Shipping Live Fish TT24
Published on May 12, 2014

Shipping Live Fish - Tech Talk 24

The art of shipping live fish has been mastered by the tropical fish industry, which ships over one hundred million dollars worth of live fish around the world annually.

Before the fish are packed, many factors must be considered. Are warmwater fish being shipped to a cold climate or vice versa? What is the duration of the shipment before the box is unpacked? Are the fish aggressive, needing isolation? Do they have sharp spines which require double or triple bagging?

Techniques for shipping live fish:

  1.  Only ship healthy fish that have not been fed for 2–4 days.
  2.  If the fish are cold-tolerant, such as trout, bluegill, striped bass, etc., temperatures should be lowered gradually to 60°F or 16°C (the metabolic rate of the fish will be reduced).
  3. Know the chemistry of the water the fish will be released into at their destination. The quality of your water should be adjusted slowly to the same pH, alkalinity, salinity, etc.
  4. The clean water used for shipping should be held separate from the fish before packing. Salt is typically added to the water at a rate of 1 to 5 ppt (parts per thousand). That is .8 to 4 lbs of salt per 100 gallons or 3.8 to 19 grams per gallon. This reduces osmotic stress on freshwater fish.
  5. Various conditioners such as zeolite, activated carbon, pH adjusters and ammonia-locking solutions may be used.
  6. Fill shipping bags 1/3 full with the pretreated aerated water and gently place fish into the bags.
  7. Compress the bag to remove all air and refill with pure oxygen. The typical ratio is 1/3 water, 2/3 oxygen.
  8. Double bag and seal with rubber bands, heat, etc.
  9. Place the bags in insulated containers and add heat or cool packs to maintain temperature.