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Aquarist First Aid – Assembling Your Emergency Medical Kit

UrchinThere are a few things every aquarist should have on hand, especially for saltwater and reef aquariums. Algae scrubbers, food for their fish, extra filter media…and first aid supplies. Even the most cautious of us gets scraped, stung, poked, cut, irritated and altogether abused sometimes when we work on our tanks. The supplies you may want to have depends on what you have in your aquarium (freshwater aquarists may not need many of these items) and your own medical history (if you know you are allergic to something like bee stings or salt creep or fake SCUBA diver ornaments, you may need some extra items like an Epi-pen or special medications).  Keep these items in a clean, waterproof container in your aquarium stand or nearby for easy access.

Here are some basics for a reef aquarist First Aid Kit. You can modify the contents to suit your aquarium and needs:

    • Tweezers – I’d recommend two pairs, at least one pair with an extra-fine tip.
    • Magnifying glass – It doesn’t have to be big, even the small version from an eyeglass repair kits works. If you come across one with small LED light, you’ll be ahead of the game.
    • Flashlight – A small flashlight like the LED keychain lights can be helpful to illuminate an injury or sting area.
    • Small plastic ruler – Even an old credit card or ID will do the trick, as long as it is rigid and has a straight edge. These items are suprisingly helpful in scraping away anemone or jellyfish nematocysts.
    • Tape or a small lint roller – Helpful in getting rid of bristleworm spines.
    • Unseasoned Meat Tenderizer or white vinegar – For anemone and jellyfish stings, to help break down the toxins.
    • Hydrocortizone Cream – To treat all sorts of rashes, itches and irritations.
    • Benadryl or another Diphenhydramine – Can be used to combat allergic reactions, at least until you can get medical attention if you need it.
    • Eyewash or saline solution – Can be used to wash off cuts or scrapes as well as flush an eye that got splashed with saltwater.
    • Hydrogen peroxide
    • Rubbing alcohol wipes (or liquid and cotton balls)
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Band-aids – Liquid bandage like Nu-Skin is good to have on hand to seal minor cuts. Keep some of adhesive band-aids on hand, too, for whe you’re dry.
    • Clean Hand Towel or Paper towels  – A dry, clean towel never seems to be around when you need it; keep one in your kit in a plastic baggie to make sure you have one at hand when/if you need it.
    • Latex or rubber gloves – Gloves can help prevent minor stings, abrasions, and direct contact with tiny, irritating spines.


  • Phone numbers, medical history, and tank info – Contact info for your doctor, the local ER, Poison Control, even the local fish store as well as any allergies or pertinent medical history like allergies and current medications. If you have anything you know can be dangerous or that has the potential to cause a problem bigger that you’re prepared for (scorpionfish, large anemones, fireworms, mantis shrimp, moray eels, Blue Ring Octopus, Cone Snail, etc.), make sure it is noted too. You’ll probably – and hopefully – never need this info, but just in case…
  • Reef Glue (cyanoacrylate glue) and Duct tape – Your medical professionals will probably tell you otherwise and we aren’t medical professionals but for us, no first aid or repair kit is complete without them. Let’s face it, they hold the hobby together.

This list is just to help you get started. As always, this blog is no substitute for actual professional medical attention. We are not doctors or medical professionals in any way. For any serious medical conditions, injuries, or symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle pain or weakness, seek medical attention immediately!

Thanks, let me know if you have any questions!


Urchin off the Florida Coast image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Douglas Whitaker
Lionfish image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Nhobgood


  1. avatar

    National Aquariums have called for and are now using StingMate Gel and the StingMate first aid kits in relief of marine stings…visit stingmate.com for more info on new species discoveries and info as well as the latest news on jellyfish from around the world.

  2. avatar

    Never imagined that I might concur with something similar to this, however you undoubtedly helped to alter my mind.

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About Eileen Daub

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Marine Biologist/Aquatic Husbandry Manager I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).