Sending Fish on an Airplane (With & Without You)


fishes, originally uploaded by phogel.

Q: R wrote,

HI THERE!
First of all, I’d like to say I love your blog! Thanks for keeping up
such a great site! Second, here’s a q for you!

Is it legal to travel with your betta on a plane, in a container, on your lap? Sometimes people travel with their dog or cat in their lap, so i am hoping a Tupperware and a couple of hours at high altitude might be fine for my crimson veil tale, Bloody Baron.

Thanks so much for your help!

A: This is a great question and one I happen to know a lot about because I am in the process of a move myself and have researched it quite a bit.

First, you didn’t say which country you were writing from. I live in the United States and are familiar with US regulations but am not so much for other countries. If you live outside the US I suggest doing a little online research by visiting the websites of the popular air carriers in your location. Also, if you are flying from one country to another, be sure to research regulations for both countries.

Ok, with that said, here’s the low-down with flying fish domestically in the U.S. Each airline has its own rules for flying with pets. Additional rules apply by state so be sure the state you’re flying to allows these fish. American Airlines, United, Continental and Jet Blue (among others) all have pet policies but not all mention fish in their policy. Southwest does not allow any pets. The rules for each airline are extremely stringent and vary by carrier. US Airways has a reputation for being one of the most pet-friendly airlines and they DO mention fish on their website. However, they do not mention how the new stringent requirements on liquids and gels are considered in this matter. I would assume your fish needs to be in a water tight container under 4 oz with the volume clearly marked by the manufacturer, however all pets need to be coordinated by telephone at the time you book your ticket. This means Expedia and Travelocity are out when booking your flight. Make sure you are aware of any and all rules at the time of booking. There is a maximum number of pets allowed per flight so book early to make sure you don’t get rejected.

Fees are another important thing to consider. US Airways does not differentiate cats from dogs from fish in terms of fees. You will still be required to pay the $85 pet fee associated with the carry-on of your fish.

I know what you’re thinking… “$85! There is no way in heck I am paying $85 to fly with my fish!” Well I’m with you on that so here is the info you need to ship your fish.

First, thousands (probably tens-of-thousands) of aquarium fish get shipped every day from all over the world. The U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx all ship fish, though some are more pleasant about it then others. What you need is a small insulated shipping box., newspaper, bubble wrap, heat pak (during cool weather) and aquarium bags. Stickers that say “Live Tropical Fish” aren’t bad either. I pick up all my aquarium fish shipping supplies from the International Betta Congress (IBC). They arrive quickly and are pretty affordable.

This is what you do. Fast your betta for two days before shipping so he has the chance to expel waste before being bagged. Then bag the fish in a 1/2 cup of conditioned water and fill the bag with as much air as possible. Tie off the bag and stick it (tie town) into another fish bag and tie that one off two.

Next, put the fish in the box and pack it tight with newspaper so it can’t move at all. Then, activate the heat pack by crushing it (follow directions) and wrap it up good in newspaper. Put a layer of bubble wrap on top of the fish and then the heat pak (wrapped in newspaper) on top of the bubble wrap. These layers are important so you don’t overheat the fish during transport. Check that he’s secure and close up the package. Plop on the “Live Tropical Fish” sticker and hurry off to ship.

The USPS has a good reputation for shipping tropical fish safely but also can be a bit snippy about it depending on who you get in line. If you ask them, “can I ship this live fish” they will likely tell you “no.” So go with confidence. “I AM shipping this tropical fish!”

UPS has their policy all laid out on their website. This is nice because you can print it out and bring it with you.

FedEx ships well too and are favored by some breeders for shipping success. They prefer to ship business to business. Someone told me once that they use their work address to avoid complaints from FedEx shippers.

Anyway, make sure you ship overnight so fishy spends as little time as possible in transit and always check the weather before shipping. Don’t chance it if it’s very cold, very hot or if a storm’s a brewin’ that may cause delays. There are risks when shipping fish and not all make it. Make sure your fish is in good health and don’t ship fish that are sick or stressed from disease or poor water quality.

Good luck!

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Christie F is a Betta splendens hobbyist that enjoys spending time caring for her fish and helping new betta keepers learn the ropes. More posts by:

18 Comments for this entry

  1. Shauna says:

    Thanks! I was worrying about how I could move my boys with me! :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, US Airways site (http://www.usairways.com/awa/content/traveltools/specialneeds/pets.aspx) NO longer have fish listed. The pet fee is now $100 :(

  3. Anonymous says:

    So the change in pressure from the plane ride wont kill the fish? If my betta died I’d be devistated, I don’t know if I want to risk it. Is shipping it safer or more dangerous?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I needed to find out how to ship my baby! Is the $80 pet fee applicable for all airlines?

  5. Christie says:

    The fee is not applicable for all airlines. Many airlines do not accept pets at all and those that do have varying fees. $80 was average when I was looking but actual fees vary. Each had their own rules and regulations too. You’ll need to call the individual airline for specifics. Best of luck to you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Do you know of a transhipper or anyone who shipps to Mexico?
    Or can croos bettas thru border
    I am willing to do his at least every 2 months.
    Looking for best betta quality fish.
    Please help!!!
    Thanks

  7. Anonymous says:

    on air tran can u bring an alive starfish???? please help

  8. Nina Ortiz says:

    We’re looking to move from New Mexico to Hawaii this winter and I want to take our female valetale betta with us. Now, am I being selfish, or should I just give her to someone else? The trouble is, I care for her so well and I couldn’t think of anyone who’d care for her as lovingly as I do.. If there is a plausible, stress free, safe, way for me to ship her that distance I am willing to do anything! Advice?… Suggestions?…

    Gratefully,
    Nina

    • Christie F. says:

      Hi Nina, There really isn’t any truly “stress-free” way to move your betta. No matter what, some stress will be involved for the betta and for you. That said, shipping bettas is very common and done every single day. You could have your betta mailed to your new address if you have someone who you trust to package him safely. Check out the Buying Bettas From a Breeder video we found on YouTube. It shows you what to expect when your betta is mailed to you. Also, keep in mind that Hawaii has the strictest import laws in the country when it comes to produce, plants and pets. Be sure that you are complying with their laws so your betta doesn’t get refused and sent back.

  9. Hali says:

    Should we put any extra stuff in the eater to help with stress?

  10. jake says:

    I just got off the phone with TSA, and they said the 3.4 oz liquid rule excludes live fish, and you can bring it in any volume of water, aslong as it is clear, sealable, and not glass. they said that at security they check the bag/ container to ensure its water and the fish must be alive, indicating it is water in the bag.

  11. Anon says:

    So the pressure wont kill my fish? Ive been extremely worried about that

  12. fish lover says:

    uhhh… i love my fish alot,,…. and do not want them to die.. i have large fish, oscars, flower horn, pacus and cat fish. the bigest fish is 11 inches and others from, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5,4,3, inches. and whant to know dose this info go with fish like this?

  13. Cyrus says:

    Can I bring my 2 month old betta from us to Canada. On Air Canada? I got my little buddy at petco and they say it should be fine.Is this right? I’m leaving ny today and I don’t really what to do.

  14. Estelle says:

    I go to a UPS store with some regularity and they have a sign up that they won’t ship live animals.

  15. Britney says:

    Hi there! I am considering moving my pet fish (betta) from Shanghai to Auckland. I am a kiwi living in Shanghai. I would like to send my fish by air. I have made lots of enquires, but i really need some useful information on how to transport a live fish ! on an aircraft! Can any one please give me some advice or, point me in the right direction! Thank you

  16. Denzi says:

    I am looking to ship my beta fish from Charlotte northcarolina to India can you suggest where can I get the material for packing or can petsmart get it done for me

  17. Denzi says:

    I am looking to ship my beta fish from Charlotte northcarolina to India can you suggest where can I get the material for packing or can petsmart get it done for me

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