How Long Can Fish Stay in Bags From Pet Stores? It’s Shorter Than You May Think!

Picture this: you have just gotten home from the pet store with the newest member of your family. The little fish seems to be swimming happily in its bag, and you still need to set up its tank, which takes some time. The logical question is how long can fish stay in bags from pet stores safely once you have made it home?

This article will answer your questions about fish safety in transportation, including how long is it safe for your fish to stay in the pet store baggie, and what can happen if you leave them for too long. We’ll also look at the best method for transitioning your fish from the bag to their new tank.

If you are planning on bringing home a new fish, this article is a must-read so that you can keep them safe and healthy, and happy for their entire natural life span. Read on to the first section to learn why small bags can be dangerous for fish and how long a fish can tolerate one.

So, How Long Can Fish Stay in Bags From Pet Stores?

The exact amount of time a fish can survive inside a plastic bag will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of fish, the size of the bag, the temperature, and more. Keeping your fish in a transportation bag longer than necessary for travel is generally not recommended. Between 2 and 3 hours is a safe bet. At most, fish can survive between 6 and 9 hours.

The water conditions in bags are much different than those of a larger tank, which can mimic the conditions of a fish’s natural habitat. Oxygen, temperature, and ammonia levels are three of the factors that limit how much time a fish can spend inside a baggie.

How Long Can Fish Stay in Bags From Pet Stores


Just like all other animals, fish need oxygen to survive. There is oxygen inside the water that they can filter through their gills. However, in a small and sealed enclosure, the oxygen supply has a hard limit, which means that your fish is at an increased risk of suffocation. 

The precise amount of oxygen that a bag contains is dependent on the size of the bag and the number of fish inside the bag. To ensure that carbon dioxide levels don’t reach a dangerous point, it’s best to get your fish into a tank as soon as possible.


When assessing how long can fish stay in bags from pet stores, you must consider water temperature. This is one of the primary dangers that limit the amount of time that freshwater or saltwater fish can spend inside transport bags. Most species of tropical fish need to be kept in water temperatures between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is too hot or too cold, the fish’s organs will quickly shut down, and they will die.

While the temperature of the water inside the bag can be regulated by using external heat sources, this is not recommended as a long-term solution because the higher temperature of the water, the less oxygen it can hold.


Ammonia is a gaseous compound that can become a deadly problem for fish left in small containers for too long. It is a product of fish waste and, in a larger enclosure, can be neutralized by beneficial bacteria. 

In a small transport bag, ammonia can quickly build up and harm your fish, even at a low concentration. The best way to avoid this toxic byproduct is to get your fish out of the pet store bag as soon as possible.

How To Introduce Your Fish To Their Tank

The previous section helped answer how long can fish stay in bags from pet stores and outlined the reasons why you want to limit the amount of time your fish spend in a pet store baggie. So let’s turn to the proper method for transitioning your fish from a bag to their tank! 

When putting a new fish into a tank, start by floating its sealed transportation bag inside the tank for at least 15 minutes. Doing so will slowly regulate the temperature of the bag to match the water in the tank, making the transition less of a shock to the fish’s system.

Then, open up the baggie and add around a cup of water from the tank to begin to acclimate the fish to the pH and oxygen conditions of the tank. Wait 5 minutes and repeat. Once you have scooped tank water into the bag three times, your fish is ready to enter their new home!


If you’re thinking of starting a family fish tank, you’ll want to know how long can fish stay in bags from pet stores safely before you transport your fish home. Ideally, fish shouldn’t stay in their transportation bag for longer than 2-3 hours. To reduce the amount of time your fish spends in the bag, have your tank supplies gathered, and follow the steps we’ve outlined in this post for transferring your fish to their new environment.

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