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 does not sell fish online. However, we have many years of experience and best practices regarding shipping live animals via the 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 sheets – Breather bags or fish bags – Rubber bands – Packaging tape and scissors – Newspaper, packing peanuts, crinkle-cut filler, or other packaging materials – 72-hour heat pack with a paper lunch bag or a cold pack with a piece of fabric and Ziploc bag – “Live Fish” labels Fish net Specimen container
1. To check the weather forecast at both the arrival and departure locations, get the recipient’s ZIP code. If the temperature at either destination is below 32degF (0degC), or above 90degF (332degC), avoid shipping animals. 2. Do not feed animals for at least 1-2 days prior to shipping. 3. Tape the USPS Priority Mailbox together and cut six pieces of insulation to fit the top, bottom, as well as the four sides. The bottom and top pieces must cover the entire box’s base. The four side pieces should interlock to prevent them from falling down as easily.) Insert the bottom and side insulation pieces inside the box.
Styrofoam insulation sheet in shipping box
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 it’s cold, you can take out the plastic wrapper and remove the heat packs. Once the heat pack is confirmed to be warming up, wrap it in a paper bag. 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 up the fish into multiple bags or place only one fish per bag to minimize causalities if a bag bursts or a fish dies. Try to use as much water as possible so that the water parameters are more stable and the fish has more room to move. Twist the neck of your bag and squeeze all of it. Then tie a tight knot. 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. Fill two-thirds of the bag with water and the remaining one-third with air. 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. For 10 minutes, place the fish bags onto a towel or newspaper to check for any leaks. If using breather bags, wrap them with a porous material (e.g., paper towels or newspaper) so they won’t touch any nonporous materials that may interfere with gas exchange (e.g., Styrofoam or other plastic bags). 2. Add the cold or heatpack to the box and then the fish bags. Add packing material or a piece of cardboard between the fish bags and the cold or heat pack. This prevents the animals from getting too cold or hot. Fill the remaining gaps with packing material so that the contents are snug and the box does not rattle.
Shipping Box with a heatpack in a brown paper bag and two breather bags containing fish.
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. If necessary, reinforce the box with additional tape strips.
Many fish sellers only ship Mondays and Tuesdays to ensure that their fish arrives before Sunday. The USPS usually only delivers Priority Mail Express or other specialty packages. Other sellers choose to drop off their fish on Saturdays because the shipping volume can be a bit lower and mail is still transported over the weekend. To increase your chances of receiving your fish within one to two working days, you may choose to 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.