Don't drink the water

Goglfish Got fish? Don’t drink the water and wash your hands after they’ve been in the tank. This paper presents a slightly apocalyptic view of your pet goldfish:

“aquarium tank water harboring ornamental fish are an understudied source for novel microbial communities and pathogens that pose potential risks to the pet industry, fishes in trade, humans and other species”

while in reality, the results suggest you might survive if you take sensible precautions:

“We tested for the direct presence of 12 known bacterial or eukaryotic potential pathogens in samples from all seven stores using specific primer sets. Five of the twelve genera (~42%) were not detected in any of our samples: Salmonella, Giardia, Naegleria, Francisella, and Campylobacter.”

 

(2012) Microbial Diversity and Potential Pathogens in Ornamental Fish Aquarium Water. PLoS ONE 7(9): e39971. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039971
Ornamental fishes are among the most popular and fastest growing categories of pets in the United States (U.S.). The global scope and scale of the ornamental fish trade and growing popularity of pet fish in the U.S. are strong indicators of the myriad economic and social benefits the pet industry provides. Relatively little is known about the microbial communities associated with these ornamental fishes or the aquarium water in which they are transported and housed. Using conventional molecular approaches and next generation high-throughput amplicon sequencing of 16S ribosomal RNA gene hypervariable regions, we characterized the bacterial community of aquarium water containing common goldfish (Carassius auratus) and Chinese algae eaters (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri) purchased from seven pet/aquarium shops in Rhode Island and identified the presence of potential pathogens. Our survey identified a total of 30 phyla, the most common being Proteobacteria (52%), Bacteroidetes (18%) and Planctomycetes (6%), with the top four phyla representing >80% of all sequences. Sequences from our water samples were most closely related to eleven bacterial species that have the potential to cause disease in fishes, humans and other species: Coxiella burnetii, Flavobacterium columnare, Legionella birminghamensis, L. pneumophila, Vibrio cholerae, V. mimicus. V. vulnificus, Aeromonas schubertii, A. veronii, A. hydrophila and Plesiomonas shigelloides. Our results, combined with evidence from the literature, suggest aquarium tank water harboring ornamental fish are an understudied source for novel microbial communities and pathogens that pose potential risks to the pet industry, fishes in trade, humans and other species.

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