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NAFBG Shipping Article
Attached to this email is a slightly modified copy of an article on how
to properly ship fish that appeared in the February edition of the North
American Fish Breeders Guild publication, the Guild Exchange (I am a
member of the NAFBG).
The primary modification was a deletion of a reference to a common
illegal practice (not getting the proper permits when importing fish
from outside the US) that could get one in a LOT of trouble with the US
Fish and Wildlife Service, to the tune of at least $5000 per violation.
As the USFWS is cracking down on these practices, it is a good idea to
ensure that you are following the letter of the law if you are dealing
with import/export of fish. Similar protocols apply to fish brought
across the border by self-transportfrom Canada, whether natives or
tropicals, generally limited to two (2) bags of fish. BE SURE TO CHECK
WITH THE USFWS - WELL IN ADVANCE - FOR ANY ACTIVITIES INVOLVING IMPORT
OR EXPORT OF FISH.
The NAFBG article presents a number of important protocols for shipping
fish, which NFC members may benefit from. Keep in mind that NFC members
may wish to put a bit more water in with their fish, as NAFBG members
tend to use express mail and air freight. A bit more water is a good
idea for longer term transport, when using Priority Mail for instance,
especially when dealing with native fish which may have higher needs for
oxygen and less ammonia tolerance than many tropical fish.
I use a ratio of 1:4 to 1:3 of water to air in shipping bags, which has
been quite successful to date. I also use two drops of AquaSafe or
AmmoLock II for ammonia control in each bag.
I don't claim expert status, but these protocols have worked for NAFBG
members. The article points out that it is a guide, not the last word on
the subject, so new protocols may need to be developed for particular
fish that have unique shipping problems.
PS: a number of the products mentioned in the article are available from
Mail Order Pet Shop (http://www.mopetshop.com), which may be contacted
by telephone at 1-800-366-7387. They provide a free catalog with
extensive product listings and very good pricing.
Dwight D. Moody
P.O. Box 214
East Montpelier VT 05651-0214
802-476-0685 (home), 802-241-3482 (work)
One of the earliest Christian symbols was the fish
(Greek: icthys, which was an abbreviation for the Greek
words in the phrase: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior).
Thus, disciples could identify each other by their use
of the fish symbol, which continues to be used today.
Jonah was swallowed by a huge fish and remained
within it for three days and three nights. Afterwards,
he was "vomited" (literal translation) onto the beach
to go and minister to the people of Ninevah (Jonah 2:1-11).
While we often find references in aquarium books
concerning the first instances of fishkeeping
by humans, this appears to be the first instance
of humankeeping by a fish!
Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com
NORTH AMERICAN FISH BREEDERS GUILD SHIPPING SUGGESTIONS
(From NAFBG GUILD EXCHANGE, February 1998 [with minor corrections by Dwight Moody] )
This document has been written to give you ideas on how to prepare and ship live fish. There are few set
laws in this area, and you are left the freedom to make your own decisions and conclusions from this text.
If you are really hesitant about shipping fish, have someone ship fish to you and observe how they do it.
Remember, healthy fish are a lot stronger than you think. With proper precautions, there should be no
FISH: Ship only healthy, strong fish, with well filled out bodies. Do not feed fish for 24 hours before
shipping. This will allow the fish to pass most of its waste before being bagged and will minimize water
fouling during transit. If you maintain your fish in a large tank, it is advisable to catch them the day prior
to bagging and put them in an aerated bucket or small tank. This way you won't have to chase the fish
around just before they are bagged and add unnecessary stress on both you and the fish.
BAGS: Use strong, water-tight plastic bags that are at least 1.5 mil thick for smaller fish and 3.0 mils thick
for larger fish and fish with strong, sharp fins or spines (Corydoras catfish, for instance). Bags can be
found in the Guild Store.
BAGGING: With the exception of fry, try to bag one fish per bag. This eliminates the problem of damage
to fish due to fighting in their small quarters. Use a bag size that corresponds with the size of the fish to be
shipped. If you're using oxygen, you can put more than one fish in a bag (commercial shippers put 1000
Cardinal Tetras in a large bag in a styrofoam box), but be cautious. Put only enough water in the bag to
cover the fish, but not much more. The volume of air above the water should be at least 4 times more than
the volume of water, especially when using atmospheric air.
After the fish is in the bag, hold the bag with one hand underneath and grab it with your other hand, around
its neck, thus trapping air in the bag. Another way to fill the bag is to run an airline from a pump into the
bag. This is a little slower, but much easier. NEVER breathe into the bag to fill it. The added carbon
dioxide will increase the respiratory rate of the fish and add stress.
Always double bag your fish. Tie the first bag in a knot to seal it or use a strong rubber band. Once you
have sealed the first bag, put it into another bag of identical dimensions, but with the tied end in first. This
prevents the fish from getting stuck in the corners of the bag by eliminating them. Professionals use
shipping bags that have no corners, but always double-bag fish in case of leaks.
AIR: Atmospheric air is most commonly used by hobbyists and is sufficient in most cases. Oxygen is
better, but is not readily at hand for most hobbyists. Oxygen will tend to dissipate from the bag in a few
days, however, as long as the fish arrive in good shape, receiving a slightly deflated bag is no major
concern. As mentioned earlier, never blow into a bag with your breath to inflate it.
WATER: Use clean, slightly aged water that hasn't had fish in it. If using tap water, aerate it at least
overnight in an open bucket to remove chlorine. Also add any water conditioners (optional) to it so it has
time to stabilize.
OPTIONAL ADDITIVES: Skin conditioners and electrolytes, such as Stress Coat or Novaqua, are highly
recommended when shipping fish. They help the fish regenerate its important slime layer. An ammonia
absorbent (Amquel, AquaSafe or AmmoLock II) is also recommended to absorb toxic ammonia, a waste
product produced by the fish. Acriflavine slows the development of fungal infections and Velvet. Methylene
Blue also slows fungal infections and promotes oxygen absorbtion. This is very popular when shipping
eggs. Non-iodized salt (sodium chloride) is a good electrolyte and helps prevent shimmy in livebearers.
Tranquilizers, such as Hypno and Trance are an excellent aid when shipping large or nervous fish. It slows
down their metabolism considerably. When the recommended dosage is used, no ill effects are suffered
when the fish is released into its new home. They perk right up when put into fresh water.
There are many more chemicals that you can add to the water, but it is not necessary. It is advised that a
skin conditioner and an ammonia absorbent be used. Add others according to personal preference,
conviction and experience, but don't get carried away. Too much prevention is often worse than none.
Every shipper has their own ideas and preferences. Luckily, fish are pretty tough and give us this room for
LABELING: Always properly mark each bag with the fish's full species name and gender with a
THE BOX: Either buy a styrofoam box from the Guild Store, a pet shop or supplier, or you can make
your own. If you make your own, you have several choices. Take a strong cardboard box and tightly line
the insides with styrofoam pieces cut to a snug size, or fiberglass wool. If there is extra space after the
bags are added, crumple up newspaper, or better yet, use styrofoam peanuts to fill any spaces. After
packing the bags, tape the box shut with a quality shipping tape. Some post offices insist on your using
reinforced tape on the exterior of the box. This is for your protection. Always write on the box "Live
Tropical Fish". Hopefully, extra care will be taken during transit.
WHEN TO PACK AND SHIP: Pack fish immediately prior to shipping, if possible. Be sure to call the
recipient if you haven't already set an exact ship date. It is best to ship early in the week, no later than
Wednesday morning. Don't ship during extreme cold or heat. Both will jepardize the well being of your
TRANSPORTATION: There are a number of options that you have for shipping. The most common are
1) Airport to airport by plane. This is the best way to ship fish, if you and the recipient live near an
airport. Set a date, and time, for the shipment and use any airline. The fish will only have to suffer for a
few hours. This is also recommended for very rare and sensitive fish for obvious reasons.
2) Bus. If the recipient lives within 400 miles of you, you can use Trailways or Greyhound to ship your
fish. Several pet shops in North Florida to this weekly to get their stuff from Miami. Again, be sure to set
a shipping date and time, otherwise your fish may sit in a bus station overnight, or longer.
3) Express Mail. The US Postal Service can guarantee your fish to reach its destination within two days,
or your money back. This is a very good way to ship fish and is commonly used among hobbyists. The
Post Office is pretty reliable.
4) Priority Mail. This method is as good as Express Mail, especially if you pack your fish properly. Three
days is usually tops for your fish to get to the other party and it is cheaper than Express Mail. Three days
is not a long time for most fish.
5) UPS, Federal Express, Purolater, etc. Policy varies within these companies from region to region.
Sometimes they will ship livestock, sometimes they won't. Check first. All have next day service and
second day service (actually, the problem is that they won't accept the shipment if they have to insure the
fish - if you waive the insurance, then they will usually accept the shipment - DM).
INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING: It is advisable to do this direct from airport to airport. Make sure you
have clearance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for both imports AND exports. If you live near a
"non-designated airport" (for import/export purposes involving live animals), you will have to obtain a
"non-designated import/export permit". Other methods of shipping fish into or out of the US are unlawful.
Always declare all species by scientific name when shipping fish overseas.
SHIPPING EGGS: Ship eggs in a watertight plastic or small glass vial, with a little water and a drop of
Methylene Blue or Acriflavine. Some hobbyists use a piece of air line tubing tied at both ends. Another
option is to put the eggs in moist peat moss, in a good plastic bag. Pack in a small insulated box and ship
using any of the above methods. Not all eggs can be shipped. Eggs from killies and rainbowfish are the
most commonly shipped eggs.
SHIPPING PLANTS: Pull plants from the substrate and wash roots thoroughly. Remove all dead parts
(root pieces or leaf matter). Put one plant to a plastic bag and fill with air. Another option is to wrap the
plant in wet newspaper before putting the plant in the plastic bag to prevent the leaves from drying out. It
is NOT good to fill the bag with water because the plant will tend to decay faster.
(NAFBG memberships, $15 per year. Send to: D. L. Sponenberg, NAFBG Membership Director, RR #2,
Box 67-L, Orangeville PA 17859)--====================987654321_0==_
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