When you work in your saltwater aquarium, you deal with – well, water. But there are other concerns you may face. Do you have corals? Sea anemones? Fish with spines? You need aquarium gloves to protect you while you’re scrubbing, aquascaping, or rearranging your rockwork. Maybe they’re not the most fashionable pieces of clothing you’ll own. And they’re not exciting (compared to other equipment you need for your tank). But without them, you could end up with skin reactions or even injuries. Good thing you’ve stumbled on this aquarium glove review!
Table of Contents: Aquarium Gloves
Sure, in THEORY, you could pop any kind of glove on your hands. A barrier’s a barrier, right? Well, if you want to keep your fingers safe, no. Aquarium gloves are designed with the saltwater environment (and the creatures in it) in mind. They have a sturdy construction to protect your skin from abrasions, pokes, and burns. And the quick links below will help you see my reviews of the products I’ve used and tested. (So you know they’ve undergone rigid testing in a real tank environment)
This may be the first time for me to ever say this (it may be the first time someone said this in the English language), but I’ve never been so excited about a new pair of gloves! The bright yellow gloves, made by Atlas, are the best aquarium gloves I’ve come across. And inexpensive, too. (Who can beat that?) Granted, you usually expect lower-priced products to turn out to be junk. (That whole, “You get what you pay for thing”) And when the package arrived, I found myself leery. A clear plastic bag with a no-frills label DOESN’T inspire confidence.
But you can’t knock something adequate. And that’s what you get with Atlas. They don’t NEED fancy bells and whistles when they have a durable product. And, really, why spend all of that extra money on the packaging? It can go toward perfecting their gloves! (Yes, I’ll admit to my bias. But once you’ve read through this review, you’ll understand why I love these ugly yellow gloves so much)
These gloves are 26 inches (66cm) long. Compared to Coralife (which I’ll get to in a minute), they come up 2 inches (5cm) short. I wondered if that would make a difference when working in my aquariums. I’m not a large guy (I’m 5’10), and I discovered my arm span comes out almost exactly at that 26-inch mark. So the gloves fit up to the armpit. (Turns out I didn’t need the extra length)
The gloves are made from nitrile. This makes them safe for anyone with an allergy to latex or plastic products. You won’t see irritation of your skin where the aquarium gloves touch your arm. And inside the gloves, you get a soft, comfortable fabric material. They feel nicer than you’d expect from an ugly yellow glove. Textured regions on the fingers aid with getting a grip on slippery surfaces. (Go figure – you might need that when working in an aquarium)
While a handy feature, I couldn’t tell the difference when I dunked my hands in the tank and started moving stuff around. (Not sure if that’s a pro or con for these aquarium gloves) But any time you’re working with objects in a tank, you want all the help you can get. Nothing worse than dropping a piece of rock on a delicate coral. (Or narrowly missing one of your fish) And it might help you grip any tools you’re working with, especially if you have smaller hands.
Atlas also holds up in the “sniff” department. I used my pair for six months, accidentally splashing some water inside on occasion. The water (and inevitable sweat) dried without a problem. And I didn’t notice a lingering odor. I wish I could say the same for Coralife aquarium gloves.
Over the years, I’ve owned a few pairs of Coralife aquarium gloves. Sticking them in saltwater tears them up. The PVC material’s durable, but it stops midway up the length of the glove. And the nylon doesn’t like the aquarium environment. This isn’t the most IDEAL situation if you’re spending a long time working in your tank. Your arm (and hands) will get wet. Sure, you’ll end up safe and sound from the potential hazards within the tank. But wouldn’t it be nice to have dry fingers at the end of the task? (Otherwise, why bother with aquarium gloves in the first place?)
After a while, the gloves also turn pretty nasty. (At least, that’s been my experience. And if you read through the reviews of the gloves, you’ll see some of the same complaints) The gloves turn smelly and gross between sweat and water seeping through that nylon. Other people also discovered leaky seams. No matter what, you’re going to end up with water inside the glove, transforming into a disgusting smell. And it’s impossible to get them clean again. So I always end up dunking my bare hands in the tank until I replace them.
Now, you’ll find other hobbyists that achieve success with using a mild bleach solution. I’ve tried it and still found lingering odors. You don’t need to accept my word for things, though. Give the dilute bleach a chance if you prefer using these gloves. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area, though. (And use a DIFFERENT set of gloves to protect your hands from the solution)
You won’t get that extra feature of textured fingertips. And considering people with smaller hands found some difficulty maneuvering in these gloves, that’s a definite con. Working in a tank often requires a deft hand as you adjust settings on skimmers, position frags, or check for burrowing creatures. You need to avoid clumsy movements as much as possible. You don’t want to startle shy fish or topple a rockwork structure. So if you have fingers that are a touch small, maybe skip Coralife.
And they don’t come cheap! You’ll spend almost THREE TIMES for Coralife as you will a sturdy pair of Atlas aquarium gloves. Personally, I find myself more willing to plunk down that dough on a new coral frag or fish. And you shouldn’t find yourself avoiding an aquarium glove purchase due to costs. It’s a dangerous place. Take it from personal experience: Before my Atlas purchase, I was in my “between-gloves” phase and cut my hand (impaled, actually) on a tube worm jutting out from a piece of live rock I was trying to move around. (The discussion of medical bill costs is another post and not suitable for this site)
Now, if you don’t use gloves currently (living on the edge, are we?), or if your pair of Coralife aquarium gloves aren’t as stinky as mine, there’s nothing wrong with picking up these PVC options. But keep the downsides in mind. Or pick up several pairs, so you have a set ready to switch to as soon as one pair wears out. Then you won’t risk going without.
I know aquarium gloves aren’t the most exciting piece of equipment out there. But protecting your hands is essential. Saltwater tanks often contain dangerous features and creatures. You don’t want to end up in the emergency room from an accidental brush against something while conducting your routine maintenance. And saving money on your gloves? That gets you two more coral frags! But if you’d like to consider the idea a little more, let’s look at some more information to help you out.
First up, let’s review why you should ALWAYS use aquarium gloves when working in your tank with this YouTube video (featuring the Atlas brand, no less):
And how about those potential critters in your tank that could lead to an injury? You love them, but these fish have spines that HURT:
You also need to think about the live rock you’re working around. Invertebrates possess stings and noxious chemicals that lead to skin reactions:
From my personal experience, I recommend looking into the Atlas Nitrile Aquarium Gloves. They’re high-quality and inexpensive. (Even if they’re not the most glamorous options out there) I bought mine on Amazon, and you can check them out through my affiliate links. (Now, if you purchase the gloves through the links, I’ll earn a small commission – at no additional cost to you. No pressure, though. If you want to find them the good old-fashioned way, you’re welcome to).
The aquarium gloves from Atlas have proven durable and a fantastic value for the money. The price DOES seem to fluctuate online, though. So you may want to shop around a bit to ensure you get the best value. (But, really, you should employ that practice with ANY piece of aquarium equipment) The important thing is that you ARE protecting your hands. You don’t want to risk a spine in the hand, a chemical reaction to the skin, or a sliced finger. (And, yes, those things happen when you skip wearing aquarium gloves!)