Can You Transport Fish in A Zip Lock Bag

By Jecinta Mwihaki @aquariawise

Can You Transport Fish in A Zip Lock Bag

Moving fish can be hectic, especially when you need to move more than one.

To move them safely, you must ensure there is enough air in a container and that the water does not turn toxic before you get home.

One of the best ways to attain your goal is to move your fish in a zip-lock bag.

Yes, you can move small and medium-sized fish in a ziplock bag!

Move your fish in a zip-lock bag once you fill it with tank water and ensure the bag has no holes. Leave an oxygen pocket near the top to aerate the water, and avoid leaving the fish in the bag too long. Aclimate and place your fish in a tank immediately after you get home.

Place your zip-lock or fish bags in coolers or styrofoam shipping containers to maintain the proper temperature for the fish while in transit.


It is easy to move several small fish in a zip lock bag, but when moving big fish, you have to place them in separate bags because they produce more waste and take in more air.

Large fish and other aquatic animals should be transported in buckets, tubs or coolers.

Use a bucket with a battery-powered air pump and air stone or one of those small fish bags with handles to move many fishes.

How to Bag Fish for Transportation

You can use a fish or a zip-lock bag to move your fish.

To bag fish for transportation, add aquarium water in a bag a little less than halfway, with an air pocket above the water line. Take the fish from the tank using a net and put them in the bag, then tie the bag at the top and place them inside a bucket, small empty tank or boxes designed for fish transport.

You can use pure oxygen to inflate the bag and make sure the bag is new, has no holes, with no dirt or residue.

If you plan on having the fish in the zip lock bag for a while, stop feeding them a few days before you bag them to reduce the waste they produce in transit.

Place your tropical fish in a warm space, lower breeding temperature limit, when moving them, but keep your cold-water fish, such as goldfish, in a cool area because they tend to poop more in warm water.

Check your fish for signs of disease, injuries, or stress because healthy fish are more likely to survive transportation in a zip-lock bag, especially for long distances.

If you have shipped fish, you will know how many to put in each zip-lock or fish bag. If not so, place each fish in a bag unless you are moving babies, juveniles, or tiny, schooling species, like tetras.

How Long Can Fish Stay in A Zip Lock Bag

Live fish can stay in a zip-lock bag for 24 to 48 hours when optimally bagged, which matches the time it takes to ship fish on average. However, avoid keeping yours in the bag for more than nine hours (if you can) because most start getting stressed somewhere between seven and nine hours.

If you plan on having your fish in the bag for more than 12 hours, I advise adding extra oxygen in a bag half filled with aquarium water and bagging each adult fish singly (or in pairs) unless you are transporting tiny schooling fish that grow less than an inch long.

Use a hand pump to fill the bag with room air enough to last your fish for 2 to 3 days. Ideally, you should add a 2:3 water-to-air ratio in a standard 1.5 to 3-gallon fish bag.

You may also want to stop feeding your fish 24 to 72 hours before the day you plan on shipping them and keep them in water with a temperature somewhere close to their lower breeding limit.

Heated water increases a fish’s metabolism causing it to produce a lot of waste.

How to Add Oxygen to A Fish (Ziplock) Bag

To add oxygen to a fish bag, add water just below halfway full, deflate the bag to remove the air above the water line, then inflate the bag with pure oxygen. Add room air in the bag using a hand pump for fish you don’t plan on bagging for too long.

Since dissolved oxygen saturation is higher in cold water than in warm water, consider adding ice bags to the packaging box to keep the water chilly.

You’ll want the temperature of the water to remain within the lower breeding limit for the fish you are transporting.

How to Transport Fish Without Oxygen

Adding pure oxygen to a zip-lock bag during shipment is advisable.


You can transport fish over long distances in a deep, open tub without extra oxygen. Over short distances, bag your fish in tank water and inflate it with room air if you do not have pure oxygen. The gas in the fish bag should aerate the water for two to seven hours.

How to Transport Fish Without A Bag

Transport your fish in a clean bucket, a deep, open Tupperware, or one of those tiny fish tanks with handles if you do not have fish bags. The appropriate container will move several fish at a go, even for long distances, without the need for pure oxygen.

If the container you have is not deep enough, cover the top with a net to keep your fish from jumping out of the trough but still have a reliable supply of air for the fish.

Fetch the water from the bucket and drop it back from a height every few hours to keep it aerated. You can also use a battery-powered pump connected to an air stone to aerate the water while on the move.

When filling the tank, make sure you use water from an old, fully cycled fish tank leaving it just below three-quarters way to keep the water from splashing out when you break or accelerate.

To ensure the least stress to your fish, add them to a sturdy bucket positioned where there is no disturbance. You may want to put the bucket between hard-to-move items like furniture to keep the pail in place.

Transferring Fish from Bag to Tank

Once you get home with your fish, float the bag with the fish in the fish tank you intend to add them to. After 20 minutes, open the bag and fill the empty half with tank water. Let the water sit for 15 more minutes, empty half the water, and top up the bag with aquarium water the second time.

After 10 to 15 minutes, pour the bag’s content into an aquarium net. Let the water sip into a bucket and remain with the fish. If the fish looks healthy, place it in the fish tank and observe it regularly over the next 24 hours.

Before placing your fish in the tank, I advise you to switch off all tank lights and dim your room light to avoid stressing the new fish as they find their way around the tank.

As well,…

Ensure the quality and chemistry of the water in your tank are appropriate for the new fish.


That all for this post.

See you in the next one.

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