To prevent excess waste, most species of aquatic animals should not be fed a day or two before and one day after transport. If you have questions about your specific pet, check with an aquatic animal veterinarian. Before transport, make sure the water quality is excellent. For long trips, an ammonia-absorbing product can be added to the transport container. Open containers can be monitored for ammonia, temperature and pH changes with kits or strips from pet stores. Bagged fish cannot be checked until the bag can be opened.
Bring Extra Water from Hom
Bring a few gallon containers of water from your former home for water exchanges along the way and to mix with new water to avoid drastic changes in water composition. However, if water quality has become poor during transport, transfer your pet to clean water once temperature (and preferably pH) has been equalized. If the pH is very low, adjust it gradually in the new home to avoid pH shock. When adjusting pH upward, make sure that ammonia is zero.
Transport tanks/aquariums empty. Place fish in non-breakable containers with a lid. Lidded coolers work well because they insulate fish from rapid temperature changes. For longer moves, consider a battery operated aerator and air stone and/or a battery-operated heater. Monitor temperature frequently to keep within a 10 degree change or less for some species. For long trips or transport by air, heavy duty bags containing water and pets are flushed with oxygen, tied with elastic ties, double or triple bagged. Fish wholesalers, aquatic animal veterinarians, fish retailers and other aquatic animal specialists can tell you how to properly bag fish for travel.
In general, salt water animals – especially reef species -- are more delicate than most freshwater species. Koi and most goldfish generally travel well.
If Your Pet Gets Sick During Travel
Before you begin your trip, you should always identify animal hospitals and 24 hour emergency clinics on your route in case of an emergency. Click here to find AAHA hospitals. Check the availability of your veterinarian for consultation. If possible, bring a copy of your pet’s medical records or find out if you can access online record
Health Certificate Required When Crossing State Lines
If your move involves crossing state lines, your pet must have a health certificate issued within 10 days of your trip. Authorities could ask to see the certificate if you’re stopped.
Contact your airlines to check for restrictions/requirements. Importation/exportation documentation, such as certificates of veterinary inspection, may be required. Some aquatic species can be quarantined or barred from entering your destination area.
Boat, Bus or Train Travel
Greyhound Bus and Amtrak only allow service animals. Call individual boating lines to find out their requirements.
Settling Your Fish in Their New Home
When your pet arrives, he or she most likely will be under stress. Fill the new aquarium or pond with water from your former residence if available. Don’t use water from the travel tank because it will contain waste. Once you’ve added the old “source” water, gradually add the new “source” water over time, allowing your pet to adjust. If this is not possible, try to adjust the temperature (and pH for some species) before moving your pets into their new home. If bagged, float the bag for a few minutes to adjust temperature to be within 5-10 degrees, depending on species.
Transferring Your Bagged Fish
Open the bag but hold it and do not let the transport water or pet out. When transferring, keep your pet underwater whenever possible and avoid nets. Nets can damage the mucus or slime layer of fish, although they can sometimes be used to guide pets to their new home. Wet hands or plastic bags work well in most transfer situations.
Darken Your Fish’s New Home
After they’re transferred, turn off the aquarium light or dim the light and noise in the room for at least the first day. Unless the trip has been very long, wait until the next day to offer small amounts of food. Some pets need a place to hide and be alone, but others are social and will need company.