Correct Way to Bag Fish, Invertebrates, and Plants

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Correct Way to Bag Fish, Invertebrates, and Plants

Post by mewickham »


Air to Water Ratio
Fill bags with 1/3 Water and 2/3 air. Water just keeps the fish wet. It's the air that keeps them alive by dissolving into the water and giving something to breathe. Extra water mean less air.

Bagging Technique
After filling with one-third water and adding the fish, hold the bag open as wide as possible with four fingers. Then, using one hand, quickly snatch the bag closed, as near the top as possible. Twist it shut until the bag is firm. If you didn't trap 2/3 air, try again. This takes practice to get maximum air in the bag! Then, either tie the bag shut, or twist the top into a loop and wrap it with a rubber band to close it off. While tying off the bag is acceptable, it is preferable to close up with a rubber band. It makes it easier to reopen the bag to release the fish later. Plus, tying is more difficult to master.

Bag Should Be Plump
After closing the bag, the result should be fat and firm bag. Squishy bags can roll and crush fish in the corners, damaging or killing them. Squishy bags look like leaky bags.

Double Bag Spiny Fish
Spiny fish can tuck into the corner of a bag, where they have more leverage, and poke their spiny fins through to cause leaks. When double bagging, ALWAYS PUT THE FIRST BAG UPSIDE DOWN INTO THE SECOND BAG. This rounds off all corners, making it much more difficult for a fish to poke through the bag.

Double Bag Small Fish
Tiny fish tend to crowd into the corners. A bag doesn't need to roll much before it will crimp that corner and squash the little fish. Again, the FIRST BAG SHOULD GO UPSIDE DOWN into the second bag to remove dangerous corners.
If it's tiny or if it's spiny, double bag it!

Do Not Blow into the Bag
Your breath is laden with carbon dioxide, and has had oxygen breathed out of it. Animals need oxygen to breathe. (It's okay to inflate bags of plants with your breath, though.) If you follow the 1/3-water rule and don't overcrowd the bag, regular air should be fine.

An ideal situation is to inflate bags with pure oxygen so that they keep longer, but this is not feasible for most people. A local dealer might be willing to offer this service for a fee, though. If you have ultra prized specimens, or need to pack for longer times, or have a large fish, but only a medium bag, then adding pure oxygen would be well worthwhile.

No Zip-lock Bags for Fish
Zip-lock bags are notoriously leaky. That creates a mess for us and the venue hall. Zip-lock bags easily pop open. Zip-lock bags lay so flat that it may not be possible to put enough water to cover the fish, while maintaining the 1/3 water to 2/3 air rule. It's hard to close a zip-lock bag, while keeping enough air in it. Use proper plastic bags. Local dealers will usually sell you some, if you ask. If you are selling a lot of fish, consider ordering plastic bags from Amazon. Common sizes are 6"×12" (sm), 8"×15 (med), or 10"×22" (lg). You will need even larger bags for jumbo fish.
Note: If you bring your fish to the auction in zip-lock bags, we reserve the right to rebag them into proper bags with a $1 charge per bag.

How Many Fish Per Bag
It's not an exact science. It depends on the size of the bag, the size of the fish, the species, and how much time will be spent in the bag. Bigger fish use more oxygen than little fish. Active species use more oxygen than inactive species. A fish that is 2× as long is actually 8× as big (2L×2W×2H=8) and uses proportionally more oxygen. So here are some rough guidelines:

6"×12" bag:
      (1) betta, or
      (2) small plecos, or
      (3) large neons or zebra danios or small platies, or
      (6) cherry shrimp or small neons

8"×15 bag:
      (1) 3" African cichlid, or
      (3) swordtails or cory catfish or pairs of fancy guppies, or medium plecos, or
      (6) large neons or zebra danios or small platies

Do your best to not overcrowd the fish. Respect them by remembering that their lives are in your hands. If you overcrowd, they will struggle to breathe and could die. That's not fun or nice. If not sure, use a bigger bag or put fewer fish to be safe.

Follow the same rules for bagging most invertebrates as for bagging fish. An exception is that some snails are air breathers. So bag snails with only enough water to cover them to be sure they can reach air in a bag that gets jostled. Double-bag small snails so that they don't get crushed.


Bag Plants Without Water
As long as plants are wet, they will be fine. The aquatic plant nurseries actually wrap them in wet newspaper for shipment. But you don't want to do that because we want to see the plants! Put wet plants into a plastic bag, without adding water. The lack of extra water is best because sloshing water can break plant stems, especially for softer species.

Zip-lock Bags are OK for Plants
We allow zip-lock bags for plants, but they are not preferred! Again, they tend to leak. If your zip-lock bags leak, we reserve the right to rebag them into proper bags with a $1 charge per bag.

It's Okay to Inflate Plant Bags with Your Breath
Plants won't be hurt by the extra carbon dioxide. It can be a food source for them.

Consider bringing a Styrofoam or other cooler to protect your fish or plants, either to or from the auction. Sometimes, there are Styrofoam fish boxes for sale at the auction or swap meet, but you can't count on it.

As always, you can find all rules, tips, registration forms, and site locationf for NWAAS auctions and swap meets HERE.
Mike Wickham
NWAAS President