Fish are far from the ideal travel companions, but that does not mean you have to leave your fishy pals behind when you relocate. Traveling with your pet fish requires a significant amount of planning in order to keep your fish safe and healthy for the entire trip.
You can't just throw your fish in a bowl and hit the open roads with him buckled into the passenger seat. If you plan on flying, you need to make sure the airline you're using will allow your fish to fly with you, and what measures need to be taken to package him so he meets your airline's requirements. If you plan to drive, your final destination needs to be less than 48 hours away from the starting point of your journey or your fish may not survive the trip. If you're going to be staying overnight during your trip, you must make plans for your fish to stay overnight as well. You can not leave fish in the car unattended for hours due to possible temperature changes. Make sure you have every detail of your journey planned well before the start of your trip.
Picking Your Travel Container
It's generally a bad idea for a fish of any kind to spend a lot of time away from the comforts of its home aquarium. Since full-size aquariums do not travel well, you are going to have to make the best out of the fish travel housing options you have available to you. Plastic bags are commonly used to transport fish because they are easy to use and should not spill or leak if cared for properly. You may also use a sturdy container with a lid. Whatever you choose, make sure the container is large enough to accommodate your fish, enough water to allow him to swim comfortably and enough oxygen to keep the water aerated. You want as much air as possible in your container. Some professional transporters use a portable oxygen aerator to keep air flowing through the water during the transport of live fish. If you have access to this type of setup, it would be in your fish's best interest to use it.
Transporting Your Fish
When you actually go to transport your fish, you need to fill your plastic bag with fresh, clean aquarium water. It is preferable to use water taken out of your own tank. Avoid feeding your fish for 48 hours before travel to limit its ability to soil the water. You cannot feed your fish during transport, either. Scoop your fish out of his tank with a fish net and place him in a bag. Do not put multiple fish in the same bag; each fish needs his own. Tie off the top of the bag and then place that bag inside a second bag. Tie the second bag closed as well. Double bagging helps prevent leakage. Place your bagged fish inside a sturdy, insulated container and use bubble wrap to fill in the areas between the bags and the walls of the container. You don't want your bagged fish rolling around inside your container. If you expect temperatures to drop below the temperature where your fish can survive comfortably during your trip, you'll also need to include a heat pack that you can activate on the way to keep your fish warm.
Things to Consider
It's possible to keep your fish alive on a long trip, but it's not easy. Mistakes that seem minor can cost you fish his life when you're traveling. You should not take your fish along on small trips or vacations with you; if you're going to go away for a week or two you need to find someone who can care for your fish at home. You cannot take joy rides or make unnecessary stops when traveling with live fish. The longer your fish are in transit, the higher the risk is that their health will suffer. You can have live fish sent through the mail, but shipping delays or mishandling can be disastrous. If you have fragile fish or are going to be traveling a very long distance for a move, you may want to consider rehoming your fish to nearby location and then purchasing new fish when you arrive at your destination.
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Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.