How to ship fish plants inverts and corals

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Staff member
Jun 4, 2003
I would like to thank the people who helped with this post. Fish Room Plus for providing the tips on how to ship fish. beviking for providing how to ship inverts. I did the plants that explains why it isn't as good. Reefscape for how to ship corals.

shipping live tropical fish
by Fish Room Plus

1 Never feed the fish within 48 hours of shipping.
2 If using tank water, change 50% of the water the day before. personally, I use aged tap water, not tank water.
3 Use 2-3, 3mm plastic bags, secure with rubber band (I use wire ties).
4 Make sure the fish is covered 2-3 inch over its highest point with water.
5 If possible, fill bag with pure oxygen (do not blow in the bag) can pump air into bag with bike pump or compressor.
6 Try to use tranquillizer, bag buddies will only last 5-6 hours, but if its the only option, its fine.
7 Use Styrofoam shipping box. once a fish is placed inside the foam box, pack it with news paper so the fish doesn't bounce around.
8 Use heat or cold packs when needed. in very cold weather, use 2-4 heat packs.
9 The carrier use to deliver fish is also important. USPS express is the lease expensive, but only has a 80% on time rate. fed-ex has much higher costs but carry a 98% on time rate.
10 IMO never mark the box "live fish" this will only draw negative attention to the package.

Shipping Shrimp in Breather Bags
Below is how I ship shrimp using Kordon Breather Bags.
by beviking

I use United States Postal Service and ship via Priority Mail. If you use their online Click-N-Ship feature for preparing the labels, delivery confirmation is free!

I do not starve my shrimp before shipping and I use food to lure the shrimp to one spot where I can net them easily. While waiting for the shrimp to come to the food, take a 5.5”X8” Kordon Breather Bag and place it in a dish that will hold the bag plus water. Fill the bag with 8oz. of water from the tank the shrimp are in (Pic 1). I prefer to do my weekly water change a day or two before shipping. 8oz of water is sufficient for 12 juvenile or sub-adult shrimp, 12oz works for 24. Either way, add one drop of Prime to help alleviate any accumulating ammonia during the trip. Roll the bag down so that it is an inch or so above the water line (Pic 2). It may be necessary to place a small object in the container holding the bag of water so that the water does not spill or tip over. Net the shrimp and place them into the bag. Once you are sure the correct number of shrimp is in the bag, add plants for the shrimp to cling to. Unroll the bag and lift it by the top. Pinch the bag so there is no air in it (Pic 3) and twist the tag end (Pic 4). Tie the end and cinch it down to make the bag semi-firm yet just a little squishy (Pic 5). I use one bag for 8oz of water and double bag 12oz of water - place the sealed bag of shrimp in another bag and tie. One useful trick to tying these bags, especially with the added water, is they stretch fairly easy. Once you have the spot for the knot, any extra bag above that point can be stretched to make it long enough to tie a knot. A couple quick points: make sure you didn’t just clip your fingernails and take a minute to put down a clean piece of newspaper or wipe the bench top you’re working on to eliminate the possibility of a foreign object piercing the bag. Now that the shrimp are bagged, they need to be boxed.

You can order boxes for free at USPS - The United States Postal Service (U.S. Postal Service). I prefer the 12X12X8 boxes. They allow more space for insulation and protection than the smaller boxes. The size difference doesn’t affect shipping costs either. You want to fill the box about ½-way with filler material, then add the bag of shrimp, and then fill the rest with filler material. I like to place the bag on a piece of newspaper after filling the box ½-way to prevent the bag from settling into the filler material (Pic 6). Depending on temperatures, you can use filler material only or line the box with Styrofoam and then add filler material. Most think of insulation only for cold weather, but excess heat requires added insulation to keep the interior temps more consistent too. I’ve used many different filler materials including crumpled newspaper (readily available and fairly easy to use), foam peanuts (I recommend the pink, softer ones), bubble wrap (works but do not wrap breather bags with flat side of bubble wrap as it reduces/prevents gas exchange), soft “egg crate” foam (works well, usually not readily available) and the air pillows/bags. Other materials could be used too. The filler material acts as insulation and also as cushioning for the bag of shrimp. The key, in my opinion, is to use enough filler but not too much. When you rotate the box after it’s all closed up, there should be a little movement inside. If I had to put a quantitative figure to it, I’d say the bag should move no more than ½” in any direction. If the box is overfilled and the bag is stressed, any added stress, like dropping or crushing, could cause a leak. Once the box is filled to satisfaction, seal all seams with tape and label it (Pic 7). I label my packages with “Live Shrimp” but it wouldn’t hurt to also use a “Fragile” and/or “Perishable” markings as well.

Multiple bags
Using the 5.5”X8” bags and 12”X12”X8” boxes, I send up to 5 bags in one box. The only variation from the above procedure is to make sure there is some filler material between individual bags. I arrange the bags like the 5 dots on game dice.

Heat Packs
Heat packs are very useful but there is a real potential to overheat shrimp. Better to be too cool than too warm. They come with instructions. I don’t consider heat packs until daytime temps are below 40F. Ask your carrier when and how the package is handled. Does it leave the drop off place immediately? How is it transported to the next site? Could there be a time when the package is left outside in a truck? Some post offices have only one dispatch time in the evening; some have multiple times during the day. You don’t want to drop off a box with a heatpack at 8 a.m. and have it sit in a heated room until 5p.m.!
There are various lengths of time heatpacks work. Most commonly used are 40hr, 60hr, and 72hr. or variants of these times. 30hr and 20hr packs are also available. For priority shipping through USPS, use the 60hr or 72hr pack. Check the weather forecast for your area and the area the package is going to.

Shipping Plants
by Mgamer20o0

Plants are by far extremely easy to ship compared to fish and inverts. I have sent out and got in plenty of packages. First will be how I pack, 2nd other ways to pack.

To make it easy on the person getting my plants, I place each one in its own ziplock. I add extra air into the bag so they don’t get crushed. I also make sure to dump out any extra water. You want it damp but not soaked. In the winter time its best to use heat packs. Styrofoam is also a good option. I ship USPS priority mail. I would only ship first class if someone is close or it’s a moss.

In the spring and summer time some people just use newspaper. Put tank water on it so it’s damp. Put the plants on it, roll it up, and stick it in the box. For larger plants such as big swords or stem plants this is a very good option. All plants can’t fit in ziplocks. Another option is paper towel instead of the newspaper.

Alternative options on shipping shrimp:

We don’t all have breather bags. They are great but unless you know someone or you’re going to shipping out things regularly. It’s not the best but it has worked for me. I use a zip lock sandwich bag and fill it with about 2/3 - 1 cup of water. I use a brine shrimp net to catch the shrimp. This makes counting them very easy. Once they are in, I toss in small thing of moss or other small plant. I use a basketball pump to pump air into the bag. I make sure it’s inflated but not ready to burst. Good idea is to tape the top off so there is no way that it can open. I then place it in a freezer ziplock bag. In the winter I add styrofoam and heatpacks are a very good idea.

If you have any other tips or tricks to shipping please post.

Coral Shipping
by Reefscape

Post and Packing

The best way I have found is to buy some round food grade containers from a local grocery or convenience store, they cost next to nothing each.

Put the frag in this container along with some filter wool to prevent the coral from banging against the side. The containers aren’t quite water tight so you need to put a bit of PTFE tape around the inside and some sticky tape around the outside of the seal.

Put this inside a fish bag just in case and put the container into a small cardboard box (free from your local store), fill with polystyrene beads and put a 40 hour shipping heat pack at the top. All this packaging can then be used to send the returning frag back, so the owner of the tub always ends up with their packing back.

Please post your own shipping methods and ideas so we can come up with best way.

Alternatively, if you have any questions, ask away and I'm sure someone will be able to help you out.

Last edited:


AC Members
Mar 11, 2007
Thanks for such helpful information for people like me who have never shipped fish before and had no idea how to. I was thinking of attempting and this information has given me perfect instruction. Thanks so much.


No Monkey Business
Nov 29, 2007
Brooklyn, NY
If I may, I would like to edit 2 stems in Fish Shipping

4 Make sure the fish is covered 2-3 inch over its highest point with water. (with the bag being horizontally or vertically)

5 If possible, fill bag with pure oxygen (do not blow in the bag) can pump air into bag with bike pump or compressor. If using regular plastic bags, make sure that the bag is 1/3 water, 2/3 oxygen.


Got Plants?
Aug 18, 2008
Marysville, Wa
If packaged like what is explained above, what is the fish survival rate on shipping? and how many hours can a small fish live in a bag going threw the mail?

I care about my fish and I am very worried about my fish not surviving..


AC Members
Feb 10, 2008
If you do express shipping and follow proper instructions as stated in the OP, then you're looking at a 99% survival rate. Fish are quite sturdy usually, and can handle shipping quite well. Better than what most think!

If you do priority, which is probably the type used the most, fish will do fine as well. It will take 2-3 days however but fish can normally handle this shipping. As long as you don't overcrowd the baggie, you're looking at a 95% survival rate. I rarely get DOAs in priority shipping with fish. Though, there were a few times where I had DOAs due to overcrowding of the breather bag.

If the fish you're selling are expensive and/or very fragile, then I highly recommend using express. The risk is much less and it's one less thing to worry about.

A fish can be in transit (if using a breather bag) for approx. 4-5 days. Though is that recommended? Not at all! If using regular bags, I would probably start to worry once it hits day 4. I've never actually tested on how long a fish can survive in transit... but I have had them come to me with a 3 day shipping period.


Did you hear that?
Jun 20, 2008
Charlotte, NC
Lol, m you said to not write live fish and yet you wrote live shrimp on your box!


Guppy Addict
Dec 14, 2008
Real Name
Andy G.
Hello Everyone
Thank you all for your insight in this matter.I have a question?Do you need a permit or license to ship live fish from state to state.Or city to city?I'm talking about small livebearers like guppies, mollies, and platys and such.


AC Members
Sep 25, 2007
Newton Falls, OH
if you dont mind me asking you MG but about how much does it cost you to package up the fish in the box with the bag/styrofoam and all that stuff does the cost of shipping pay for that?