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5 Reasons You Should Always Wear Gloves When Working in a Saltwater Tank

Saltwater tanks and certain inhabitants can be potentially harmful.

By John B. Virata | June 24, 2014

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I have two saltwater aquariums and I do have gloves, but more often than not, when working in them, I fail to wear them. I know that I should and just sticking my arm in the 55 gallon system causes my arm to get itchy. But that is the extent of it, and that is a mistake. There are plenty of excuses for not wearing gloves, but here are five reasons why you should, in no particular order.

 


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1: Keep Bad Things out of Your Tank

If you use sunscreen or lotion on your arms, and then stick your hands and arm into your aquarium, the chances are that stuff is going to leach off your skin and into your tank, causing potential health problems for your inhabitants. Even small amounts of corrosive liquids, such as gasoline, can be deadly to your animals. If you wear gloves, you largely avoid this accident waiting to happen.

 

surgical gloves
When working in a saltwater tank, you should always wear gloves to keep from getting sick.

 

2: The Palythoa Predicament

If you keep zoanthids or palythoas, you are potentially asking for trouble sticking your bare hands and arms into the tank. These corals are beautiful and potentially harmful under the right (or wrong circumstances). Most everyone in the hobby has heard of the unfortunate aquarist who tried to boil zoanthids off his live rock, only to sicken his entire family. These critters have very powerful neurotoxins that can cause considerable harm at the worst and severe discomfort at the least if you were to stick your hand or arm in the tank with open cuts on your skin. Again, if you wear gloves, you largely avoid this potential accident waiting to happen.

Lionfish
Only a fool would stick a bare hand into a tank with a lionfish. Wear gloves and avoid a potentially costly mistake! Photo by Gina Cioli/Coral Oasis, Costa Mesa, Calif.

 

3: Venom Fish

Rabbitfish? Lionfish? Bristleworms? If you have any of these animals in your tank, and if you have live rock, the chances are highly likely you have bristleworms of some sort, it is imperative that when working in your tank that you wear gloves. Lionfish pack potent venom that causes extreme pain and rabbitfish are also no slouches in the pain department. Not only should you wear gloves when working in a tank with these fish, always keep an eye on where they are in the tank so you can avoid them, even while wearing gloves. Bristleworms are another challenge. If you are rearranging your rockwork, you can easily stick your fingers in a crevice or small hole and get stung or bit by these critters. Some of these worms have venom that can cause significant pain in certain individuals and discomfort in others. Other fish that warrant the use of gloves include certain puffers, triggerfish, eels, and surgeonfish. 

4. Bacteria and Allergies?

Some corals can sting, while others release toxins in the water. Certain fish when stressed can release toxins in the water as well. Bacteria is abundant in your saltwater tank. Why take the chance and risk getting sick? If you wear gloves, for the most part, you don't have to worry about getting sick from your tank.

5. It is Just Good Hygiene

Wearing gloves when working in your saltwater aquarium is just good hygiene. It protects your corals, fish and invertebrates from any contaminants that may be on your skin, and it protects you from any potential harm caused by your corals, fish or invertebrates. When doctors and dentists and nurses and even auto mechanics wear gloves, there is a reason for it. To protect themselves. You should too, especially when working in a saltwater aquarium that houses a variety of potentially dangerous critters.

Given there is a whole host of bacteria and other organisms in a marine tank, wear gloves that can go as far as your arm goes into a tank, or at the very least, up to your elbows. And since you bought them, USE THEM! Keep them near your fish tanks so you can grab them in a pinch. It only takes a few seconds to put them on, which is time to wasted considering the potential pitfalls for not wearing them in the first place.  


John B. Virata has been keeping fish since he was 10 years old.  He currently keeps an 80 gallon cichlid tank, a 20 gallon freshwater community tank and a 29 gallon BioCube with a Percula clown, a huge blue green chromis, and a firefish all in his kitchen, and a 55 gallon FOWLR tank with a pair of Percula clowns, two blue green chromis, a six line wrasse, a peppermint shrimp, assorted algae and a few aiptasia anemones in his living room. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata  
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