Aquarium gloves are a good idea if you’re working with dangerous livestock, have sensitive skin, or just want to keep unnecessary chemicals and oils out of your fish tank system. Gloves that are specifically designed for aquarium usage are usually pretty cheap and reusable, which can be more economic and environmentally friendly than single-use latex gloves that only cover the hand. If you have any doubts about sticking your hand in your aquarium when it comes time for maintenance, then a cheap pair of gloves will definitely ease your concerns!
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about aquarium gloves and 3 products that might work for you in your saltwater or freshwater fish tank!
Should you wear gloves to clean your fish tank?
In general, marine aquarium-keepers have more reason to wear gloves than freshwater-keepers do. This is because marine livestock tends to be a little more dangerous than typical freshwater fish and invertebrates; certain marine fish and species of coral also tend to be more susceptible to foreign chemicals and oils.
However, it is always recommended to use some type of protective rubber glove when working in the home aquarium in order to prevent infection.
Dangerous fish and coral
In marine fish tanks especially, there are many different animals that can cause bodily injury. Bristle worms are common hitchhikers that can inject their fiber-glass-like spines into the skin; this is so common that you’re not considered a true saltwater fish hobbyist until you’ve been ‘attacked’ by a bristle worm! While these bristles can usually be easily removed or eventually fall out on their own, they have been known to cause irritation and infection. Likewise, sea urchins can cause nasty infections if a spine becomes lodged in the skin.
While not commonly seen in the fishkeeping hobby, bearded fireworms (Hermodice carunculata) are possibly one of the most-feared marine hitchhikers of them all. This species of bristle worms is aggressive and has been known to take down corals and smaller fish and invertebrates overnight. They are also known for their incredibly painful stings which can lead to hospitalization.
If keeping a reef tank, some coral species are known to release toxins if injured, like members of Palythoa and Zoanthus; because of this, it is also highly recommended to wear both hand and eye protection when taking these corals out of the tank and if trying to frag them. Sea anemones (Actiniaria order) are also commonly kept and have stinging cells that can cause a reaction in some people.
Some hobbyists simply use gloves to help get a firmer grip when working in their tanks so that they are better able to move things around without harming fish or corals; some gloves even have a textured hand for added grip.
Sensitive skin and infection
Working in the aquarium can lead to various skin problems, especially for those with already dry and sensitive skin. If you have been diagnosed with eczema or another similar condition, then it is best to use gloves so that the tank water does not cause further irritation.
Believe it or not, there is a lot of harmful bacteria and other zoonotic pathogens in your fish tank that can make you very sick. One bacteria in particular, Mycobacterium marinum, has been known to cause serious infections that can prove to be fatal in immuno-comprised patients. This bacteria can easily enter the body through cuts and scrapes, so it is best to use protective gloves if you happen to have an open wound on your hand or anywhere along your arms.
Even if you don’t have a condition that increases your chances of being affected and you don’t have any cuts or scrapes, fish tanks are dirty. This is especially important to consider if you’re planning on disrupting the gravel or sand, and/or if you’re cleaning hard-to-reach places with built-up detritus. These unknown particles can easily stay on your hands or under your nails.
Bacteria and other pathogens may also enter the body after fish tank maintenance is completed if the person fails to wash their hands and the bacteria enters the system in another way; for this reason, even if you do wear aquarium gloves, it is best to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water every time after you finish cleaning.
Chemicals and oils
One of the most important responsibilities of having a freshwater or saltwater fish tank is keeping pollutants and toxins out of it; aerosols and other cleaning products should never be used in close proximity to a tank unless the aquarium system is securely covered. This same reasoning applies to when you need to put your hands in the aquarium water for regular maintenance.
Throughout the day, hands come into contact with many different chemicals that could directly affect the livestock in your aquarium or affect the water conditions otherwise. Natural oils also build up on our skin which can further lead to complications and make for an oily film layer at the surface of the water.
The best way to avoid contamination is by thoroughly rinsing and scrubbing your hands under cold water (cold water results in less lead leaking out from the pipes, which leads to less lead entering your aquarium); even though you might want to get all the impurities off from your hands, never use soap as this could potentially crash your entire system!
While rinsing your hands, it would also be best to rinse off your aquarium gloves just in case they came into contact with something unfavorable. Next, dry your hands and the gloves to prevent as much tap water from being introduced into your system as possible. Put the gloves on and proceed with maintenance without having to worry about contaminating your tank with any outside chemicals or oils!
Can you use latex gloves for your aquarium?
In general, most hobbyists prefer to use nitrile gloves over latex gloves for aquarium work. Most latex gloves have powder residue, which may contain unknown chemicals and residues. As long as the latex gloves are proven to be powder-free, they can also be used.
The top 3 aquarium gloves
When looking for aquarium gloves, it’s best to look for a pair that won’t get in the way of cleaning your tank. Maintenance should be easy and quick, without running the risk of getting hurt by dangerous animals, hurting your skin or causing infection, or introducing chemicals or oils into the system.
We have listed 3 of our top aquarium gloves based on price, customer review, durability, and practicality.
Coralife (Energy Savers) ACLAF9505 Aqua Gloves
- Coralife Aqua Gloves are full-arm length with elastic bands to hold them snugly on the upper arm.
- The gloves measure 28" in total length and are made of the finest PVC material with fiber-reinforced sleeves.
- The Aqua Gloves are designed to allow the hobbyist to work efficiently inside the aquarium without contaminating the water.
Coralife (Energy Savers) ACLAF 9505 Aqua Gloves are made specifically with aquarium keepers in mind. These 28 inch (71.1 cm) arm-length gloves are made from special PVC material in order to lessen the possibility of causing an allergic reaction. The main glove portion is rubberized with a textured grip for easy and secure handling inside the tank. They have an elastic opening that fits snuggly around the upper arm to prevent slippage and from water entering down into the hand.
These aquarium gloves are more expensive than average but last for a considerable amount of time. Customer reviews have found that these gloves are too big for smaller hands in general and that the sleeves could be a little longer for better coverage. The rubberized grip tends to also be a little too thick, which can make careful and precise movements more difficult.
What we like:
- Manufactured by an aquarium-specific company for safe use in tanks
- Made from special PVC material to prevent allergic reactions
- Textured grip and elastic fitting
What could be better:
- Above average price
- Hard fit for smaller hands
- Some reviews found the sleeves to be too short, allowing tank water to get in
- The thick, rubberized glove portion makes dexterity more difficult
Atlas 772 Nitrile Coated Gloves
- 100% liquid proof
- Wide range of chemical resistance (see guide)
- No uncomfortable seams
Atlas 772 Nitrile Coated Gloves seem to be the best aquarium gloves available right now based on price, customer reviews, and durability. These 26 inch (66 cm) seamless aquarium gloves are 100% cotton lined with an elastic band to keep tank water out. As their name suggests, these gloves are made from nitrile instead of PVC material for a liquid-proof seal and increased dexterity while working in the tank.
These gloves are commonly used alongside other home cleaners, proving their integrity against harsh chemicals. However, they tend to run small and people with larger hand sizes might have difficulty with correct sizing. While these gloves are resistant to most chemicals, they tend to easily wear and tear with more intense and often use. Atlas 772 Nitrile Coated Gloves also share some of the same problems with the Coralife gloves, as the thickness of the material can affect dexterity and the length of the sleeve still allows water to get in, especially in deeper aquariums.
What we like:
- Cotton-lined with an elastic band for comfort and protection
- Nitrile material for extra durability
- Multiple uses outside of the aquarium (though, never intermix the two activities with the same pair of gloves!)
What could be better:
- Shorter than Coralife (Energy Savers) ACLAF 9505 Aqua Gloves in sleeve length
- Tend to leak when heavily used
- Thick material can make dexterity difficult
KingSeal Poly Shoulder Length Disposable Gloves
- Pull On closure
- Ideal for animal obstetrical or husbandry use, field dressing game, or mixing large bowls of food in commercial settings
- Smooth finish and 1.6 mil thickness for durability
Kingseal Poly Shoulder Length Disposable Gloves offer the best protection from tank water getting into your gloves, with an impressive 34 inch (83.4 cm) sleeve. These thin, disposable gloves allow for a close, yet safe touch with 1.6 mm thickness. They are made from smooth plastic and meant for single-use, though some fish tank hobbyists have gotten several uses out of one pair. The listed package includes 100 gloves.
These disposable aquarium gloves are popular among hobbyists who don’t need such a thick and durable glove. Because these gloves are so thin and meant for single-use, they have been known to tear easily and leak water. They are advertised as a “one size fits most” though the upper sleeve can sometimes be tight; the lack of an elastic band at the top can also make them fall down the arm.
What we like:
- Fully shoulder length to keep your hands and arms dry
- Thin glove for better dexterity
- Relatively inexpensive for the package, though supply will need to be updated depending on usage
What could be better:
- No elastic band at the top that may not fully keep hands dry and cause the sleeve to fall
- No textured grip on the hand
- Meant for single-use and may not last as long as latex, nitrile, or other rubber gloves
- Difficult fit due to extended shoulder length
It is always a good idea to have a pair of aquarium gloves when working in your home fish tank. Aquarium gloves can keep you safe from any dangerous fish or coral you might have, and give you a better grip if moving live rock and other large decorations to also keep your animals safe in return!
Aquarium gloves could also save you a trip to the hospital due to nasty infections that can be contracted due to bacteria within the fish tank. Lastly, protective gloves will help keep your hands dry and keep your tank free of chemicals and oils that might be on your hands otherwise.
If you have any questions about aquarium gloves, using protective gloves during a water change, or have experience using a specific type of glove, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!