How To Transport Fish Short & Long Distances | Aquascape Addiction

How To Transport Fish Short & Long Distances

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A helpful guide on how to transport fish short and long distances the safe and right way. A lot of people get this wrong, and you can end up causing a lot of stress to your fish or even killing it.

How To Transport Fish Short & Long Distances

If you are bringing your fish home from the pet store, or you are moving homes, knowing to transport fish the right way is crucial to their health and survival. If you transport fish the wrong way, you could end up crushing or suffocating them, or stressing them out to the point of death.

Today we want to talk about how to transport fish short and also long distances safely, the short answer is: The easiest way to transport fish, both longer and shorter distances, is to use a plastic bag, aquarium water, and pure oxygen that can be bought in fish keeping stores.

You can also use the aquarium itself or a 5 gallon bucket, but this is not exactly recommended.

Let’s talk about the best ways and methods to safely transport your fish in more detail;

How To Transport Fish In A Car

Transporting a fish in a car is really not all that difficult, but you do have to do it the right way, or else you risk killing your fish. Do keep in mind that fish get stressed out very easily, and long distance journeys can kill them.

If you plan on travelling for more than a full day with your fish, beware that the chances are quite large that it will die, so, to ensure the best possible chances of survival, there are some precautions that you will need to take.

Don’t Use Bucket

Now, some people try transporting fish in buckets or in the aquarium when driving. This is a big mistake.

Have you ever had to slam on the brakes because some bad driver cut you off? Well, if your fish is in the car and being transported in a bucket, the bucket may spill or tip over, causing your fish to be deposited into your car, which will kill it.

Transporting Fish In The Aquarium

When it comes to an aquarium, especially glass ones, there is really no good way of securing these in a car and being able to drive smoothly enough to ensure the fish’s safety.

If you do plan on moving your fish in the aquarium, remove enough of the water so it won’t spill if you brake a little hard, and remove all decorations to ensure that no cracks occur in the aquarium, and so that there are no decorations floating around.

Moreover, if using a bucket, be sure not to fill it up too much so it doesn’t spill while driving. With that said, transporting your fish in the car, inside of the tank or a bucket, is really not recommended due to many issues that can and often do arise.

Stick With The Plastic Bag Method

The only good way to transport a fish in a car is by using a good old plastic bag. Simply fill up a strong and clear plastic bag halfway with the tank water and put the fish in it.

Be sure to use the aquarium water that your fish has been living in to do this, as it will have the right parameters to keep your fish alive during transportation.

Keep in mind that fish can survive for about an hour or a little more in a plastic bag due to limited oxygen, so if the trip is going to take longer, you must get pure oxygen to put in the bag so the fish can survive, which can be found at any aquarium store.

How To Transport Fish Short Distances

Transporting fish short or long distances, with or without a car, is notoriously hard and dangerous. Like we mentioned before, fish often suffer big time stress and may die, even on short trips, so ideally, trips should be kept as short as possible.

The best way to transport a fish a short distance is by using the plastic bag method which we discussed above. Keep in mind that water is heavy, so anything over 2 liters runs the risk of exploding the bag and causing your fish to fall out and die.

Be sure to use aquarium water to fill the bag, and do not place more than 1 or 2 fish per bag. Remember that the more water there is, the more dissolved oxygen will be present, but the more fish you have in the bag, the more oxygen they will need.

If you are travelling a short distance and happen to have a wagon of sorts, and are traversing flat and even terrain, you could drag the whole aquarium along or put the fish in a bucket on the wagon.

Just be sure to be very careful when doing so. The less jostling and water movement there is the better.

How To Transport Fish Without A Bag

If you do not have a bag that is adequate for transporting your fish, you really only have 2 options.

These options include using a bucket or transporting the fish in the aquarium itself. There are a few things to remember here. First of all, be sure to use the aquarium water for the bucket, as this will have the proper water parameters to maintain good fish health on a short trip.

If you are transporting the fish in your aquarium, this is not an issue as the water is already there. If you are transporting the fish in the aquarium, be sure to remove all decorations and items, as much as possible.

You don’t want that stuff flying around the aquarium and possibly injuring the fish. Always be sure to drive or walk carefully, because you want to minimize movement wherever possible. Keep in mind that you will want a bucket of at least 5 gallons for this.

Can Fish Suffocate In Bags?

Yes, absolutely, fish can definitely suffocate in bags, which is something that often kills fish because many people do not seem to be aware of this.

In a plastic bag with a couple liters of water in it, a fish can easily suffocate in an hour, or even sooner if there is less water and more fish.

Obviously you have to tie the bag shut to keep it from spilling and for safety reasons, and you cannot poke air holes in it either.

The only real option here is to buy pure oxygen from a fish keeping store so you can put it in the water with the fish. This is something you need to do if your trip is going to take longer than 1 hour.

Can You Transport Fish In A Ziplock Bag?

Technically yes, but only for a very limited amount of time.

The issue with Ziplock bags is that they are quite narrow, and in terms of width, your fish will not have a lot of space to swim.

It is really not the best idea, as the bag should be a large and round bag to give the fish enough space for safety, and a bit of an impact cushion zone in case anything happens.

Moreover, although Ziplock bags are pretty good on their own, the top may leak water, which is of course less than ideal.


The bottom line is that you should avoid transporting fish whenever possible, as it tends to really stress them out and can be detrimental to their health, even disastrous. If you can, use a strong plastic bag, lots of good aquarium water, and use some pure oxygen if necessary.