In the light of the interesting events of this week in SA with a family hospitalised after a marine tank clean went wrong, I thought it might be worth starting some discussion about some of the dangers involved with our hobby.
With the rise of the internet, many people getting into fishkeeping these days are having less interaction with the well-established shops run by experienced people, or with the clubs of old frequented by experienced hobbyists. As a result we have the proliferation of newbie-coaching-newbie in the hobby. I wonder how many of the important lessons are being passed on – those lessons which are too often learnt the hard way by bitter experience.
I don’t find it at all surprising that the event yesterday occurred. I suspect that aquarium-related incidents resulting in physical harm to people are a pretty frequent occurrence. Just looking at the comments on threads on fish groups discussing the event yesterday showed the level of “ignorance”. Before details of what had happened came out, sooooooo many people were suggesting that it couldn’t be the aquarium. Chemicals involved with aquariums are safe – they must be, they don’t harm the fish. Hmmmmmmm
Just as an example, I’ve heard first-hand of a couple of people receiving bad burns from African cichlids salts. Here’s the scenario. Large tank, and need to add salts after a water change. Grab a big handful of dry powder and place the hand into a bucket of water to dissolve the salts before adding to the tank. When wet, an “exothermic” reaction takes place – ie a lot of heat is given off. We don’t usually have any evidence of it when we spoon the powder into water. The heat given off has no real impact on the large volume of water in our tank. But against the skin it’s a different story!!! One case resulted in burns sufficient to badly blister the whole palm of the hand.
I know of at least one product used by some which is a carcinogen (ie cancer causing agent) when inhaled. OK that might not happen too often in everyday interaction with our fish, but this material precipitates out of the water column and collects in the substrate and filters. At each use, more of the product builds up in the tank. I personally would be EXTREMELY careful in how I handled dry substrate from a tank in which it had been used. Even cleaning the filter could expose you to the material.