5 Ways to Protect Your Aquarium (and Family) from Contamination
We all know that keeping reef tanks can be quite a challenge and can even feel like an uphill battle. Sometimes we think so much about what is going on inside the tank that we never consider the outside factors that can cause problems. Today we are going to look at some common household factors that can have major effects on your aquarium and talk about how your tank can affect your household.
One issue you may not regularly consider is that of noise and how it can affect your fish. One of a fish’s strongest senses come from its lateral line which is a system of sensory organs along its body that allows the fish to detect subtle vibrations in the water.
Due to how sensitive the lateral line is, fish can be very easily stressed out or even killed by severe noise or vibration. This is the major reason that you see the “Please do not tap on the glass” signs fish stores. It is important to keep this sensitivity in mind when setting up an aquarium. Televisions, speaker systems, railways, or any other source of constant loud noises could really put your stress out your aquatic friends.
Oxygen going into your tank is being pulled directly from the air around it, so anything in the air in your is also going into your tank. Although some airborne contaminants are far more damaging than others, water is very efficient at collecting pollutants over time, so even minor traces of chemicals can turn major over time as they build up in your aquarium. Some examples of this are cigarette smoke, slow release air freshers, and household cleaners which can slowly deposit harmful chemicals into your aquarium water through gas exchange until they are concentrated at dangerous levels.
Other airborne contaminants can be far more dangerous such as aerosol sprays of any kind including fresheners, colognes and pesticides. Stronger products like these should really be applied or used far away from your aquarium.
Cleaning products like polish, varnish and glass cleaner can be very dangerous and should always be sprayed onto a towel first and then applied to the surface rather than spraying it somewhere near your tank.
While contamination through the air is risky, direct contamination through contact with the water is even more dangerous. This can happen if you do something as simple as washing your hands with soap and then stick your hands into your aquarium. Another common one is mixing saltwater or tank maintenance with the same buckets you use to wash your car!
As a precaution, always rinse your hands before diving into your aquarium. It is also good practice to have separate buckets and containers used solely for aquarium maintenance. Doing this will drastically decrease the risk of poisoning your tank with cross contaminants. New decorations and equipment can also be the source of contaminates getting into your tank so always be sure to thoroughly rinse or even soak new equipment and decorations.
Many of us have children and love to share our passion for keeping an aquarium with our families. This also means our kids will be around the aquarium. How many of you have ever heard the story about the kid who dumped the entire can of fish food into the aquarium, or maybe throw a few pennies into the reef tank because they look “Pretty”. Even worse, what if your kids get into the chemicals we dose into our aquariums? This is a huge safety risk when keeping an aquarium and be sure to keep your aquarium foods and chemicals safely locked away from your kids and educate them on the importance of respecting the fishes home.
As always, it’s important to regularly keep an eye on your fish and corals to make sure that they are not stressed out. Some things to watch out for would be abnormal coloration and strange behavior such as gasping at the surface, extreme lethargy, or trying to jump from the tank which all would be signs that something is wrong inside your tank.
In the unfortunate event that your tank experiences something like this, your first step to fixing the problem is perform a large water change of about 50% and add some fresh activated carbon to your filtration system. The water change will help remove and dilute contaminates and carbon works great for removing chemicals and other harmful contaminates. You will then want to continue with smaller frequent water changes and swap out the carbon on a regular basis thereafter until things return to normal.
On last thing to consider when keeping an aquarium is how dangerous some of the inhabitants inside the tank can be. More and more we are hearing stories about Palytoxin poising which is an extremely potent and sometimes lethal toxin found in Palythoa and Zoanthinds. Lionfish, scorpionfish, and Rabbitfish are very common in saltwater aquariums and can deliver a painful venomous sting.
To some of us, all of this may seem to be common sense but with how much time, money and effort goes into our reef tanks, nothing is worse than making a bonehead mistake that will completely wipe out your tank or cause harm to a family member. I hope that many of you found this video insightful or maybe just reminded you that your reef tank is a very sensitive ecosystem that deserves as much meticulous care as it does respect.