How Long Can A Fish Live In A Bag? All You Need To Know

    how long can a fish live in a bag

    As a budding aquarist, you might have wondered about the question, “How long can a fish live in a bag?” It might be because your tank isn’t as ready as you thought, or maybe you just don’t know. Whatever the reason, answering questions like this will make you a better fishkeeper.

    But don’t worry – fishes can stay in bags for a while: about 7-12 continuous hours, or even 24-48 hours in cases of long transfers. However, this can also vary depending on other factors such as their size, what the bag is filled with, how many fish there are, and the stressfulness of the transport.

    This article will have all the information that you need about transporting your new pet so that it can safely arrive at its forever home.

    How Long Can A Fish Live In A Bag? Determining Factors

    can fish suffocate in a bag
    Denison barb (Puntius denisonii)

    The amount of time a fish can spend in a bag depends on various factors, which we will go over.

    Size Of The Fish

    Larger fish need more oxygen than smaller fish. This is because they have a higher metabolic rate and therefore require more oxygen to breathe.

    As a result, large fish such as Oscar fish, arowana, and peacock bass should not be in a bag for more than a couple of hours. A maximum of 12 is recommended; for longer transfers, they should be in a proper storage container with an oxygen supply and a filter, if possible.

    On the other hand, small fish like Guppies, Neon Tetras, and Bettas can last up to 48 hours in a bag, provided that the bag is adequately aerated.

    Age Of The Fish

    Older fish are not as resilient as younger fish and can’t tolerate being in a bag for as long. If you must transport an older fish, do so with extra care.

    Bag Fillers

    The type of water your fish is in can also affect how long it can stay in a bag.

    If you use dechlorinated tap water as a filler, your fish can only last for a few hours. This is because chloramines and chlorine are still present in the water and will slowly poison your fish.

    To avoid this, use dechlorinated or aged water. Aged water has had time to off-gas, making it safer for your fish.

    Another way to make sure that your fish has a constant supply of oxygen is to use an air stone. This will aerate the water and help your fish last longer in the bag.

    Number Of Fish In The Bag

    The more fish in the bag, the faster they will use up all the oxygen. This is because each fish produces waste, and this waste uses up oxygen.

    As a result, it is best to put only one fish per bag unless the bag is very large. If you must put more than one fish in a bag, make sure that they are all small fishes.

    Transport Stressfulness

    The stress of transport can also affect how long your fish can last in a bag. If the fish is stressed, it will use up oxygen faster.

    To avoid this, make sure that the bag is large enough for your fish to move around in and that the water is at the correct temperature.

    You should also acclimate your fish to the new water slowly so that they can adjust to the new conditions.

    The mode of transportation can also impact the level of stress the fish experiences while in the bag, whether it be carrying the bag in a car ride or on an airplane.

    The more still you can keep the bag during transport, the less stress the fish will experience.

    Food In The Intestines

    One factor that is often overlooked is the food in the intestines.

    If a fish has eaten a lot of food, it will produce more waste and use up oxygen faster. To avoid this, do not feed your fish for at least 24 hours before transport.

    Type Of Bag

    The type of bag you use can also affect how long your fish can stay in it.

    For example, a clear plastic bag will allow more light in, which can stress your fish out. A white opaque bag will block out light and make your fish feel more secure.

    In general, it is best to use a white opaque bag so that your fish can’t see out and gets less stressed.

    You should also avoid using a bag that is made of PVC or other materials that can leach chemicals into the water.

    Factors That Affect Your Choice of Fish Bag

    how long can a fish live in a small container
    Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)

    When it comes to transporting your fish, you want to make sure that they are safe and comfortable. The best way to do this is to use a good-quality bag.

    Before we discuss the best types of bags to use to carry fish, let’s first discuss the factors that affect this decision.


    The size of the bag is important because you want to make sure that your fish has enough room to move around.

    If the bag is too small, your fish will be stressed and use up oxygen faster. On the other hand, if the bag is too large, it will be difficult to carry and might tip over.

    A good rule of thumb is to choose a bag that can contain at least 3-5 of the same fish comfortably, depending on how big the fish is.

    Type Of Material

    The type of material the bag is made out of is also important. You want to make sure that the bag is made out of a durable material that will not tear easily. Some good materials to use are PVC or polyurethane.


    It is also important to make sure that the bag is waterproof. This will prevent any water from leaking out and making a mess.


    If you are transporting your fish in a car or other vehicle, you will want to make sure that the bag is insulated. This will keep the water at a consistent temperature and prevent your fish from getting too hot or too cold.


    You also want to make sure that the bag is durable. This means that it should be able to withstand being dropped or bumped around. The best way to test this is to try and puncture the bag with your finger. If it is difficult to do, then the bag is probably durable enough.


    The weight of the bag is also important. You want to make sure that it is not too heavy so that you can easily carry it. The best way to test this is to pick up the bag and see how it feels. If it is too heavy, you might want to consider a different bag.


    As we mentioned before, aeration is important because it increases dissolved oxygen in the water, providing your fish with much-needed oxygen. The best way to do this is to use an air stone or a bubbler. This will ensure that your fish has a constant supply of oxygen.


    Of course, you also want to make sure that you are getting a good value for your money. This means that you should compare the prices of different bags before you make your purchase.

    Extra Features

    Some bags also come with extra features that can be helpful. For example, some bags have a built-in water pump so that you don’t have to worry about aerating the water yourself.

    Best Types Of Bags To Use To Carry Fish

    how to add oxygen to fish bag
    Congo tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

    Now that we’ve gone over the factors that you need to consider when choosing a bag, let’s discuss the best types of bags to use to carry fish.

    PVC or polyurethane fish bags like are a good option because they are durable and can be easily sealed. They also have a clear surface, so you can see your fish inside. These bags are also puncture-resistant and can be reused multiple times.

    Here are some examples of the best bags:

    How To Bag Fish For Transportation

    Female Rainbow Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon lacortei)
    Rainbow Emperor Tetra (Nematobrycon lacortei)

    Now that we’ve gone over the best types of bags to use, let’s discuss how to properly bag fish for transportation.

    Step 1: Acclimate Them To The Bag

    Acclimation is the process of slowly adjusting your fish to the new conditions. This is important because it helps reduce stress and prevents your fish from going into shock.

    To acclimate your fish to the bag, float the sealed bag in the tank for 15-30 minutes. This will allow your fish to get used to the temperature and environment of the bag.

    Step 2: Fill The Bag With Water

    After the acclimation period is over, you can start to fill the bag with water. Make sure that the water is at the correct temperature and that you are using dechlorinated or aged water.

    To do this, slowly pour water into the bag, making sure not to splash or disturb your fish.

    You should fill the bag until it is about three-quarters full. This will give your fish enough room to move around and breathe.

    Step 3: Aerate The Water

    Once the bag is three-quarters full, you can add an air stone or bubbler. This will help aerate the water and provide your fish with oxygen. Also, make sure to not overfill the bag so that your fish have enough room to swim.

    Let the air stone or bubbler run for a few minutes before sealing the bag. For transporting bigger fish, some aquarists even have a bubbler working continuously during the move.

    Step 4: Seal The Bag

    After the bag is filled with water and aerated, you can seal it. Make sure that you leave enough air in the bag so that your fish can breathe.

    You can use a zip-top bag or a heat-sealed bag for best results. If you are using a zip-top bag, make sure that you seal it tightly.

    If you’re using an open-top bag, you can use materials such as a piece of string or a twisted rubber band to seal it.

    It’s also recommended to put the bag inside a second bag before sealing it. This can help prevent the inner bag from leaking water in case the outer bag gets punctured.

    If you can pack it properly and insulate it from extreme conditions like hot and cold weather, the fish can stay inside this bag for up to 48 hours.

    Step 5: Transport Your Fish

    Now that your fish are properly bagged, you can transport them to their new home. Make sure that you do not put the bag in direct sunlight or in a hot car. Also, try to keep the bag as still as possible to reduce stress on your fish.

    Once you arrive at your destination, you can slowly acclimate your fish to their new tank.

    How To Safely Transfer A Fish From A Bag To Your Tank

    how long can fish travel in a car
    Threestripe pencilfish (Nannostomus trifasciatus)

    You’re not at your destination – great! However, here comes the next difficult part: safely transferring a fish from its bag to your tank at home.

    Luckily, if you already know how to transfer the fish from a cup to a tank, you shouldn’t encounter any difficulty with this one.

    Step 1: Open The Bag And Float It In The Tank

    To start, open the bag and float it in your tank. This will allow your fish to get used to the new temperature and environment. Try your best not to move the bag too much and disturb the fish. Leave the bag floating in the tank for about 15-30 minutes.

    Step 2: Start The Acclimation Process

    There are two methods for acclimation that you can choose from, called Water Switch acclimation and Drip acclimation. Both of these involve changing the water slowly in order to allow the fish to get used to their new surroundings.

    Drip acclimation is the preferred method as it is less stressful on the fish. It can take around 2 hours or even more though, depending on the size of your tank.

    Step 3: Let The Fish Swim Out From The Bag

    After the acclimation process is complete, you can let the fish swim out from the bag on their own. Make sure to not pour the fish directly into the tank as this can shock them.

    Let the fish take their time exploring their new home. They might hide for a while, but they will eventually come out to explore their new environment.

    How To Acclimate A Fish To A New Tank

    Betta fish (Betta splendens)

    We’ve already discussed this topic before in another blog post focusing on Betta fish. The process works the same way for any type of fish, whether big or small.

    Here’s an overview:

    Water Switch Acclimation

    The water switch acclimation method is one of the most common and it’s pretty straightforward.

    1. You’ll need two buckets or containers – one for the fish and one for the new tank water.
    2. Start by filling the container with your fish with about 75% of the water they’re currently in.
    3. Then, very slowly start adding the new tank water to the container with the fish.
    4. You can do this by either pouring it in or using a siphon. Make sure to do this slowly so that you don’t shock your fish.
    5. After the container with the fish is full, you can then add them to the new tank.

    The entire process takes about 30 minutes to an hour. It’s very easy and as long as you follow these steps, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.

    Drip Method Acclimation

    The drip method is similar to the water switch acclimation process, but it takes a bit longer.

    The upside is that it’s much less stressful for your fish since they’re not being moved around a lot.

    1. Just like the water switch acclimation method, you’ll need two containers, one for the fish and another one for the new tank water.
    2. Fill the container up to 75% with water.
    3. Then, take a small tube and attach one end to the faucet and the other end inside the container with the fish. You’ll want to place the tube so that the water drips slowly into the container.
    4. Start the drip and let it go for about 30 minutes to an hour. Once the drip is finished, you can then add your fish to the new tank.

    The entire process takes about two hours, which is longer than the other method, but it’s much less stressful for your fish.

    If you want to see the full details of how these two acclimation methods are done, check our other article!


    If you’re new to fish keeping as a hobby, you might be shocked to find that you’ll be transporting your new friend in a plastic bag. However, this is actually a pretty common way to transport fish since it’s safe and easy.

    Don’t worry though, now that you know everything that you should know about safely transporting your pet fish, you can bring them home without any stress.

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