I can’t think of another piece of aquarium equipment that is discussed as little as gloves.
Gloves may be boring, but if you want to keep your hands dry and protected while working on your aquarium, they are essential.
And trust me, when you slide your hand inside the perfect glove, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.
But what is the perfect glove? Don’t worry! You won’t have to try on a hundred pairs to find out.
You see, I have done the hard work for you. I put all the popular (and some unpopular) aquarium gloves to the test – using them to maintain my tank, testing them wet and dry, scraping them against coral and even given them a big sniff.
It was hard work, but I believe I have found the best aquarium-safe gloves on the market.
6 reasons to wear gloves when working on your aquarium
Perhaps the thought of using gloves in your aquarium never crossed your mind. I know I didn’t give it a second thought until I came across a rather bloodthirsty clownfish…
Here are 6 popular reasons for wearing gloves in your aquarium:
1. Keep your hands dry – Perhaps the most obvious use for gloves. Don’t want wet hands? Wear gloves.
2. You don’t need to wash your hands – Gloves don’t just protect you but also protect your aquarium. You see, if you forget to wash your hands before placing them in your fish tank, you will be rewarded with an oil slick on the surface of your aquarium. With your hands covered by gloves, you don’t have to worry about any soap residue, lotion or perfume contaminating your aquarium.
3. Protect your hands from hungry fish – Don’t get me wrong. I love my dumb fish, but they like to nibble on my fingers, especially my clownfish. When I am near my clownfish’s anemone, he turns into a bitey monster, and once he even drew blood. Well, jokes on dumbo now – I don’t feel a thing thanks to my protective gloves.
4. Prevent stings and scrapes – It’s not just fish you have to worry about. Your reef tank is a dangerous place. Anemones sting, live rock can scratch your hands, jagged coral skeletons can give you a good poke and don’t get me started on those nasty Palythoa. Reaching into a tight crevice or behind the rockwork with unprotected hands is risky business. Glove up for the sake of your hands!
5. Open wounds – If you have a cut, sore, burn or similar injury, you don’t want to expose it to the gunk and bacteria that is floating around your aquarium. In this instance, gloves are a must.
6. Allergic reactions – It’s the oddest thing. Some people get a rash after sticking their hands in their fish tank. If your hands don’t come into contact with the water (especially the green one), your skin won’t flare up – gloves fit the bill.
How to find your glove size for a snug, comfortable fit
I’m pretty sure that you could tell me your shirt size off the top of your head…
But your glove size?
Fortunately, determining the right size glove is simple. Just measure the distance around the palm of your hand…
Measure around the fattest part of your hand, just below the knuckles. Make sure you go around your entire hand!
Now, match your measurement up with the table below to determine your glove size.
|7 ½ – 8||Small|
|8 ½ – 9||Medium|
|9 ½ – 10||Large|
|10 ½ – 11||X-Large|
My personal experience is that if the measurement of your hand is on the borderline, you should size up.
Now that you have your glove size all sorted, it’s time to find the perfect aquarium glove to cover your meaty hand.
The best long-sleeved aquarium gloves (reusable) for everyday maintenance
Long-sleeved gloves cover your entire arm up to your shoulder, not only keeping your hands dry but your arms too. These reusable gloves are typically made from a thicker material, which makes them great for protection and are a popular choice for performing routine tank maintenance, such as scrubbing. If you want to perform delicate work, you may find them a little clumsy and should choose a disposable glove from the next section in this guide.
And as far as shoulder length gloves go, one brand managed to outclass every other reusable aquarium glove on the market, at an affordable price. I present to you…
Showa Atlas 772 shoulder-length gloves
Why are these the best shoulder-length aquarium gloves?
The Showa 772 gloves were designed for handling chemicals. You know, the stuff that you don’t want anywhere near your skin. Any failure in the glove, and you risk serious injury. Needless to say, these gloves are more than capable of taking on your comparatively harmless aquarium.
The Showa completely outclassed all the other shoulder-length gloves we tested. Even our runner up Coralife Aqua Gloves didn’t come close.
To be honest, it isn’t a fair showdown. Showa has been manufacturing a wide range of gloves since 1954. When compared to the competition, Showa’s experience in glove making really shines through.
Measuring 26 inches from the fingertip to the opening of the glove, these nitrile-coated gloves are not quite shoulder length, but they cover most of your bicep. For my purposes, they worked perfectly. I can easily reach the bottom of my reef tank while keeping my hands and arms dry.
Like all the gloves I tested, the Showa 772 has a smell. But it’s quite mild. Trust me when I say this! It is nothing like the overpowering, rubbery smell given off by the other gloves. Seriously, the smell of those was almost eye-watering.
And, they solve one my major annoyances…
Gloves that fall down your arms when working on your aquarium. There is nothing worse than having to stop what you are doing every few minutes to readjust your gloves.
To get around this issue, the opening of the Showa features an elastic band.
To put the gloves on, slide your hands inside the opening. The elastic stops the gloves from sliding down while you are working on your tank. And, it works well. I didn’t have to stop once during maintenance to readjust gloves that were creeping down my arms.
I’ll also add that the ruffles from the bunched material were soft. I work in a t-shirt because of how humid my fish room is. The ruffled opening of other gloves I tested was harsh and scratchy and irritated the exposed skin on my arms. Not a problem with the Showa 772. I could work in these for hours without irritation.
I’m sure you have heard this saying…
“It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
Well, with gloves it’s true. The Showa 772 gloves are fully lined with cotton. And, I would argue that this goes a long way in making them the most comfortable aquarium gloves I have ever worn.
Lined from fingertip to cuff with comfy cotton. Check out the glove when I turn it inside out…
And, this cotton lining cuts down on the sweat too. If you have ever worn rubber gloves, you know exactly what I am talking about. I am not sure what the deal is with rubber, but within minutes, your hands feel like they are in a sauna. I didn’t experience this to the same extent with the Showa 772.
Not only that, but wearing rubber against the skin just feels… Off. Well, unless you are into that. But for the rest of us, the cotton lining provides a much needed comfort.
Now don’t get me wrong. If you are working on your tank for extended periods of time, your hands are going to get hot and clammy regardless of the glove you wear. But I found that the Showa 772 kept me comfortable for longer.
Just below the opening on the side of each glove is a small grommet.
I both love and hate this grommet.
First the love. It allows air to circulate through the glove, keeping my hands cooler. I also appreciate that I can use this small circular hole to hang the gloves up to dry when I finish working on my aquarium.
But now for the hate…
If you have a deeper tank, you must be mindful of where this grommet is. Because if it drops below the water line, you are going to experience cold tank water rushing inside the glove. Trust me, when it happens it’s quite a shock. So surprising in fact that I let out a startled scream.
However, I must stress that this only happened once during testing, and it was because I reached out horizontally in my reef tank, trying to grab a piece of live rock that was juuuuuuust out of reach. If I had moved closer, my hands would have remained dry and my neighbors would be completely unaware that I squeal like a little child.
Don’t want the grommet there? You don’t really have much of a choice. Every other shoulder-length aquarium glove I tested had the same “feature.”
Now, for perhaps the most important part of the glove – how it grips. After all, it doesn’t matter how comfortable your glove is if you can’t grip anything in your aquarium.
If you look closely at the hand section of the glove, you notice that it has a raised bumpy surface. This allows you to confidently grip tools, algae-coated rocks and other slippery objects inside your aquarium.
I’ll be honest. I did not notice the textured grip perform any better than the other aquarium gloves that I tested. All gloves worked equally well at gripping items underwater, wet or dry.
But there is another area that the Showa 772 outclassed the competition…
Reusable gloves are made of a thick material, not only to protect your hands but to ensure that the gloves last as long as possible.
The downside of this is the flexibility of your hands. Every long, reusable glove I tested impacted how easy it was to perform simply tasks, such as clenching your fists or pinching your fingers together. Some were a mild inconvenience while others made me downright clumsy.
Seriously, even balling your fist can be difficult in some gloves. Check out the difference between the Showa 772 and the runner up…
When it comes to hand movement, the Showa 772 gloves are as good as it gets. I was able to perform every common aquarium task that I needed with relative ease.
I could easily hold a plastic pipette for dosing…
Tweezers that require precision to use…
Even unscrewing the cap off my water conditioner…
Seems basic, right? Well, I actually struggled to do those tasks with the other aquarium gloves I tested.
Heck, some of you will even be able to use a pair of aquascaping scissors while wearing these gloves…
My fingers and large-sized gloves easily wrapped around my Aquavitro aquascaping scissors. YMMV, depending on the size of the scissors and your hands.
It actually surprised me that these tasks were easily managed when wearing the Showa 772 gloves. In fact, I didn’t need to take my gloves off at any point when performing routine maintenance on my tank.
If you want the best long aquarium gloves, these are by far my top pick. Grab a pair here.
Runner Up: Coralife Aqua Gloves
Coming in at a distant second are the Coralife Aqua Gloves.
They only come in one size, are not comfortable to wear and give off such a strong rubber smell that they stank up my small office. Seriously, I had to move the three pairs I had from the room while writing this review.
Like I said… Distant second.
So, why mention them at all?
Well, the Coralife Aqua Gloves are two inches longer than my top pick.
And if you have a deep aquarium, then those extra two inches could be the deciding factor between wet and dry hands.
But for everyone else – check out the Showa 772. They are the best reusable aquarium gloves I have ever seen. Grab a pair from here.
Now, let’s check out how the disposable gloves stacked up…
The best disposable aquarium gloves for delicate work
Disposable gloves are thinner than reusable gloves, allowing you to enjoy all the flexibility of your bare hands. Disposable gloves are often used for delicate procedures where a light touch is required, such as fragging corals.
Since these gloves only cover your wrist, expect them to fill with water when you stick your hands inside your tank. That’s fine because they will still offer protection from scrapes and bites. Some people tape their wrists to seal the gloves shut, but every time I have done that, water still managed to sneak inside.
The problem is that many disposable gloves use powder to stop the gloves from sticking together. Unfortunately, these gloves are a no-go since you don’t want that powder clouding up your aquarium water. While there are lots of disposable gloves out there, very few are aquarium-safe.
Oh and of course, if you have a latex allergy, then you need to find disposable gloves that are latex-free. Narrows down your choices, right?
Don’t worry! My top picks are the perfect disposable aquarium gloves…
Gloveworks nitrile disposable gloves
Just like for reusable gloves, the battle for the best disposable aquarium gloves wasn’t even close. Affordable, powder-free, latex-free and puncture resistant, these gloves knocked it out of the park.
Each glove is 9 ½ inches from finger to cuff and comes in either a box of 100 or 1,000 gloves. Each glove in the box is ambidextrous, meaning you can wear it on either hand.
Interestingly, Gloveworks only offer these gloves in sizes medium and up. Those of you with small hands must use Growers Edge nitrile gloves. They are basically the same glove, but they just cost a little more.
What makes these gloves so great?
Let’s start with the textured grip…
The entire glove is covered in small raised diamonds. It might not look like much, but this textured surface makes all the difference when trying to grip wet and slippery corals. Those smooth disposable exam gloves you pick up at your local CVS don’t even come close.
But perhaps the best part of these gloves is that they allow your hand to move naturally, with little very little restriction…
Yep, these gloves let you frag corrals or perform any other delicate task without restricting the movement of your hand.
And, it’s all thanks to how thin Gloveworks nitrile gloves are. At just 6mm thick, it’s surprising that these gloves offer your hands any protection at all…
But they were more than up to the task of that too. During testing, without paying attention, I accidentally scraped my hand down live rock while cleaning. What would have grazed my bare skin didn’t put a hole in these gloves.
Without a doubt, these are the best disposable gloves you will come across for aquarium tasks.
Runner Up: Gloveworks HD
It’s basically the same glove as my top pick, just with a bit more protection. This glove is 2mm thicker, and while it doesn’t sound like much, it makes the glove much more resistant to tears and punctures.
However, the added thickness does cost a little flexibility. Don’t get me wrong. You can still do everything that you could with my top pick, it just feels… tighter, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable.
Phew, made it this far? It’s a lot of info for something as simple as gloves, right?
But it was necessary. The difference between the best and worst pair of gloves I tested was incredible. Some were basically unwearable.
If you want to go down the glove path, I highly recommend measuring your hand before choosing from my recommendations. A glove that fits right will make performing aquarium tasks that much easier. Why make life harder on yourself?
Do you use gloves with your aquarium? Let me know in the comments below!
Ian Sterling, founder of Fishlab.com, began his aquarium journey over 30 years ago, driven by a deep fascination for fish and their diverse personalities. His website, Fishlab.com, is dedicated to making fishkeeping accessible and enjoyable, offering beginner-friendly guidance, expert insights, and a community for aquarists to connect and share experiences.