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NFC: shipping fishes


Shipping 101: A Beginner's Guide To Sending Fish To New Homes In Far Away Places

by Robert Rice

Ok, OK you have done it .You have just collected the hidden, secret spot of your favorite fish and shockingly have too many excellent fish. Maybe you have done even better and your favorite fish has spawned and you have fry coming out your ears. Great , at first you panic then you dig out a NANFA trading post and decide I want to send my fish to Miss. Jones in Portland Oregon ! Sounds good so far. Miss. Jones being a trusting sort sends you a box full of aquatic plants that you have wanted for years. You are in heaven ! Suddenly you realize you have a problem you owe Miss. Jones some fish but do not have the foggiest idea how to get them to her ! Relax your friendly host (me) will walk you through the whole thing.

You need to ship fish ? Well first off you need to get a box and some bags. Here is the place where a friendly pet store owner can make your life easier. Let's say you ask your local pet store owner Hans "Sir, do you have any extra boxes or bags I need to ship some fish". Hans looks at you in disgust and says " Why do you need to ship fish, you don't buy fish here so where did they come from? You are a bad person get out of my store." So you slink away vowing never to return. On your way home you get a brainstorm and stop at the local Piggly Wiggly grocery store and purchase a box of Glad freezer bags for $1.29. Not the ziplock kind but the cheap old reguar freezer bags.You also notice CHEAP styro coolers for $1.99 and snag one of those too. On your way out you talk them into giving you a cardboard box that once held Pampers diapers. OK , fine you are in business.

Or what if instead old Hans had said "Boxes ? You want Boxes ? Yeah I got a pile of them in the back help yourself and buy something will ya? " So you purchase some bags from him at a nickel a piece and vow to buy all your hardware from your new buddy Hans. Who by the way loves to collect, and tries to talk you into taking him with him next time you go (that is a different story though !).

So, either way you are heading home with the right stuff in your car and a grinding fear in your heart about shipping those fish. You wonder how can fish survive in this little box for the long trip to Oregon. A tear wells up in your eye when you think "I could be sending my babies to there DOOM , whoa is me." Relax fish are not people and they can tolerate a box very easily and with little stress.

You have picked your fish out and are ready to start packing . First rule of packing is less water equals more fish ! that means put the absolute minimum amount of water in each bag. Fish do not breath water they breath air. If your bag is full of water and not air you will have a very heavy box of stinky water arriving in Oregon and a very angry Miss. Jones opening them. So put about an inch of water in each bag sometimes more , sometimes less depending on the size of the fish. I like to put just enough to fully cover each fish and never any more. Then I blow the bags up to a squishy soft consistency. If you are lucky and have bottled O2 or a tire pump use that instead of blowing em up with your mouth. When you exhale it adds a bit of CO2 to the air mix wich is not good. If not your air is better than no air. Now be carefull, if you blow your plastic bags up too much , the pressure change while on an airplane can burst the bags open . Rule number two is, more bags equals more fish. What this means is it is far better to have 15 small bags with 1 fish in them than two large bags with 8 fish in them. If a fish dies you will limit the damage to his buddies if they are not in the bag with him !

So now you have packed up these fish just so and have all these cute little bags on the floor what now? Simple, place them in the Styrofoam box and put a bit of newspaper in there to cover any gaps and tape the box closed. I use 2 inch wide packing tape as it adds support to the box. Then place the whole thing inside a suitably sized cardboard box with a bit of newspaper to cover the gaps label it and write live fish on the sides of this box. Tape it shut and you are ready to go to the post office. Maybe Hans gave you a cardboard and styro all in one if so skip a step and head to the post office!

The post office you say ! Why not UPS, Fed Ex or one of the other carriers? Because they often do not allow the shipping of live animals and they are always more expensive. So you lug your large ugly box up there, all labeled up and the postal clerk says " I am sorry but we can't ship LIVE fish ." You however have read this article and are prepared and reply " Ma'am in the domestic mail manual section 124.632 it states you can ship non venomous cold blooded animals via the post office." "Oh "she says, looks it up and says "Never mind !" and your fish are on their way. Wait you say, what if I was shipping to another country, say London England, is that legal? You would recite the same sentence except add ".....the international mail manual states in section 139.1 that the shipment of non........" You get the picture. Anyway she says "oh" and ask "how would you like it shipped?" The correct answer is priority mail. Most packages are there in 2 days and it is so cheap you can't beat it. So you cough up about 10-12 dollars and head home and wait. The best thing is next time you ship fish, the postal employees will all know you are the fish person and will be glad to help. See those postal service coffee breaks are good for something.

Two days later you get a call from Miss. Jones in Oregon thanking you for your cool fish and all is well. You are happy, your fish are happy and Miss. Jones is happy. Life is good. You think you might want to trade again and dig out your NANFA trading post again. Yes life is good!

I have used the same setup to send fish all around the world with waits as long as 14 days with a higher that 80% survival rate. So do not be afraid to ship fish , be afraid of taxes , death , environmental apathy but not shipping fish. Until next time good luck and good fishing.


Robert Rice
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