How to ship fish during the winter!
I ship fish and plants across the nation and I often get asked the same questions:
“Will they make it?”
“Is it too cold or hot?”
“How do you make sure the fish survive?”
“What happens if the package gets delayed"?”
I hear and get asked a ton of questions about ordering fish online that all center around the same thing…”Will the fish make it to me alive?”
And the short answer is 95% of the time the fish will arrive alive and well. Of course things happen, packages get delayed, heatpacks or cold packs malfunction, delivery drivers toss packages, etc. But the fact is that the overwhelming majority of fish ordered on line will arrive safe and sound. Below is how we ship fish at thedirtytank.com
We always start with our fish. Our fish go through a 3 week quarantine process to ensure any fish that we list for sale is disease free and is healthy enough to be shipped across the country.
Once fish are ready and once they are purchased we stop feeding our fish 24-48 hours before we are scheduled to ship them out. Fasting the fish for 1-2 days will ensure that the small bag of water we ship our fish in does not spoil as quickly since the fish will be less likely to produce waste (poop). This will help keep the water in the fish is traveling in safer for a much longer time period.
Once fish are ready to be shipped out (We ship all orders receieved throughout the week on Monday’s), we start preparing the boxes. All of our boxes are lined with insulation board to keep temerature more consistent for the fish while they are traveling. We use USPS provided boxes which are free for anyone and can be ordered on the USPS website. And better yet, USPS will deliver these packages directly to your home. Free of charge. We line these boxes with 1/2 -1 inch insulation board depending on how cold it is currently. We cut the board to size for the bottom, top and the 4 sides of the box to ensure the entire box is well insulated.
Once the box is prepped, we catch the fish and place them in bags. We generally ship smaller fish so the bags we use will be appropriate for fish 3 inches or smaller. We order these bags through amazon and they are 2 mil or 3 mil thick. We prefer to use the bags that are 3 inches wide by 11-15 inches long. These long bags help hold more oxygen and take up less space in the box, allowing us to pack more fish in each box per order which helps keep shipping cost low. We only pack 1 fish per bag unless the fish is under 1 inch in size. Generally, we prefer the 1 fish per bag rule because if 1 fish dies while the package is in transit than that one dead fish will spoil the water which could kill the other fish.
When it comes to how much water should be added into the bag, we aim to fill the bag 1/3 of the way with water and allow the other 2/3 of the bag to be oxygen. The goal is to have the smallest amount of water needed for the fish to swim no mater which orientation the bag or box is placed. The rest of the bag should be reserved for air. We do not inject oxygen into the bag. We simply tie or seal the bags with air trapped in and this will allow the bag to have sufficent oxygen during a 2-4 day travel period.
Once the fish is in a sealed bag, we then double bag the fish. Meaning we put the bag the fish is currently in, into another bag. We do this just in case there is a leak in the first bag, the second bag will still hold the air and water the fish needs to survive. If we are shipping a fish that has sharp spines, like certain types of dwarf catfish then we may use 3-5 layers of bags instead of 2.
After the fish is double bagged and placed into the box, we add packing paper to fill in any deadspots and to cover each bag so the fish cannot see anything else and is less likely to be spooked while travling. This will help decrease the amount of stress the fish feels and it will allow a cousion if the box does get thrown around.
Lastly, we add a heat pack rated for how long the trip may take. Most of our shipping takes 2 days but some can take as long as 4 days. Depending on the travel time we will pack each box with a heat pack rated for a bit longer than the expected travel time. We like using 40 hour and 96 hour heat packs so we know that the fish will stay warm while in transit. A key thing to note is to shake your heat pack for a while and physically touch the heat pack and make sure it is indeed warm before shipping your fish. It is possible that the heat pack could be bad so testing it before hand will help you catch that before the fish gets shipped out.
After that, we close and tape the package. Print the label, and ship the fish out. A couple days later they are at their new home!
So, If you ever thought about shipping your own fish or just wondered about how fish make it to you when you order online - this is how we do it at thedirtytank.com