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Aquaculture/Fisheries Center - Extension - Fish Health
Shipping Fish Samples to the Diagnostic Laboratory 
Shipping Fish     The best way to ship live samples of sick fish to the diagnostic labs is to put the fish in a bucket or cooler of pond water and drive them directly to the lab. Make sure that the fish have lots of room so that they do not die from lack of oxygen in route. If the trip is a long one, if open containers of water are not feasible, or if it appears that the fish will not survive the trip, fish may be placed in clean plastic bags without water and then shipped on ice. If samples of fish that were collected when "freshly dead" are to be submitted, these fish should always be shipped in bags without water and surrounded by ice. 

     When the distance to the diagnostic lab is so great that driving to the lab is impractical, other methods of shipping samples can be used. Both live and dead fish can be shipped by overnight express. Live fish must be in water and oxygen, dead fish must be buried in ice. Fish can be shipped frozen, by dry ice is required and it may be hard to find in your area plus some shippers have very strict regulations limiting dry ice use. Another alternative is to place small fish or pieces of large fish in formaldehyde solutions for shipping. These different methods of shipping by commercial carriers have advantages and disadvantages which are listed below. 
Live Fish
Advantages: The very best sample for diagnosis.

Disadvantages: Fish may die in route if they are very sick, if the water quality is poor, if the oxygen runs out, or if the fish get too hot or cold. Dead fish are not suitable for diagnosis

Fish on Ice
Advantages: No worries about fish dying in route

Disadvantages: Many parasites will be lost, histology cannot be done, recovery of bacteria and viruses is not as good

Frozen Fish
Advantages: The sample can be held for a long period and slow delivery is not a problem as long as the fish stays frozen. 

Disadvantages: Dry ice is hard to find and hard to ship. Frozen samples are even less useful than samples on ice. 

Fish in Formaldehyde
Advantages: Once the sample is placed in the formaldehyde solution, it is very stable and can be shipped to the laboratory by cheaper slow methods. Delays between putting the sample in formaldehyde and shipping the sample do not effect sample quality. May be the superior sample when toxins are suspected. 

Disadvantages: Everything is dead so nothing can be cultured; only histology can be performed. Some small external parasites may be lost. Formaldehyde must be obtained. Formaldehyde is bad to breath and may harm your skin or eyes if it isnít handled carefully. Some shipping companies wonít handle formaldehyde. 

     When fish are to be shipped to the disease labs by a commercial carrier, it is very important to call the Disease Laboratory, describe your case, get additional advice on shipping methods, and let the laboratory know exactly when to expect the arrival of the sample. If the shipping company gives you a tracking number, provide that number to the disease lab so that the lab can help insure the sampleís timely arrival. Most samples shipped by commercial carrier should go the Diagnostic laboratory on the UAPB campus (to the address below).

Fish Disease Laboratory
1200 N. University Dr.
Mail Slot 4912 (only for US Mail)
Pine Bluff, AR 71601