How To Transport Fish – Tips For Long And Short Distance Travel

Just bought a fish and bringing them home? Or moving to a new home? Whenever the fish is in transit, this will be a very stressful time for them. Knowing how to transport fish correctly is crucial to their health.

Whether you’re transporting the fish short distances or long distances like across the country, you’ll need to put them in the right container and provide them with plenty of oxygen.  Below are tips to transport the fish and keep them alive and healthy.

How To Transport Fish In A Car

When transporting fish, a car is the easiest way and fastest way to get the fish from point A to point B.   Just being in transit will cause the fish to be stressed so you’ll want to get the fish to their destination as quickly as possible.

Below are some tips on how to transport the fish safely and securely to their destination.

Don’t Transport Fish In A Bucket

When moving fish around, most people look for the easiest thing to carry a fish in. This is usually a bucket that’s lying around. A bucket is great for putting the fish in while you’re cleaning the tank or moving the tank to a different area of the house.

However, when transporting them farther than the house, a bucket will not work. This is a big mistake that you can make.

As you know, we don’t live in a perfect world. On the roads, there are pot holes, bad drivers, and traffic lights. All these things will require you to depress the car brakes. Sometimes, you’ll need to bring the car to a quick stop. When this happens, the bucket may spill or tip completely over, causing the fish to fall out of the bucket. The fish may die instantly due to an injury caused by the falling bucket. If not, it may die later due to stress.

Transporting Fish In An Aquarium

When moving to a different home, some people think it’s a good idea just to move the entire aquarium with the fish in it. While this may seem like a good idea, there are some precautions you need to take.

When it comes to an aquarium, especially a glass one, there’s really no way of securing them to the car so this isn’t recommended as well. There’s no way of driving the car smoothly enough where the fish won’t get injured.

You’ll have to drive very slowly to prevent the water from swishing around in the aquarium. If you’re transporting the fish over a long distance, be prepared to add additional time for driving to the destination.

If you still insist on moving the fish in the aquarium, remove about half the water out of the tank. In addition, remove all decorations to prevent it from banging into the glass of the tank, which could ultimately break it.

When placing the aquarium in the car, make sure it’s placed on something soft like a blanket. When driving the car over a bump, the blanket will act as a cushion to prevent a hard impact on the aquarium. Without a blanket or something else soft, when driving over a bump or pothole, on the impact the glass could break due to the weight of the water in it.

Transporting Fish In A Plastic Bag

Transport Fish In A BagUsing a plastic bag is the best way to transport fish. When you buy fish from the pet store, plastic bags are what they use to put the fish in. It’s sturdy and round, which allows the fish to move around easily.

When choosing a plastic bag, most people will go for a grocery bag. It’s large and plentiful in the kitchen. However, grocery bags are not recommended for transporting fish due to its construction. Grocery bags are meant to carrying solid items, not carrying water. The seams along the grocery bags can tear easily, especially with the weight of the water. In addition, the bag itself is thin in design, which is prone to be damaged easily.

The best type of bag to use for transporting fish is a fish bag. A fish bag is typically made of a special type of foam and nylon webbing. They are designed to keep the fish safe while being transported. Fish bag is sold in pet stores and most places that sell fish.

If a fish bag isn’t available, make sure the plastic bag that you’ll be using doesn’t have any holes in them. Simply pour water into it and see if the bag leaks water.

Once your bag is ready for use, put aquarium water that the fish has been living in into the plastic bag. Doing so will help keep your fish alive during transportation because it has the right parameters.

Depending on the fish size, you’ll want to use the appropriate container to carry the fish.  For small fish, put a couple of them in the plastic bag. For large fish, it’s best to just put one in each bag or in a Rubbermaid tub.

When the fish are in the plastic bag, they only have about an hour to survive due to limited oxygen supply. If you are traveling longer than an hour, it’s recommended to get pure oxygen and put it in the bag before going. Pure oxygen will provide the needed oxygen for the fish while they are in the bag. Make sure to buy a couple as these pure oxygen tablets last only for a couple of hours or less, depending on how much oxygen your fish needs.

Oxygen For Fish Transport

When you’re transporting the fish from one location to another location via a car, it’s important that the fish get enough oxygen.  Oxygen is crucial for the health of the fish.  Without oxygen, the fish can start to develop health issues and may even die.

To prevent this problem, depending on how far and how long you’ll be traveling with the fish, it’s best to prepare the trip with a supply of oxygen.  The supply of oxygen can be in the form of pure oxygen tablets or using an air pump.

If you’re planning to transport the fish over a long distance, it’s best to use an air pump to supply oxygen.  For this setup, you’ll need an air pump, air hose, an air stone, and a power inverter to supply power to the air pump.  With this setup, there would be an endless supply of oxygen for the fish.

For shorter distances that is under an hour or so, you can use pure oxygen tablets to supply oxygen for the fish.  What these tablets do is release bubbles of air into the aquarium.  Once the bubbles reach the surface of the water, it will exchange gases with oxygen.

Pure oxygen tablets are great to use for shorter trips because they usually only last for an hour or so.  The more fish you have been transported, the quicker the tablet will dissolve.

How To Transport Fish Short Distances

When transporting fish short distances, you won’t need a lot of things.  For short distance trips, you’ll just need plastic bags to put the fish in and a couple of oxygen tablets.

For small fish, a plastic bag will do the job.  Just make sure to not use grocery bags as it could tear easily due to the weight of the water or the fish fins.  Place a couple of fish in each bag.  Make sure they have room to move around easily.

For larger fish like pond fish, a large container like a Rubbermaid tub is recommended.  It’s easier to put the fish in and take them out.  In addition, since the large fish are strong, the sturdiness of the tub can withstand the force of the fish.

Once the fish is in the plastic bags or the tub, drop an oxygen tablet into the water.  Without the oxygen tablet, the fish can survive on its own up to an hour.  But to be on the safe side, it’s best to add oxygen tablets for the fish.

How To Transport Fish Long Distance

When transporting fish long distance, you’ll need to prepare a lot of things in advance.  Since the fish will be in transport for over a longer period of time, they will get stressed. When fish get stressed, they can become ill and die.

To prepare for a long trip (0ver 4 hours) with the fish, make sure to do the following:

Aquarium Water Change

Make sure to change the water a couple of days before moving.  This will help ensure that the water is clean.  Empty about 20% of the water of the aquarium and refill it back.

Aquarium Plants And Decoration

For the plants and decorations, you’ll want to remove all of them out of the tank and place them in a plastic bag.  Before putting them in the bag, clean them thoroughly to get rid of all the debris and uneaten food that might get stuck on there.

If it’s live plants, pour the aquarium water into a plastic bag and put the plants in it.  Try not to overcrowd the plants in each bag.

Oxygen Supplies

Oxygen is very crucial for fish health so you don’t want to overlook this.  For the oxygen, you can either buy an oxygen tablet or use an air pump to supply oxygen for the fish.  Both are great to use and have their advantages and disadvantages.

For long-distance travel, it’s recommended to use an air pump.  With an air pump, you won’t have to worry about the fish not having oxygen.  However, with an air pump, you’ll need additional items to make it work.  An air stone, air hose, and the power inverter are needed.  If you have large fish that are being transported, an air pump is the recommended choice to use to supply the fish with oxygen.

For smaller fish, oxygen tablet is fine to use.  However, it will be a bit of work to keep checking to see if the oxygen tablet is all dissolved.  Oxygen tablets will need to be added every hour or so to help keep the water oxygenated.  The more fish you have, the faster the oxygen tablet will dissolve.  Before heading out, buy plenty of oxygen tablets for the trip.

Using The Right Containers

When it comes to long-distance travel, the plastic bag shouldn’t be used at all.  Plastic bags are great for short distance travel, but not long distances.  You’ll need to provide oxygen for the fish every hour and opening and closing the plastic bag will be a lot of work, especially if you have a lot of fish.

The containers that are suitable for transporting the fish long distance are Rubbermaid tub, Styrofoam container, or a cooler.  These containers are big, sturdy, and are easy to add oxygen supplies to them.

Fish Food

Depending on your fish species, make sure to have plenty of fish food for a long trip.  An hour or so before putting them in the container, feed them regularly as you would.

Once you’re on the road, follow the same feeding schedule as you would do at home.  When feeding them, it’s a good idea to stop the car first and feed them.  If you try to feed them while the car is moving, it probably be hard for the fish to try and eat the fish food.

How To Transport Large Fish

When it comes to transporting large fish, this can be very challenging for anyone.  First off, they are large, heavy, and strong.  Not knowing how to properly transport them can cause injury not just to the fish, but yourself as well.  In order to transport large fish safely, you need the right equipment with the right setup.

Before catching the fish, it’s recommended to get all the equipment and gear first.  Below are the items you’ll need to transport the large fish safely:

  • 30 gallon or larger clean Rubbermaid tub or similar item with a lid
  • Stress Coat Drops
  • Aquarium Water
  • An aquarium air pump with an air hose
  • A 50 watt or 100-watt power inverter that can be plugged into your car
  • A large fishing net and an extra helping hand

Once you got all the items ready, it’s time to prepare the fish for transport.   First, clean the Rubbermaid tub with water until it’s cleaned of debris and dirt.  Try not to use soap or detergent as the residue maybe left in the tub.  Due to the strong chemicals used in the soap and detergent, it could kill the fish.

Next, fill the tub a little more than half full of aquarium or pond water that the fish is swimming in right now.  After filling the tub, grab the stress coat drops and add it to the water in the tub.  The stress coat drop will help relieve stress and calm down the fish while it’s being transported.

Now use the large fishing net to grab the fish from the pond or aquarium and place it in the tub.  It’s best to just put one fish per tub, with a maximum of 2 fish per tub.  You’ll want to leave them some room to swim to prevent them from being stressed.

Once the large fish is in the tub, carry the tub and put it in the car.  It’s best to put them on a truck, but if you have just a car, the back seat works fine.

After the tub and fish is in the care, take the air pump and drop the air hose into the tub.  Then plug the air pump to the power inverter and plug the power inverter to the car’s cigarette lighter or another power supply outlet in the car.

With this setup, you can transport the fish to any destination that you want.  The fish has a continuous supply of oxygen so you won’t have to worry if the large fish can’t breathe.  However, you may want to reach your destination as soon as possible.  A large fish is used to being out in a large open space.  When you have them contained in a small area, they may get stressed.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can You Transport Fish In A Ziplock Bag?

Technically, Ziplock bags can be used for transporting the fish because it’s a bag. However, it should only be used for a short period of time.

With Ziplock bags, the issue with them is their design that makes it less than ideal for transporting fish.  Ziplock bags are narrow, perfect for storing sandwiches and other food items, but not fish. Due to its narrowness, it will be hard for the fish to swim in.

The ideal bag for them should be large and round, which will allow them ample room to swim around. Fish need to swim in order to breathe. With a Ziplock bag, that will be very difficult for the fish to do.

If you must use a Ziplock bag, make sure you need to use it just for a couple of minutes. Ziplock bags are fine if it’s used for temporary storing the fish while you move the fish tank to a different location of the house.

Where To Buy Fish Transport Bags

Transport bags can be bought at most pet stores.  Besides pet stores, you can buy fish transport bags at Amazon too.

It’s best to use transport bags for transporting fish than the grocery bags.  Grocery bags are not meant to hold water and because the material is thin, it tends to leak easily.

Can Fish Suffocate In Bags?

Yes, fish can definitely suffocate in bags. Sadly, this is usually the case of a dead fish when it reached its destination.  Most people underestimate how much time a fish can survive in a bag.  The weather, how many fish are in the bag, and how far the fish is being transported is a big factor in how long the fish can survive in the bag.

Most of the time, when you buy a fish or a couple of fish, it’s put into a small bag with no more than a couple liters of water in it. The more fish that’s in there, the more oxygen the fish will breathe in. Usually, in an hour, the oxygen in the bag will all be depleted. When this happens, the fish will start to suffocate and die.

To prevent the fish from suffocating in the bag, you’ll either have to rush home real quickly or buy pure oxygen from the fish store. These pure oxygen are tablets that you drop into the water and it will provide oxygen for the fish. This is great if you’re planning to do extra shopping or transporting the fish which will be longer than 1 hour.

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