A Fish Moving Experience

Online Aquarium Fish Magazine | A Fish Moving Experience


How we moved our fish cross country. In July, we were living in St. Augustine, Florida and I was offered a job in Denver, Colorado. After accepting the job, we came up with a plan for moving our fish such a far distance. Our plan was to get the Kordon Breathable Bags and double bag our fish in clean treated water with both Meth. Blue and Fish Protector added to the water. Then we'd pack the fish in a tropical fish shipping box and mail it overnight the afternoon of the day before the move. I booked a 6am flight to Denver that would have me there before the fish so that I could pick them up at the Post Office when they arrived. All the supplies were arranged for in Denver so that they could immediately be put into temp. tanks until their tanks arrived with the moving van. All that to minimize their traveling time and stress. We even checked the USPS website for the rates to ship live fish. Well, we go to the local post office after loading the moving van and getting the fish ready in their box and they tell us that the USPS refuses to ship live animals! Silly us, thinking the post office was there to mail things - what were we thinking!? So that left us with a box of bagged fish with no plan and about 10 hours before I had to head out to catch the flight that it was too late to cancel.. and that's how we ended up with an experience on moving fish long distance by car.

Last minute improvising:

We went to Walmart and bought 6 small containers (for the Betta Splendens) and 4 large containers (for the Betta Mahachai and Platys) to put the fish in during nights, along with a soft cooler box to keep the fish in during days. At home we had 3 strong air pump, each hooked to a 4-way gang valve to pump air into the 10 air stones.

Our Plan (Night Portion):

  1. Set the containers out and fill them each half-way with treated tap water.
  2. Place the air stones into the containers, held in place by suction cups.
  3. Take the fish, 1 bag at a time, out of the soft cooler box. Unwrap the rubber band keeping the double-bag closed and float the bag in the container.
  4. Once all the bags were floating, acclimate the fish using a turkey baster to add the treated tap water to the bag, evening out both temp, pH and water chemistry.
  5. Release the fish from the bags.
  6. Feed each fish 1 pellet.
  7. Plug the air pumps into our plugged-in power strip.
  8. Close the lids as far as they close without cutting off the air supply.
  9. Go to bed.

Our Plan (Morning Portion):

  1. Unplug the air pumps.
  2. Double-bag each fish with enough water to allow them to not be curled up or super cramped, tightly wrapping the bags with a rubber band and leaving little to no air in the bags.
  3. Gently place the bags in the soft cooler box.
  4. Unhook the air stones and put the air stones, hoses and gang valves in a sealable bag.
  5. Put the air pumps in another bag, a regular plastic bag would do.
  6. Empty and dry the containers. Stack them and move everything to the car.

Additional Notes:

Since this was planned at the last minute, we only had enough breathable bags for double-bagging the fish with some extras in case any bags leaked. This made it necessary to use the same bags the entire time. To keep track of who went in each bag, Stacy put the bags on top of the containers at night. Had it been planned, we would have bought enough bags to use new ones each day.

The fish were taken out of their tanks Tuesday afternoon and put back into their tanks Saturday afternoon. They logged about 1,800 miles on the road and 19 of 21 fish made the trip, including a very sick Platy. (1 fish actually died before the trip started, so only 1 was lost during the trip.) I usually do the tank cleaning, setting up equipment, etc but Stacy had all this dumped on her at the last second unexpectedly. She did a great job taking care of them and I really was happily surprised that we only lost 1 fish on such a long and stressful trip!

Water Treatment:

The water the fish were bagged in was clean treated tap water treated with both Methylene Blue and Fish Protector. Both products are made by Kordon. Do everything that could result in water spilling, dripping, etc over plastic garbage bags or something you don't care about seeing blue forever!

Each night, the water in the containers was treated with 1 drop of Prime, 2 drops of NovAqua+, 1 drop of Fish Protector and 1-2 drops of VitaChem.

Where We Got Everything:

The rubber bands, 5-outlet power strip, containers, soft cooler box and air pumps (the kind with 2 outlets on them for about $10 each) came from Walmart. You could get a small pair of scissors to help remove the rubber bands, if you feel you'd need it.

The Prime, NovAqua+ and VitaChem were ordered at the DFS website (https://www.drfostersmith.com) - Prime and NovAqua+ should be available locally, but the VitaChem most likely will need to be ordered online so ordering the Prime and NovAqua+ with it would save money without increasing shipping costs.

The 4-way gang valves came from Petco, but could also be ordered at the DFS website.

The air stones and air hose could be bought at Walmart, most fish/pet stores or the DFS website.

Be Sure:

Be sure the containers are strong enough to hold the water. Most are, so this shouldn't be a problem. Testing them in advance would be a good call.

Be sure the insulated cooler box is all soft with no hard parts in it, more like a bag, just in a box shape.

Be sure to take the cooler box in with you and never leave it in the car.

Well, that's our wild plan that somehow worked. Should the temps be really hot or really cold, you may need either ice or heat packs. The cooler box will help, but you just want to do your best to keep their water as close to normal as possible.

About the Author

Dave started in the wonderful world of Bettas and fishkeeping the Saturday after Christmas 2006. I gave Stacy a Betta for a Christmas Present (Super Mario) and after a rocky start we found what a great community FishLore is and now we have 6 betta splendens, 7 betta mahachai, 4 balloon platys, 4 platys, a roque gang of shrimp and a partridge in a pear tree (well one of the bettas ate him last night) in 9 tanks.

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