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Golden rules of transporting Koi

  • Stress caused by handling and transporting Koi can be considerable.
  • Multiple stressors have an additive effect.
  • Each stressor may reduce the Koi’s ability to tolerate subsequent or additional stressors.
  • Koi may succumb to Delayed Mortality Syndrome within a 2-3 week period after the acute stress of shipping.
  • Koi may not fully recover from all the stresses involved for shipping for several months, and should thus not be shipped any more frequently than every 3 months.
  • Koi are very adaptable and may be conditioned to adapt to normally stressful events, such as netting and bowling.
  • Disruptions in the slime coat are thought to be one of the most important factors for why Koi succumb to pathogens after stress.
  • Prior to shipment, Koi should be fasted for a week; in a holding tank, with a buddy.
  • Maintain stable temperature, pH and total alkalinity in the holding tank, and add calcium to reach 80 ppm if it does not already exist in the water.
  • Do not crowd Koi in a holding tank.
  • To minimize stress caused by different water quality parameters, test and adjust the critical parameters for all the water before the move:
  • Test the source water for Ammonia, Nitrite, pH, Alkalinity and Temperature.
  • Test the transport water (if not using the source water) and the destination water for pH, Alkalinity and Temperature.
  • The goal should be to try to attain pH differences of less than 0.2 pH points and temperature differences of less than 2 Degrees Celsius. Where adjustments need to be made to narrow the variation, it is preferable to raise the lower parameter than to lower the higher one. Ammonia and Nitrite should always be zero.
  • Koi fasted for a week prior to shipping will produce less ammonia and require less oxygen in the bag.
  • Never transport Koi with gill damage or any existing sign of injury or disease.
  • Always carry emergency supplies while shipping Koi. The emergency kit should contain a 20 liter container of shipping water, extra Koi bags, extra rubber bands, and a small oxygen cylinder.
  • Take your time while netting Koi in order to keep stress at a minimum. Move slowly and steadily the entire time you are working with the Koi so that the ‘fight or flight’ response is not stimulated.
  • Before bowling any Koi, have all the handling equipment ready and the transport equipment prepared.
  • Use a seine net to gather Koi into one corner of the pond, where the Koi pole net can easily reach them.
  • Use a Koi pole net to slowly guide the Koi into a Koi bowl, preferably being controlled by another person.
  • Bag Koi directly from the bowl when possible. If the source water is to be used as transport water, the bag may be dipped into the bowl to collect the Koi. If the bag water is to be different than the source water, move the Koi by hand.
  • Always use a new bag to hold the Koi to minimize the risk of spreading pathogens. Previously used bags may be employed as the 2nd or 3rd bags, if desired.
  • For smaller Koi and shorter trips, use 2 shipping bags. For larger Koi or longer trips, 3 bags should be used.
  • Always run water to waste for 10 minutes to flush any build-up of heavy metals from the pipes before using it as shipping water.
  • Salt the shipping water to .3%.
  • Add the salt to the bag water before Koi are added.
  • Do not use disinfectants, antibiotics, oxidizers, anesthetics or sedatives as bag additives in shipping water.
  • In the shipping bag, use just enough treated water to cover the Koi’s gills.
  • Fill the remainder of the shipping bag with pure O2, leaving a 10% expansion space. Fill slowly along the side of the bag to avoid scaring the Koi.
  • Bag each Koi separately if possible.
  • Bubble-wrap should be used to line all sides around bags that contain heavy or large Koi to reduce the possibility of injury from a sudden stop during transport. Bubble wrap should be used to prevent any Koi bag from shifting during transport.
  • Use 1 rubber band or Koi bagging band on the twisted neck of the bag, then double the twisted bag neck over, and use 2 more bands to secure it. Band each shipping bag separately.
  • Once Koi are bagged, they should be kept dark and must be kept in the shade. Transport Koi in the dark.
  • Either insulate all sides of Koi boxes with Styrofoam, or use a cooler to ship Koi.
  • If cardboard boxes are used to ship Koi, the box should be double-walled.
  • Use approximately one reusable gel ice pack per 4 hours of shipping time to keep Koi cool during shipment.
  • Ice packs should be insulated with newspaper or bubble-wrap and secured with duct tape to the upper part of the container to provide air-conditioning. Ice should never be in contact with the part of the bag holding the water.
  • Place shipping containers perpendicular to the direction of travel.
  • Never ship Koi in a car trunk due to extreme temperatures.
  • If live-haul or transport tanks can be safely secured and carried by a vehicle, they may be used as an alternative to boxes and bags. Tanks must have an aeration system with backup power source, and should have overflow drains and air vents. Extreme care must be taken to reduce stress while getting Koi into and out of these tanks.
  • When Koi arrive at their destination, place the bags into the quarantine tank and allow the bags to float in the shade for 15-30 minutes to equalize temperatures.
  • Gently cut open the bags, and immediately lift out the Koi by hand such that none of the bag water gets into the quarantine or destination tank.
  • Dispose of the bag water safely.
  • Neutralize all ammonia produced by the Koi
  • Neutralize existing chlorine/chloramines.
  • Maintain stable temperature, pH and total alkalinity in the quarantine tank, and add calcium to reach 80 ppm if it does not already exist in the water.
  • If the Koi are highly stressed or injured by the shipping, add .3% salt to the quarantine tank to reduce osmotic load and allow the Koi to recruit more resources for healing.
  • Do not crowd Koi in a quarantine tank.
  • Quarantine the Koi.
  • Offer no more than a few food pellets twice a day for each Koi in the Quarantine tank.