As a discus hobbyist, there is a natural progression from first experiences with raising discus, to then breeding discus.  Once you’ve been successful at breeding your fish you may decide to sell and ship some of those tanks full of young discus.  Learning how to ship them properly can be intimidating, but by following proper procedures, shipping fish can be a rewarding experience.

Ok, before we get to deep into the art of shipping fish lets get a few facts established. First, it is not that hard to do. Second, the first few times you will panic a little but that is normal. Third, on any given day thousands of fish are in little plastic bags, inside of boxes, traveling around the globe. Fourth, At least 95% of these fish will arrive alive. Fifth, fish can go a long time without eating and be fine. Lastly, the first few times you will panic, but that is normal….or at least as normal as a fish nut can be.

Basic Supplies:

– Quality plastic bags of a reasonable size.
– Quality styrofoam fish shipping box.
– Rubber bands
– Bottle of O2
– A one-gallon ice tea pitcher
– A good net.
– Heat pack if the weather is cool
– Address/Phone number of the buyer
– A 10-gallon jar of patience to be applied when dealing with the airline/shipping company.

One week prior to shipping follow these procedures:

– Get money upfront. No matter who you are selling to. If it is a check, cash it and wait 10 days for it to clear. If they make excuses and the money does not make it in time do not ship the fish.
– Make sure that the fish are in perfect health. If any are questionable, do not ship.
– Although you should have been culling the fry all along take this opportunity to go though them again. Slightly short gill plates can be easy to miss when the fish are small.
– If you have the tank space available separate the fish for the order plus a couple of extras.
– Depending on the size of the fry stop feeding them 24 to 72 hours prior to shipping. The longer they fast the better off they are. The larger that they are the longer I fast them.
– Make sure that you and the buyer are on the same page regarding color, quality, and size of fish.
– Make sure that you have your shipping arrangement set up in advance, including a cost quote, and the name of the airline/shipping rep that you talked to. When you go to ship the fish have all of that info with you so there will be no questions concerning cost. Trust me on this one. There is nothing worse then showing up at the airport to ship a box of fish and finding out that instead of the $70 bucks you expected they want to hit you up for about $282……Once again trust me on this one, it is not fun.
– Lastly get the money upfront. No exceptions.
– If you have any particular acclimation/QT procedures that you want the buyer to follow spell them out now.

Shipping day procedures:

– If you think that you can bag the fish in one hour, give yourself two hours. It always seems to take longer then you expect.
– I normally use bags that are between 6 and 10 inches wide. I put them into a 1 gallon ice tea pitcher and fill 1/3 of the bag with fresh, treated, aerated, warm water. I never use any of the tank water when bagging fish. The pitcher makes it much easier to get the fish in the bag.
– Although you have already looked over these fish several times take one more opportunity to check them. If you see any issues at all don’t ship that particular fish. This is why we had moved a couple of extras in the beginning.
– Once the fish are in the bag pull it out of the pitcher and squeeze the air out. Put your hose in the bag from your O2 cylinder and fill the bag with O2. Don’t get in a big hurry. I have busted bags before when I was trying to go to fast. I know that sounds a little stupid but when you are bagging 40 or so fish at 3:30 in the morning your mind can be just a little on the dull side.
– Twist the end of the bag closed and fold it over. Use a rubber band to keep the bag closed. Get it as tight as you can. I always triple bag my shipments. This keeps the bags in good shape and by inverting each bag it eliminates any corners that small fish might get caught in. When I say invert each bag what I am talking about is the rubber band end of the bag is always the first part to go into the new bag. It will catch a little air in the bottom of the new bag that you will need to squeeze out.
– Most shipping companies require you to have some sort of material in the box to soak up any water that leaks out. I normally just use some newspaper.
-If you are using a heat pack remember that they only work if there is O2 available. If you put one in a box and completely seal the box it will only work until all the available O2 in the box is gone. When the customer opens the box at the other end it will warm up again. I push a pencil though the top of the box and then tape the heat pack inside the lid so it is covering the hole. This will allow the pack to draw O2 for the entire trip. Also a heat pack can put out a lot of heat. You do not want it in direct contact with the fish bags. I normally put a piece of paper in between the two.
– Unless you are a known shipper all shipping companies are going to require a inspection of the box so do not tape it closed until they tell you to.
– Always make sure you have plenty of tape.
– You will need the name, address, and phone number of the buyer.
– Once the fish are shipped call the buyer and give them the air freight number and ask them to call you once they get the fish to verify that they arrived ok. Most buyers will wait until they are back home and the fish are in the tanks.
– Depending on the trip some fish will take as long as 24 hours before they bounce back but in most cases the fish should be up and swimming right away.

One Week (or so) after shipping:

– Call, email, or IM the buyer and ask about the condition of the fish. If a problem has developed it is best to find out now instead of hearing about it though the grapevine.