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How does a Malawi cichlid end up in a fish tank?
by Peter Hofman (trigger)

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There isn't much to tell about storage. There is a fish house that is used for short term storage when new fish arrive to be processed. The fish house is also used to prepare fish for shipping. Fish stocks are kept in large concrete tanks next door. When a stocked species is ordered, the fish are moved from the concrete storage tanks into the fish house for processing and packing. To keep hungry birds out, the fish are protected by mesh tents.

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Whenever an order is placed, its time to prepare the fish for transport. The fish are placed in glass tanks and checked for health and appearance.

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Every now and then an official of the fisheries department comes to check and certify that the awaiting shipping are healthy and not illegal for exported. Only hours before they actual leave, the fish are packed. They are first put in plastic bags, half filled with water and topped with pure oxygen. The names are written on the bags. The fish are checked again before the bag is put in another bag for strength and to protect the inner bag. Depending on the size and species, a bag may contain from 1 to 7 fish. The bagged fish are then put into Styrofoam boxes for isolation and protection. When packing the bags into the Styrofoam boxes, the fish are checked one last time.

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Finally the Styrofoam boxes are closed and sealed. The boxes are labelled with recipient and sender information and directions for transport. Most important; the box is labelled that it contains live fish, which side is up and what the required temperature is. Finally the actual date and time of packing is noted on the label. This helps identify how long the fish have been in a box at every given time. When the complete order is packed, all the boxes are loaded onto a truck and driven to the airport in Lilongwe, a ride of about two hours. At the freight station, agents of SMG Ltd have already notified the officials of the arrival of the cargo and the truck delivers it directly into the freight hangar. The boxes are offloaded onto pallets to go into the plane.

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The pallets are then load into the plane to keep the waiting time as short as possible. Everything is done to make sure the fish do not have to stay packed longer than necessary. The export procedure I just describe is specifically dutch, but should not differ too much from other countries. At least not for EU countries. In short, you have to let customs know you expect live fish at least 48 hours before arrival. Customs informs a vet to check the fish when they arrive. When the vet gives his approval, customs will allow them though after paying all the required fees. Depending on the country you are in, you may need some permits and comply to some rules and regulations for imported fish. After that, the next step can be your tank if you are lucky, or it will be the local fish store

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