4a. Transmittable Diseases via Fish to Human

Let's start this article with a disclaimer.  I am not a Doctor!  The information found here is a compilation of years of reading and my own personal findings and experience.  If you are feeling ill seek professional medical attention immediately.

 Aquariums are miniature eco-systems.  It takes bacteria to break down fish waste, algae grows from what some consider "dangerous" nutrients, and the animals we keep in aquaria are from every part of the world imaginable.  It's not unreasonable to assume that the fish you just added to your aquarium was caught and shipped from a remote part of the world where human deaths have occurred as a direct result of the water quality in which that fish was caught.  Should this information scare you?  Yes and No.

On any given day you are bombarded with bacteria and virus' that want nothing more than to end your life.  Luckily we have immune systems but understanding safe handling and knowledge can help us prevent illness.

In the past twenty plus years that I've been a professional aquarist I've been afflicted with Giardia from a filthy pond (hello toilet), rashes from dirty aquariums, contracted TB from an infected fish (mycobacterium marinum), been stung by venomous fish and one time I fell down a flight of stairs as I backed up to view my work.  Luckily at the base of the stairs there was a pedestal  to break my fall.  Unluckily the pedestal held up a stone statue which fell and subsequently landed on a rather sensitive area.  It's true, I may actually be a dork.

Here's a quick list of things I've seen and read about.

I have three clients that can't put their hands into their salt-water aquarium without breaking out in a rash.  Their symptoms range from a mild irritation to painful swollen joints.

Stings and bites:
Many fish are venomous or toxic.  Stonefish, Sting rays, many Catfish, Lion fish, Fox-Faces, Coral-Cats, Invertebrates, and many more animals can inflict a painful sting.  I can tell you from personal experience, getting stung from a venomous fish is no fun.  Expect your hand or arm to swell up and burn like 20 bee stings.  Some animals are deadly, if your dealer has sold you a Blue Ring Octopus (they are readily available and some dealers may have no idea what they have) you will most likely die.  Be careful, research your species, know the animal and respect their defenses.

Fish TB:
Mycobacterium Marinum also called fish tuberculosis, is very similar to human TB (mycobaterium tuberculosis). This bacteria is very resistant to treatment.  It usually occurs on extremities and entrance is via open wounds.   The infected area may be pink to purple in color, it may discharge puss and may be painful to touch.  It's treated with human TB drugs and can take a year or more to be treated.  When I contracted TB it showed as an itchy red wart-like pimple on my forearm.  It took about a year to go away and other than the blemish it caused no other symptoms.