Are Car Rides Bad for Fish?

Are Car Rides Bad for Fish?

Transporting live fish comes with some risks and dangers. They may get physically injured during transfer or while in transit. The transport water quality may deteriorate fast and cause health hazards. 

Despite all the risks, car rides are not necessarily bad for fish. Planning well in advance can reduce any risks of harm and stress to the fish. Poor planning can cause physical injuries, loss of appetite, lethargy, and susceptibility to illness. 

If you’re moving homes, bringing your fish from the pet store, or coming back home from college with your pet. knowing how to transport your fish can be crucial to their survival. Car rides are the most cost-effective and practical way to transport your fish. In this guide, we look at all the dos and don’ts of transporting your live fish by road. 

How Do You Travel with A Fish?

Traveling with a fish isn’t as simple as carrying your aquarium into the car and driving off. To relocate them properly, you should follow these steps:

Change Water

The water in your aquarium most likely needs changing. However, you can’t dump it all out on the day of travel and transport your fish in new water. Fish undergo stress when in a new environment, including if in new water.

You’ll need to gradually switch out the water. Start about four days to a week early and switch about 20% of the water each day. The gradual change significantly reduces toxins and harmful bacteria without making the aquatic environment feel strange. 

Travel Water

Don’t transport your fish in tap water. Fill your travel containers with water from the top of the tank. The top layers are the cleanest and easiest to filter out residue. If you take water from the bottom of the tank you might place toxins at a higher concentration in the small container.  


Are Car Rides Bad for Fish?

When traveling, you don’t want your fish messing up the water more than necessary. Additionally, most fish feel too stressed to defecate when in strange environments. So, in a moving car, they might feel too bloated and uncomfortable. 

Thus, it is necessary and helpful if you don’t feed your fish on the day leading to the trip. Most fish can go up to a week without food. They will be fine throughout the journey. 


Wait until the very last minute before you remove the fish from their aquarium into the transport containers. Your fish should be the last thing you pack before you leave. They should also be the first thing you unpack once you arrive at your destination. 

Be extra careful when handling the fish during the transfer from tank to the container. It is easy to accidentally bump into something that kills or maims your fish. The edge of a sharp object could cut their fin or a small bead could get lodged in their gills. Be gentle and watchful. 


The easiest way to transport your fish is to do it in a plastic bag. Ensure the plastic bag is big enough for the size of your fish. The fish should be able to swim from one end to the other if it’s a long trip, without touching both ends. They should also not be able to reach the bottom of the container and the top of the water simultaneously. 

Fill the container with water two-thirds of the way. Don’t fill it up to the brim. You need space for oxygen. Get some pure oxygen from your local pet store to fill up the bag. 

Double-bag your fish in case of leaks. Carry one or two extra bags in case of punctures or breakages along the way. Place your bag inside a cooler box to regulate temperature. The box also protects the fish from sudden bursts of light. 

Separate Travel

When moving multiple fish, transport each fish in its own bag. Some fish can get aggressive when lumped together in a small space. Additionally, putting many fish in one bag reduces the resources available to each.

Avoid putting any rocks, shells, or tank decorations inside the container with fish. The objects may roll around when the car moves and injure the fish.  

Aquarium Decor

If you have live plants in your aquarium, consider transporting them in a different bag. Bringing the plants along ensures you keep the good essential bacteria alive and will make the destination tank feel like home sooner rather than later.


Fish are sensitive to changes in temperature. Try and keep your containers at the same temperature as the aquarium. 

Keeping your transport container inside a picnic cooler or Styrofoam box can help regulate temperatures. Keep a thermometer alongside the container to monitor for any temperature fluctuations. 


Are Car Rides Bad for Fish?

Most fish prefer being in the dark. Exposing them to sunlight and the bright light of passing cars can stress them. 

Cover the containers with blankets or towels. The insulation also helps to protect the fish from sudden noises and the noise from the car engine. 

Are Car Rides Bad for Fish?

Fish can easily get stressed when moved around. When stressed, their bodily functions can shut down. The fish may lose their appetite, be unable to eliminate, become lethargic, and be susceptible to disease. You shouldn’t make moving your fish a regular occurrence. 

Nonetheless, the once-in-a-lifetime move can be harmless to the health and welfare of your fish. When you ensure the conditions of car travel are okay, the fish will be alright. 

How Long Can a Fish Survive a Car Ride?

Take these steps to protect your fish during a car ride:

  • Avoid physical injury when transferring your fish to and from the aquarium and containers. 
  • Use clean aquarium water, free of chlorine. 
  • Keep your fish at the appropriate temperature. 
  • Protect your fish from noise and light. 
  • Add adequate oxygen supplies. 
  • Pack each fish into a separate bag. Transporting multiple fish in the same bag may result in aggression. 
  • Transport your aquarium while it’s empty to reduce the chances of breakage and causing leaks. 
  • Transport live plants separately, inside bags filled with aquarium water.

Gui Hadlich

Hey there, I'm Gui! These are my 2 good pals Ozzy and Luna. I've gone through the headache of figuring out what to do when either traveling with them or leaving them behind, and I know it can be a pain. I created Pets Travel Guide to make your life a bit easier when you love your pet but also love to travel!

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