Fish Tank Safety 101 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2013, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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Fish Tank Safety 101

I was up til 2:00 am this morning watching a show called "Monsters Inside of me". There was a story that involved fish tank bacterium so I paid attention although I was getting very sleepy. The bacteria is called Mycobacterium marinum. I am not sure how many of you have heard of or are aware of it but its not good. Not to scare anyone but this is to make you all aware of it. In a nutshell, wash your hands after dealing with your aquarium, PERIOD. The link below is not the epoisode from the show but it is the same person that made the news. I just thought about everyone here and wanted to spread the news.

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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2013, 06:39 PM
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This is a real danger not only in aquariums, but also in most aquatic environments.
It is especially a problem if you have an open cut on your hands. The organism seems to prefer cooler temps, and is more likely to live in your hands and fingers, not so much closer to your body (warmer).
Other people who can get this disease are usually exposed to fish or water a lot, such as people who catch or process fish, lobster or other aquatic organisms.

Some of the pictures are not pretty, but you can look up more info using the terms:
Mycobacterium marinum
Fishermans or Fish Handlers Disease
Fish Tank Granuloma
Swimming Pool Granuloma
Picine or Fish Tuberculosis

The organism that causes it is related to human TB, but is not the same one.

According to several things that I have seen (posts from aquarium keepers who have consulted veterinarians, other knowledgeable sources) here is how to sterilize an aquarium where fish have died from this:
1) If you can afford an autopsy on the fish, do so. The vet may ask for a live specimen and the vet will kill it and examine the fresh tissue.
2) Euthanize all other animals in the tank.
3) Throw away anything that cannot tolerate the treatment, or is so cheap it is not worth treating.
4) Treatment:
A) Bleach. This breaks down the organic films where most microorganisms live.
B) Rubbing alcohol. This is specifically to kill the Mycobacterium marinum. But rubbing alcohol will not break down the organic films where the organisms may be living, so you need to do the 2-part treatment.

Once the fish are infected there is no cure.
Isolate this tank in every way- totally separate equipment (net, gravel vac...)
Shoulder length (well, however deep the tank is) gloves.
Wash hands and arms thoroughly after handling this tank.
Never share ANYTHING from this tank. Not plants, not equipment, not decor.
Allow the fish to live out their natural life. You can attempt treatment with fish antibiotics (Some say Kanamycin will work) or ultra violet sterilizer. The fish are not likely to live very long, and may die of 'something else'. Their immune system is weak, and other diseases can invade, and kill the fish.

Here is a report about how one person handled it:
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-26-2013, 07:15 PM
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I saw this too. It really freaked me out. But in the episode, the girl tried to physically touch her fish, not just put her hand it the water. Also, the narrator said this was extremely rare. This makes me feel better, but I'm definitely going to be more careful.
Thanks Diana
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-27-2013, 10:11 PM
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In 30 years of messing with aquariums and handling fish (often bare handed), including working at a store and wholesaler, I've never given it a thought - and don't plan on starting. Of the many people I know who've done the same - no issues.
Not something to lose sleep over IMHO.
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-27-2013, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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I haven't been in the hobby that long but I have surpassed the 10 year mark. I never gave it a thought either and I never wear gloves or take any precautions. It is something to consider though. Most of us do unconscious things and we could slip up is all I was bringing to the surface. I scratch, rub and wipe my hands and arms on myself all the time during tank maintenance. It would not be wise to not at the least be aware of the possibilities. I never knew of such until now. Although its rare, you don't want to be a victim for something you choose to ignore. At least I don't. Its equal to guys that don't wash their hands after using the restroom. Its just not sanitary and bad hygiene.

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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 04:16 AM
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You're more likely to be hit by a person under 30 texting while driving.

In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011, compared to 416,000 people injured in 2010.1

Between 1978 and 1995, at least 37 people have died as a result of shaking vending machines to get free merchandise, averaging 2-3 deaths per year.

Over the past decade there were a total of six recorded shark attack fatalities in the U.S., for an average of .6 deaths per year.

AND - 200K Americans will dies do to malpractice related causes each year.

I'll take my chances with my Aquariums.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 04:26 AM
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Crikey... I'll tell you one thing, I'm going to stop shaking vending machines when my Oatmeal Creme Pies get jammed up!

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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 01:39 PM
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A co-worker said someone her husband knew died after aspirating aquarium water (started a siphon by mouth) when he picked up some infection from the water...
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 01:59 PM
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I think what's scary is antibiotic resistant bugs. They are becoming a big problem. Saw frontline last week on pbs and how these bugs are traveling the world and thriving in hospitals. No amount of sterilizing gets rid of them. In the end a fish tank is much less scary than a hospital.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 02:14 PM
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We all seem to forget that we're surrounded by infectious bacteria. There are more dangerous bacteria in everyone's home all the time. Mycobacterium marinum is less dangerous overall than staphylococcus and many others which are very common.

Sensationalizing risks that surround us makes for good programming. As far as infectious diseases are concerned, the best advise is to do what we were taught as children. Wash your hands, cover your mouth, clean up your mess, wash behind your ears etc.
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-28-2013, 02:53 PM
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2013, 03:28 AM Thread Starter
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Gesh, trying to look out for others apparently is forbidden. I did not say you will absolutely positively 100% for sure get an infection or die from your aquarium. I gave a link to a factual news story for everyone to just be aware. I simply saw a tv show and gave it enough thought to share what I have seen on tv. This is not a story I made up or with the intent to worry or scare anyone.

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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2013, 08:00 AM
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It's not surprising. Aquariums are bacteria laden cess pools filled with rotting food and poo. Not that it matters to me one bit. You don't develop an immunity without exposure
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2013, 11:48 AM
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I really hate to tell you this, but it is in most public drinking water supplies.I have somehting for you to read, it's about a breeder who had a myco outbreak with his rainbow fish, it is a good read, but it does go into a debated topic of competition among bacteria, ie you want the good to out compete the bad, here is the link enjoy...
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-29-2013, 02:57 PM
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I looked it up and it looks like there are about 100-150 infections per year. If I had a cut on my hand I would think twice about it. Currently I have a cut on my hand and it is infected since its hot at a little yellow, wouldn't that be something. at least I'd know to tell the doc my hand was in a cycling aquarium
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