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Shipping Standards


1. What can you ship with ShipYourAquatics?

You can ship fish, corals, and invertebrates, as well as non-venomous reptiles and amphibians, within the United States. We do not do any import or export shipping.

You can ship dry goods related to the aquatic industry, such as food, lighting, filters, and other tank supplies.

You cannot ship illegal drugs, batteries, liquor, aerosols, firearms and ammunition, fireworks, explosives, mammals (no dogs, no cats), birds, dry ice and absolutely no venomous reptiles.

ShipYourAquatics.com is approved for the shipping of live aquatics and aquatics supplies to and from business and residential addresses.

You must follow all ShipYourAquatics.com Shipping Standards.

You must also follow all FedEx rules and restrictions. For more details, see this section of the FedEx site:

 

 

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2. Aquatic size restrictions

Very large or heavy fish may require special crates to support the weight of the animal and the water that it must be shipped in. Such heavy wooden crates must be shipped using a freight service such as Delta Air Cargo. 

FedEx Express services are limited to 150 pounds and up to 119" in length and 165" in length and girth.

If in doubt about whether or not your animal is restricted, contact Customer Service at 303-730-2125 or write to them at info@ShipYourAquatics.com.

 

 

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3. Choosing a FedEx shipping service

ShipYourAquatics offers the following FedEx shipping services:

  • Priority Overnight
  • 2Day
  • Express Saver (three day)
  • Ground (to business addresses)
  • Home Delivery (to residential addresses)

Live shipments must be sent via Priority Overnight. Failure to use Priority Overnight for live shipments will void insurance coverage. Shipping is within the United States. We do not do any import or export shipping.

 

 

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4. Which days of the week should I ship?

All live animals must be shipped FedEx Priority Overnight, Monday through Thursday only. An overnight Friday shipment won't arrive until Monday. That is not acceptable and not permitted.

Absolutely no venomous reptiles are to be shipped through FedEx or ShipYourAquaqtics.com. Absolutely no mammals.

 

 

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5. Shipping Box Standards

You must use a new, or like new, cardboard box with an interior of insulating foam. The foam insulation must be tight fitting and at least ¾ inch thick. The box should not bear markings that indicate dangerous or illegal content.

The box must be large enough to contain the deli cup or reptile bag, adequate packing material to protect the animal, the heat or cold pack and the foam insulation.

ShipYourAquatics has gotten three different box variations approved for live shipping. An insulated white box with red lettering, an insulated white box with green lettering and preprinted Lacey Act/IATA labeling, and an insulated plain brown box rated at 275lb burst strength.

US Postal boxes, Amazon.com boxes, even FedEx branded boxes are NOT ALLOWED for live shipments. In fact they are specifically prohibited. It’s not just a visual box size issue, it’s also a thickness and materials issue. These commonly available boxes are too thin to meet the FedEx strength requirements for live shipments. Using these prohibited boxes may get your shipment refused, or stopped during transit, endangering the life of your animal, and endangering the status of our FedEx account.  Using a thin cardboard box, or one of the boxes mentioned, nullifies any SYA Live Arrival Insurance coverage. 

 

All the supplies you need can be found here: Shipping Supplies.

 

 

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6. Using ShipYourAquatics.com shipping supplies

All shipping supplies and shipping kits sold on ShipYourAquatics.com are specifically approved and certified by FedEx and meet the aquatic-shipping standards developed by ShipYourAquatics.com. If you use a ShipYourAquatics shipping kit according to our directions, you can feel secure that you’re shipping your animals as safely and reliably as possible.

Shipping Kits (best for one-time or very infrequent shipments)

Bulk Supplies (best for folks planning to ship more than once or twice)

 

 

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7. Using your own shipping supplies

You may use your own shipping supplies, but they must meet or exceed the standards developed by ShipYourAquatics.com, along with the FedEx live aquatic shipping standards and certification:

  • Cardboard box is new, or like new, with a minimum burst strength of 275 lbs.
  • No markings that indicate dangerous or illegal contents (no alcohol boxes). Box must not have any kind of warning or hazardous material markings or stickers.
  • Box should be labeled in accordance with the Lacey Act. See more on that here.
  • Insulation panel lining must be at least ¾ inch thick. The insulating lining must cover all four sides of the inside of the cardboard box, as well as the top and bottom.
  • Heat or cold packs must be used according to ShipYourAquatics.com Shipping Standards.
  • You must use a “triple container.”
    1. The fish bag or aquatic container.
    2. The insulating foam container with a 3mil thickness liner.
    3. The cardboard box.
  • You must seal the box adequately. All shipping labels must be fully legible.

Boxes from the US Postal service, "Priority Mail" or "Express Mail" boxes, as well as many Amazon.com boxes, are too thin and flimsy.  They do not meet the FedEx box standard and are NOT ALLOWED to be used for live shipments. They are too thin, too flimsy, and do not protect the animals sufficiently. Using a thin cardboard box, or one of the boxes mentioned, nullifies any SYA Live Arrival Insurance coverage. 

If you have any doubts, use the supplies available on ShipYourAquatics.com.

Remember: What you do affects the entire aquatics hobby and industry. Every time someone ships aquatics with substandard packaging, and that shipment leaks, dies or is otherwise adversely affected, it jeopardizes our future ability to ship easily and economically through the FedEx service. 

Take responsibility. Do your part. Pack your aquatics properly. Make sure it reaches its destination safely. It’s good for the animals, it’s good for the recipient, and it’s good for you.

 

 

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8. Species that are considered illegal, invasive or otherwise restricted

You may be breaking the law if you ship live species that are considered illegal, invasive or otherwise restricted by state or local authorities.

Penalties can be steep, and there is no legal protection for not knowing.

So do your homework!

To get started, call the destination's local U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or United States Department of Agriculture office. These links will help you reach the right office:

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service office directory

United States Department of Agriculture service center locator

For information about invasive species, check out United States Department of Agriculture National Invasive Species Information Center.

 

 

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9. Why you must follow these shipping standards

What you do affects the entire aquatics hobby and industry. Every time someone ships aquatics with substandard packaging, and that shipment leaks, dies or is otherwise adversely affected, it jeopardizes our future ability to ship easily and economically through the FedEx service. 

Take responsibility. Do your part. Pack your aquatics properly. Make sure it reaches its destination safely. It’s good for the animals, it’s good for the recipient, and it’s good for you.

 

 

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10. What is the Lacey Act and how does it apply to live aquatics shipments?

The Lacey Act is one of the broadest and most comprehensive tools in the federal chest to combat wildlife crime. 

It was first introduced in the House of Representatives in the spring of 1900 by Iowa Congressman John Lacey and signed into law by President William McKinley on May 25th, 1900. Its original purpose was to preserve native game and wild birds by making it a federal crime to poach game in one state with the intention of selling it in another. It sought to add weight to state laws already in existence for the protection of game and birds. Lastly, it also addressed concerns about potential problems that can arise with the introduction of non-native, or exotic species of birds and animals into the native ecosystems. 

The Lacey Act has been amended several times since it was first signed into law, broadening its definitions and increasing the penalties it could exact. In 1969, the act was expanded to include mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and reptiles. 

Here are some “quick facts” about the Lacey Act as it stands today: 

  • Protects both wildlife and plants
  • Prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported, or sold
  • Works with federal, state, and foreign laws protecting wildlife
  • Prohibits the falsification of documents for wildlife shipments (criminal penalties)
  • Prohibits the failure to properly mark wildlife shipments (civil penalties)
  • Administered by the Departments of Interior, Commerce, and Agriculture, which includes the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service

In March of 2012, the US Fish & Wildlife Service used the weight of the Lacey Act to enact a ban on the importation and interstate transportation of several species of large constrictor snakes. 

Immediately, the United States Association of Reptiles Keepers (USARK) went to work to protest the blatant overreach of the USF&W and its misinterpretation of the Lacey Act. Years of hearings, briefs and appeals followed, even as USF&W added more constrictors to their list. Finally, on April 7th of 2017, the United States Court of Appeals sided with USARK and the ban against interstate travel of large constrictors was lifted. 

Despite the attempt to use the Lacey Act as a means to control exotic pet ownership and trade in the US, it remains a critical piece of legislature for the protection of wild flora and fauna and has a significant impact on anyone wishing to own and trade exotic animals. The rules imposed on us by this act should not be ignored or taken lightly. Doing so can result in the confiscation of animals in transit, fines, and even jail time. 

Make sure you are familiar with state laws regarding the transportation of exotic animals. For instance, if you ship snakes to Hawaii, you are not only breaking Hawaiian state law, you will also be breaking federal law via the Lacey Act, and subject to penalties from both. 

Label all shipments appropriately, with the scientific AND common names of all the animals in the package, as well as quantities of each. Be sure to include the appropriate IATA label.  

As keepers of exotic animals, it is critical for us to do so responsibly. That responsibility lies not only in providing proper food and housing, but also in respecting public safety, being sensitive to common phobias, and obeying the laws of our states and nation. In today’s climate of knee-jerk legislation, let’s not give the law-makers any ammunition to use against us! 

Learn more about the Lacey Act: 

To be compliant with the Lacey Act, legally a live package needs to be labeled with the word Wildlife and include quantity and species listed either externally or immediately available on a packing list under the top flap. To meet expectations of the most stringent states, we strongly suggest labeling all domestic U.S. live animal packages with "Wildlife - Live Harmless Animals" with quantity and species listed with both scientific and common names clearly visible on the outside of the box. Failing to do so may lead to delay, return, confiscation, fines or legal summons. 

You can add this labeling manually but the easiest way to do this is with our Lacey/IATA label, which can be purchased here, or downloaded and printed at no charge here

See How should I label the outside of the box?‚Äč for more details.

 

 

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11. What is a Lacey Act/IATA label and do I need to use it?

Yes you do.

IATA stands for International Air Transport Association. This association works with its airline members and the air transport industry as a whole to promote safe, reliable, secure and economical air travel for the benefit of the world's consumers. They have developed a variety of standardized labels indicating potentially dangerous or hazardous materials being shipped via air.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has ruled that all shipments containing live animals must be labeled according to IATA standards. For our purposes, this includes only aquatic or reptile creatures. A label with an image representing aquatic or reptile animals must be included on every live shipment.

You can purchase our Lacey Act/IATA labels as stickers or you can print your own using our format.

Be sure to include one of these labels on every live shipment and check the appropriate box indicating its contents.

 

 

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12. How should I label the outside of the box?

The FedEx shipping label is first and foremost. It should be placed in an easily visible location.

When ordering the shipping label, do NOT put a PO Box in the address fields. Only US postal trucks can deliver to a PO Box and FedEx will not be able to complete that delivery without an address correction.

In addition to your FedEx shipping label, it's important you mark your package to indicate its contents.

The Federal Lacey Act and various state regulations require specific labeling. You are required to mark the outside of the package with a complete list of the animal(s) inside, including quantities, common names and scientific names. An IATA label must also be included. These can be ordered from SYA as stickers, or you can print your own on plain paper and tape it to the box where it can be clearly seen. Different states may have different requirements. This labeling direction meets all state requirements on these points. Contact individual state Fish & Wildlife offices for any additional requirements regarding labeling, health certficiates, permits or restrictions. 

It is IMPORTANT that you clearly indicate quantity and species and label your live package appropriately, according to both Federal and State laws. This includes meeting the IATA labeling requirement and the Lacey Act labeling requirement. Failure to label your live shipments accurately and/or completely may result in delays, inspection, confiscation, and/or monetary fines. Florida and California are especially vigilant about inspections and citations. It is YOUR responsibility, and it only takes a moment!

To assist you in compliance we can provided you with a Lacey Act/IATA label that includes our FedEx Reference Note and space for listing the contents of the box. Complete it and place it on the side of any live reptile/aquatics package where it can be clearly seen.

Lacey Act/IATA label stickers

Printable Lacey Act/IATA labels - 4 per page

To meet the IATA labeling requirement you must check/circle the appropriate Live Animal Indicator- Aquatics or Reptiles.

To meet the Lacey Act labeling requirement you must list your species by quantity, and both scientific and common name. Florida is requiring BOTH scientific and common name listings, complying with the Florida requirement will ensure that you are labeled appropriately throughout the country. Failure to label completely may result in delays, confiscation, and/or fines.

If you use plain paper to print the Lacey Act/IATA label, be sure to cover it with tape to prevent tears or weather wear (or use a label-envelope).

The FedEx Reference Note on this label is provided for those rare moments when a FedEx employee balks at accepting a live shipment. It is intended to alleviate concerns and instructs the employee to contact the FedEx Live Animal Desk through their internal system for clarification if they need it.

Be sure to include your paperwork* inside the top flap of the box, on top of the foam insulation.

*Sales receipt or packing list, as well as the species and quantities of live harmless reptiles contained in the package.

 

 

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13. Provide accurate information

Be sure to enter a complete, accurate destination address, as well as accurate package dimensions and weight.

When ordering your shipping label, do NOT put a PO Box in the address fields. Only US postal trucks can deliver to a PO Box and FedEx will not be able to complete that delivery without an address correction.

  • FedEx charges an extra fee for an incomplete or inaccurate address. This "address correction" fee is currently $16.00.
  • FedEx measures every package and charges for the greater of the dimensional weight (L x W x H / 139, rounded up to the nearest pound) or actual weight. If you enter 1 pound when you book your shipment, but FedEx measures your package at 10 pounds, FedEx charges us the difference -- and we will charge you the difference.

All additional fees charged by FedEx will be charged to the credit card or Paypal account you used to book the shipment. If your credit card company declines the charge, we will charge the additional fees to another card we have on file. We reserve the right to charge for the time spent processing these fees.

 

 

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*****TEMPERATURE GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS*****

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14. Regulating the temperature of the package

You might need to use a heat pack or cold pack inside your package. This decision depends on the type of animal you’re shipping and the daytime high temperature at your location and at the destination.

These are guidelines. Be aware of the temperature requirements and safe temperature range for the species you are shipping. If you have questions about a specific species or weather condition, consult ShipYourAquatics in-office staff for more detailed guidelines and parameters.

It is the responsibility of the shipper to adequately package shipments for all temperature extremes and handling conditions. DO NOT OVERUSE HEAT PACKS!

6 Critical Points for Heat Pack Use

  1. Heat packs should never come into direct contact with the animal bag/container. 
  2. There should always be crumpled newspaper or other packaging material between the heat pack and animal bag/container.
  3. Heat pack should never be placed under an animal bag/container, as it will result in high likelihood of DOA.
  4. Heat pack should be taped securely to underside of the styrofoam lid. DO NOT cover the red stripe with tape! 
  5. Failure to comply with the above points will INVALIDATE Live Arrival Insurance.
  6. Lastly, we do not recommend heat pack use in any box smaller than the 12x9x6. If you need a heat pack with your shipment, you should use the 12x9x6 box or larger. 

These guidelines are according to the daytime HIGH temps. Shipping outside of these temperature guidelines nullifies any SYA Live Arrival Insurance. If your daytime high temps straddle two categories, please contact us directly for heat pack instructions that remain within insurance parameters, qualifications and guidelines. Heat pack use in warm weather can KILL AQUATICS!
 

CORALS and TROPICAL FISH:

Below 40°F: Don’t ship. Wait for warmer weather.

40-70°F: Use a heat pack per our directions.

70-80°F: DO NOT use heat pack or a cold pack

80-90°F: Use a cold pack per our directions.

90-95°F: Ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recipient picks it up. Search for a Fedex staffed facility near you. Read the IMPORTANT NOTE below.*

Over 95°F: Don’t ship. Wait for cooler weather.


COLD WATER FISH:

Below 30°F: Don’t ship. Wait for warmer weather.

30-55°F: Use a heat pack per our directions.

55-70°F: DO NOT use a heat pack or cold pack.

70-80°F: Use a cold pack per our directions. 

80-85°F: Ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recipient picks it up. Search for a Fedex staffed facility near you. Read the IMPORTANT NOTE below.*

Over 85°F: Don’t ship. Wait for cooler weather.


AXOLOTLS:

Below 30°F: Don’t ship. Wait for warmer weather.

30-50°F: Use a heat pack per our directions.

50-70°F: DO NOT use a heat pack or cold pack.

70-90°F: Use a cold pack per our directions. 

80-90°F: Ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recipient picks it up. Search for a Fedex staffed facility near you. Read the IMPORTANT NOTE below.*

Over 90°F: Don’t ship. Wait for cooler weather.

 

*IMPORTANT NOTE: When the daytime high temperature at your destination is approaching the limit of "too warm to ship" but isn't quite there yet, you should not ship to typical residential or business locations. Any time spent on a delivery truck during the heat of the day can be detrimental to the health of your livestock. However, you can ship to a "FedEx Ship Center" facility (NOT a FedEx Office, Pak Mail, Mail Boxes Etc. or other satellite/franchise location). Your shipment will arrive early in the morning and be kept inside until the recepient picks it up.

If you want to have your package held for pickup at a FedEx facility, be sure to enter "FedEx Ship Center" in the Organization field and "HOLD AT FACILITY" in the second address field, like this:

When the daytime high temperature at your location is approaching the highest range of safe shipping temperatures, live shipments must be dropped off at a FedEx counter very late in the day, after 5 p.m. You will not beat the heat if you give your package to a FedEx driver at 1 p.m. and it spends the afternoon making the rounds in a hot truck. A hot weather shipment will be covered under our ShipYourAquatics Insurance policy only if the parameters mentioned here (post 5 p.m. drop off, shipping to FedEx staffed facility, hold for pickup) are followed.

Search for a FedEx staffed facility near you.

 

 

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15. Using a Heat Pack

ShipYourAquatics.com offers 40- and 72-hour heat packs. 40-hour heat packs are most often used for aquatic shipping. Aqauatics must be shipped Priority Overnight, and the 40-hour heat pack is appropriate. Heat packs of less than 40 hour duration do NOT meet the SYA Shipping Standards.

To ship live aquatics, do not use the 12- or 24-hour packs available at your local BigBox store or ski shop. Those packs are hand warmers, not shipping tools. The 12-24 hour packs don’t provide the necessary heat nor duration for a successful live shipment. 12 and 24 hour hand warmers also peak at a much higher temperature than shipping heat packs (180F), endangering the life of your live shipment. Hand warmers do NOT meet the SYA Shipping Standards. Heat packs of less than 40 hour duration do NOT meet the SYA Shipping Standards.

Heat packs work through a chemical reaction between the contents of the heat pack and oxygen in the surrounding air. Oxygen flow is regulated through the perforated red line. Never cover the red line with tape or anything else.

Pre-start your heat pack two hours before shipping. Shake it up well, and place it in a folded towel so it can generate a quick, solid heat. The heat pack will not heat up properly if you leave it in open air.

The heat pack must be well started before you tape it to the underside of the top insulation panel and seal your box. Remember not to tape over the perforated red line. The red line should face the interior of the box.

Note: Do not overuse heat packs! Use only one heat pack per box unless you are using our largest box, the 30"x16"x10", where two heat packs can be used if needed. Two heat packs in a box 16x16x8 or smaller will cause the box to get too hot and can kill the animal.

We have seen shipments where folks have put multiple heat packs in box, using the "if one is good, two is better!" philosophy. This has resulted in the loss of the animals.

In a small or medium sized box, multiple heat packs will increase the ambient temp of the box into very dangerous territory. Check out the chart below for the temps that a single heat pack puts out. More is absolutely not better, just much, much hotter. Hand warmers in particular peak at 180F!

The purpose of a heat pack is NOT to warm or heat the box, it is to prevent it from getting cold. You want a temperate box, NOT a hot box!

If the temperatures are near the lower end of the SYA guidelines then doubling the insulation and/or having the shipment held at a FedEx facility will minimize the chances for a DOA.

DOAs are often caused by improper use of heat packs during the winter. Using too many heat packs in a box can cause the inside of the box to overheat. Be aware that heat packs use oxygen and using more than needed may consume all the oxygen in the box and have fatal consequences for the animal. Following these guidelines will increase your chances of having successful shipments.

6 Critical Points for Heat Pack Use

  1. Heat packs should never come into direct contact with the animal bag/container. 
  2. There should always be crumpled newspaper or other packaging material between the heat pack and animal bag/container.
  3. Heat pack should never be placed under an animal bag/container, as it will result in high likelihood of DOA.
  4. Heat pack should be taped securely to underside of the styrofoam lid. DO NOT cover the red stripe with tape!
  5. Failure to comply with the above points will INVALIDATE Live Arrival Insurance.
  6. Lastly, we do not recommend heat pack use in any box smaller than the 12x9x6. If you need a heat pack with your shipment, you should use the 12x9x6 box or larger. 

Note: New heat packs are soft and feel like loose powder. Used heat packs are hard. If your heat pack is hard, it has been compromised. Use a different one.

Here is a chart of heat pack surface temperatures for the various heat pack sizes:

heat pack profiles

 

PLEASE NOTE – The following non-compliance of heat-pack usage will INVALIDATE any Live-Arrival Insurance purchased:

  • Using hand-warmers, foot-warmers, or any heat pack with a less-than 40 hour duration purchased in the big-box stores.
  • Using more than one heat pack in any box smaller than our #5 size. The #5 box may include up to TWO heat packs.
  • Failure to provide specific ventilation (four quarter-inch holes, two at each end of the box).
  • Placing the heat pack at the bottom of the shipping box and/or in direct contact with the animal or the container the animal is in.
  • Attaching the heat pack facing the wrong way or covering the red stripe with tape.

 

 

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16. Using a Cold Pack

Soak in water for a minimum of 15 minutes, until fully saturated.

Put the cold pack in your freezer, plastic side down, overnight. It should be fully frozen.

Pack your animal, but don’t place the cold pack until you’re ready for pickup or dropoff. This keeps the cold pack frozen longer.

When you’re ready to seal the package, wrap the cold pack in newspaper to absorb condensation. Tape the pack to the underside of the top insulation panel. Make sure there is packing material (usually crumpled newspaper) between the cold pack and the container the animal is in.

Note: Using this site, you may NOT ship a package containing dry ice.

 

 

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