow the bag to expand when the pressure in the airplane drops.
  10. If the fish will be shipped to a location with cold temperatures, a heat pack can be taped to the underside of the box lid in order to keep the fish warm.
  11. The person expecting to receive the fish should be notified of the arrival date so they can make arrangements to be available to receive and immediately open the package. The key to shipping live fish is to be mindful of the small details; even a small mistake such as blowing air in the bag or not being aware of the shipping location’s climate could be dangerous for the fish.

Sally is an avid blogger and loves to travel.  She teaches at a Chicago area elementary school and can be found on Twitter @eatbreatheblog.

Image: Beall
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