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My method for shipping fish


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Hey all, 

          New member here.. I recently shipped my fishes over states. SoI thought to share  the method I used to ship this is very different from what I used to advise people. Hope you like it.

1. Obtain a sturdy box. I used to mess around with styrofoam lined boxes, but they're hard to get a hold of, not consistent in size when you do get them, and frankly annoying to store (large, unfoldable). Now my method is to get USPS priority mail shipping boxes. I go to the post office and ask politely and they give me a box for free


I use the square-ish shaped box, not the rectangle.

2. Get some bags. I've stopped using breathable bags. They're fine, there's nothing wrong with them. It's just you can totally without meaning to overpack them with water. Not overpack, like, it's leaking. I mean overpack like, "It cost $15 to ship that package? Whaaa? Why? Oh, it's two pounds." It's just too easy to do. And also, those 2 mL thick shipping bags sold on aquabid.com in the shipping supplies section are like less than $4 for 50. You just can't beat that price, even using two bags like I do to eliminate the problem of edges (I always used to worry, with the breathable bags, that a fish would get stuck in a corner and get squished

3. Obtain heat packs if it is winter. Yes, I use heat packs for native fish. No, you don't always have to. No, you shouldn't auto-use a heat pack; if they get too hot they will cook and die. But heat packs do mean that I can ship all year round. (Not the week before Christmas! 2-3 day suddenly becomes a week and a half!) Yes, I have killed shipments of Elassoma gilberti with an unnecessary heat pack. But if the temperature range is 20-50 F, sure, stick a heat pack in there, it'll help them out. A lot of our native fish (especially the ones I breed) are from places like Florida. They don't like 40 degrees F.

4. Do not feed the fish before you ship. One of the very first google results for 'how to ship fish' tells you to put food into the bag so that they'll have something to munch on while they're in transit. *headdesk* That is the very worst possible advice you could give someone. In your aquarium, the ammonia that your fish excretes is converted to nitrite and then nitrate by beneficial bacteria or eaten by plants as ammonium. There are neither beneficial bacteria nor growing plants in your shipping bag, so any ammonia produced will simply stay as ammonia. And with such a small water volume, the tiny amount of ammonia produced builds up in concentration very quickly. The fish will be fine if it doesn't eat for a week. There is no fish I can think of that wouldn't survive that. 

Certain fish I don't starve. Small fish, like Elassoma and heterandria formosa (actually, the majority of fish I have at the moment), I don't bother to starve.

5. Tightly secure the top of the bag to be shipped. I used to say, "Tie it and put a rubber band on it" but now that I double bag using the 2 mL bags, I think the rubber band is overkill. *shrugs* Eh.

6. Clearly label the package. I do have something to say about this. Hand write your address, and don't write fragile on it. Clearly hand-writing your label is the best way to get it through shipping un-punted like a football. You know some people do that to packages marked fragile, you just know it. I read an article about people shipping force-meters through the mail to test whether the ones marked fragile were treated nicer. They were treated worse. Article: http://www.popularme...ckages?click=pp

7. Use enough tape. I use that clear packing tape they sell at Walmart and places. It's my go-to tape for everything, actually. Scotch tape is too tiny.

8. Secure the fish inside the box so they can't roll around. Easy to do when you're packing it with cellulose fiber.

9. Buy a tracking number and insurance. That two dollars is totally worth it. One time this person I sent fish to claimed that they never got them. I was like, "What do you mean you never got them? I shipped them to you." I ended up giving the person a full refund because I couldn't prove I had shipped the fish to them. So buy a tracking number, because that way you can't possibly get scammed

I have used the insurance and had a very good experience. Citizenshipper generally took 7 days to deliver something I paid 2-3 day shipping on.

Most important!

10. Obey the law. I was pretty annoying to my local wildlife people for a while there asking them lots of very, very specific questions about what it was legal to do. I also make sure when shipping plants that they're not a noxious species or banned in the state I'm shipping to.  If you can't do things legally, don't do them at all. But it turns out it's easy to sell fish and plants legally, at least for me here in North Carolina.

Hope you like

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Thanks for taking the time to do this, it is very thorough and must have taken some time to do! I found it quite interesting even though it is something I wouldn't be doing.

I have one query regarding 3. should that temperture range be 20-30 rather than 20-50 as you say they don't like 40???

Would you mind filling in the country on your profile so people can tell at a glance that you are USA based. It is clear by the end of the article but I wasn't sure whether you were Australia or USA as you both have STATES and use $ !


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I think he's right in saying 20-50. As the fish are usually unhappy with 40 degrees F, if the temperature is 50 and below, it is advisable to use a heatpack. Farenheight, by the way, not celsius. So he's pretty much saying if they're going to be too cold, use a heatpack. I totally over-explained that, but whatever ? 

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