Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you determine which carrier you’re going to use to ship my fish?
- How do you calculate shipping costs?
- Why don’t you mark the boxes as “Live Fish”?
- Why isn't there any information available when I check the tracking number on the Post Office web site?
- Why do you need to fast the fish for two days before shipping?
- Why do you use Kordon Breathing Bags for shipping fish?
- How do you package the fish for shipping?
- How should I acclimate your fish to my tank?
- Do you ship to Canada?
- Do you ship to Hawaii?
- What are the parameters of the water you use to raise and spawn your fish?
- I've heard that Rams and Discus like the pH of the water to be around 6.5. Will my Rams live in my water with a pH of 7.4, or should I try to lower the pH to 6.5?
Q: How do you determine which carrier you’re going to use to ship my fish?
A: Our goal is to get your fish in your tanks as quickly as possible. Unless other arrangements are made in advance, we generally ship Priority Mail through the United States Postal Service (USPS). Unless you live “out in the sticks” over 90% of the time, your fish will arrive in 2 days. Since we ship from the Chicago area, if you live in one of the five states contiguous to Illinois (Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa or Missouri) we will often upgrade your shipping (at no cost to you) to FedEx Residential Express Delivery. While it costs a little more than Priority Mail, your fish will be delivered the next day.
Q: How do you calculate shipping costs?
A: We do not believe in making money on our shipping. The base cost is calculated using a USPS Medium Flat Rate box for shipping. For up to 16 rams, or 8 discus we charge a flat rate of $16 for shipping anywhere in the Continental U.S. This includes the box (free from the post office), Styrofoam liner ($1), sealer (.10), 3-5 Kordon Breathing Bags ($2) and the actual USPS postal charge ($13.45) for a USPS Flat Rate box (nearly a 20% increase in 2016), for a total of $16.55. During cold weather months, we have to use a heat pack ($2) causing our shipping costs to increase to $18.45. Despite the increses in shipping costs, we have chosen not to pass on these costs to our customers. As you can see, most of the time we break even on our shipping costs, or even loose a few bucks. If we have to use a larger box, then we loose a few more bucks, but if we are able to use a smaller box, we may make a buck or two. USPS Overnight Express Mail starts at $45.
Q: Why don’t you mark the boxes as “Live Fish”?
A: After shipping fish for a number of years, we have learned one thing from working with the post office: There is nothing you can do to help get your fish delivered faster, but there are a lot of things you can do delay their delivery.
When we first started shipping fish, we use to plaster the boxes with fluorescent stickers that said “Live Fish-Handle With Care” or “Live Fish – Please Keep Warm” or “Live Fish – Protect From Excessive Heat.” During a 2 month period during the summer of 2009, over 60% of our boxes were lost/misplaced by the post office. While they all eventually showed up, some of them did not arrive for up to 3 weeks! In the months that followed, our success rate improved, but approximately 25% of all fish shipped were delayed by 1-5 days. We even tried shipping them from different post office locations thinking there may have been a problem at our local post office, but the rate of on-time arrivals did not improve. We made multiples visits to our post offices and got to be pretty good friends with many of the postmasters (we became known as the fish people). No one knew why the shipments were being delayed. We finally found the answer when we were put in contact with the Director of Consumer Affairs for the Post Office in Washington, D.C. The answer was incredibly simple, yet ridiculous. Like any well-established bureaucracy, the post office has rules, and one of those rules addresses how they ship live animals. Per Post Office rules, live animals must be shipped on pressurized airplanes. They make no distinction between fish and puppies when it comes to transporting live animals. As a result, when we marked our boxes as “Live Fish” the mail sorting/distribution centers had to ship them on a pressurized flight. Since the post office does not own its own airplanes, they must contract with other air carriers for cargo space. If the pressurized portion of the plane was full, our fish may get placed on stand-by until the next cargo plane heading to that destination was available. Usually, that was the next day, but sometimes (I’m guessing now) the boxes stayed wherever they were stored until someone eventually found them and put them on the next available flight. Unfortunately, that may have been up to 3 weeks later! The solution was simple: stop putting the stickers on the boxes!! Once we did that, the rate of on-time deliveries improved to over 95%. Every once in a while, a box of fish still “falls off the grid” but now the delay is usually a day or two at the most.
Q: Why isn't there any information available when I check the tracking number on the Post Office web site?
A: Believe me, I’m not trying to pass the buck here, but the post office tracking system is notoriously unreliable. Postal Officials will tell you that this system is only used to verify delivery and was never meant to provide real-time tracking of packages however, in at least 10 different places on their web site, they refer to their system as a “tracking system.” Generally, it works pretty well, but it's pretty common for us to ship fish and have absolutely no tracking information on-line, only to have the fish show up precisely on time, without ever having the tracking information updated. The first tracking update is often the “delivery confirmation.”
When we are preparing to ship your fish, we will always purchase the shipping label on-line. At the same time, we will register your e-mail address at their web site and you should theoretically receive an e-mail letting you know the label has been printed. When your fish are delivered to the post office, we have each box of fish manually scanned into their system. This confirms the date and time the boxes were received by the post office. But even this isn’t foolproof. If the boxes are scanned with the hand-held scanner, updates will not show up until the unit is downloaded into the computer network. We always deliver the fish to the post office between 8:00 – 9:00 am, but often the system will show they were accepted at 4:00 pm in the afternoon. From that point on, it’s really anyone’s guess when it get scanned. The majority of the time, the box will show that it has passed through our regional sorting facility (Chicago Hub). Usually, the next update shows the box arriving at your local post office. Once the fish arrived at your post office, they are usually pretty good about tracking the status from there.
Q: Why do you need to fast the fish for two days before shipping?
A: Just like people, fish that are well-fed produce a lot of waste. If their digestive system isn't properly cleaned/emptied prior to shipping, they will produce a lot of waste in the bags during shipping (not a good thing) and will essentially poison themselves very quickly. We use Breathing Bags exclusively for shipping. Each bag contains a maximum of one cup of water and may have between 2-4 fish per bag (depending on size). With this small amount of water, it is critical that the fish are properly fasted prior to packaging.
Q: Why do you use Breathing Bags for shipping fish?
A: Breathing Bags represent a new approach to the problems of shipping live fish over long distances or for extended time periods. The special plastic film used in Breathing Bags generates the constant transfer of carbon dioxide out of the water in the bag through the walls of the bag, and the absorption of oxygen from the atmosphere though the bag walls into the water in the bag. This provides a constant source of fresh breathing oxygen for the the fish.
Breathing Bags allow the transfer of simple and complex gas molecules through the plastic wall of the bag -- carbon dioxide and oxygen in particular, as well as other gases - providing a true "breathing" bag in place of a "barrier" bag as is used in plastic polyethylene (poly) bags. As long as there is a breathable atmosphere outside the Breathing Bag, the fish inside will not run out of oxygen. Carbon dioxide exits the bags at 4 times the rate oxygen enters the bags, thereby constantly purging the water of toxic carbon dioxide, and allowing oxygen to replace it in the water. With no need for an air space we can fill the entire bag full of water. This in turn provides more room for your fish and also prevents stressful sloshing that occurs in transport. An unlimited source of atmospheric oxygen allows your fish to be shipped via Priority Mail (2-3 days) saving you money on shipping costs, without putting your fish at risk.
Prior to the development of these bags, the only plastic bags available for shipping fishes and aquatic invertebrates were made of polyethylene and had no mechanism to allow the passage of gasses through the bag wall. When using these "barrier" bags, any oxygen must - of necessity - be added as a gas inside the bag prior to sealing. The biggest drawback to using the poly-bags is that once the supplied oxygen is used up there is no more available, and the fish will suffocate.
When we were first told about the benefits of using Breathing Bags, we were skeptical to say the least. Prior to shipping fish in them for the first time, we took a couple of the bags, filled with about 8 oz. of water as directed, put a couple fish of various types in the bags, heat-sealed them without any air in the bag, and placed them on a shelf in our fish room. After 3 weeks, the fish were still alive! We really don't know how long a fish would survive in these bags as we felt so bad for the fish that we took them out of the bags and put them back in their tanks. They were hungry to say the least, but no worse for the experience.
Since that time, we have become true believers in the Breathing Bags. We are not commercial breeders, but we ship about 5-15 boxes of fish a week, all year-round. Due to the unreliable nature of the USPS, about 1 in 10 boxes becomes "lost or misplaced" by the post office. Most pop back up on the radar screen after a day or two, but we have had a number of boxes that didn't arrive for 3 weeks, and all of the fish survived! Those fish would never have survived in regular poly-bags. Some of the people who received those fish even mentioned it in their feedback they posted on Aqua-Bid.
Q: How do you package the fish for shipping?
A: When you see the size of the box that arrives, at first you're going to think we're nuts! Each breathing bag holds approximately 1 cup of water and 2-8 fish (depending on their size). The bag is then heat sealed without any air in the bag. Each bag (bundle) is wrapped in a piece of newspaper to prevent plastic-to-plastic (bag-to-bag) contact, which would inhibit the exchange of air/carbon dioxide. Two of these bundles are put in a larger breathing bag. All of the air is vacuumed out, and the second bag is also heat sealed. This prevents water from leaking out into the box in case of an accidental leak. By removing all of the excess air in the bag, it encourages the exchange of air/carbon dioxide. This double-bag is also wrapped in a second sheet of newspaper. The bags are carefully placed in an appropriately sized Styrofoam lined box, and the fish are packed in with shredded newspaper. This keeps the bags of fish from shifting and banging around during shipping and prevents damage to the fish.
Most people that ship fish use the standard poly-bags like you get at the pet store. In order for the fish to survive, the bag requires air to be sealed in the bags. Once the air runs out....well, you get the picture. While that may not be a problem for over night express mail, it's a huge problem for Priority Mail. During a 3-month period one summer, the Post Office lost/misplaced 60% of all the fish we shipped. While all of the boxes eventually showed up, some showed up a week later, while some did not show up for over 3 weeks. Incredibly, every fish survived! Those fish would never have survived the poly-bag experience. Plus, with poly bags, there is a lot of sloshing around which increased the likelihood of damage to the fish from banging around against each other, (just think of tropical fish in the surf-zone on a beach). This is especially true for long-finned fish like angelfish. Fish that arrive with damaged fins may appear healthy, but can develop infections later due to the damage suffered in shipping.
Q: How should I acclimate your fish to my tank?
A: Once you get through all the packaging, do not float your fish in your tank as you normally would with regular plastic bags. Kordon breathing bags contain only a small amount of water, and work by allowing carbon dioxide to pass out of the bag, while allowing atmospheric oxygen to enter through the bag. There is no oxygen in these bags! If you put the bag directly in the tank, the bag will sink, and you will only succeed in getting your arm wet reaching in and "fishing" the bag off the bottom of your tank. Simply open the top of the bag and pour the contents of the bag(s) into another container that can be floated in your tank like a regular poly-bag. Every 20 minutes or so, you should add a small amount of water from your aquarium to the container with the fish.. Once you have roughly an equal amount of your aquarium water mixed with the container, you can simply net the fish out of the container and add them to your aquarium. Alternatively, you can pour the fish and their water into a larger container, and using a piece of airline tubing and plastic air valve, set up a siphon from your tank into the container with the fish. Using the air valve, you can control the flow of water to slowly drip/mix your aquarium water with the water containing the fish.
A couple of other suggestions: make sure the temperature of your tank is at least 80 degrees. Rams and Discus both like water temps warm, ideally, between 82-85 degrees. Also, if you are a planted tank enthusiast, and are dosing your tanks with Co2, we strongly recommend that you turn off the Co2 for at least the first couple of days after your new fish arrive.
Please keep in mind that your fish have not eaten for three to five days (two days fasting and up to three days shipping). Begin by feeding them smaller portions and gradually increase the quantity of food until you can feed them normal portions. Prior to shipping, all fish have been fed a variety of foods including Spectrum Pellets, Tetramin flake food and a variety of frozen foods including frozen adult brine shrimp, California Blackworms and blood worms, so they should eagerly accept almost anything you give them.
Q: Do you ship to Canada?
A: We do NOT ship to Canada. The permit and inspection process, on both the American and Canadian sides, make shipping fish to Canada cost prohibitive. Many of our customers have ordered fish and had them shipped to a public shipping location (Mailbox, etc.) on the American side. Then they drive across the border, pick up the fish and take them through customs. We will provide all the documentation necessary to ensure a smooth passage across the border. If in doubt, please give us a call.
Q: Do you ship to Hawaii?
A: Yes, we can ship to Hawaii, but according to Hawaii Administrative Rule 4-71-6, an import permit is required for the importation of any live, non-domestic animal, including fish, into Hawaii. Most of the sepcies of fish offred for sale on the Internet are allowed into the state with a permit, but invertebrates such as shrimp and crayfish, are not. This permit must be obtained by the person receiving the fish, not the shipper. Failure to have a permit may result in the shipment being returned to the sender, or confiscated and destroyed. If you would like us to ship fish to Hawaii, you will need to e-mail us a copy of your permit so we can include it in the box. If you have questions, please give us a call.
Q: What are your water parameters, and what are the parameters of the water you use to raise and spawn your fish?
A: We are very fortunate to be supplied with Lake Michigan water. The water right out of the tap is very soft, about 140 micro-siemens (7 gh) and has a pH of between 7.2 and 7.4. We maintain the temperature in our tanks between 82-85 degrees F. The water we use for water changes comes right out of the tap as well, with no chemical additives (except for Prime as a de-chlorinator). We do not use any Reverse Osmosis (R/O) water, even for our Discus. Our philosophy is simple; if we can’t breed and raise fish in our local tap water, we won’t breed them. If we have to chemically, or artificially alter the chemistry of our water to get our fish to survive, then when you get them in your tanks, they will never show their full colors, and may only slowly languish and eventually die.
Q: I've heard that Rams and Discus like the pH of the water to be around 6.5. Will my Rams live in my water with a pH of 7.4, or should I try to lower the pH to 6.5?
A: There is a lot of information available on the Internet regarding water chemistry, and what constitutes the "ideal" water conditions for Rams or Discus. We personally believe that the water parameters where the fish are coming from is far more important than trying to maintain some "ideal" water parameters. Rams and Discus will thrive on a pretty wide range of water conditions, but you want to try to match your water, to the water conditions in which the fish were raised. Most of the information available on the internet and printed sources say that the pH should be slightly acidic, around 6.5. Keep in mind that is the pH of the water of their native habitat, the Amazon River Basin. If your fish were "wild caught" then it would be very important to match those parameters. Most of the Rams and Discus available here in the US are either locally bred, or farm raised in Florida (I know some are imported from overseas as well). If the fish you're planning on buying are locally bred, it would really help to know what the parameters of the breeder's water were and try to match those. Or better yet, find a breeder with the same/similar water parameters as yours. Trying to alter your water chemistry can cause far more problems for your fish than it would ever help. All of our fish were hatched and raised in water with a pH of between 7.2 and 7.4.
Q: What do you feed your fish and how often?
A: Just like people, fish need to be fed a variety of foods to keep them in top condition. All of our fry (discus, angels, rams and apistogrammas) start off with live baby brine shrimp as a staple food. Fry are fed 3-4 times a day. Once they reach about 3-4 weeks of age, they are transitioned to a dry food mixture made up of crushed flake, decapsulated brine shrimp eggs and cyclops-eeze, and constinue to receive at least 3 feedings a day of baby brine shrimp. At about 6 weeks of age, the rams and apistogramma fry are moved to larger grow-out tanks and continue to receive the dry food mixture and baby brine shrimp, but we also begin adding small amount of NLS Spectrum pellets (.5mm) for small fish. Discus and angelfish also recieve two feedings a day of frozen beefheart along with the other foods. By the time the fry (now juveniles) are 8 weeks old, the feedings of baby brine shrimp are eliminated, and they are also weaned off of the dry food mixture. From this point forward, the fish receive at least 3 feedings a day of Spectrum pellets, beefheart, and we may also begin adding feedings of frozen bloodworms and live/frozen blackworms. By the time our fish reach your home, they have been introduced to nearly all different types of foods; flake, pellets and live/frozen and should eagerly accept virtually any foods you have available. Of all the foods we feed our fish,we have found that there is no substitute for live or frozen blackworms or beefheart to get our fish in top spawning condition.
Q: Do you sell proven or mated pairs of fish?
A: Many people like to get a "jump start" in their breeding program, or want to be assured of getting a pair of fish that will be guaranteed to successfully spawn for them. By our definition, "proven", or "mated pairs" of fish are fish that have already paired up and have successfully spawned for us. Generally, we do not sell "proven" or "mated" pairs of fish. If you do your research in the Internet, you have undoubtedly noticed that you can expect to pay two or three times the normal cost of the fish because they are a "proven" pair. For example, you can expect to pay as much as $700 for a proven pair of discus (depending on the color). Remember, just because the fish have spawned for us (or any breeder) there is no guarantee that they will spawn for you. Aquarium size, tank-mates, feeding and water conditions can greatly affect a pair's desire to spawn. That can be very disappointing if you have shelled out a bunch of cash for a pair of fish, and are unable to get them to spawn for you. Usually, the buyer ends up feeling like they were taken advantage of by the seller (we've been there).
If you are in a hurry to get your fish to spawn, or if you have limited tank space, then it may be worth it to you to buy a proven pair of fish. When it comes to Rams though, there really isn't any good justification for spending that kind of money for a proven pair of fish. If you are anxious to have a breeding pair for your aquarium, we generally recommend that buy two or three sexed pairs of rams and put them in your aquarium together. This will greatly improve your chances of getting a breeding pair. Rams become sexually mature somewhere between three and four months of age, and will begin choosing their potential mates, start sparring with "intruders" and will begin selecting and defending a spawning site.
Unless otherwise requested, all of our fish are sold as sexed pairs, meaning (1) male and (1) female, and unlike some other breeders, we do not charge an extra fee for sexing your fish. When selecting our fish for you, we will generally observe the fish for a while, and choose a pair of fish that have already paired off, and have started to defend a spawning site in our tanks. Even though they may not have already spawned, there is a very high likelihood that they will spawn very soon. If you have read some of the feedback left for us on PlantedTank.net, or read some of the forum posts that talk about our fish, you'll see that a good number of people mention that the fish they received from us successfully spawned within a few days of arriving.