This section is from the book "The Goldfish And Its Systematic Culture With A View To Profit", by Hugo Mulertt. Also available from Amazon: The goldfish and its systematic culture.
The vessel best adapted for the shipment of live fish, to any reasonable distance in this country, is a tin can, clad with wood.
The shipping can should be perfectly smooth upon the inside, so that the fish will be subjected to the least percentage of injury while en route. At the upper end the can should taper off, forming a kind of neck or shoulder, similar to that seen upon the common coal-oil can. This makes it easy for the contents to slide out when the vessel is to be emptied. The opening at the top is five (5) inches in diameter, and closed with a perforated lid that is fitted in like the top to a milk can. The perforations consist of half a dozen one-half (1/2) inch holes, punched through from the under side of the lid, thus leaving the sharp rim of the holes on the outside where they can do no injury to the fish within the vessel. (See illustration.)
Those cans very extensively used in the coal oil trade, and usually designated "wooden jacket cans," are about the very best thing that could be invented for our purpose.
As the Express Companies demand that tin vessels be protected in some manner or other with wood, we find in these vessels the fulfillment of all requirements of that nature, and at a slight increase in weight. Besides, these cans are readily obtained in the large cities, (and smaller ones, too, in all probability), the only necessity being the enlargement of the opening to make it a complete shipping can for fish.
When it is desirable to make a shipment of live fish, it is necessary to take into consideration their size, the length of time they will be upon the road, and the season of the year in which they are transported, all with reference to the all-important supply of oxygen, without which, of course, the fish cannot live.
The shipping can is filled with pure water, to four-fifths (4-5) of its capacity only, thus providing ample space for the water to splash about during the journey, as it is by this constant motion of the water in the vessel that it is aerated and made capable of supplying the fish with oxygen.
The hour of shipping ought, if possible, to be so arranged that the journey on the road may be made at night, as it is cooler in the summer, does not expose the fish to the great heat of sunlight and the arrival is made usually sometime in the morning or forenoon when those at the destination are on hand to receive them. The cans must be plainly labeled, stating the nature of their contents, so that they may receive more care in the handling from the express agents, consequently running less risk of damage. It is also advisable to notify the party to whom the fish are sent that the shipment has been made, in order that he may take them from the agent as soon as possible, otherwise, if they are left to remain quiet at the express office or freight depot, the fish will be in great danger of their lives from want of proper care.
If the shipping can is an ordinary small tin bucket, such as are on sale at the tinsmith's, the ventilating holes would better be punched in the center of the lid, the remainder being left unmolested, forming a shoulder against which the water can splash without being spilled. In all cases the lid must be securely fastened with strong twine or wire, so that a jar will not displace it.
The above directions apply more especially to shipments that do not occupy any great length of time in the transit.
If the fish are to be sent great distances over our own country or exported to foreign parts, the safest plan is to put them in a vessel fitted up like a regular aquarium. Japanese goldfish have been sent to Europe with perfect success in the following manner:
A one-gallon candy-jar, (such as are used for hatching spawn) is fitted up in proper style, with sand, water-plants, snails and tadpoles, and filled nearly to the top with pure water. In this may be placed four two inch fish, the top then covered with a perforated tin lid, and the whole set aside for observation for about a week. Dur-ing this time a tin bucket is obtained of such a size that the entire candy-jar aquarium will nicely fit into it, the top of the jar being neither higher nor lower than the upper edge of the bucket. This tin bucket, or sheath, if you will, serves as a perfect guard against breakage, and should any accident occur to the jar, the bucket is on hand to act as a substitute. Furthermore the tin is provided with a convenient handle to carry it by, and for greater security the jar can be retained in its place with a heavy wire bar across the top, so adjusted that it can be removed at will.
On board the ocean steamer, the buckets are suspended by the handles, the water is not changed, neither are the fish fed anything.
As will be seen, the uncovered shoulder of the jar will admit plenty of light, so that the plants can act on the water and keep it fresh, neither can the water in the jar be lost by splashing out, as when this does happen, it merely falls into the bucket, from whence it can be returned; the perforated lid admits the air, but at the same time prevents the accidental escape of the fish.
This description of a trans-Atlantic shipping can is not at all expensive, and is further recommended by its reliability. Make it a rule, however, to ship only such fish as are in perfect health and fully domesticated.
While on the road the water in the can should be changed only in exceptional cases, and then with great care. If the fish become weak it is a sign that they are not in good condition, and that a mistake has been made in preparing them for travel, and the simple changing of the water then will not prevent their dying. The rule is, do not crowd the shipping cans.
When, upon the arrival of a lot of fish, there happen to be any dead ones in the vessel, and the balance weak or in a dying condition, or look slimy and pale, with bloody streaks on the fins or around the scales, it is a sure sign that suffocation has been the cause of the death of some, and will speedily cause that of the others. The living ones should at once be placed in a large vessel in the open air, filled with fresh water, to which a good handful of common table-salt is added. A clean wash-tub answers the purpose nicely, and besides, has the merit of usually being close at hand.
This treatment, if resorted to immediately, will, in most cases, restore the fish to good health.