a woman struggles to breathe while being crowded by fish and mold

Asthma and Fish Tanks

Last updated: March 2022

I didn't grow up with pets at home. In college, I came home from a late-night trip to the big box store with a beta fish. Eventually, a small school of fish came home from a pet store after the beta died. Before I knew it, I ended up with a fish tank.

I enjoyed having an aquarium and taking care of fish. It is nice to have something that is depending on you and excited for you to give it supper. Since my fish lived with me in a college dorm room I had a fairly small aquarium. My largest was 10 gallons and fit easily on top of our small dresser.

Can fish tanks cause breathing problems?

Sleeping in the same room as my fish tank was not the best thing for my breathing problems. Tropical fish require a warm aquarium. Warm moist somewhat dark environments are the perfect place to grow mold. I had to be very careful about keeping up with water changes and fish tank cleaning to keep things from going moldy and causing problems with my breathing.

I also noticed that the aquarium, when set up at home, grew mold much more easily than when I was away at college. Perhaps it was something about the water chemistry or another environmental difference between being home vs away at school. Regardless of the chemistry of mold growth, keeping my aquarium clean is good for my health and the health of my fish.

Other pet-related asthma triggers

I have visited friends with cats or dogs and generally don't have asthma troubles from their furry companions. I feel like the larger issue for me with pet households is the increased dust that pets can bring.

I notice that my asthma troubles when visiting friends seem to be more around dust mite triggers (i.e. Am I sleeping in their guest room or not) than pet dander. I assume I could own a cat or dog without having problems.

A year or so after I graduated from college, my fish all died in a filter incident one evening. I opted not to replace them mostly because other obligations in my life kept me from enjoying the aquarium as much as I had in previous years. While the amount of time I spent taking care of my fish wasn't nearly as much as those who own larger pets, it was still one more thing to check off the list. I felt as much or more accomplishment from taking care of my plants as I did from taking care of the fish.

Getting rid of the fish tank

It just seemed like the best move for me and my breathing if I got rid of the fish tank. At some point, I would consider keeping an aquarium again if I had space to keep it outside my sleeping area. I would also be interested in other small aquarium animals like frogs, lizards, or hermit crabs. I don't foresee ever being the person in the household who brings a larger animal into the house. I am just not much of a cat or dog person. I think I could live with one if I had a housemate who was strongly attached to having an animal.

Any other aquarium pet owners out there? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

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