So I did a thing recently… I bought fish online. I’ve actually bought fish online twice now once with really good results and once with really bad results. Of course, when looking online for fish to purchase I came across so much information on actually buying fish online.
It seems like everyone has an opinion and it’s alllllll different! Of course, my advice will be different from others and it may even be different from what you end up doing… that’s ok because different fish have different needs. The main thing is to do your research before hand and have a plan for when the little guys get to you!
In the meantime, here are my 7 Tips for ordering sweet little fish online.
Research, Research, Research
My first bit of advice is to do your research (wait did I just say that? it’s kind of important y’all!). Not only should you do your research on the type of fish you’re ordering but do your research on the shop you’re ordering from as well.
I ordered a few different types of tetra from a shop first… I have several species of tetra already and was already confident on how to keep them. Things like their best water temperature, ph, tank size, how big these guys would get full grown… I had all of that down. Unfortunitely I was so confident that I didn’t do my research on the shop… and I didn’t realize my error until my order arrived with 6 of the 13 fish DOA.
The poor little fish were sick with ick and despite my best effort all but 1 died before the end of the weekend… if I had done my research I would have found that the shop I ordered from had terrible reviews and I would have bought my fish elsewhere.
When it came to the little angelfish I ordered I did all-the-research. I read all the reviews online, watched all of the unboxing videos on youtube, emailed back and forth with the shop owner for a couple days. By the time I ordered I was confident that he took great care of his fish and while things happen most of his customers were very happy with his little angelfish.
Okay now on to the semantics of it all… when you’re ordering fish double triple check the shops shipping policy. Do they always ship on a certain day? Do they ship whenever the orders are sent?
Make sure to think about temperature… is it going to be hot or cold in your area? If the temperature is above or below a certain degree your little fish may need a heat pack or cold pack to keep them cozy. Most shops have those available for an added purchase.
My last shipping tip? Ask exactly how they’ll be shipped (mine were put in bags in peanuts in an insulated pack inside the box. That’s perfect but if I had thought about it I would have requested that the little guys be double or even triple bagged… because one of my two bags broke during shipping letting water out, soaking the box and killing 4 of the little fish.
The box was definitely damaged which was a mistake with the postal service and not the shop owner but for the cost of an extra bag or two those 4 little fish may have survived.
Pick Up from the Post Office
You want your little fish to be in the mail for the shortest time possible and you’ll want to be able to pick them up ASAP when they arrive so make sure to plan shipping for a day you’ll be available. Shipping is stressful after all!
I know I wouldn’t want to b shipped in a little box across the country! The shop I ordered from always ships all orders on a Monday so that the fish will not be in shipping over a weekend and normal ship time is 3-5 days. I did ask for express shipping which ended up being 2 days… much less stressful on your little fish!
Basically he put my little fish in the mail on Monday afternoon and they arrived at my post office at 6:15 on Wednesday morning. The owner I ordered from recommended I have the fish shipped to my post office and held for pick-up… that way they wouldn’t be on the truck driving around all day! When the fish arrived the post office called me and I went to pick them up… easy peezy!
Have a Tank Set Up
Alrighty… once you’ve decided to order fish online make sure to set up your tank several weeks in advance so that the water can circulate. Even if you’re bringing home new fish from the pet store this is a good idea. Putting fish into a brand new tank that hasn’t been circulated properly is a great way to kill your new fish.
I used a tank of my brothers that has been sitting empty for quite a while… a 20 gal that had a few plants but no fish. The filter had been circulating for about 2 months before these little guys came home. You’ll also want to have good bacteria in the filter since the fish need a proper ph balance when they go into their new home.
I’m not a master on ph or nitrate levels so if you’re still working on this try doing a bit of research on water quality first.
Alright… so you have a tank setup and you’ve just picked up your sweet little fish from the post office. Now what?
There are plenty of ways to acclimate your fish… in fact the shop I bought these little guys from recommends an ammonia neutralizer to add to your bag so that you can drip acclimate for temperature. You can read all of his recommendations here.
When fish arrive their little bag is full of nitrates and ammonia since they’ve been in such a small amount of water for so long, on top of that the likelihood that their bags water and your tanks water temperature is the same is slim to none. So ideally you need to acclimate them for temperature and ph.
Of course, once you open the bag and oxygen reaches the water that’s already inside the levels of toxins in the bag quickly rises… so while you can use an ammonia neutralizer and drip acclimation most of the research I found suggests that’s no longer the best way and that floating the bag for 20-30 minutes to temperature acclimate the water and then getting the fish out of the bag as soon as the bag is opened is the way to go.
So that’s what I did and it seems to have worked wonderfully. I used a small net and a bucket so that as soon as I opened the bag I could pour the bag over the net… the fish go in the net, the water goes in the bucket and then you can net the fish into the tank.
Alrighty… now it’s time to talk about quarantine! There are so many different levels of quarantine from none (putting your fish directly into the tank they’ll be living in) to quarantine for a few weeks to check for the health of the fish, to quarantine for months while checking them for parasites.
With my first fish order I did not quarantine the fish at all… I put the couple surviving tetras directly into the tank with my existing fish. So when the new fish were sick with ick I quickly realized I had inadvertently infected all of my existing fish with ick.
Which resulted in daily water changes for two weeks.
The new little angelfish will be quarantined until they are big enough to eat and survive in my existing tank… and I can make sure they are 100% disease free. They seem healthy and happy now but you never know until you know!
When quarantining make sure to use a new clean net, water change equipment, etc. You don’t want any cross contamination between the tanks or you might as well put all the fish together in the first place!
Use the Same Food
Alright, last but not least make sure to use the same food as the original shop so that your fish will eat. It’s best not to feed them for 24 to 48 hours after they arrive (they may be a little car sick from shipping so it’s best to let them settle first) and then offer a tiny bit of the same food they’re use to.
Continue feeding them and offering different foods for a couple weeks until the quarantine period is over and you’re sure that the fish are happy and healthy. Then it’s time to put them in their new home!
Stress and Color
Ok I lied… here’s tip number 8!
Shipping often stresses a fish out. So when they arrive they’ll often be pale and unhappy. It will take a while for their true color to return! If their babies (like these angelfish) they still haven’t grown into their true colors but after a couple days their patterns will emerge. Just take a look at this little fish on the first day vs the fifth day!
Get Your FREE PDF Paint Color Swatches!
Ready to paint?
Here's a snapshot of our FAVORITE 10 Neutral Paint Colors... and their coordinating colors.