The Household Toxins That Could Harm Your Fish

Fish are wonderful pets for people of all ages and an aquarium makes a beautiful addition to a living room or bedroom. While a fish tank will liven up these rooms, be wary as these areas can also be surrounded with hazards. Keeping fish is very different from keeping other pets, in the sense that you are responsible for controlling every aspect of their very delicate aquatic environment. This balance can easily be thrown off – especially by harsh chemicals that can be found in cleaning or cosmetic sprays.

Water in your fish tank attracts and collects airborne pollutants and harmful contaminants can enter your fish tank even if you have a lid on it. For example, your aquarium air pump will draw in air from outside and bring toxins into the tank.  In order to reduce any risks of polluting your fish tank, it is best to know which household goods should not be used anywhere around it.

Air Fresheners 

Everybody wants their house to smell fresh and welcoming. The quickest solution to achieve this is spraying air freshener. Well, if you are the owner of a fish tank, especially an open top tank, this is not the way to go. The chemicals in air fresheners can poison your fish and lead to fast death.

Cleaning Products/ Polish Spray

Window cleaner, anti-bacterial spray, furniture deodoriser, glass cleaner, and wood polish are just a few of the many cleaning sprays that most of us can find under the kitchen sink. While using these things will leave you with a sparkling clean home, it can also leave you with a tank full of deceased fish if the right precautions are not taken. It is probably a good idea to spray any cleaning products on a rag first (in another room) and then wipe surface after. With that being said, avoid using glass cleaner on your aquarium! Cleaning the outside of your fish tank with a soft cloth and warm water will be sufficient. 


 Aerosol spray deodorants and perfumes can problematic if you have a fish tank in your bedroom. If you’re like me, your bedroom is home to your fish as well as your everyday primping space. In this case, you will need to make sure that when you are applying deodorants, perfumes or aftershaves, you go to another room. Keep these items in the bathroom so you don’t absently-mindedly spray them near your fish!

Hand Soap/Hand Sanitiser

Hand soap and hand sanitiser gels are great for use AFTER you have your hands in your fish tank; both should be avoided at all costs beforehand. If you are going to perform a water change, feed your fish, arrange plants or rocks, etc., hands should be rinsed with water without the use of soap. If you wash with hand soap, the residue can stick to your hands or under your nails and then be released into your aquarium.

Pest control & Flea spray 

Flea repellent is one of the most lethal sprays for fish. If you have a 4-legged furry friend who has been sprayed for fleas, keep them very far away from tanks and even the rooms where fish tanks are kept.  Dogs and cats will carry the harmful chemicals on their fur and can release it in the air around your aquarium.  The same goes for fumigating your home to rid of pests; these chemicals will stay in the air for long periods of time and are extremely harmful for fish. If possible, it is best to move the aquarium far from the treated area. This can be very difficult, or even impossible if you have larger aquariums and marine reef aquariums.


If you are planning some remodelling, a DIY project, or painting your home, make sure you have a well thought out plan for your fish tank. Paint fumes are bad for us humans; just imagine how bad it is for your fish! You will not want your fish tank in the same room as any paint projects going on. I know it will be extremely laborious to move a fish tank set-up but it will be worth it.

What can you do if you suspect your fish have been affected by poisoning? A water change will have to be carried out straight away. In less extreme cases, a 20% water change should be done over a 1-week span. In emergency situations, you may have to take out up to 50% of the water. It is a difficult situation because large water changes of that extent can upset your filter and your fish.