Shipping Shrimp "A How To"
By Ryan Wood
Packing Shrimp for Shipment
One thing all Freshwater Aquarium Shrimp Hobbyists should know is how to properly package inverts for shipment. Not only is it important for the survival of the inverts while in transit, but it is also important for their ability to acclimate and survive in their new home. A lot of stress from poor packaging can put inverts on a death timer. Just because they arrive alive in the packaging doesn’t mean that they will necessarily survive for another week in their new home. Some may think that their inverts died because their tank was toxic, but in fact it could simply be that they were already “prepped for death” before they even entered the tank. Inverts can take time to die.
Ok, enough death talk. Hopefully I got the point across that packaging live inverts for shipment is as important as the parameters of the receiver’s tank. I have heard a lot of horror stories from people that had their inverts arrive dead, and it can be very depressing when you wait a while for new inverts only to find them all dead, or here that the shrimp you shipped arrived dead.
Most people ship using USPS Priority Mail when shipping inside the U.S. because it is 2-3 day shipping. Since I live in the U.S., and have never shipped internationally, then I can only offer my experience with U.S. domestic shipping. As for international shipping, I am sure that some others will write an article about that. Anyhow, USPS Priority boxes are actually free from usps.com. Yes, free! Even the shipping is free, because they are the shipper of course. You can go onto that website and order a lot of different types of boxes to be delivered to you as well as delivery confirmation stickers, labels, etc. I highly advise using usps.com to save you the time, as well as give you the ability to get boxes you will not find at your local post office. I use the Small Priority Box (7”x7”x6”) . You can also use the larger one if you want. I use the smaller one because I don’t have to use so much insulation foam, and the inverts bags are not large at all either.
Insulation is extremely important. You do not want the temperature of the water to be at the mercy of the outside weather conditions during shipment. The temperature can drop and rise dramatically during the trip for many reasons, and if the shrimp are exposed to these fluctuations then they will most certainly be stressed. Insulation is the way to protect them. When shipping expensive shrimp some will use pre-manufactured “coolers” similar to what they ship live organs in. If you feel confident in your shipping ability, and/or are not shipping very expensive shrimp, then you can save a lot of money by using Board Insulation from Home Depot or a similar store. An 6’x4’ section of ½ thick Board Insulation only costs $8.00. Cut the board into 6”x6” cubes. The board is 72”x 48” so you can get 96 cubes out of that one board. You will need 6 cubes to insulate each box. So for $8.00 you can insulate 16 boxes. Not a bad deal. Just get a pencil, ruler, and box cutter, then spend the 20mins cutting out the 96 cubes. It will make it easier for you to do it all at once instead of having to cut out cubes every time you are shipping shrimp. You will line the inside of the box with the cubes. 4 for each side, one for the bottom, and one for the top after you place the shrimp inside. This insulation is very good and will help stabilize the environment inside of the box.
Removing the shrimp
Catching the shrimp can be frustrating, especially if you have a heavily planted tank like I do. The smaller the tank, the harder it is. With my 10 gallon tank I have very little “net room” so I have to be quick and scoop them real fast. I use a 3” brine shrimp net. It has very fine netting and is small, perfect for this type of work. The smooth, fine netting helps keep the shrimp from getting damaged during removal. If you use the common green net the shrimp can get stuck in the net and likely be ripped in half when you try to get them out, or just slip through the net. I can scoop even the tiniest Red Cherry Shrimp baby out with the brine shrimp net. After you have scooped them you need to put them in a container with the same aquarium water they came from. You only need to put a cup to two cups of water in the container. I use a 6 inch tall 32 ounce container similar to the one they sell mixed fruit in at the grocery store. DO NOT just flip the net and let the shrimp fall into the container. The best way to get them into the container is just to dip the net into the water, tilt it a little, and watch them swim out. Very little stress this way. There will be a few that decide to stay in the net, just smoothly flip the net upside down while still in the water and let them swim out. Very easy to do and saves time and stress. You should never ever have to physically touch either the net, or the shrimp.
Place the shrimp into the Kordon Breather Bag
A Kordon Breather Bag is undoubtedly the best thing for shipping shrimp. The bag actually “breathes,” letting out CO2 and letting in oxygen. This is great for many reasons. First off you do not need to put ANY air in the bag when you go to tie it off. By not putting any air in the bag the water and shrimp won’t slosh around during shipment. Take one of the breather bags and “wrap” the opening of the bag around the top of the shrimp container, just like you would when lining a garbage bin. DO NOT completely wrap it around, leave a gap on the top to allow air to come in. You don’t want to create a vacuum. Once you have the bag opening wrapped around the top of the container just hold onto the bag along the container sides and slowly pour the contents of the container into the breather bag. The plastic container will not allow any shrimp to stick to the sides. All of the shrimp will slide out, along with the water, right into the bag. Place a small piece of plant or moss, remove the air out of the bag and tie a knot to seal the breather bag. You don’t need to make it super tight or it will tear; the bag will be water-tight with just one good knot. Place that bag into one more breather bag (just in case the first bag gets a hole), and tie that one off as well, no air inside either. Once all is done the bag will feel like a “beauty enhancement used in plastic surgery.” =) I don’t want to offend anyone.
Wrap the bag in either newspaper or papertowels. I use papertowels. Place into the insulation lined box, tape, label, and ship. If you are shipping from, or to, a very cold location I recommend you use a heatpack. Place the heat pack underneath the wrapped bag. Wrap the heatpack a little bit as well. You want the heatpack to make the temperature inside the box warm, you do not want it to heat the water inside the bag. The heatpack is just an extra defense when the insulation isn’t enough to keep the inside of the box from getting too cold.
Well its that easy. Once you do a couple of shipments it will become very simple for you.