Aquarium Safety for the Aquarist

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electricity and water

While many of us spend time thinking about the heath and safety of our fish, rarely do some of us take a moment to consider our own. In this article I am going to touch on many important safety concerns we should all be aware of.


Drip loops are one of the simplest and logical things to do when setting up your aquarium. By placing a loop in the electrical cable lower than the wall socket it allows for any water that may drip down the cable to simply fall to the floor instead of into the socket. While using an air pump to power air stones and filters its advised to use a one way valve in the airline tubing to prevent back syphoning into the pump itself causing a short.


Turning electrical equipment off while preforming tank maintenance not only saves the equipment from unnecessary stress and wear but also prevents the risk of electrocution. It only takes a second to flip the switch and unplug from the socket but it can help avoid a painful shock or even death.


Drying your hands before touching any electrical equipment or sockets serves the same purpose. Water and electricity don’t mix.


Check electrical equipment regularly. Check the plugs and cables are not worn and water proof seals are still intact. Aquarium heaters can fail quite regularly and suddenly. Check your heaters for broken seals and condensation on the inside. If there is water on the inside of your heater, unplug it immediately and DO NOT USE IT. Check light fixtures are not accumulating moisture in and around the sockets.


A Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or an earth leakage circuit breaker (ELCB) could save your life. GFCI or ELCB are special electrical sockets that can sense if there is a sudden draw to ground/earth and immediately shut off the electricity. This can happen in a split second and can save your life or at the very least from a painful shock.

Types of ELBC are portable, wall mounted or whole house switches. Portable ELCB are self contained units that plug into a standard electrical socket that you can then plug your aquarium equipment straight into. They have the advantage of not needing an electrician to install and if you move you can take it with you. Wall mounted ELCB must be installed by a licenced electrician which can be costly. Many will be temped to install their own but remember you might not be covered by your insurance if it all goes wrong. Whole house ELCB must also be installed by an electrician and cost more than the others but they will protect the entire house. Not only is your tank now safer but so is the bathroom, kitchen, garden and other places of the home where electricity and water may meet.

Electrical outlets and safety standards vary from country to country and house to house. Check your house and outlets for safety features and check with your local authorities.


Lifting heavy items such as buckets, tanks, stands and full canister filters can cause injury if the proper precautions are not used. When lifting heavy items by yourself use your legs and knees, not your back, to do the work. If you think something is too heavy for you to lift it probably is. Enlist a friend or family member to help you with the lifting.


Cleaning your tank with razors can lead to injury. Always take appropriate safety precautions when using sharp objects.


Slipping on spilt water can happen when preforming a water change. Place a towel down in front of your tank to soak up any water.


Open top tanks can pose a risk to your other pets. Cats like to find warm places to sleep and hoods/light fixtures are too good to resist. Cats have been known to fall into tanks and can drown. Screen or eggcrate (light diffuser) can be used to create a barrier between the water and your other pets giving the benefits of an open top tank but protecting both your cat/dog/bird/etc as well as your aquatic ones.


Wash your hands after contact with your tank. Fish tanks can harbor many bacteria that can make their way into cuts and scrapes on your hands causing infection. While fairly rare, there are some diseases that can be contracted from fish and fish tanks that can turn deadly. The following two links from and go into more detail.

Diseases Transmitted to Humans

TB – Mycobacterium Marinum


Poisonous stock or stock that can bite may lead to a trip to the emergency room. This mostly applies to saltwater enthusiasts when handling corals and fish but can apply to freshwater hobbyists also. Gloves should be worn when handling such things to prevent poisoning and injury.


Teach children about the risks above. Always supervise them around tanks and equipment to prevent accidents and injury. Teach children not to push, pull or hang off of tanks. Some cheaper stands on smaller tanks can be flimsy and could give way or topple over into a child. Securing these to the wall behind the tank can help prevent such incidents from happening. Child locks should be placed on cabinets containing test solutions, fertilizers and other harmful chemicals to prevent accidental inhalation, ingestion or burns.


Fish keeping is a fun and rewarding hobby and by following these simple safety precautions you can enjoy it for many years to come.

– Elise

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