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 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. Avoid shipping animals to locations where the temperature is below 32 degrees F (0degC) and above 90 degrees F (32degC). 2. Do not feed the animals for 1-2 days before the shipping date. 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 top and bottom pieces should cover the entire base of the box. To prevent them from falling, the four sides should be interlocked. Insert the bottom and side insulation pieces inside the box.
Shipping box with Styrofoam insulation sheets
1. To reduce condensation, wrap the ice pack in fabric. If the weather is on the colder side, remove the heat pack from 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. 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. You can squeeze as much air out of the bag as you like, twist the neck and tie a 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
If you ship betta fish that will require air, or fish that have spines that could puncture a bag, then use regular fish bags. Fill two-thirds of the bag with water and the remaining one-third with air. The first bag should be sealed with a rubber band. Slide it upside-down into the second fish bag. Seal the second bag by 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. 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. Place the cold or heat pack in the box, and then add 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. 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 heatpack in a brown paper bag and two breather bags containing fish.
1. Tape the box shut by attaching the last bit of insulation board to the top. Cover the box with packaging tape to keep them from getting 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. Some sellers drop off their fish on Saturdays, as the shipping volume is lower and mail can still be 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. For live animals that are being shipped during colder months, we recommend including a 72-hour heat packet to keep them warm and healthy in transit.