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. It is easier to sell fish to local fish stores because they can transport them safely. However, if there are no fish shops nearby, you might consider selling fish online via classified ads or auction sites like AquaBid. While Aquarium Co-Op no longer sells fish online, we have plenty of past experiences and best practices when it comes to shipping live animals through the United States Postal Service (USPS).
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. To check the weather forecast at both the arrival and departure locations, get the recipient’s ZIP code. 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. Securely tape together the USPS Priority Mail box, and then cut out 6 pieces of insulation to fit in the top, bottom, and four sides of the box. The top and bottom should completely cover the base of the box. 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 is colder, take the heat pack out of the plastic wrapper. Once the heat pack is confirmed to be warming up, wrap it in a paper bag. 2. Scoop out some water from your fish tank into the specimen container or catch cup. Place the fish in the 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. Try to use as much water as possible so that the water parameters are more stable and the fish has more room to move. 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 bags with no extra air inside. Sealed using a rubber band and a knot
If you’re shipping betta fish that need air or fish with spines, use regular fish bags. 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. 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. The cold or heat packs should be placed in the box. Next, add the fish bags. Between the cold or heat packs, place packing material or a piece cardboard. 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. Cover the box with packaging tape to keep them from getting wet. Reinforce the box with several additional strips of tape if needed.
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. For a faster delivery, you might offer Priority Mail Express shipping.
Because of potential delays in shipping (especially during the holiday season), we always use heat packs that last longer than the intended delivery time. To keep your live animals warm and healthy during colder seasons, ensure you include a 72-hour heat package.