Can a Fish Tank Cause Allergies?

Can a Fish Tank Cause Allergies? (Explained)

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Lately, you or some other member of your household is developing allergic symptoms. Itchy, red skin or profuse sneezing ensues, especially when you handle the aquarium and its contents. You’re not sure but you suspect these allergic symptoms could be from the fish tank.

So, can a fish tank cause allergies? Yes, they can. What’s more, they can trigger allergies you already have and can intensify other health issues like skin irritations and breathing problems. But this is going to be mostly due to the mold and bacteria that builds up over time. However, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to be sure.

Can a fish tank cause allergies?

Although there aren’t many kinds of allergies that can come from a fish tank, it is possible for them to occur. Allergies often happen after prolonged handling of the aquarium itself. This is because there’s no chlorine or other chemical treatments that make the water safe for people. And, because it’s mostly standing water in a tank, it builds up organic growths that can be toxic.

General Fish Allergies

Sometimes, when people handle fish and aquariums, they can develop an allergy that manifests as breathing issues or other reactions. This can occur at any age and people usually have this allergy for life. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Blood Pressure Drop
  • Breathing Troubles
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye Irritation (including redness, watering and swelling)
  • Hives
  • Hoarseness
  • Nausea
  • Red Spots on the Skin
  • Stomach Pain
  • Tightness in the Throat
  • Vomiting
  • Wheezing

Fish Tank Granuloma

Fish Tank Granuloma is a rare skin infection caused by a type of bacterium found in stagnant water. This occurs when water infested with this bacterial organism enters through a wound. It appears as a slow-growing red bump or lesion at the trauma site. This becomes larger and inflamed as time progresses. It can become excruciatingly painful along with crusting and ulceration.

Fish Tank Granuloma begins showing itself two to four weeks after exposure. The most frequent area of infection is on the dominant hand along with the elbows, fingers and legs. Sometimes, people will see this work its way up the arm.

The bacterium causing Fish Tank Granuloma thrives in temperatures around 86°F (30°C) but its growth stops at temperatures in excess of 98°F (37°C). If this goes untreated, it can invade deeper areas of the skin, muscles, joints and tendons. It can even spread throughout the body of those with weakened immune systems or taking immunosuppressive medications, like prednisone.

Other Allergic Reactions Related to Fish Tanks

If allergic reactions from handiling and touching fish and their aquarium wasn’t enough, there’s also the matter of developing an aversion to fish food. Some people can develop reactions to meatier items like daphnia or even pellets. The mold that grows on the tank’s décor can present intensified bronchial issues too.

When you or someone in your household immediately begins sneezing or coughing every time they pass by the tank, chances are, they have some kind of sensitivity. This is because aquariums present the best circumstances for things like mold, mildew, bacteria and other growths to manifest and permeate the surrounding environment outside the tank.

How do you prevent allergies and other health reactions to fish tanks?

To keep allergens and other environmental pollutants at their lowest, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Not least of these is the fact that, after time, your tank will build up mold and begin emitting things like ammonia and bacterial particulates.

Water Changes ; Parameter Readings

Performing regular water changes and parameter readings will be the best way to keep toxicity under control. You should follow this by cleaning out filters, decorations and other things sitting in the tank that can build up mold over time.

Aquarium Gloves

Also, wear a good, solid and thick pair of vinyl, nitrite or rubber gloves when handling anything in an aquarium. They should be durable and extend all the way up the arm. A bonus in having some gloves like this will not only protect your skin but it will also guard against fish that like to bite.

Get an Air Purifier

To care for the surrounding area around the tank, invest in an air purifier (see Amazon). This will help filter out the potential toxic particles floating around in the environment. Not only will it help keep the smell down, but it will also inhibit coughing or sneezing.

Don’t Sleep Near an Aquarium

One last caution and preventative measure is to not sleep in the same room as the aquarium. This will be especially true if you or anyone in the household has asthma, bronchial issues or any other lung irritations. Sleeping in the same room with your fish is the worst thing you can do for your health.


Unfortunately, fish tank allergies are more common than one would think. This is because they are breeding grounds for things like mold, ammonia and other pollutants that can cause great harm to anyone and everyone living in the household.

Of course, if you take the appropriate measures to ensure the utmost safety, you’ll be able to enjoy your aquascape for decades without experiencing any problems. But this means performing regular water changes and checking the water parameters along with keeping the tank in a separate area away from sleeping quarters.

See Also:
Do Fish Tank Heaters Turn Off Automatically?
Can You Use Spring Water in a Fish Tank?
Do Fish Tank Thermometers Contain Mercury?
Is Cloudy Water Bad for Fish?