How to Ship Aquarium Fish in the Mail
In a previous article, we talked about how to breed and sell aquarium fish to help offset the costs of your aquarium hobby. Selling to a local fish store is much easier because you can safely transport the animals yourself, but if you do not have any stores nearby, selling fish via online classified ads or auction websites like AquaBid is an alternative to consider. Aquarium Co-Op is no longer selling fish online. However we have many past experiences and best practices in shipping live animals via USPS (United States Postal Service).
How to Ship Live Fish, Shrimp, and Snails
1. Gather the materials: USPS Priority mail flat rate medium or large box – 0.5-inch thick foam board insulation or Styrofoam sheet – Breather bags, fish bags – Rubber bands – Packaging tape and scissors. 72-hour heat pack with a paper lunchbag or cold pack with fabric and Ziploc bags. Fish net Specimen container
1. You will need the recipient’s zip code to check the weather forecast for both your departure and destination locations. If the temperature at either destination is below 32degF (0degC), or above 90degF (332degC), avoid shipping animals. 2. Do not feed the animals for 1-2 days before the shipping date. 3. Securely tape together the USPS Priority Mail box, and then cut out 6 pieces of insulation to fit in the top, bottom, and four sides of the box. The top and bottom should completely cover the base of the box. The four side pieces should interlock to prevent them from falling down as easily.) Insert the bottom and side insulation pieces into the box.
Shipping box with Styrofoam insulation sheets
1. If the weather is on the hotter side, prepare the ice pack by wrapping it in a piece of fabric and placing it in a Ziploc bag to minimize condensation. If the weather is on the colder side, remove the heat pack from the plastic wrapper. Once you have confirmed it is warming up, place it in a paper lunch bag. 2. In the catch cup, add some water from your fish tank to the specimen container. The catch cup will hold the fish to be shipped. Gas-permeable breathing bags are used for most animals. They allow fresh oxygen to enter the animal and carbon dioxide to leave. To minimize the possibility of a bag burst or a fish dying, you can either place one fish in each bag or split them up. Try to use as much water as possible so that the water parameters are more stable and the fish has more room to move. Squeeze all the air of the bag while twisting the neck of the bag, and then tie a tight knot on top. Attach a rubber band below the knot and loop it around the neck of the bag as many times as possible.
Breather bags with no extra air inside. Sealed using a rubber band and a knot
– Use regular fish bags if you are shipping betta fish that require some air in the bag or fish with spines that may puncture a breather bag. The bag should be filled to two-thirds with water and one-third with oxygen. Seal the first bag with a rubber band, and then slide it upside-down into a second fish bag. Seal the second bag by using a rubber band. Some sellers include a piece or fabric mesh to ship shrimp. This allows them to keep the shrimp secure while they are in transit.
1. To check for leaks, place the fish bags on a newspaper or towel for 10 minutes. Wrap breather bags with a porous material, such as paper towels or newspaper, to ensure they don’t touch non-porous materials that could interfere with gas exchange, such as Styrofoam and other plastic bags. 2. Place the cold or heat pack in the box, and then add the fish bags. Between the cold or heat packs, place packing material or a piece cardboard. This will prevent the animals from becoming too hot or cold. Pack the rest of the gaps with material to ensure that the contents fit snugly and the box doesn’t rattle.
Shipping box with a heat pack in a brown paper bag, two breather bags containing live fish, and crinkle-cut plastic filler
1. Tape the box shut by attaching the last bit of insulation board to the top. Attach the mailing address and “Live Fish” labels to the box, and cover them with packaging tape so they won’t get wet. You can reinforce the box by adding additional tape, if necessary.
Many fish retailers ship only on Mondays or Tuesdays, so their fish will arrive before Sunday. However, Priority Mail Express and specialty packages are not usually delivered by the USPS. Others drop their fish off on Saturdays as shipping volumes are lower and mail still gets transported over the weekend. For a faster delivery, you might offer Priority Mail Express shipping.
Because of potential delays in shipping (especially during the holiday season), we always use heat packs that last longer than the intended delivery time. To keep your live animals warm and healthy during colder seasons, ensure you include a 72-hour heat package.