"Gettin' the Goods" ...
Hot & Cold Shipping Information

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Shipment Tracking

Terms & Conditions
For live rock, corals, fish, or anything of weight, airport to airport shipping is by far the cheapest way to go ... and, it's also the quickest.

From the time we receive our shipment at LAX to the time you get your order, it will average faster than a fish store gets theirs from a wholesaler. This is predicated upon your prompt arrival at the airport to pick up your shipment.

Having spent many, many years in the wholesale supply end of this business, we can tell you a secret ... amongst L.A. (and probably all) wholesalers, we believe there is a special place for those who would allow live animals sit at the airport, and not pick them up IMMEDIATELY!!! It is vital that the animals are picked up as quickly as possible.

We determine which airline is going to be the best one for your location. If more than one airline services your area, Also, we will select the one that best suits your particular situation (based on flight availability, schedules, what you are ordering, the weight of your shipment, whether it's live rock or corals, etc.) We have decades of experience with airfreight routing.

As soon as your order is shipped, you will receive an e-mail informing you of your airline, the estimated arrival time of your order, your airway bill number, and the phone number of the airline, which is sometimes the number to your local cargo office. We also track your shipment and if there is ever any delay, you will receive a notification so you know what's happening. Often, if we are able to gather confirmation that your shipment is on its way, we will e-mail you again to keep you updated on its arrival time so you can make plans to get it.

After your order has arrived at your area airport, the airline needs a bit of time to unload the plane to make your order available to you. The amount of time allowed for this varies, with freight breakdowns of one to two hours at larger metropolitan airports, to half an hour to an hour at smaller airports. It's important that you call the airline before driving over there so you can confirm that your order has not only arrived, but that it's available and ready to be picked up.

Your freight will be sent collect, so you will pay the airline when your order arrives. In this way, you only pay your actual shipping costs. The airline will ask you for your airway bill number and your name (you may be required to show proof of you who are ... so, if you are going to be sending someone else to pick up your order for you, please let us know that in advance so we may sure to include their name on your paperwork).

All of our orders leave with the thought in mind as to what your local temperature is going to be when your package arrives. Your order may require ice packs or heat packs, depending upon the weather. See the more in depth discussion on this subject below. Generally all of our products, fish, corals, or live rock, your box will also be a cardboard outer with a styro inner box and will be lined with newspaper in winter. On days when temperatures are extremely hot or cold, we strongly urge you to pick up your order as soon as you are able to.

We truly care about the animals and treat them as they should be treated ... as precious cargo! You will find that we will always do our best to make sure that the communication between us is clear and punctual ... we want this to be a good experience for you and a safe one for the creatures involved. We'll do our absolute best to make things easy for you ... and, you can always call us if you have any questions whatsoever!

We hope this has helped to answer any questions you may have had regarding our ordering and shipping process ... it may sound complicated at first, but actually, it's all very well thought out and you can be assured that we will always handle your order with the utmost attention to details of packing and shipping. After you receive your shipment, we really want to hear from you ... so, please take a moment to let us know you received your order and how much you liked it.


Sorry ... we do not ship internationally and picking up at LAX is not an option.
Hot and Cold Shipping

We sometimes get asked if there are shipping issues in the winter when it is cold, or summer when it is hot. So thought we'd discuss it in more detail. Hot or cold, the weather is a major concern. We watch the national weather all the time so we know what to do for which shipments. There can be shipments that need heat packs (to Minnesota) the same week others need ice packs (to Florida).

The key is awareness and we stay quite on top of it. OK, I'll admit to being a weather junkie and amateur meteorologist since I was young. The fish and coral supply line does not shut down, winter or summer, one merely changes how they are packed, to handle whatever the weather throws at you. Foreign holidays, Kings' birthdays, CITES permits, these things affect the pipeline, the weather not so much save the odd typhoon.

Ice packs solve the hot summer temps problem fairly easily, even with coolwater (temperate) fish like goldfish or Koi. For tropical fish only one or two ice bags or icepacks are ever needed in the worst of heat to get a shipment across the country. We use Southwest often and many of their shipments go through Phoenix or Las Vegas. We have never had a cooked shipment. You plan for it, and don't have the issue. The frozen gelpack units are nice, expensive, but though, re-usable.

Frozen water does just about as well, and that is how most shipments come in from Asia and South Pacific, with a small clear plastic bag of water, that was ice. It appears they don't use filtered water for that. LOL Sometimes you might see one left in a box, a small clear bag of dirty water. Do NOT drink it! I wouldn't touch that water with a 10 foot hose. Those are to keep it cool while waiting for the flight at the point of origin, in the tropics. Once in the air on the way, the heat issue is over, it is the sitting in a cart on the tarmac in Manila or Jakarta when it needs the ice. Usually they are removed in repack but sometimes they miss one.

Winter shipping was always more problematical, and before heat packs were invented it was newspaper that insulated the bags, inside the styrofoam boxes with cardboard outers. Lots of it. It worked very well. We still use LOTS of newspaper, it is a great inusulator. Heat packs were a game changer though. Now we can ship the north pole in winter.

There are some horror stories out there about frozen shipments, however we never have this issue, even shipping in Jan. or Feb. to Minnesota or New Hampshire. The problem is most of the shippers aren't on top of the low temps very well, and aren't very good at planning or execution when it comes to how to keep the box above the highest 60's dF at the very coldest. A surprising number of shippers refuse to use more than two heat packs no matter what. Period.

Seemingly, almost every year, some of these shippers who do not properly heat pack create issues with boxes getting frozen and then everyone thinks 'you can't ship now'. This couldn't be more untrue. There are some guys that don't know how to ship when it is cold, and probably won't forever, even with heat packs, that's all. I know multiple shippers that ship every week without this problem, they in contrast know what they are doing.

Most tropical fish and most corals can take temps down to mid-60's dF briefly with no adverse effects. Live rock can take it colder, into the 50's dF with little to no effect as long as it was brief. Regardless, we often even heat pack our live rock in winter though to keep it warmer. Most shippers in LA refuse to heat pack live rock. Mostly the same ones that won't use more than two heat packs in a box even on fish and corals when it is zero.  

Many don't use newspaper either, it takes time to get, and put in the boxes properly. Which may be fine if it is only going down to the 50's dF, but not much past that. Most only use 24-hour heat packs which often burn in 18-20 hours. We use 40+ hour heat packs so if a shipment gets stuck somewhere it doesn't freeze overnight. It will still be fine the next day. Sure they cost way more, but it is a little insurance to buy compared to one dead box of anything. Just like using only all new bags, and 100% ox in the air part of the bag.

The last few winters we have used 4 to 6 of the 40+ hour heat packs PER fish or coral box depending destination temps and have not had a frozen shipment, or one with dead due to cold. You get about 10dF increase in the inside-the-box temps per heat pack. But it is not just about what it is where the cold is. The other end of it is that you don't want them cooking at LAX where it can be 70-80 dF or more any time December through March while it waits for a flight to frozenville.

When very cold, near freezing or below, we put heat packs between the layers of newspaper on all four interior sides of the box, and top and bottom of the box, and have no issues whatsoever with cold-weather shipping. Heat packs can't get wet or they die instantly so they are wrapped in paper plates or newspaper as well. They also stop burning if they get too cold. So you can have two and still loose heating. We have U.S. Priority mailed (2-3 days) many small boxes of live rock, even in the winter, without issue, with long-burn heat packs and newspaper.

The key is really knowing what you are doing, from the packing of the animal into the proper sized bags and amount of water, to using only all new bags for re-pack, to purging and using 100% ox in the air portion of the bag, to the proper box, to the right type and amount of insulation, and the right type and amount of heat or ice, and then the best right routing for flights to any destination. It all has to be right, there is no margin of error for weak links in the chain. This is how we do it. We have shipped hundreds of destinations in almost every state year-round without issues.

We generally pack everything to be good for at least 36-40 hours. That is, in enough water, ox, and heat, to make it to the next day if an unforeseen delay should occur. It takes more time, and it costs more money, but you will see our boxes are packed as well as any you ever saw, at a level of quality deserving of the animals in them. Frankly we excel in these aspects of the process, because we made it our business learn how to do it right to get them to you alive and healthy.

Yes it is part of what you are paying for, and part of why we are not the cheapest, though most of any difference is from using the higher quality suppliers at the origins. The good stuff costs more than bread and butter.

The cheapest guys never heard this: "I do have to say of all the years I've been doing reefs this shipment was the best bagged and well-boxed corals I ever received. Thanks. Great service," George D., Chicago - Oct. 2014

One last thing to cover and that is the part we do not control. Sometimes rarely the airlines may announce 'perishable embargoes.' This means no persishable freight is being accepted. The "live tropical fish" category is perishable, so then not accepted by that airline to those desingated destinations. Typically they are temperature and snow-based, sometimes only forecast-based, and to us whom know how to ship, mostly hooey. If all the guys that won't use more than two heat packs used four, there would probably be no such thing as a perishable embargo. It is to protect the airlines from claims. Which were mostly avoidable with more heat packs. This happened to some destinations some weeks during the polar vortex and storm events in the winter 2013-2014. But it is rare.

We of course, can't be liable for lost or damaged freight by the airline, it is the only part of it we can't control. If you get a destroyed box file a claim, best right on the spot, but at least have them sign your airbill damaged or destroyed and take pics of the box and damaged bags to document your claim. We have had not one such issue at a level that affected contents of the box in years.

The airlines have become pretty good about understanding that "live tropical fish" (fish and coral and live rock all travel as such) are one of the biggest commodities they carry (top 5 I think, #5), and usually they know how to handle them with respect. Often as not, a cracked box has no real damage to anything inside, but know the boxes have to be dry and intact or the airlines will not accept the freight.

The main takeaway is that you need not worry about heat, or cold, as it relates to what time of year you should or shouldn't order something. We do that for you. Hot and cold shipping really matters not IF your shipper knows what they are doing. The getting something to you issue is far more a matter of, is there live rock now, or are your favorite fish or corals available now at the source. Most weeks we can get them to you easily regardless of weather, whether it is January or July.

~birdfish

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