Can You Put Your Hand In A Fish Tank? (5 Must-Know Things!)

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All aquarium enthusiasts have to submerge their hands in the tank’s water at one point or another.

Most enthusiasts find themselves wondering whether or not this is safe for the fish, though. It’s a fair inquiry and one that shows your passion and consideration of the fish inside.

Key Takeaways At A Glance:

  1. If you have rinsed your hand, it’s completely fine to put your hands inside the tank.
  2. It is OK if the aquarium fish occasionally comes in contact with your hand. Just avoid rubbing the body surface of the fish too much because they have a protective layer of slime coat which can be affected by the petting action.
  3. If you have any open cuts or wounds in your hand, avoid putting your hands inside the tank for reducing the chances of infection.
  4. Aquarium-safe gloves can be used, but it’s not always practical to put on the gloves and do the aquascaping stuff. The best approach is to just rinse your hands thoroughly before sticking it inside the tank.
  5. Avoid putting your hand in a fish tank if it has soap residue, oils, or other germs that could contaminate the water.

If you are looking for gloves to use while doing aquarium maintenance tasks, I highly recommend you check out this one (available on Amazon).

To learn more about can you put your hand in a fish tank, keep reading. In this guide, I fully explain how you should clean your hands to prevent water contamination and more.

1. Is It Safe To Put My Hand In A Fish Tank?

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As a general rule, after washing and rinsing your hands, it’s safe to put your hands inside the fish tank. As long as there are no major dirt, oil layers or cuts on your skin, and you don’t rub the fish, it’s fine to put your hand inside the tank.

Your hands are a lot bigger than most fish. If you accidentally touch the fish, you could injure its scales, fins, and delicate body. This is mainly true with delicate fish like bettas.

But if you have ‘rough-and-tough’ type fish (like we had the blood parrot cichlids in our tank), it’s OK if they come in contact with your hand while you are aquascaping or placing the driftwood in the right spot.

Although note that if you are putting your hand inside the tank, right after you handled something oily or soapy, then there’s a problem.

Even if you do not touch the fish, your hands could still harm it. Most things like detergents, soap, cream, and other residues on your hands can be harmful for the fish. For instance, detergents can affect the outer mucus layer and gills of the fish.

So if you put your hand in the water while these substances are on your hand, you will contaminate the water and harm the fish.

All that being said, you can put your hand into a fish tank safely if you thoroughly clean your hand before.

Avoid putting your hands directly inside the tank after cleaning with soap!

Instead, first use soap to clean away all the dirt from your hand. Then, rinse your hand with clean water to ensure there is no soap or other residue left on your skin. And only then, it’s a good idea to put the hand inside the tank.

Also, you can use warm to hot water and a clean scrubber. These tools will help to remove any residue and lotions on your hand.

If you thoroughly clean your hands with this method, you will be able to put your hand inside the tank without contaminating the water.

2. What Happens If I Put My Hand In A Fish Tank?

Whenever you put your hand into the fish tank, any germs and debris on your hand will dissolve into the water. This includes any soap, lotion, food, or other items that may still be lingering on your hands.

Putting your hands inside the fish tank can also stress out your fish if they’re not used to it.

Our hands are constantly covered in germs, debris, and other items, even when we don’t see them.

Most relevantly, soap residue, lotion, and oils sit on our hands at all times. Whenever you put your hands in water, all of these items peel off your hands and go into the water.

In some cases, these oils and residue on your hand are not harmful. However, fish can be sensitive to things like soaps and so it is a good practice to avoid letting those things entering the tank

That is not to say that you will always contaminate the water if you put your hand inside it.

Only if you have residues on your hands will you contaminate the water. Still, whatever is on your hands will always go into the water, it’s just a matter of what is on your hands.

Not to mention, many fish are afraid whenever you first put your hand inside the tank. The fish will see something large coming down from above.

They will immediately assume it is a predator or something else they should avoid. This creates a stressful scenario for your fish, and they will try to swim away.

And if you have a territorial fish like blood parrot cichlid, remember that they won’t hesitate to peck your hands. Look at the following picture how a blood parrot fish is staring at my Dad’s hand!

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My Dad, setting up the rocks inside the tank by putting the hand inside, and a blood parrot cichlid curiously staring to figure out what’s going on 😀

3. Can I Touch My Fish With My Hand? (Do They Get Harmed By It?)

A gently touch, occasionally, won’t do any major harm to the fish. However, avoid rubbing their skin or petting them frequently as it can damage their protective coating known as slime coat.

Fish are very different from other pets. Unlike your dog, cat, or even guinea pig, they do not usually enjoy being pet. In fact, trying to pet or touch your fish is often dangerous and can outright harm them.

Most obviously, our large hands can injure most pet fish by force. We might accidentally tear their delicate fins, especially if you’re dealing with a fish with thin fins, such as Bettas. We can also harm their gills or scales if we aren’t gentle enough.

Even if you try to be as gentle as possible when touching your fish, you can still harm it during the touching process.

Fish have a slime that covers their body. The slime is a protective covering. Our skin can actually rub away the slime and harm the fish’s body in the process.

All of this goes to show that you should not try to touch your fish with your hand unless necessary or once in a while.

The only time you might want to consider touching a fish with your hand is if it appears dead and you want to see if it will react to your touch. Even then, it’s best to select a gentle object to touch the fish with, not your hand.

4. How Often Can I Put My Hands In The Fish Tank?

There is not a set number of how many times you can put your hands in the fish tank. Instead, it’s about the quality of your hands when you do so. As long as you thoroughly clean your hands beforehand, you can put your hands inside the fish tank.

You should never put your dirty hands inside a fish tank. Even doing so once could contaminate the water, resulting in lethal conditions for your fish. If you contaminate the water repeatedly, it is very likely that your fish will be harmed in the process.

Luckily, you can wash your hands with hot water and a clean scrubber before you put them in the water. When you do this, you will remove most of the harmful toxins that would contaminate the water. Once you have done this, you can put your hands inside the tank.

Still, pay attention to your fish. If your fish seems stressed every time you put your hands in its tank, keep your hands to yourself when you can. The more you put your hands in the aquarium, the more stressed the fish will be, which can cause premature death.

By washing your hands frequently and paying attention to your fish’s mannerisms, you will be able to determine the ideal number of times you can put your hands inside the aquarium. If you aren’t quite sure, try to do so as little as possible.

5. What Is The Proper Way To Put Hands In The Fish Tank?

If you are an aquarium enthusiast, there are going to be times when you need to put your hands inside the aquarium. The proper way to do so is to clean your hands thoroughly beforehand and avoid the fish. Doing these two things will help to keep the water clean and minimize stress.

Here’s a closer look at these two steps:

Clean Hands

Clean your hands before putting them in the fish tank. Use warm to hot water and a clean scrubber to scrub away any oils, lotions, and soap. If you use soap or any lotion to clean the water, ensure to rinse off your hands with clean water so that your hand remains free of any unwanted residue.

Avoid Fish

Whenever you submerge your hand, try to avoid the fish when possible. Avoiding the fish will help to minimize any stress or injury to the fish in the process.

Conclusion

Never put your hand in a fish tank without thinking about it first. Your hands are constantly covered in oil, soap, food, and other germs that can contaminate the water. This water contamination can affect the fish.

Instead, make sure to clean your hands before submerging them in the water. Use hot water and a clean scrubber.

Even though hot water is not enough to clean your hands for other purposes, it is enough for your fish.

Don’t try to touch the fish forcefully. Our hands are simply too big and strong for the fish’s delicate body. It can also cause a stressful scenario that harms your fish from the inside out. Keep all of this in mind whenever it comes time to put your hand inside the tank and you’ll be good to go!

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By Praveen Ghoshal

Hi! I'm Praveen Ghoshal, the founder of eFishkeeping.com. Inspired by my Dad, I got interested in fishkeeping when I was a kid. Since then, I have been involved with this hobby. Currently, I have 3 fish tanks at our home, where I enjoy this hobby with my Mom, Dad, and Younger Sister. Read more about me here.