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 fish to local fish shops is easy because the animals can be safely transported by you. But if you don’t have any nearby stores, there are options such as selling fish through online classifieds or auction websites like AquaBid. 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. Get the recipient’s zip code so you can check the weather forecast at both the departure and arrival locations. Try to avoid shipping animals if either location’s temperature reaches below 32degF (0degC) or above 90degF (32degC). 2. The shipping date is 1-2 days away, so do not feed your animals for that time. 3. Attach the USPS Priority Mail Box to a piece of tape. Next, cut 6 pieces of insulation that will fit into the box’s top, bottom and four sides. The bottom and top pieces must cover the entire box’s base. To avoid them falling down, the side pieces must be interlocked. Insert the bottom insulation and side pieces in the box.
Styrofoam insulation sheets in shipping box
1. For hotter weather, wrap the icepack in fabric. To prevent condensation, place it in Ziploc bags. If it is colder, take the heat pack out of the plastic wrapper. After it has started to warm up, you can place it in a lunch bag made of paper. 2. In the catch cup, add some water from your fish tank to the specimen container. Net out the fish that will be shipped and place them in catch cup. – For most animals, we place them in gas-permeable breather bags, which allow fresh oxygen to enter and carbon dioxide to exit. Split the fish into multiple bags, or only place one fish per bag in order to reduce causalities in case a bag bursts. To ensure that water parameters are stable and fish have more space to move, try to use as much as water as you can. 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 to the bottom of the knot, and wrap it around the neck as many times possible.
Breather bag with no extra air inside, sealed using a knot and rubber band
– 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 using a rubber band. – When shipping shrimp, some sellers add a piece of fabric mesh so that shrimp have something to hold onto while in transit.
1. Place the fish bags on a towel or newspaper for 10 minutes to check for leaks. Use breather bags to protect them from any other nonporous materials, such Styrofoam, or other plastic bags. 2. Add the cold or heatpack to the box and then the fish bags. You can add packing material, or a piece if cardboard between the cold/heat pack and the fish bags. This helps to prevent animals from getting too hot or cold. Fill the remaining gaps with packing material so that the contents are snug and the box does not rattle.
Shipping container with a heat pack in brown paper bags, two breather bags with live fish and a crinkle-cut filler
1. Place the last piece of insulation board on top, and tape up the box. To prevent them from getting wet, attach the “Live Fish” and mailing addresses to the box. Cover them with packaging tape. You can reinforce the box by adding additional tape, if necessary.
Many fish retailers only ship on Mondays and Tuesdays so that their fish will hopefully arrive before Sunday (when USPS typically only delivers Priority Mail Express and other specialty packages). Some sellers drop off their fish on Saturdays, as the shipping volume is lower and mail can still be transported over the weekend. For a faster delivery, you might offer Priority Mail Express shipping.
Due to possible delays in shipping, especially during holiday season, we use heat packs that last for longer than the expected delivery time. If you are mailing live animals during the colder seasons, make sure to include a 72-hour heat pack to keep your fish warm and healthy while in transit.