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Shipping Supplies?

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#1 Guest_CatWhat_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 11:48 AM

I have been reading up on info regarding shipping fish but unsure where to obtain the water conditioning supplies? Such as Kosher Salt, ammolock etc.....I am planning a collecting trip to another province this summer and hopefully before that time I will have all the legal stuff in the know and the shipping ins and outs. Thank you very much for the help.

#2 Guest_travishaas_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:31 PM

Kosher salt can be had at grocery stores, Ammolock at any petstore or Walmart. I've purchased plastic bags from mom and pop pet stores, otherwsie they're available online.

#3 Guest_Newt_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:34 PM

If you don't have a pet shop locally, you can order online. Here's a couple of Canadian distributors:



Bait and tackle shops often have handy items too, like battery-powered aerators and insulated buckets- great for transporting fish.

#4 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 12:34 PM

I don't use kosher salt or ammolock when I ship fish. I do use a Kordon® breathable bag, but that's mainly 'cause meh, why not. You don't have to. Here, I'll write out a list of what I do to ship fish. I do it very frequently; I shipped fish this past Tuesday and am shipping more next Monday. So, here goes:

1. Obtain a sturdy box. One perk of working in a big laboratory building like I do is that people are always leaving styrofoam lined boxes in the hallway for the trash collectors. I regularly take these trash boxes home with me. The lab directors know this and everyone is cool with it. Your box does not have to be styrofoam lined but it does help reduce temperature fluctuations for the fish. I have used plain old cardboard lots of times with no problem.
2. Get some bags. Now here's where you'll hear a lot of people telling you different advice. The reason we all vary on our opinions for this part so much is that a lot of different things work. I know some people who ship in super cheap bags that are air impermeable. They put 1/3 water, 2/3 air in the bag or even 1/4 water, 3/4 air. Then they rubberband the top of the bag and double bag it in a second bag. It works great but you're shipping a big box. What I do is, I buy those Kordon® breathable bags that let oxygen and carbon dioxide through the plastic layer, but not water. I fill the bag completely with water, no air to slosh around and traumatize the fish. (They advertise the no-sloshing as being important. I'm not convinced.) The reason why I use the breathable bags is because they're only fifty cents each, so it's not a big markup, and they are much much smaller than the huge mostly-air bags so I can use a smaller shipping box, which saves me money. Certain USPS post offices will charge you based on box size, not weight, so the smaller boxes matter. Other post offices and shipping protocols use the weight so a large box wouldn't cost more.
3. Obtain heat packs if it is winter. I buy the 72 hour heat packs off of aquabid.com or off of the company's website once you find a heat pack company you like. I like the 72 hour ones because USPS priority mail ships in 2-3 days. In general you can use a heat pack if it gets like 40 degrees F. I recently had to ship fish to a place where the temperature ranged from 40 to 70 F and the person claimed the fish cooked and died. I'm not sure if they were telling the truth or not, but I figured I'd give you the heads up that it may happen. I have also shipped a shipment of snails one time in December/January where the USPS lost the package and it arrived over a week after I shipped it. The water in the bag actually froze, but the snails were hardy and lived.
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. But if the ammonia hits 1, 2, 5 ppm in that bag, there aren't very many fish I can that of that would survive. So, don't feed your fish before you ship it. I usually separate the fish to be shipped and stop feeding them about a day or two before they go in the shipping bag. For example the guppies I shipped on Tuesday were separated from the rest of the fish and not fed on Monday. Edit: The Elassoma gilberti I'm shipping Monday I will not be starving at all. It's hard enough getting them to eat as it is! XD
5. Tightly secure the top of the bag to be shipped. I both tie it in a knot and use a rubber band. The box could get squished during transport, which would put pressure on the bag and might pop it open. That's why USPS requires you to include enough absorbent material to be able to soak up any liquid and mark the box with the word 'liquid' on it. It happens. Don't let it happen to you. Rubber band.
6. Clearly label the package.
7. Use enough tape.
8. Secure the fish inside the box so they can't roll around. I stuff the box with paper towels usually, but have been known to use an old T-shirt. Sssh I didn't say that. But paper towels are expensive, and the one time I used a roll of toilet paper it took the whole roll, so I don't recommend using toilet paper.
9. Buy a tracking number. That 70 cents 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. Or, if the fish end up in Siberia instead of where you wanted them to go, you can call the Siberia post office and be like, "You have a box of live fish that was supposed to be shipped to X place. Can you please ship it there?"
10. Have a Dead On Arrival (DOA) policy. Seriously, scammers are awful. Learned my lesson the hard way with this one, too. Now whenever I ship fish I specify what the person is to do if the fish arrive 'dead'. Which is to say, I require them to send me a picture of the fish dead in the bag within two hours of arrival. That way they can't just whine at me without any photographic evidence and get a second shipment of fish for free. On my $1 cull auctions where I'm shipping away fish that aren't worth breeding but don't deserve killing, I specifically say, "No DOA guarantee; buy this dollar auction at your own risk." Breeders need to be able to get rid of fish that aren't of their specific desired phenotype/genotype. But you don't have to kill them. So I send them away with no DOA and feel better about them making it to a good home. *shrugs*
11. 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. That was a problem when I had Myriophyllum aquaticum (some people would see it as being too closely related to its invasive cousin, M. spicatum), but is less of an issue now that I have Myriophyllum pinnatum (which is native to the US and therefore non-invasive).

Edited by EricaWieser, 30 March 2012 - 12:50 PM.

#5 Guest_CatWhat_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 04:51 PM

Thanks for the info. I'll see if can find the breathable bags and if not those perhaps I'll use the Kardon salt and ammolock. I wont have to worry about the heat packs for this trip as it will be during the summer. I have perfect styrofoam boxes from recent shipment I have recived from a distributor.

#6 Guest_jetajockey_*

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Posted 30 March 2012 - 05:30 PM

One other thing to add is fresh water. I always ship my fish in fresh dechlorinated aerated water. I set a bucket out the night before, dechlor and aerate overnight.

There's a few reasons for it, but it's basically to make sure that there's nothing in there that will foul the water during shipping. My shipping success rate went up to 95%+ after doing this, when before it was around 75%-ish.

I don't use breather bags unless I happen to have some from an inbound package, I find that the cost just isn't worth it, and I always worry about a bag leaking or bursting in transit. I double bag with regular 2mil or 3mil bags and have never had a bag burst through both bags. I don't think the fish have much issue with the sloshing if there is sufficient water volume, and inverts do fine as long as you include something like a plant for htem to cling to. I usually go for 1/2 water 1/2 air and it's more than enough for a 2-3 day trip. I also clearly mark the box as fragile with an up arrow. Some people mark their boxes with 'live fish'.

I don't know what the shipping policies are up there so I'll leave that part alone apart from stating that if its anything like here, weight is everything (if it's not flat rate)

Edited by jetajockey, 30 March 2012 - 05:34 PM.

#7 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 15 February 2013 - 02:10 PM

USPS at the moment no longer offers tracking numbers. :( I liked having proof that the fish were delivered.

Currently I have been capturing a picture of the package right before it ships and e-mailing that picture to the buyer. It's not as good as delivery confirmation with a tracking number, though.

I include a paragraph in the e-mail about how if anything in the package arrives dead, the buyer should immediately take a picture of the unopened bag with the dead fish in it and e-mail it to me.

#8 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:06 PM

Tape the heat pack to the lid: I just got picture evidence that one of my shipments of fish arrived dead. This upsets me; I shipped three bags instead of one and not a single fish arrived alive. :( I got fed up and did some research online. Apparently taping the heat pack to the lid of the styrofoam inner box is supposed to help the heat disperse more evenly and not cook the fish. Then you are supposed to cover the heat pack with layers of paper, which I already do and can continue doing. I am going to try this new lid taping technique from now on. Maybe it will help. I must admit that one of the packages I ordered from someone else had the heat pack taped to the lid, and those fish did all arrive alive. They were Caribbean fish, though, so who knows if they would have enjoyed being boiled and arrived alive anyway. *shrugs* Anyway, that's something new to try, so I figured I'd share it here. From now on I will tape the heat pack to the lid.

Edited by EricaWieser, 07 March 2013 - 09:09 PM.

#9 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 09:39 PM

When shipping native fish, most people do not use heat packs at all. I would never, and I have shipped quite a few boxes.

#10 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:07 PM

When shipping native fish, most people do not use heat packs at all. I would never, and I have shipped quite a few boxes.

I used a heat pack when I shipped a box of gold heterandria formosa recently. All of them arrived alive, nice and toasty warm getting shipped to Wisconsin in February.

Edited by EricaWieser, 07 March 2013 - 10:07 PM.

#11 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:14 PM

I have seen many, many dead natives due to heat... never any due to cold... OK, maybe one Florida Flag Fish, but that is about it.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#12 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 07 March 2013 - 10:34 PM

Yeah even mid winter shipping, unless the package gets lost, and sits on a dock, no problem with cold. I had that happen with some eastern mudminnows that were shipped to me. The package was about three days late, and the bags were blocks of ice, with a bit of water in the center. Thawed out, at least 50% lived. I would not worry about cold, unless you were shipping southern Florida fish.

Also, Ammolock, salt, and bag buddies are very helpful. I also used new water, which I aerated overnight. I sometimes shipped in breather bags, but feel that I actually had better success with regular bags, minimal water, and welding O2.

#13 Guest_Dustin_*

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Posted 08 March 2013 - 12:36 PM

I have shipped probably thousands of bags of fish by now. I only ship from late fall to early spring and have never used heat packs. I have shippied into the upper midwest in the middle of winter many times and never had an issue. Heat is the scourge of native fish shipping, not cold. I agree with Matt on the bags too. We used breather bags exclusively for years but have recently switched to regular bags and O2. We can now start shipping earlier and end later because of this. THe only hassle is that you can't get nearly as many fish in a box with the regular bags.

#14 Guest_gerald_*

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 09:11 AM

Dustin, do you mean the fish can tolerate higher temp in a regular bag than in a breather bag?
Why ...is it because of the supplemental oxygen?

We used breather bags exclusively for years but have recently switched to regular bags and O2. We can now start shipping earlier and end later because of this.

#15 Guest_Dustin_*

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 10:53 AM

Gerald, I think that the exchange across the membrane is not sufficient once the water warms and has less oxygen carrying capacity. The bags with O2 well outperform the breather bags once the temps get into the 80's.

#16 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 01:26 PM

Just to note, pure O2 kills obligate air breathers like gar and bowfin. At least in my experience. I used a mix of air, and O2 when shipping these fish. I think medical oxygen would be ok, but welding oxygen is too much. I suspect when they surface, and take a gulp of pure O2, that it throws off their CO2/O2 balance.

#17 Guest_Dustin_*

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 07:37 PM

Matt is right. Not good for swamp fish, and I suspect, mudminnows either. Learned the hard way. I also use a mix for those now.

#18 Guest_Skipjack_*

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Posted 10 March 2013 - 09:42 PM

Glad to have back up on that Dustin. Seemed pretty clear cut to me, but you always doubt yourself when you are shipping.

#19 Guest_EricaWieser_*

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 01:20 PM

Oh, by the way, taping the heat pack to the top of the box has been working wonderfully.

Not all of our native fish are from Wisconsin. Some of the poor Florida fish can't handle the cold. These heterandria formosa survive great with a heat pack. I don't include one if the temperature is above 70F anywhere along the trip. Since I started taping it to the top and putting the fish on the bottom, there haven't been any more casualties.

Edited by EricaWieser, 20 April 2013 - 01:24 PM.

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