How do you ship live fish?

At Cooranbong Aquatics we get asked allot about how do we ship live aquarium fish fish. These are understandable I mean how we get a live fish to your house hundreds or thousands of KMs away which may take days and get them there nice and healthy, ready to make your aquarium home. Well this is our process and a bit of science thrown in as well which make it work well and why once you know how shipping live fish is relatively easy.

Step One: The first step in the processes is getting the live fish ready for shipping. We do this by, were possible not feeding the fish the day before we ship and in the case of large fish and goldfish we will ALWAYS fast them for 24 hours. This means that’s they don’t poo in the bag where there is no filtration to remove the waste and ammonia that can build up in the confines of the bag and effect the fish by burning its gill and skin.

Step Two: We then catch the fish in the quickest least stressful way possible and place them in the right size plastic fish bag. Picking the right size bag depends on the size of the live fish and the amount of fish that you are shipping. Common sense comes into play here. We never mix species to save cost which the exception of different colour variants of the same species.

Step Three: we then take the bag over to our packing area and fill the bag with pure oxygen, we make sure that the bag is 2/3 pure oxygen, 1/3 water. We then seal the bag using 2 elastic bands to seal it tight.

Step Four: We then put the seal bag and live fish top down into another bag and seal the second bag, with rubber bands. This is called double bagging, this not only makes it safer to ship some fish such as Corydora catfish and Bristlenose catfish which have spikes buy also provide some prevention against leaking from rubber banks coming loose or breaking. There is also a small amount thermal stabilization given as well even if it is small.

Step Five: We then put the bagged and seal live fish in a appropriately size Styrofoam box. These boxes provide and amazing amount of insulation for a relatively small price. We may also add a heat pad or cool pack depending on the time of year. Generally for shipping live aquarium fish if the night time temperature are below 14 I use a heat pack and if daytime temperature are above 34 or I am shipping sensitive live fish or inverts such as shrimp I add a cold pack. From personal experience it is much better a fish get to cold then hot. We then add a little sweet treat to the box as a thank you along with contact details.

Step Six: Our final step in the process is to seal the Styrofoam box by sealing it with tape and putting a consignment form on it. Then it’s on its way to our customers house and there nice new home in there aquarium or pond.

Ok now a little bit of science, I never recommend water acclimating fish for anything apart from temperature. This is because on the journey ammonia builds up in the water not just from the poo but also from them breathing, but so does CO2 this makes the water more acidic. This makes the ammonia much less toxic to the live aquarium fish or invertebrate ion the bag. Here is an article explaining how PH and ammonia interact. Once you open the bag the CO2 start to release from the water and oxygen return and quickly turns that less toxic ammonia into very toxic ammonia . This happens very quick. So our suggestion is if you get a live aquarium fish or invertebrate shipped to you that  after you temperature acclimate by floating the bag that you open the bag quickly tip the contents into fish net and transfer straight into the tank. There is far greater risk to the fish from ammonia in this case then from a PH or water hardness swing. As with any fish but particularly with shipped fish we recommend always quarantining them. We never ship sick Aquarium fish but stress during shipping can bring on sickness. Even if they are healthy you may have some sort of pathogen in the tank and under stress it could fall to the diseases.

 Live aquarium fish delivery

Using the following technique we have manage to have very low dead on arrival rate of the live fish we ship. We have lost less then 1% of all the fish we have shipped. But things do happen and when they do we have a robust DOA policy that will refund our customer from any losses. Our shipping policy can be seen here on a shipping information page. Any questions don’t hesitate to email us at or contact us on any one of our social media channels.

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