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Can a Fish Tank Cause Allergies?

As a beginner aquarist, you may be wondering if a fish tank can cause allergies? Let me begin by saying that I’m not a doctor. However, as someone who suffers from both seasonal and food (nut) allergies, I hope to shed some light on the issue of fish tanks and allergic reactions through my own experience and research on the topic.

While fish may seem like allergy-friendly pets, they too can trigger allergic reactions if not properly cared for. Mold is a common allergen and can grow easily on both fish tanks and bowls. Allergies to polymers like silicone can also be problematic since this substance is necessary for sealing aquariums.

Now that you know a fish tank can cause allergies, let’s explore this topic in more detail. Together we’ll learn how fish tanks can make you sick, how to recognize the signs of a fish allergy, how to treat a fish allergy, why fish tanks can be toxic, if it’s okay to have a fish tank in your bedroom or in your kitchen, how fish tanks can cause breathing problems, and which fish tank is best for those with silicone allergies.

So, if you’re ready to learn more about keeping fish and how these (for the most part) allergy-friendly pets can cause allergic reactions for certain people, then let’s begin!

Can a Fish Tank Make You Sick?

A fish tank can make you sick if you’re predisposed to allergies related to caring for aquatic pets. Fish tanks are the breeding grounds for mold. The moist conditions combined with hours of darkness allow for mold spores to grow rapidly. If the tank isn’t properly cleaned/maintained, mold can take over and result in symptoms such as sneezing, running nose, coughing, itchy throat, watery eyes, and skin rash.

What are Symptoms of a Fish Allergy?

The symptoms of an allergic reaction from physically handling fish – not to be confused with a food allergy related to eating fish – include hives or skin rash, angioedema (swelling under the skin), stuffy nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat, coughing, sneezing, headache, and (in extreme cases) anaphylaxis, which impairs breathing and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.

How do You Treat a Fish Allergy?

If you’re a beginner aquarist with a fish allergy (and you didn’t know it until you setup your tank), here’s what to do to get relief fast. Take an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Aerius (desloratadine), Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Claritin (loratadine) according to the dosing instructions on the label. If your reaction is severe and it’s impairing your sight or breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Are Fish Tanks Toxic?

An unclean, under-maintained fish tank can be highly toxic. The overload of ammonia resulting from uneaten food, waste material and dying plants can make the aquatic environment dangerous for both fish and their handlers. Therefore, an electric filter is a must. Regular maintenance including partial water changes, scrubbing the tank walls, and vacuuming the substrate are also recommended.

Can Fish Tanks Cause Breathing Problems?

Asthma suffers could be prone to attacks, especially with aquariums containing tropical fish. These types of fish require warm water and somewhat dark environment to thrive in captivity – both circumstances of which are the breeding grounds for mold. Angioedema and anaphylaxis are both serious allergic reactions which impair breathing and can be life-threatening if not promptly and properly medicated.

child looking at fish tank

Is it Okay to have a Fish Tank in Your Bedroom?

If you’re asthmatic, you shouldn’t sleep in the same room as your fish tank. Breathing problems can occur if you’re allergic to mold or silicone or perhaps even the fish themselves. As well, you don’t want to have a reaction while asleep as this could be hazardous to your health, possibly fatal.

It’s better to keep your fish tank in the living or family room where you spend most of your ‘down time’ and can monitor your aquatic pets on a regular basis. For enjoyment purposes, place the aquarium in an area where you can observe both the tank and the television at the same time.

I have an article on this topic right here.

Is it Okay to have a Fish Tank in the Kitchen?

If you know you have an allergy to fish, you shouldn’t keep a fish tank in the kitchen. Food-related hypersensitivity is very serious and can be fatal if not treated quickly. Even if you’re not allergic to the fish themselves, you could be sensitized to materials used to create the tank such as silicone.

As well, it’s not healthy for fish to be kept in an area where air sprays like cooking oil, oven cleaners, glass cleaners, etc. are being used regularly. For your safety – and the safety of your aquatic pets – it’s best to keep your fish tank in a family/living room where aerosols are used sparingly.

What is the Best Fish Tank for People with an Allergy to Silicone?

If you’re an aquarist with a known silicone allergy, the best fish tank for you is a plastic or acrylic type. Acrylic aquariums are not only light weight, but they also don’t require the use of silicone. Since the tank is made from a single piece of plastic, there are no seams to seal and therefore they’re less likely to leak.  If you’re an experienced aquarist and want a bigger tank with more fish, acrylic is indeed the way to go!

Check out these acrylic tanks available online through Amazon.

Final Thoughts

To sum-up, fish, like any pet, fish can trigger an allergic reaction for some people. Those that suffer from mold allergies are most susceptible since these fungal spores can grow rapidly on both the inside and outside of an aquarium. Anyone allergic to polymers or rubber-like substances may also be at risk of a reaction since silicone is needed for sealing glass aquariums.

I hope this article has shed some light on the topic of fish keeping and hypersensitivity. Thanks for reading and good luck with your aquarist hobby!

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