Steps to importing aquatic animals

Aquatic animals like ornamental fish and marine invertebrates need to meet specific requirements to enter New Zealand. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

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What you need to know

An overview of importing aquatic animals from start to finish.

To successfully import aquatic animals into New Zealand you need to know about:

  • the relevant import health standard (IHS)
  • approved and endangered species
  • transitional facilities where aquatic animals can be inspected and quarantined
  • applying for a permit
  • preparing documents to accompany your consignment
  • relevant fees and charges.

Are you using wood packaging?

If your consignment is shipped to New Zealand on wooden pallets, or if wood has been used to package any part of your consignment, you'll also need to comply with the requirements for importing wood packaging.

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Find the import health standard (IHS) for your species

The import health standard (IHS) for your species will tell you what you need to do to bring your aquatic animals into New Zealand.

The IHS for ornamental fish and marine invertebrates has a list of approved species in Appendix 2.

If your species isn't included in an IHS, you can't import it into New Zealand. However, you can ask us about the possibility of having your species included in an IHS. Email your enquiry to

Avoid importing pet fish

Importing your pet fish from overseas is a complicated and risky business. If an exotic disease is suspected during its quarantine period at an MPI-approved transitional facility, the fish may have to be destroyed or shipped to another destination.

Comply with the IHS requirements

Make sure you can comply with all the requirements in the IHS, including:

  • documentation
  • transport and packaging requirements
  • import permits and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Arrange quarantine at a transitional facility

All imported ornamental fish and marine invertebrates must be quarantined at an MPI-approved transitional facility before they can be released into New Zealand.

If you want to import aquatic animals without having your premises approved as a transitional facility, then you must arrange to quarantine the imported fish or invertebrates at an MPI-approved transitional facility.

If you have questions about transitional facilities, email 

Download the standard for transitional facilities [PDF, 489 KB]

Allow at least 3 weeks for the quarantine of marine species and 4 weeks for freshwater species.

If your fish have not been given clearance after the quarantine period, they will either receive treatment, be shipped elsewhere, or be destroyed.

Apply for a permit

Ensure you apply for the import permit at least 10 working days before you need the permit.

Apply for your import permit through our online permit application system. In most cases, your transporter will do this for you. It may take up to 10 working days for MPI to process the permit application.

How to use the online permit application system

Details on how to use the system are in our live animals online permit application instructions [PDF, 1.4 MB]

Notify MPI at least 72 hours before arrival

You'll need to notify the MPI veterinary inspector at least 72 hours before your consignment is scheduled to arrive. The notification should include the:

  • flight or voyage/ship number
  • date, time, and port of arrival
  • names and contact details for the owner and the transitional facility
  • date and time you require the MPI veterinary inspector to be at the transitional facility for the consignment's arrival
  • number of fish and/or invertebrates of each species in the consignment (if available)
  • country of origin.
Getting your import documents

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

You will know that you’ve met biosecurity requirements when the MPI veterinary inspector gives the consignment clearance.

Importing related products

Processes for importing products related to aquatic animals are set out elsewhere on the MPI website. Follow the steps for importing:

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing aquatic animals, email

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