Mr. Saltwater Tank

Terrible Advice Tuesdays: It’s Stinks, But Should You Fear It?

Something I’ve done every Tuesday on my Facebook page is to post bad advice I’ve heard.  I call it “Terrible Advice Tuesdays”.  The whole reason I started Mr. Saltwater Tank was to take the confusion out of setting up and maintaining a saltwater tank, so of course I give the corresponding correct advice.

I realize not everyone is on Facebook, so I’m going to start posting the Terrible Advice Tuesdays post here on my website as well. That way everyone can learn from the horrible advice I’ve heard and get the right info. Here’s TAT #1:

Cleaning your skimmer’s cup by hand is not safe. Chemicals in the skimmate can be absorbed by your skin which can make you sick. Use an spray nozzle instead of your hands. 

The rest of the story: Let’s look at some facts first:

A.) Absorption of chemicals through the skin is slow.

B.) While skimmate is made up of a bunch of different substances, there is very likely NOT a chemical in it that is so toxic that the short amount of time you come in contact with it (while you cleaning the skimmer cup) that it will be absorbed by your skin and make you sick.

C.) Wearing gloves while working around your tank is the solution if you fear the so-called “toxicity” of skimmate.

If you clean your skimmer’s cup bare handed (like I do), rinsing your hands with soap and water afterwards is a good idea. While skimmate won’t make you sick just by touching it, the last thing you want to do is smell like skimmate all day!

Bottom line: Don’t fear the skimmate, just wash your hands!

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Comments for this article (29)

  • Bubu 1er says:

    Wash the cup with a soft brush, if you wash it by had there’s a chance you’ll leave some finger fat on the cup and will inhibit skimmat formation….

  • jack says:

    Silly exurbian lysol lovers!

    Its just concentrated fish poop!

  • Nico says:

    Here’s a good advice: correct the facebook link in your article (there’s a “:” missing after http) 😉

  • JulieS says:

    Heh, that’s one I hadn’t heard before. I cleaned our big old ETSS skimmer back in the 90s by hand, and I clean our current Reef Octopus now by hand. Never had an issue, and I doubt I ever will (I’m licensed Physician Assistant btw, so am very conscious of my health). But some of these rampant “myths” in the reef hobby never fail to astound me.

  • Alex says:

    Good advice Mark, as S.O.P. I always put on nitrile rubber gloves, not so much to protect me from anything in my take but more to protect my tank from me! Last thing I want is to introduce something harmful to my tank and the inhabitants.

  • Dan G says:

    I use and old toothbrush to clean out my cup. Mark where do you find these comments for the terrible advice?

  • John Passman says:

    I tend to agree. Unless you have an obvious open wound on your hand, you should be ok. Normal skin is generally a good barrier against most saltwater waste products. So washing your hands with soap and water after the maintinance is done should suffice. Otherwise just use some rubber gloves and or a brush.

  • Mike Cole says:

    50/50 vodka:skimmate makes a great shoot.

  • Forrest says:

    if you think touching skimmate is bad. Check out this News reporter:
    “It doesn’t taste good either”….

  • Wally says:

    Good (bad) advice Mark. Does anyone have any expirens with Ecosystems refugiums? I know I can’t spell

  • Kyle Neville says:

    Now thats funny!

  • Kyle Neville says:

    (The video) 🙂

  • Aquaticgrace says:

    So should I put on a giant body profalactic
    Before swimming in the ocean or walking in the sand near the ocean
    Haha really people come on
    Hey mark I am so thankful that you are not only blessed with an abundance of knowledge from experience but also that you have the patience to endure thank you so much for your works and you help tremendously in this hobby sincerely, aquaticgrace

  • Beetle Bailey says:

    Sure is a good idea to wash your hands ,remember it’s not just fish poop,your skimmer also takes out chemicals you add to your tank,washing your hands is a good habit to get into when you work on your tank as coral toxins have been rubed into peoples eyes after handling them with nasty results

  • schordy says:

    Since I’m not on Facebook…….Tuesday’s will never be the same!! Thanks Mark, etal………(that means everyone and their comments)

  • Jonathan says:

    I know what you mean Beetle. I didn’t think one day while cleaning my skimmer and rubbed my eye. That resulted in my eye getting an infection and swelling completely closed in two days.

  • Skim wetter, stop cleaning altogether. 🙂

  • Ann Marie says:

    I always enjoy and benefit from your advise and your videos.

    Can you please do a video on the care of Mangrove Trees.

    Thank you so much, annmarie

  • Joe says:

    I use the skimmate in place of coffeemate. Works good as a wife repellant also. Need a quick pick me up… forget energy drinks just slam a refreshing cup of skimmate.

  • Ann Marie says:

    Can you do a video about the importance of leveling your tank. Just a suggestion.


  • Kenn Sanchez says:

    Folks have nothing else to worry about. Touching the tentacles of an anemone would be more harmful than touching skimmate. Get a life. Just don’t try to stick your fingers in your mouth directly after touching the stuff. That’s my secret. Lol

  • Joe says:

    Ummm…. I thought that was a guacamole maker under my aquarium. I’ve been serving it to guests at every party. Should I have them wash their hands now after eating it?

  • RICH says:


  • Skimmerv says:

    I thought that it was a high end green tea, O’well..

  • Rafael Aguirre says:

    That is so awesome, love it when people make things up, but any how, I used a baby bottle brush, really cheap at the 99Cents stores…

  • Kathy says:

    Oh boy, you can see how these Tuesdays are going to be…FUN!
    I find that completely drying the inside of the cup helps the bubbles stick faster, maybe its just me. And thanks, some of us really don’t care for FACEbook.

  • Rob Coberg says:

    I think the saying is true “If” you have a open wound or cut on your hand. You might get sick or infected from the bacteria. but other than that things get exaggerated.

  • Steve says:

    One caution to this is skimmate loaded with Zoanthid excretions. These are toxic and absorbed rapidly through the skin, or an open wound, to cause concern. If I cut a bunch of excess zoanthids from my live rock and don’t wear a long pair of plastic gloves to cover my hands and arm while in the tank, I almost always end up with a fever that night. Those zoanthid excretions will accumulate in the skimmate too. Guess what happens if you leave that on your skin or get into an open wound? Now, the other 99% of the year, my skimmate does not have this concentration of zoanthid “soup”. During those times, I have never gotten ill from coming in contact with the skimmate for the few minutes I need to clean it. AND, I definitely wash with COLD water and soap. Cold water ensures my pores don’t open to absorb what is on my skin.

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