BEWARE! Rubbermaid trash cans


Prolific Poster
Jul 19, 2009
SK, Canada
Eric Borneman said:
During our annual spawning work in Puerto Rico, we had one night where we collected about 600,000 gametes. On putting them under the scope, we found that sperm motility was bad to none. Hence, fertilization was very very low. This was very unusual. Over the next few days of development, many of the fertilized eggs had arrested development, abnormal development, died, or underwent embryonic fusion.

Since a major focus of the work was to cryopreserve sperm for genetic banking, we quickly wondered what could have gone wrong. I had purchased the standard grey Brute trashcan that almost everyone I know uses (you can put rollers on the bottom). When rinsing it, the water beaded on the surface but it was rinsed well and wiped with DI water. Nonetheless, the egg bundles were kept for experiments in 0.22 micron filtered water taken from that trash can that itself was filled with 0.5 micron filtered NSW.

Upon adding tiny amounts of this water to sperm acquired from another source and not exposed to the water in the trash can, the sperm became immotile within minutes.

Basically, the plasticizers in the trash can are highly highly toxic to sperm. Another group had a similar experience using new plastic containers (not the Brute trash can) on another night but did not test or have available healthy sperm to check for plasticizers being a cause.

The point here is that for all of you (including me) who use plastic containers, and definitely the almost industry standard" grey Brute trashcans to store water or kalkwasser, have highly toxic plasticizers. We do not know if these would leach out if soaked, exposed to UV, acid-base washed, if it is a coating, or impregnated. But, at the very least using water from these containers, definitely when new, will cause reproductive failure and who knows what other chronic effects it may have.

Some of you may be saying - as I have - that you have used them for years with no problems. Well, no problems you can directly find or can observe. It's like our test with Instant Ocean salt mix - I used it for years with no apparent issues, but in a controlled experiment, it perfomed terribly, caused chronic cyanobacterial films, and species died. Perhaps the resilience of healthy diverse tanks mitigates the issues, but when used alone, the effects are obvious. Perhaps the plasticizer is a new one, or perhaps it leaches out in time. We don't know.

I have posted a photo of the offending trashcan. Beware all plastic products that are flexible and that bead water when wetted.


Quoted from Beware Rubbermaid trash cans


Lifetime Charter Member
Lifetime Member
Nov 21, 2007
Los Angeles, CA
Hey, I like it ... birth control for fish, maybe?

I'm the type of person who never has the heart to let baby fish die. So, I end up going thru all kinds of gyrations (new tanks, outdoor ponds, live food, etc, etc) to keep them alive and healthy -- it can really take a toll.

I'm thinking to buy a new Brute and put pieces into my tank... :p


Prolific Poster
Aug 21, 2009
Hey what about using a galvanized trash can? Shouldn't a galvanized container be highly inert?


Guru Class Expert
Nov 18, 2009
Garden Island
That is the exact container I use to store water for water changes. (Usually not stored for more than a week) Hopefully it hasn't been adversely affecting my fish in any way! It sure hasn't stopped my WC Cynotilapia sp. "hara" from breeding like rabbits, hehehe.