Hot Tips: Shipping Coral, Fish, and Inverts

by | Nov 15, 2005 | 0 comments

A selection of useful tidbits of
information and tricks for the marine aquarist submitted by
Advanced Aquarist’s readership. Readers are encouraged to post
them to our Hot Tips sticky in the
General Reefkeeping Discussion forum or
send their tips to
[email protected] for possible
publication. Next month’s Hot Tip theme will be
Common Mistakes When Setting Up A New Tank“.

Shipping Coral, Fish and Invertebrates:

I’m a fan of making my own box. I use the sheets of styro found at
HD to insulate your house. Cut to fit the box nice and tight and away
they go. Any void space I will with packing nuts as they are light and
help insulate too. Double bag with a lining one newspaper between the
two bags. I slao take a bag cut it to be about 2″ taller than the
coral, cut the bottom out and use that to pick up the coral and throw
it in the bag. This prevents any pointy parts of the coral or rock it
is on from poking through the bag. Top off the bag with O2. DON”T use
USPS if you are telling them it is live stock. They will not ship it
unless it can go on a non-stop flight, which my mean it sits for hours
befor the next flight is avalible. Fed Ex is the way I prefer.

Rob Top

If it’s next day, ship zoos on damp paper towels, save on shipping costs by eliminating the weight of the bagged water.


Small, insulated styrofoam containers with custom fitted cardboard
boxes aren’t everyday finds that you can pick up at the Post Office.
You can special order them for $5 a pop, but you’d have to buy in bulk.

I did however come across a solution earlier this year. A shipping
box for wine bottles. They can be found at Retail Mailing Services
shops like Mail Boxes Etc. or PostalAnnex.

I’ve seen 3 sizes available: single ($5.99), double ($6.99), and quad ($8.99).

Space is limited within the styrofoam chambers that are designed
specifically for wine bottles. I’ve used several different plastic
containers for shipping, and have found that the Rubbermaid Small Round
TakeAlongs are the best to use. They are compact, cheap, and have a
very tight fitting lid that won’t leak. The name of the piece can also
be written on the lid.

I only have experience shipping SPS frags. In this case, I fill the
cup up with about 80% of tank water, which minimizes any sloshing
around that might occur during shipping. I also place a square-cut of a
plastic bag with the frag which also helps cushion the ride. I find
that this method really lowers ‘shipping stress’ and ‘bag burn’ for the
frag. Often times, the recipient will comment on how the frag’s polyps
were fully extended right out of the box.

Here, you’ll see the two halves of the stryfoam container. One
bottom chamber will hold 4 Small Rounds. So, with the double-sized wine
shipper (pictured), I’m able to comfortably ship 8 frags.

The top chamber is fitted for the capsule and neck of a wine bottle.
Heat or ice packs can be conveniently placed here for temperature
control. For this particular overnight shipment, I’m using an 8 hour
heat pack. This package will be facing cold weather upon departure, but
will be arriving in an area of warm climate.

Lastly, I fill the remaining space with packing peanuts to keep
everything secure within the chambers. This also helps prevent the heat
or ice packs from coming in contact with the plastic containers and
their precious cargo. Combine each half, slide it into the cardboard
box, seal it and you’re ready to go.

Hope you find this useful!


I transported quite a few sps frags by simply wrapping them in a
paper towel dipped in tank water. I got this idea from reading several
articles about corals being packed in wet newspaper. So far I have not
lost a coral from this method, though I have lost quite a few that were
bagged in water.


I have shipped snails succesfully priority mail with only a damp paper towel in the bag with them.

When you close the bag be sure to capture a good bit of air, so the
bag is inflated, and don’t use so much water on the towell that it is
pooling up in the bag, you just want enough water to keep the towel

Laura D


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