Seems like lots of people on here aren't sure how to do it, so I'll share my knowledge. Feel free to post here with any questions.
Rule number 1: When shipping fish is to fast them for at least 24 hours before you mail them. I tend to give mine a larger than average meal, and then fast for 2 days. (Fish can usually go up to a week without food, and your fish you mail will be tranquilised- they'll be perfectly fine.)
Rule number 2: ALWAYS pay the extra amount for delivery confirmation and tracking. This way you will know if it was delivered on the first attempt, and the delivery time. Most live arrival guarantees require a photo emailed of the loss, in the original sealed bag
within one HOUR
of the delivery. This ensures the box was opened immediately and not left out in the sun, or left in the box overnight.
Rule number 3: Consider any and all holidays- only ship on monday and tuesday. Delays happen, and the post office will not reimburse you, even if you do buy insurance. One day isn't usually a big deal, but if that one day puts you over into the weekend and your fish sits on a truck for 3 days, you might have some trouble.
Rule number 4: Always take your fish species into consideration. (see bottom)
Rule number 5: CHECK THE LEGALITY BEFORE YOU SHIP!!! (Some people place the burden of research on the buyer, and make sure their topic mentions in big red letters that the seller is not responsible. Lots of people do it, but I'm not sure how legally binding it is.) METHOD 1- NO ARRIVAL GUARANTEE
Still, most people will reimburse the price of the fish, or negotiate something else that's mutually beneficial, as long as the box is delivered in 3 days, and delivered on first attempt.
Most fish I sell are shipped Priority mail in an insulated box. I use 'Kordon Breather Bags' and 'Bag Buddies'.
If the weather is clear and warm (temperatures between 65-90F), then I usually don't use a styrofoam box. I simply insulate with crumpled-up newspaper and paper towels. It's important to not leave any air in the bag if you use a Kordon bag- oxygen and CO2 are exchanged through the plastic bag. Do not over fill the bag- I fill approximately half full, add the fish and bag buddy tablet, grab the top loosely, and squeeze the air out. Then tie a knot in the bag. A quality rubber band just below the knot provides extra security.
I use prepaid priority boxes (USPS), just to make shipping costs simpler.
Before packing the fish, I stab several holes in the box (I use a pencil) to provide oxygen. (3-4 per side is usually plenty.) Always use a box that will give you lots of room for insulation- The insulation is also your water absorbant (required by law).
I usually don't pack the fish bags in the box until I'm at the post office just so they have more time exposed to lots of air. METHOD 2
LIVE ARRIVAL GUARANTEE, conditions apply, and may vary according to seller. Some sellers require this method. I require this method with sensitive or expensive fish. Also, some fish cannot be shipped with bag buddies... Most of these I would prefer to ship faster, unless it's something hardy like a gourami or Betta. Overnight vs. Next Day
There is a difference, and up to the seller. Overnight is faster, and more expensive. Next day (AKA Express), is 1-2 days. Overnight is guaranteed the next day.
Bag buddies can be used in express, but some fish need air in the bag, or need thicker plastic due to spines or rays. I'd use 4 mil poly bags if I had them, but I use the more expensive breather bags just because I have them on hand. For fish that need air, there's a trick to grabbing the bag and trapping air inside. DO NOT BLOW AIR INTO IT!! For shipping fish with spines, use the same technique, seal the bag, and then wrap the bag in newspaper and place it in another bag. Seal both extremely well.
If I'm using bags with air in them, I'll often use a styrofoam box (the cheap styrofoam coolers at wall mart will fit in a large prepaid priority box perfectly). I will also cut cardboard (and tape in place), to create dividers to hold the fish. Tape the styrofoam box up extremely well, place in box, and ship.
I've never used express due to the high price, and I only deal in hardy fish, but since I do it the 'hard way', the same techniques would apply.
Some more tips-
If shipping in extremely warm weather, a cold pack can help. Keep it in the refrigerator until you tape the box shut, then wrap it in several sheets of newspaper and tape into the box.
If shipping in cold weather, be careful- heat packs use oxygen to produce heat. I add several more holes, and cut out a piece of the box about the size of a stamp, and tape to the box, with the reactive part of the heat pack facing out. Be sure use lots of insulation as well. When I use coolers I don't use heat packs and don't ship in the cold(below 50F), and cold packs are rarely needed.
All materials can be bought on Aquabid (AquaBid.com - Sell or buy aquarium related equipment and fish in an auction format!
), and I'll also be happy to sell my surplus.
I've sold RCS, various livebearers, Cories, loaches, honey gouramis, Bettas, and ottos this way.