How To Take A Short Trip With Pet Fish

Short road trips with your pet fish aren’t difficult and if you’re just moving within two hours by car, you shouldn’t have much difficulty. By taking some simple precautions you can safely move your fish to your new destination by car or bus without problems.

Before Your Trip

An hour or two prior to your trip fill up several appropriately-sized Ziploc bags with water from your fish’s aquarium and fill them 3/4 full. Put your fish in the Ziploc bags about 1 or 2 hours before your trip to get them acclimated to the temporary environment. Ideally you should aim for one fish per bag but if this isn’t practical make sure to give them plenty of space and don’t put two species that have a predator-prey relationship in the same bag.

goldfish in a tank with blue rocks goldfish in a bag kissing goldfish in a clear bowl

Don’t Completely Close The Bag

Your fish need oxygen so if you completely lock the Ziploc bag or make the plastic bag airtight you may inadvertently end up with dead or dying fish by the time you arrive at your destination. Leave a little gap at the top of the bag to allow for oxygen. Also, leave each bag in a large plastic cup. It will be both easier to keep upright and also prevent any small amounts of spilled water from getting your car (or you) wet.

Some Other Things To Consider

  • Monitor the temperature – If you are traveling by car make sure to use the heating or cooling system to keep your fish’s environment stable. It can easily get hot in a car with the windows down in the summer and a cold winter day can quickly lower your fish’s water temperature, putting them at risk. Get the environment and temperature in your car ready beforehand and make sure to regulate the temperature if you’re traveling by bus by wrapping the bag as needed.
  • Healing agents – Many pet stores carry products you can add to the water to help your fish deal with the stress of moving, any damage or injuries they may have, and the increased number of germs in a very small space. These healing agents, like (Tetra’s AquaSafe Water Conditioner w/BioExtract) are usually inexpensive and last a long time.
  • Keep it to two hours or less - Any longer than that and you’ll have to take a different approach to traveling with your fish.

Most fish are quite adept at taking short trips and will do well back in their aquariums wherever your final destination is. If your fish are particularly sensitive or large do yourself a favor and get a good pet sitter to drop by and take care of them while you’re away.

[photos by: protographer23, Frankphotos, a_trotskyite]

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September 14, 2010 at 17:22

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaylee Hilario-Bahena September 13, 2010 at 12:07

hello, i’m moving from iowa to louisianna and i think its a 9 hour drive or perhaps longer. I was wondering how do i keep my fish safe and alive for that long, and also i have 2 black goldfish and they are about huge now and have no clue to traveling them and also i have 2 dogs also so i’m not sure how my dogs will react to my fish next to them.

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suze September 14, 2010 at 16:55

Hi, that is a long way, but I think the main thing you will have to consider is how to keep the temperature constant and the oxygen levels of the water ok. I used to work in an aquarium and if we had to transport fish (which we really tried not to), we monitored their respiration rate, and watched for gill pumping – indicating stress. Fish need stability, so use water from the tank they are living in now, and then place them in to a very strong, double layered plastic bag. Also keep them dark and covered. Big styrofoam/ polysterene boxes (for insulation to keep temp stable), ex-packaging make good traveling containers for the plastic bags. You also need to consider a plan for when you re-locate them once you arrive. If the fish are bagged and inside a box, they should be ok next to the dogs, as long as the box isn’t tipped up or anything! Hope this helps. Best of luck x

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Anil P. September 15, 2010 at 05:03

Suze, thank you so much for the input — Kaylee I hope this helps, good luck in your trip. I’d be curious to hear how things went so if you remember and have the time, feel free to let us know here.

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Fish Boy February 4, 2011 at 15:08

This article seems to be geared toward people who are traveling by car… any advice on transporting fish on planes? Is that even possible? What if I’m moving overseas…?

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Anil P. February 6, 2011 at 04:21

It depends on from which country to the other you are going to. What type of fish is also important but generally they are classified as ‘exotic animals’ with very specific requirements often needing quarantine. Where are you planning on flying to?

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