First of all, I do not recommend you ship your koi in the mail. Most shipping companies ban the shipping of fish. Besides, when you buy fish online, it’s usually from a reputable seller who is specially certified to ship live animals. If you want to give your koi away, make sure whoever you are giving them to is within driving distance.
Now that that’s out of the way, how exactly should you transport your koi safely? I say the most important things to remember are stress and time. Keeping the stress of your koi low is essential to making sure they are always healthy. When transporting any fish, time is the key to survival. They will die if they are left in their bags for too long.
To ensure that your koi will remain healthy and alive, here are my recommendations on how you can safely transport koi to their new home.
The first thing you need to do when transporting koi is gathering all of your supplies in one place. Preparation is the key to success. The last thing you want is to have your koi tucked away in a bag before you realize you forgot the rubber bands to tie it closed.
However, even before you bag your fish, there are a few steps you should take in advance to prep them for transport.
Perform a water change
Do a water change a few days before bagging your koi. You don’t want to transport them in dirty water, yet you also don’t want to shock them with entirely new water. A water change is an excellent solution to this problem. Any kind of shock is terrible for a fish’s immune system. Especially going from one source of water to another.
Stop feeding your fish
Don’t feed the koi for a good day or two before transporting. This is called purging. Purging your koi is useful for preventing them from pooping in their bags. Fish waste can introduce harmful nitrates into the water.
Supplies you’ll need
To get your koi out of your pond, you are going to need a net. I do not recommend using your hands to catch koi. It is safer for both you and your koi if you use a net.
The kind of bags you get is vital for the safety of your koi. You want a bag large enough to hold your koi and plenty of oxygen comfortably. I do not recommend food storage bags unless you have koi smaller than three inches in a gallon-sized bag. You want a pretty good-sized bag since you need enough room for the koi, water, and plenty of air (about ⅔ of the bag should be air).
When picking up bags, I recommend getting 2 mil poly bags. These should be just fine in thickness for safely transporting koi since they don’t have spines. I still recommend grabbing enough so you can double bag your fish. Also, make sure to pick up rubber bands to seal the bags.
You have a couple of choices for the container you want to store them in, but my favorite is styrofoam. You can also use cardboard boxes or totes. Just make sure there is enough space to hold the bags when they are expanded with water and air.
Padding and insulation
Anything from crumpled newspaper to packing peanuts works here. You need something that will prevent your koi from moving too much during travel, and keep the temperature regulated.
Cooling packs are a necessity on hot days. Depending on how hot it is, one or two will work just fine if you throw them in the box with your koi.
How to safely bag your koi
Now that you have prepped your koi for transport and have all your supplies ready, it’s time to bag your koi safely. Start by filling the bag with pond water. A good ratio I recommend is ⅓ of the bag should be water while ⅔ should be oxygen. Don’t be fooled into thinking more water = better. Without enough oxygen, your koi will suffocate.
Safely place your koi in the bag and give the bag a few good twists to trap the air inside before sealing tightly with a rubber band. DO NOT blow into the bag. When you exhale, you are breathing out mostly carbon dioxide. There is more oxygen in the air, so wrap the bag carefully to trap in as much as you can. If your koi are traveling a long distance, or you are worried about their air supply, then you can always rent an oxygen tank and fill it with that.
Double bag your koi to ensure no leakages, and then place the bag in your storage box of choice. Make sure you have enough padding in there too, since it will help prevent your koi from bouncing around while moving and provide good insulation. Insulation is important for keeping the water cool. You don’t want the water to get too warm in hot weather since colder water absorbs oxygen better. That’s why I recommend styrofoam containers since they do a fantastic job of keeping stuff insulated. You can even throw in an ice pack or two on hot days.
Introducing your koi to their new pond
When you get your koi to their new home, you want to float the bag in the pond water for about 15 minutes. This helps reduce the shock on the fish by letting them adjust to their new water temperature slowly. Then open the bag and add a couple of cups of water from the pond to the bag. After that, tie the bag shut again and let it continue to float for another 15 minutes.
When the 15 minutes has passed, use a pond net to remove the fish from the bag and place them in their new home. Then discard the old water in the bag somewhere outside of the pond. I don’t recommend dumping the old water from the bag into the pond. We want to reduce any cross-contamination from one pond to another, just in case.
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