Take Them Straight Home
for the week of 12/17/98
It would seem like a no-brainer: you buy some new fish, then you hop in the car and take the immediately home. However, some new aquarists - as well as some who really should know better - try to squeeze in another "quick" stop, lunch, or even a movie on the way. While this does not always lead to disaster, it can easily cause immediate and long term health problems for the fish.
By far the most likely problem is rapid temperature change. Unless the fish are transported in a well insulated box, their water temperature, and hence their body temperatures, become the same as the air temperature within about 30 minutes. Obviously, this is much more a problem in the summer or winter months, when temperatures in a sitting car might be 30 degrees higher or 70 degrees lower than ideal. Some hobbyists are shocked to find their new purchases dead before they even get them out of the bag. But even a 5 degree change in temperature can stress fish enough to make them prone to infection, especially by the ever-present "ich" organisms.
Since most of us adjust out car heater or air conditioner to keep ourselves comfortable, long rides (we have a number of customers that routinely drive their purchases home for a hundred or more miles) usually do not pose a major problem. Many aquarists even warm up or cool down their cars a bit before taking fish out of the store if the weather is extreme. Insulated boxes, including the Styrofoam boxes dealers often sell or give away, can buy some extra time. But since fish are cold-blooded, insulation only slows down cooling or heating, but does not eliminate it.
Another possible problem is loss of oxygen supply. Properly packed fish can usually last at least two to four hours before showing signs of oxygen depletion, but not all fish are properly packed, and accidents such as leaking or collapsing plastic bags are not uncommon. In such cases, every minute might count, and a delay in transportation might result in illness or death.
"Tip of the week" appeared regularly in 1999 and 2000.
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