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Aquatic Life Safety

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

aquarium with fish & plants

Overview

It is important to keep in mind that aquatic life and the water they live in can carry bacteria that can cause illness in people. In addition to carrying bacteria, some aquatic life forms also have defense mechanisms that can injure people. Aquatic life can be venomous, and exposure can cause an allergic reaction in people. Women who are pregnant, senior citizens, children under the age of 5 and people with weakened immune systems should consult their physician before handling aquatic life.

Types of bacterial diseases present in aquatic life

The most common bacterial diseases that can be present in aquatic life and aquariums are:

  • Mycobacterium
  • Nocardiosis
  • Salmonella

Precautions to take to avoid injury, toxin or bacterial exposure

  • Avoid contact with all spines, barbs or fangs anytime you must place your hand or arm into the aquarium; be aware of the location of all aquatic life within the aquarium
  • Always use a specimen container or cup to capture fish instead of a net, which can injure the fish and may increase the chance of contact with a spine, barb or fang
  • Never place your hand or arm into an aquarium if you have open skin wounds; new and healing wounds carry the same risk, so it is best to wait until your wound has completely healed or wear a shoulder-length, protective rubber glove
  • Never drink water from an aquarium or the water in which aquatic life is transported
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water or use hand sanitizer before and after handling aquatic life or the contents of an aquarium
  • Do not touch your face after handling aquatic life or the contents of an aquarium until you have thoroughly washed your hands with antibacterial soap and water or used hand sanitizer
  • Do not touch food, beverages or their containers after handling aquatic life or the contents of an aquarium until you have thoroughly washed your hands with antibacterial soap and water or used hand sanitizer

What to do if exposed to toxins or bacteria

  • Immediately wash the exposed area with hot water and antibacterial soap; use the hottest water temperature you can stand without burning your skin, as hot water works best to help neutralize the toxin
  • Seek medical attention if you believe you are having an allergic reaction or if you believe you are ill from a bacterial infection
  • If seeking medical attention, be sure to write down the species of aquatic life you were exposed to in order to ensure proper treatment

Additional Care Sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center store associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.  

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.