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FAQs about Pet-fishing & Human Health: Skin, Eye... Contact... Toxins... Stings

Related Articles: Wounds ArticlesMoray Eels Bite, But Are They Venomous? by Marco Lichtenberger,

Related FAQs:  Petfishing and Human Health 1Petfish & Health 2, Petfishing & Human Health 3, & FAQs on: Petfishing Concerns: Getting Poked, Spined, Stuck, Envenomized (injected), Bitten, Poisoning (ingesting), Companion Animal Involvement, Troubleshooting/Fixing, Bacterial Infections, Parasitic Cross Zoonoses, Turn About's Fair Play... Stingrays

A very good idea... particularly if you have a compromised immune system... and/or are dealing with toxic or sharp life, decor... is to wear, very-long length gloves when your hands are in your tanks.

Re: Mycobacterial Infection       1/21/20
Thought you might be interested. There is a company called Aquabiomics that does DNA testing on water samples and Biobeds.
<Have just read over their pdf>
I paid to get my tank tested and surprisingly there was no DNA evidence of M. Marinum in my tank.
<See this; in fact 0.0 incidence of all Fish pathogens... Bizarre>
Either I got the infection elsewhere (open wound/wet counter at LFS) or the bacteria was out competed. I attached my report if your interested in looking over.
<Surprised (very) at how much detail is available (presumably to all) in such a service. And, my understanding was that Mycobacteria were common, in fact ubiquitous in marine aquariums; perhaps not super numerary, but not 0.0 present. Bob Fenner>

Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/22/20
My tank actually has quite a bit of mycobacteria but none of the actual fish pathogen.
<... am wondering how they (the lab) distinguishes twixt the two?>
The first page actually breaks down all the different types of bacteria which was found. Here was the owner's thoughts on my report.
I had both of my tanks tested.
"Hi Eric,
I’m writing with some thoughts on your results, to share my perspective based on looking at a few of these recently. From the info you logged with your samples, I see that your tanks differ in age, and in terms of problems reported (Dinos in the 450, macro in the 750). I'll interpret your results in this context so please correct me if I've gotten that wrong.
Both of your tanks had diverse communities, in the upper half of tanks I've sampled. Based on the info logged with your samples, it looks like the diversity follows the trend that we're coming to expect -- reduced diversity with age.
<Yes to this; a general trend in all captive (and disturbed) systems>
What is striking is how high the diversity is in your 450. I'm guessing you started this with some good live rock? It'd be interesting to hear how more about the history of this tank (If you have already described in PMs or emails please let me know and I will review them.) If its a new tank, that is a really impressive diversity score.
<I agree>
Both tanks showed low balance scores, indicating that the balance of microbial families was very different in your tanks than in the typical tank. Please note this does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your tank - it just puts a number on how similar or different your tank is from others. In your case, both are pretty different.
To explore the reasons for these low balance score we can look at the community barplots (part 2). Both tanks are very low in Pelagibacteracea, which are dominant in the open ocean, a major part of the typical reef tank microbiome, and are specialized for low nutrient conditions. This happens in many tanks, and I'm not saying its a problem. But it is a common difference between some tanks and the microbiome of a natural reef. Both tanks are also low in Flavobacteriacea, and your 750 is also low
in Alteromonadaceae.
It is interesting that neither tank has much Alteromonadaceae. Usually when the Pelagibacteracea are low, the Alteromonadaceae bloom. Your tanks show a different pattern.
In their place, your tanks have a relatively large amount of Vibrionaceae.
This group is mostly members of the genus Vibrio, a genus that we find in every tank. But it is also a genus full of pathogens. Vibrios are associated with animals, and I typically see these in heavily stocked tanks (including invertebrates like corals) - your 750 certainly fits the image in my mind for a high Vibrio tank, lots of animal tissue relative to macroalgae or bare rock.
When I see atypical balance I start thinking about nutrients, meaning more than just NO3 and PO4 (but those too). Do you feed your two tanks differently? That may help us diagnose the reasons for the differences in balance scores and community compositions.
Both tanks showed low levels of nitrifying microbes, but not unusually so.
My view here is that a tank can process N through three different pathways (nitrification, heterotrophic assimilation, or photoautotrophic assimilation). Your tanks both show low levels of ammonia oxidizing
microbes and undetectable nitrite oxidizing bacteria, which suggests the other processes are competing for N. I do not view this as a problem to be solved, but as a description of how the microbial community has responded to competition for ammonia. Like many tanks (including all my display tanks), yours appears to not rely entirely on nitrification for removal of NH3. I see you have a macro refugium in the 750. Is there any algal competition in the 450? (aside from the Dinos, that is! maybe that's enough to explain it)
Both tanks are free of known fish and coral pathogens.
As far as Mycobacteria -- I looked at this one in detail for your samples.
The database I use includes (GreenGenes) perfect matches to *Mycobacterium marinum*. None of these were detected in your sample or any other. Like most tanks, yours include various other members of *Mycobacterium *, most of which are uncharacterized species. In your tanks, these are dominated by
3 types, none of these are close matches to *M. marinum*, they all match other uncharacterized *Mycobacterium *clones more closely. The total levels of Mycobacteria were also not unusual in your tanks, at the 78th and 85th percentiles.
I hope this is useful and am happy to continue discussing your results, but that is an overview."
<Thank you for sharing. BobF>

 Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/23/20
Hey Bob, no issues sharing any of the pictures I sent. If you need me to resend I certainly can. Just let me know. So the DNA sample included a direct water sample filtered through some contraption that was sent in.
Additionally q-tip swabs of inside the return lines were taken. I am assuming the swabs were the main source of the sample.
<Ahh, thank you Eric. I did send along your corr. to friend and fish pathologist (w/ a bkgd in Mycobacteria esp. In fact there's a pc. by him on the subject posted on WWM), Myron Roth. Do please re-send images of the site/would for his perusal. BobF>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/23/20

Not sure why I sent you a photo of my leopard wrasse. Here was the day zero photo after the biopsy.
<Mmm; sent on to Myron. B>

Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/23/20
Here are a few photos that he can use. There are a few to show how I responded during treatment and the residual scar. If possible do you think you can see if Myron can comment on how effective taking actual swabs of the inside of the return lines and drains would be? I think that is what they use for the majority of the samples and what was sent in. This is in addition to the water sample filters he was referencing. How they extract the dna from that is a bit out of my league. He did mention and was pretty confident that if M. Marinum was in the tank it would show up on the test.
That is assuming I took the samples correctly but different Mycobacterium species were found so I must have did something right.
<Am asking him here>
Now for the million dollar question. Do you think it's safe to add a new fish too the tank?
<I do think it is safe (enough). Put another way, I would do so>
The current stock is healthy and acting normal. I've only had 1 fish die in the tank in the last year and that was in June and likely related to a spinal injury from crashing into the top of tank. Was looking at putting in a Foxface to help with algae control.
I also attached a photo of the display so you can see the tank.
Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/23/20
I know Myron also posed another question regarding overall sensitivity.
Here was the response I got.
Eli, quick question for you. It would be interesting to know how much of a non pathogenic/pathogenic reference would it take to get a positive result.
In other words, what’s the limit of detection of the system for a single species of bacteria?
"Eric, Important but also a challenging question. Its not easy to put an exact number on the answer, because its affected by a few unknowns. I estimate one per several thousand cells.
To increase sensitivity further we could make small improvements by spending a *lot* more money on sequencing, or larger improvements by filtering a larger volume of water.
It would be interesting to answer your question experimentally by adding a known concentration of cells that are not already present in the aquarium, then immediately sampling to measure their relative abundance. Of course it will be affected by the existing concentration of cells in the aquarium, I will have to think some more about how to measure the limit effectively this way."
Re: Mycobacterial Infection     1/23/20

Some more. Sorry for the background colors. Not sure how to get rid of it.
Legal disclaimers first, I cannot offer medical advice and would have to say the same if the bug was detected.
But speaking generally about detecting either organisms or genes with DNA sequencing, its generally hard to be certain about a negative, right? Not saying that either to dodge the question or to be snarky. Its genuinely something we often would like to know (is this thing truly absent) but its never easy to be sure.
<I don't know; really... I'd guess/surmise that "w/in the sensitivity" of the test (gear), a negative has some validity (confidence limits in the quantitative sciences)>
One thing in our favor, *M. marinum* is free living and infections occur from exposure to the water itself. So our sampling method should be able to capture it. The sample of 60 ml is expected to contain over 6 million cells based on the typical range of microbial densities in aquarium water. So we're sampling this population pretty deeply, millions of cells. Overall our sampling should be a reasonably effective way of capturing the cells if they are in the aquarium.
So the DNA I extracted and prepared for sequencing should reflect contributions from millions of microbes. Our sequencing of 10,000 reads didn't turn it up, but perhaps its there at very low levels (1 in 1
million?) I cannot rule that out. Sequencing that deeply would be prohibitively costly. And even then we'd wonder what if its here at 1 per 10 million? etc.
<The folks familiar w/ the process and equipment should be able to tell you this. I cannot>
It looks like there are PCR based methods for specific detection of M. marinum. These will be more sensitive than the general 16S primers I used to amplify (in principle) all Bacteria & Archaea. I have your DNA samples in hand, so this will be an interesting test case. If its absent from the standard 16S tests, is it also absent from the more sensitive species specific test? It won't be instant, but I can order those primers with my next batch and keep you posted. I'll check this at the level of PCR, so we won't have to wait for sequencing results to come back.

Worm crawled in my skin    7/22/19
Good afternoon
I hope you can help me. I recently went snorkeling with the manatees in crystal river Florida (brackish water) I was wearing a wetsuit and walking along the floor of the river near a small spring they call Jurassic spring. As I was getting ready to get back on the tour boat I noticed a tiny brownish colored worm crawling into the palm of my hand.
<... unusual>
Which I pulled out right away. Got up on deck and saw one on the top of my foot. It was probably a water inch long or smaller and lead pencil size in diameter. I asked the captain and tour guide if they knew what they are and they said no. I'm afraid this is a parasite and don’t know how to identify it without a sample or picture and after the episode I developed what feels like symptoms of pinworms about 4 days later. Now my cat recently went to the vet with tapeworm and roundworms as well. I was prescribed a medicine for fluke worm and pinworms but not sure that’s exactly what i have. I’ve yet to get a stool sample to submit for ova parasites. And I’ve seen no pinworms in my poop.
Thanks for any help here. I’m stumped!
<I encourage you to contact the folks at DAN (Dive Alert Network) w/ your concern. I don't think this is a "pinworm"; such are spread via oral ingestion of eggs. Bob Fenner> 

Mycobacterial Infection         5/7/19
<Hey Eric>
I scraped my hand cleaning the back of the aquarium. 2 weeks later developed a large gnarly looking nodule with oozing and crusting right where the scrape was. Did a week of antibiotics and steroid creams and nothing. Finally went to the dermatologist as it is now a month later with no change.
<... what did the dermatologist say, speculate? Did they sample, culture?>
Preliminary diagnosis is Fish Tank Granuloma pending biopsy results and culture but really nothing else it could be. My question is shouldn't my fish be sick from this as well. This is basically fish TB right?
<Mmm; possibly. IF you don't think you're getting satisfaction, I'd look for another Dr. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/7/19

Thanks for getting back to me. He thinks it's Mycobacterium Marinum.
Should I be treating all my fish with some type of antibiotic as well.
<Mmm; no... this gram neg., rod... bacterium is pretty much omnipresent in marine aquariums, the oceans...>
If the derm is right I must say I am pretty unlucky here.
<No as well; not uncommon. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/7/19

Thanks Bob. In the future is it safe to put my hands in this tank? I am talking about gluing frags to rocks etc. Skin contact with water is okay right? The problem is with open wounds, etc correct?
<... Am a huge fan of keeping hands out of systems; ONLY putting in w/ full-length gloves. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/7/19

Last question. I have read articles about having to break down tanks and disinfect everything. Also that splashing water and dried old water can still harbor the bacteria.
<Yes; that is my understanding as well>
I am a little worried about my kids here. Can this be inhaled and cause lung disease through siphoning?
<Mmm; that I do doubt. However, I am a big fan of "bleaching systems in place" to sterilize.
Do read here re the elements:
Bob Fenner>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/8/19

So essentially I would have to euthanize the fish and corals, etc?
<? No; remove them, all other life you want to keep first. B>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/8/19

Is it necessary that I euthanize the fish and coral and bleach the tank?
This us utterly shocking to me as I have had most of my coral for over a decade and most of my fish for over 5 years.
<... No... you mentioned disinfecting the system itself. Eric; perhaps a bit more delving, reading...
Microbes are all about, on, in us... most of them, and the vast majority of time, not pathogenic>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/8/19

Thanks Bob. Must have taken your response out of context. So really I do not have to disinfect the tank unless I want to?
What I struggle with is what is the point of disinfecting it if really omnipresent and essentially will be added again at some point. Would uv sterilization and ozone be of benefit here?
<Yes; higher DO, ORP do reduce TBC....>
Seems like safe reef keeping with hands out of the tank and gloves is all that is needed. Do you agree?
<Indeed I do. B>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/8/19

Is running ozone and oversized uv overkill? Is one more effective than the other?
<... too much O3 can be dangerous. Again; my advice; reading... On WWM, elsewhere. B>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection       5/8/19

Thanks Bob. Is there also anyway to figure out where I got this from. By that I mean I also have a QT tank with fish in it. I guess it's just as likely that I scratched my hand in my main display and the cut got infected in the QT tank. If the fish in the QT tank are asymptomatic do you think it's reasonable to move them into the display tank.
<? How would I know Eric....? Folks, aquarists do get such growths, infections... freshwater, marine, fisher-folks as well.
Re: Mycobacterial Infection        5/14/19

Just wanted to let you know. Diagnosed was confirmed via biopsy results.
Definitely a Mycobacterial infection.
<Again; not uncommon, and not often trouble. Bob Fenner>
Re: Mycobacterial Infection        5/14/19

Right now I am running a Pentair 120watt uv sterilizer inline. Would adding an ozone unit be of any benefit?
<What's your ORP run? IF the UV et al. set up, maintenance... are yielding a rather high/steady RedOx state (300-400 usiemens/cu...) I wouldn't>
I haven't been able to find much as to which is better or more effective against bacteria. I know uv's are
certainly safer.
<Mmm; I think I've recently stated this... the better part of UV use is their O3 generation. Bob Fenner>

Re: Mycobacterial Infection     6/22/19
Wanted you to have these pictures as I think they are great for educational purposes. Been on antibiotics for 30 days and the M. marinum has cleared up pretty good.
<Yes; the emargination... looks good>
2 more months to go. Just an fyi all my sea life creatures are still doing okay as long as they dont jump out of the tank.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Reef Tank Causing Respiratory Distress; Zoanthids...        1/28/16
<Hola, Earl here.>
A little back-story: My 130 gal reef was broken down into a temporary setup for 3 months due to a silicone defect while the new aquarium was built. Without proper filtration dinoflagellates took root, smothered and killed most of the corals, but the fish/inverts seem OK and 4 days ago I transferred the inhabitants and rock to the new 240 gal system.
<OK Sarah I am sure Bob and some others will have more to say on this but I wanted to give you an immediate heads-up because this is potentially as serious as a heart attack, literally. Look up palytoxins. It is very likely you have "Palys", button polyps, Zoanthids (zoos), such similar in your tank, no? Stress or physical damage or attempts to remove them/kill them
can cause them to release a very dangerous neurotoxin specific to these animals. This needs to be taken extremely seriously...I have heard incredulity from people on the seriousness of this but please know it is definitely something that needs to be dealt with asap, with a cool head.
The symptoms you describe are classic.
http://www.asanltr.com/newsletter/02-2/articles/Neurotoxins.htm  has some good and detailed info. Also check the faq's on WWM regarding this. I have some friends in my reef club who had a very similar occurrence which included hospitalization for 2 of the family. It particularly attacks the respiratory system. The CDC says:
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6431a4.htm.  The first well-reported hobby-related instance commonly known http://www.advancedaquarist.com/blog/personal-experiences-with-palytoxin-poisoning-almost-killed-myself-wife-and-dogs  >
The last few days my husband comes home from work and develops an immediate runny nose and if either of us work on the tank our sinuses burn, develop slight chest discomfort, irritability, clouded thinking, watery eyes and sore throat. We noticed a correlation between our symptoms and working in or near the system and have ruled out possible irritants in the house. The aquarium is plumbed into the basement and we notice the worst effects while in the sump room - last night we set up the skimmer and carbon in a reactor and were quite uncomfortable after.
If it were hydrogen sulfide, I'd expect to have disturbed a sand bed, which I have not.
If it were palytoxin, I'd expect to be severe.
<Please see above. See a doctor quickly for some alleviation and have some of this printed out as it's unlikely to be known to most physicians.
Remember Rule 1: Don't Panic but do decontaminate (nuke with bleach) possibly contaminated gear, etc.. And please follow up your email here with updates as a follow-up as to how things go.>
There's about 10 heads of Zoas in the reef total, although, they are not open.
If it were toxins from the Dinoflagellates, I would expect my CUC to die off - in fact, it's the opposite, the urchin has recently started eating it.
Please chime in, the unknown is making us uneasy.
Re: Reef Tank Causing Respiratory Distress       1/28/16

Thanks for the prompt response, I'm familiar with palytoxin and it's why I've never been a Zoa gardener, but there are about 10 heads of stressed Zoas in the tank, stressed from the dino outbreak I presume.
I think I'm going to cut the large stylo colony off and whip that Zoa rock in the snow.
<Will share this w/ Earl, but want to respond as well. Yes to (carefully) removing the rock/Zoanthids to elsewhere. I would also run a good deal (pounds) of GAC (carbon) and maybe PolyFilter in the system); do a few consecutive daily water changes (to dilute)>
The tank transfer was 4 days ago and for the past 2 we've noticed the symptoms. Didn't boil rock, or leave it out of the water for more than a minute or so. I also wonder if disturbing the dinoflagellates released some kind of toxin. While our symptoms are present, they aren't severe.
<See, read on WWM re others archived accounts. Trouble. Bob Fenner>
Re: Reef Tank Causing Respiratory Distress. Zoanthids       2/23/16

Thanks for the prompt response, I'm familiar with palytoxin and it's why I've never been a Zoa gardener, but there are about 10 heads of stressed Zoas in the tank, stressed from the dino outbreak I presume.
I think I'm going to cut the large stylo colony off and whip that Zoa rock in the snow.
The tank transfer was 4 days ago and for the past 2 we've noticed the symptoms. Didn't boil rock, or leave it out of the water for more than a minute or so. I also wonder if disturbing the dinoflagellates released some kind of toxin.
<Not likely discernible by humans>
While our symptoms are present, they aren't severe.
<I'd be reading (on WWM, elsewhere) re Zoanthid toxic effects, removing these animals (the whole rock they're on); running GAC and more... NOW.... READ here:
and the linked files in the series (above). Bob Fenner>
Re: Reef Tank Causing Respiratory Distress; Zoas     2/24/16

Thank you for the add'l info, I truly appreciate our correspondence.
<VERY glad to help>
After running 2 lbs of carbon, PolyFilters & w/c's we no longer experience symptoms
<Thank goodness>

near the reef tank and then what seemed like a secondary cold set in for both of us - 3 weeks of moderate to severe
sore throat, chest congestion and runny nose. All has returned to normal and I'll share this info with the locals.
Thanks again,
<Thank you for your report. Bob Fenner>

Very Worried...Small Granuloma(looking)On Left Finger     8/10/14
Greetings Crew, I'm a little concerned about 3 days ago a small red patch showed on my left pointer finger, below second knuckle. Initially it filled with very little pus(sorry for details here) and ruptured in 24hrs. It now looks like a red scaly patch about a 1/4in. No pain, although it is draining ever so slightly.
Coincidently, I had been researching wound management on WetWebMedia a few weeks ago and came across articles on Mycobacteria. Seeing the similarities, I immediately made appointment with my doctor. I made appointment for possible mycobac. infection. My doctor looked at my sore and said it is so small, barely looks infected and with very little drainage to culture,
don't worry unless it gets worse. I informed her I'm a at risk group. I'm a part time fish breeder(47 aquariums and 6 aqua. res.(8000g), part time open ocean kayak guide, very part time scuba instruct.etc., with lots of freshwater and saltwater contact. I occasionally receive fish from large fish farms in Asia and local pet stores(even more questionable in my area IMO). After a lot of convincing she decided to put me on antibiotics. At this point she hasn't researched Mycobac. mar. I happened to noticed on her sheet, she has spelt Mycobacteria, microbacteria. I ask if she can research Mycobac. mar please, so I can get on the right antibiotics. She responds. I'm not going to research something I haven't cultured.
<?... RMF>
I respond by saying, I heard this doesn't culture well and may take 4 weeks. She admits she has never heard of Mycobac. mar. and does research,( right in front of me). So I end up leaving with a combination antibiotics specifically geared toward Myco. mar. To be honest, now that I'm home, I'm having second thoughts on taking meds.
This thing is so small, I feel good, no swelling, no swollen lymps., I hate to take a combination of antibiotics, if I don't have to. I have a follow up appt. with my doctor in 3 days. She did attempt to culture sore. If it weren't for my insistence, I wouldn't have left with antibiotics. I'm not looking for medical advise in anyway, but perhaps if anyone has had similar experience, please chime in. Everything I've found online shows much more advanced cases, but they look similar. Thanks for any help if possible.
Aloha Brandon
<Hello Brandon. This is absolutely (probably legally) something we cannot advise on, and doing so would surely be a bad thing to do. Mycobacterium infections (also known as Mycobacteriosis) from fish rarely cause long term problems for humans, but occasionally they do cause health issues beyond the skin rash, very rarely serious/fatal ones if the person is immunocompromised. Talk with your doctor, and if necessary, they'll recommend treatment or further tests. You are right to consider the possibility of Mycobacteria infections coming from aquaria, but at the same time, such infections are very rare, and without microscopic analysis of the infected tissue, you cannot diagnose them anyway. All sorts of bacteria can get into scratches on the skin, and once there, spark an opportunistic infection of some kind. As aquarists we often fixate on the notorious disease we call "Fish TB" because of its scary name, but in practise there are all sorts of possible bacterial infections you can get from fish tanks (as well as herptile vivaria) including such favourites as Salmonella infections (which cause stomach upsets). And while Mycobacterium fortuitum and Mycobacterium marinum, among others, have been reported from aquaria, there aren't any quick treatments, a notorious problem with Mycobacterium spp generally. Antibiotics such as Minocycline and Rifampin are used across multiple months. Your general practitioner should be able to give you much
more depth on this, and if he/she can't, then discussions with an expert on zoonotic infections would be helpful. Cheers, Neale ("the wrong sort of Dr to be helpful here!").>

Important Question: Concern with autoinfection from hands in tanks        6/23/14
emailing you today because I have some concerns. I have no experience with saltwater or freshwater aquariums but have recently secured a position at a leading retail store selling many tropical fish, live rock,
corals, venomous fish and so on. I was unaware of some of the dangers upon taking the position.
This is where the situation is unique. I know that I have no reason to panic, but instead to use caution and arm myself with knowledge so I can take steps to prevent accidents while cleaning the tanks etc but I have a nail-biting disorder. It's called Onychophagia. Most people find this revolting and something that you should just stop doing. But I simply can't. It is an obsessive compulsive behaviour that I have very, very little control over.
<Well; then I would definitely get/use gloves if you're going to have your hands in the water. More important and likely than trouble from livestock itself; all biological waters, including aquariums, have large mixes of microbial life... some of which you don't want to ingest. Akin to Coliform bacteria, Enterobius worms... from autoinfection, you want to thoroughly wash your hands after having them in the tanks>
I'm aware while at work to be washing and rinsing thoroughly and often but what I'm really worried about is the open wounds around my fingernails.
<You should be. I take it you're seen here on WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm
the linked files above>

If I am to clean 4-8 30gallon tanks per day, amongst other tasks (handling and cleaning protein filters etc) am I especially at risk for contracting diseases?
<To some extent, yes... again, the elbow length gloves are the route I would go>
My worry is that when dealing with things that are microscopic, I can't be sure that I have cleaned my hands thoroughly enough and I can't stop myself from biting once I'm done work.
Should I be anxious about this?
I feel anxious. I would rather be safe and broke than have money and be sick. Thank you so much!! I look forward to hearing your answer.
<I had "the habit" of biting my nails and cuticles when I was younger... and sis still does. I would seek out the help of a dermatologist and their aid in turn in "conditioning" help to rid you of this compulsion.

Vibrio vulnificus and palytoxin. Warning, and question re possible acuity interaction    5/5/13
Hi all. in last 4 months i had several problems with palytoxin ( 2 times ended up to ER), all times by contact with intact skin (hands, forearms)First time i removed the most recent Palythoa colony  from the tank, then sent it to a lab , resulting in strong presence of palytoxin and Vibrio vulnificus.
<Aye ya!>
After 2 months, as soon as i clean my tank i felt very bad and went to ER again  with severe symptoms including chills, muscle and joint pains, very low pressure and high level of CPK (rhabdomyolysis), all symptoms that confirm palytoxin poisoning.
So i removed the old Palythoa colony (in 10 years they never gave me a problem , even while fragmenting, brushing, dipping in h2o2 for zoapox), sent it to the lab and resulting venomous as well and infected by Vibrio vulnificus. My questions are:- maybe this Vibrio turned my normal Palys in a killer ones?
<Mmm, don't know>
- after removing all Palys, is there a risk that other kind of corals become venomous?
<Also; but I strongly doubt it/this>
- how can i remove Vibrio vulnificus from the tank? (high salinity? h202?
competing bacteria? Lourdes water?)Thanks and sorry for my bad English, I'm Italian. Manuel Ricci
<... I'd keep my bare hands out (wear arm length gloves, use tools) and use ozone to raise, sustain ORP; keep gravel vacuuming, changing good volumes of water weekly (25% or so). Bob Fenner>

Septicemia on my yellow tangs     7/24/12
Sorry for bothering you, since I know you are so busy maintaining such an excellent database of marine aquarium knowledge, but I seem to be having quite a problem with my saltwater tank. A while back I asked a question regarding my ocellaris clownfish and my Koran angelfish. Unfortunately, while I had them in quarantine, we lost power for a few days. The only survivors were the ocellaris clownfish pair. Since then, my tank has been doing quite well, and I've added some fish (after a lengthy 6 week quarantine, in which everything received 2 doses of Prazi-pro at full strength as well as Cupramine at half strength). The problem is that just recently (after being in the display over 2 months) both
<Two; my emphasis here>
of my yellow tangs began to show red blotches on their bodies (one much worse than the other). At first it was only in the dorsal fins, but now it has spread to the caudal peduncle of the slightly smaller specimen (who is boss over all the tangs in the tank). My tank is a 187 gallon (60"x24"x30") which I hope to be converting into a reef. Here are my levels:
pH: 8.3
Salinity: 1.025
Ammonia: undetectable
Nitrite: Undetectable
Nitrate: between 0 and 5 (working on lowering this)
Phosphate: 0.005 (working on lowering this as well)
<Not to worry; this is low enough>
I run a G200 protein skimmer (which I skim more on the wet side), as well as having a 55 gallon refugium, and performing weekly 20% water changes.
Current fish include:
2 Yellow Tangs (which have gotten along great since I got them, even sleeping in the same cave at night)
<As far as you've seen>

1 Sailfin Tang (who schools with the yellows during the day)
1 Bariene Tang (who is the smallest tang currently, but growing fast)
1 High Hat Drum (love this fish; he's hardy, is growing fast, eats everything, and cleans the sandbed)
1 Papuan Toby (who hasn't nipped any fins yet, got him for free from a friend)
1 Melanurus Wrasse (A fully grown male, quite spectacular)
1 Bluehead Wrasse (awesome fish, but destroyed the hermit crabs)
1 Arc Eye Hawkfish (same as above)
1 Sleeper Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena) (he keeps my sand perfect and made a burrow right up front in the tank)
2 Ocellaris clowns (a breeding pair)
1 Blue devil damsel (who is the smallest fish in the tank)
2 Yellow tailed blue damsels (who paired off pretty early on)
The fish are fed 2 times a day (Mysid shrimp, and marine cuisine in the morning; Nori and Prime reef at night). All fish (including the two yellow tangs) act normal and eat greedily (all of them have the fish equivalent of a beer gut). I just can't figure out why the red won't go away on the yellow tangs.
<"Something/s stressful"... not likely water quality given the readings you present, the gear you have, the other livestock kept... more likely "something" in the cave they share (e.g. Bristleworm) or themselves interacting... I'd separate the two, only keep one in this system>
Occasionally it seems to be getting better, only to look worse the next time I look at them. I am currently performing a 20% water change, and I will be grabbing some Maracyn 2 in the morning (in case the tangs get worse and I need to move them to quarantine to treat them). Do you have any other suggestions for me? Are there any medicines that would work better than Maracyn 2?
<No medicine/s called for, advised>

Thanks in advance and keep up the good work,
<For review, please peruse the Z. flavescens hlth/dis. FAQs:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Septicemia on my yellow tangs     7/24/12

Dear Bob,
Thank you for answering my question, but I'm still stumped. The 2 yellow tangs show no aggression at all between them, and had lived together in a 75 gallon for about 3 years before I bought them. I actually teach piano and the tank is next to the piano, so I am able to watch them for most of the day and never see aggression.
<Might not be aggression per se, but just stressful to be in company... in the wild this species lives individually or in dozens to a hundred or so individuals in a moving shoal>
 If I do notice aggression I can move all the cichlids out of their 180 gallon tank and turn it into a tang/trigger/puffer/grouper FOWLR. As for the 2 yellow tangs being bothered by a Bristleworm, I do not think that is the case. Right before I added the two yellow tangs to the display I came downstairs at 1:00 in the morning to discover my seagrass filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) being devoured by a 2 foot worm.
I ended up dismantling the entire display and found the worm hiding in my sandbed. Upon searching Google I found out exactly what it was: a bobbit worm. I was paranoid about having any others like it in my system and I treated the display with Cupramine. Could the septicemia be the result of copper leaching from my live rock?
<Yes; could be a factor>
 I know tangs do not like long term exposure to copper. If there is residual copper should I just continue to run the skimmer, bump water changes to twice weekly, and add a Polyfilter pad (the ones designed to absorb copper and other chemicals)?
I could also run some activated carbon. I ended up buying some Triple Sulfa at the LFS this morning, because they recommended it over the Maracyn 2.
<Please don't apply this... Of no use, and may foul up the bio-make up microbially and hence to all>
 If the tangs get worse (they look somewhat better after last night's water change), should I put them in quarantine (divided from each other since the quarantine is a 30 gallon) and treat them?
<No to treatment>
By the way, I spent about 4 hours going through every FAQ page on WWM about yellow tangs. It was quite the interesting read.
<Ah yes... one of the top dozen or so marine species in terms of popularity>
On a somewhat unrelated note, hopefully in about a month I will be moving this tank to a different part of the house and building it into the wall.
In the process I will be upgrading to a 125 gallon refugium behind the wall with much better access than the 55 gallon refugium under the tank.
<I'd bet you're looking forward to this change and that it will improve all's experience.>
Thanks again,
<Welcome, and thank you for this follow-up. Bob Fenner>

Re: Septicemia on my yellow tangs    7/28/12
Dear Bob,
I'm sorry to bug you, but things are getting worse for my tank.
<I see this in your tank... and more... in your pix. A very likely source of the trouble; the "something toxic" in your system>
 I just added 2 more powerheads to the tank for increased circulation (which made all the fish much more active), as well as taking the lights off all of my freshwater tanks and putting them over this tank (which also made the fish more active and much brighter colored). All my water readings are exactly the same as they were in the first email, but the two yellow tangs still have septicemia (although they are slightly better than before). I added Cuprisorb to the tank, and it has had absolutely no color change, so I guess I have no copper left in the system. I also added 25 Astraea snails and they seem to be thriving (as long as they stay tight to the wall during the day, the puffer and the wrasses like harassing them).
However last night my high hat drum died for no apparent reason, although he seemed rather listless last night (just kind of floating around instead of his normal behavior of swimming back and forth begging for food when I'm by the tank). That was a real disappointment to me as he was one of my favorite fish, and he was thriving and eating like a champ mere hours beforehand. My Bariene tang also seems to be having a problem.
When I first purchased him, I had him in quarantine and he came down with Ich within 48 hours. I proceeded to treat him with Cupramine for the remainder of his time in quarantine (6 weeks), and he quickly recovered (no symptoms after the first week of treatment). However, he did glance at the decorations in quarantine and he gave himself a small circular wound (which I thought was just a bruise). Today, it seems that it wasn't just a bruise.
It is a perfect circle on his body, about a half inch across. It is lighter in color than the rest of his body, and has something white hanging out of it. All of the other fish seem fine, but I really am sick of having my fish die on me, and I've gone through over 90 dollars of salt in the past 2 weeks...
I've taken the liberty of attaching some pictures.
Thanks again,
Ashton Nietzke
<The mauve red on your rock... looks to be BGA, Cyanobacteria... is poisoning your fishes. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm
and the linked files above... You need to react, soon... and I might even go ahead and use the antibiotic route of chemical control here (it's that much of an emergency)... in the long/er haul, doing what you can/will to promote other algal types...
Bob Fenner>


Re: Septicemia on my yellow tangs    7/28/12
Dear Bob,
I guess I will go ahead and treat the tank with Chemiclean then
<Or any source of Erythromycin... WITH your close observations... ready to change water and more... should the system disimprove quickly from the BGA crashing>
 (I just happen to have an almost brand new bottle a friend gave me when he gave up on saltwater). Is there anything else I can do?
<... move out the LR, or move the fishes elsewhere>
When I treated the display with Cupramine, all of my Chaetomorpha in the refugium died. I tried to go buy some mixed macro (Chaeto, Gracilaria and Caulerpa) yesterday, but both of the nearby stores were out of all types of macroalgae. I used to grow C. prolifera in the display but it was at the point where my tank looked like a seagrass bed (which the filefish loved).
<MUCH better than the BGA>
I took it out because I read about all the instances of Caulerpa going "sexual" and poisoning tanks online. The Astraea snails seem to like eating it though, should I try adding some more snails?
<I wouldn't, no... you have too many already as far as I'm concerned. See WWM re scavengers as such>
As for the Bariene tang, do you think it is just an injury healing itself (he seems to be scraping it on the bottom and the rocks), or is it a parasite or disease of some sort.
Thanks again,
Ashton Nietzke
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Septicemia on my yellow tangs   7/30/12

Dear Bob,
I thought I'd give you an update, no matter how unpleasant it may be. The erythromycin ended up making the algae grow much faster than before rather than killing it.
It now covers the bottom of the tank and all the sides. I think it is actually a Dinoflagellate and not Cyanobacteria.
<Do you have a microscope? Take a look at a sample... easily distinguished>
I ended up getting a ball of Caulerpa racemosa and Caulerpa taxifola, and that is currently in my refugium.
 When I went to the LFS to get the Caulerpa, I told them what was wrong with the tank and they ended up selling me 2 sea urchins, a Halloween urchin and a red spined blue tuxedo urchin (both of whom love Nori). They, along with the 25 snails I already had, seem to be eating the Dinoflagellates, but after reading about Dinoflagellates poisoning the animals that eat them, I feel as if I should remove all the animals and put them in a different system, and turning off all of the lights on the display for a few weeks. I am pretty sure that I will divide the animals between my 30 gallon quarantine (I feel as if the Zebrasoma will pick on the smaller bariene in the 75 gallon) and my 75 gallon tank that currently has fancy goldfish in it (I will move the goldfish to a kiddy-pool, change out all the freshwater for saltwater, and add some bio-Spira for saltwater).
All of the invertebrates will go into the 75 gallon, since the larger water volume should hopefully be more stable, and that tank hasn't been treated with copper.
By the way, the bariene tang (which grazes this algae stuff more than the others) looks the worst, and continues to get worse. The yellow tangs, both of which eat it occasionally have septicemia still (and one is worse than the other). The sailfin tang (which doesn't touch it at all), seems to be having no problem, much like all of the other fish (which do not eat it either). I plan on running over to the store in the morning and buying a 200 gallon box of instant ocean salt.
 Is there anything else I can do?
<I'd add a great deal more small substrate to the refugium and/or main/display tank, AND look into what your RedOx is... raise it w/ ozone addition. This is, as the saying goes, WAR>
Thanks again for putting up with all my emails,
Ashton Nietzke
<Welcome. BobF>

Re: Septicemia on my yellow tangs     8/2/12
Dear Bob,
I thought I'd give you a follow up on the algae problem. Two nights ago I removed all of the animals in the tank and moved them into quarantine.
Unfortunately, the bariene tang died that night. As for the other fish, all of them seem 100% better, including the two yellow tangs which have no more red on them at all.
<Ahh, good>

The tank is currently sitting in the dark with the lights off and is covered with a black tarp. I also raised the pH to 8.5 and began running a pound of activated carbon in the sump based on recommendations from the LFS and others online who have dealt with Dinoflagellate problems. I will say that after moving the fish, snails, and urchins (and having my arms in the water for quite some time afterwards scrubbing the walls and rocks) that I got quite the headache and felt quite sick to my stomach.
<Mmm, me no like>

Luckily, the queasy feeling and the headache have just about gone away now.
Needless to say, I will be investing in a pair of arm length rubber gloves after this incident.
Thanks for putting up with my emails,
Ashton Nietzke
<Thanks for this update. B>

flat worms, human contact/hlth.   10/10/11
I have a question about flat worms. My tank has a minor infestation of these critters (probably Waminoa sp.). I was thinking about siphoning them off based on what I've read online, but I'm not crazy about the idea of potentially touching these things with my hands or skin (or anything else in my tank for that matter).
<Not to worry... If squeamish wear gloves>
My question is are these creatures harmful to humans?
<As far as I'm aware, no>
This is not a medical question, but just wanted to know if I should be aware of any risks they may pose to people so that I can take precautions.
If you have any information that might help that would be much appreciated!
<Though unpalatable to many/most potential marine predators, Flatworms are not toxic to human touch>
Thanks so much!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

personal illness. Possible/probable contact issue w/ Zoas    3/21/11
Hi Bob. My name is John. I came down with an illness around December 2009. This is the same time I bought an established reef tank. The setup was mostly softies. Some Zoanthids, Devils hand, Kenya Tree and so forth. I added some fish and a Squamosa Clam but that as about it. Around that time, I started experiencing serious exhaustion. I lost interest in everything to the point where it was hard to brush my teeth. ( I still did).
<Appreciate your timing, sense of humour>
It just took every ounce of energy to do the most mundane task. I lost 30 pounds ( I am also a serious weight lifter which I stopped because I would fall asleep in the parking lot of the YMCA), Couldn't get out of bed when I needed to and was really suffering. I still loved the hobby and never gave up on learning and maintenance.
Obviously, I had to seek help. I had every test ran that could be ran and found nothing. Doctors said I was depressed (not). They said all tests are normal and it has to be Depression. I was happy when the whole thing started. For gods sake, I just discovered the hobby of my dreams. I was so excited about reef keeping. I stayed up late to do maintenance, study and just admire. I got a burst of energy at night, so I could at least take care of my system.
After around 9 months of this I went to a holistic doctor (Bodylogic MD). After testing me they diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. He prescribed me with several different supplements to boost endo functions, vitamin D deficiency and a few others, and I started feeling better. I am about 8 months into treatment and I am feeling much better. I got my weight back and
I can get out of bed easier. I still have bad days but nothing like before.
My system has moved along quite a bit. I've added SPS, LPS, better lighting (clam needed it) Upgraded tank size and filtration. I love corals to the point where I bought Anthony Calfo's book on coral propagation What a great job AC) and I am seriously considering (beyond the shadow of a doubt) building a green house to propagate corals. I have become obsessed with the hobby to the point where I don't have a choice but to proceed forward in my efforts.
Have you ever heard of anything like this?
<Yes; unfortunately. Some folks are much more malaffected than others, but the Zoanthidea in particular "can" have these effects>
I never really thought the tank had anything to do with it until the other day. I came home from work and when I checked on my tank I noticed a strong coral smell in my tank room. I had lost 2 small colonies of Pulsing Xenia. I scraped what was left off of the glass to dispose of them. I did a 20% water change. I also removed all of the Macro algae from my refugium( per AJ's advice on coral tanks). The next morning was rough. Not nearly as bad as the worst days but rough none the less.
<DO wear gloves that cover your hands, arms completely when you're in your tank/s>
One more bit of info and I'll let you go. I have always been an early riser. I get up at 5-5:30, go to the gym. I return home to feed my 12 year old (Playing for first place in nation in hockey in San Jose at the end of march)(so proud) and drive him to school. I then go to work for 10-12 hours.
This has been my routine for years without a problem. until about the last 4-5 months, I had to cut the gym out and use an alarm clock just to get up before 9-10.
Have you ever heard of anything like this? I would truly appreciate any Ideas..
<Do have a read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/woundcontactf.htm  re Zoanthids/human contact
and here: http://wetwebmedia.com/zoanthidcompfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. I would seek out specialised medical help.
Dermatologists, endocrinologists w/ backgrounds in tropical, aquatic-derived illnesses. Bob Fenner>
Re: personal illness   3/21/11
I do not where <wear> gloves. I am in the process of finding gloves like you described.
<They are available... to consumers and through mail-order houses for special purposes. If you're lucky the Playtex Extra Large may fit you>
Thank you for the info and knowledge. It's always appreciated. I will let you know what I find out. Hope you enjoy Aquarama.
<Thank you John. I do so hope your travails w/ this exposure issue will be solved soon. BobF>

Coral/flatworm Toxin Dangers to Humans?   2/15/11
Hello there!
<Hi Ashley>
I'm hoping that you can help me with a mystery. I have a 58 gallon tank, plus sump that I bought several weeks ago "established" with beautiful Tampa Bay Saltwater premium live rock teeming with hitchhikers. There are also a couple of urchins, pulsating xenia, a small green leather (looks like green Sinularia?), green star polyps, a tiny tube coral, lots of snails, brittles, worms, clams, orange frilly limpet, and many other little anemones and critters. I know that I only saw a snapshot of what is really lurking in there. I had already captured a large speckled Polyclad flatworm (like the top image on your page *FAQs about Giant Clam Disease, Pests & Predators**1)
*during setup and there were a couple of other small types of flatworms, but the population wasn't huge. I opted to treat with Flatworm Exit before adding fish, just to reduce any risks. I used a "normal" dose.
I put my hands in the tank to begin to siphon out some of the dying floating worms - only to abandon the idea because there wasn't much to siphon.
Unfortunately, I instantly began to feel a funny feeling on my hands where they were in the tank, and began to feel my heart rate increase at such a rapid rate that I was on the phone with 911 in less than a minute. My blood pressure had also increased significantly. Fortunately little intervention was required and I was sent home later that afternoon with an achy chest and nausea. I've since had some lingering effects requiring more care, but am working through those. No, no gloves were used unfortunately.
I do understand that it would be nearly impossible to figure out what it was that affected me so, but is it feasible that a toxin released after a dewormer treatment could affect an individual so severely?
<Affirmative. Please put the string: flatworm human toxicity in your search tool/s>
Is it that I'm incredibly sensitive?
<Likely there is a range>
By the way, everything else survived fine (even a few flatworms). The green finger leather looking coral was very slumped, but recovered great.
Unfortunately I've decided to sell this tank, but will replace it with a fresh new Nano tank where I can choose EVERYTHING that goes in rather than chancing it with very healthy live rock!
Thanks for your help!
<Welcome, and thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Salmonella Poisoning From Frogs 12/2/2010
My little boy (age 10) just spent 4 days in the hospital with Salmonella poisoning. I am worried he contracted this from his frogs (White's Dumpy and Cuban). We tried to be diligent about him washing his hands. Since he is 10, I think he may have slipped a few times with the handwashing or perhaps didn't wash well enough.
My question is can you get Salmonella again, or is he now immune? Also, is there anyway to treat the frogs for Salmonella so they don't continue to shed it in their feces?
He really likes the frogs, but I don't want to go through this again. If there is any chance he can get it again, we will be seeking new homes for our little buddies.
Thanks, Julie Southern Illinois
< Your son can continue to get salmonella over and over again if he doesn't wash his hands carefully after handing his frogs. I don't think there is anyway to treat the frogs. You may want to check with a vet. I understand your concern. People should wash their hands after handling all pets. There are parasites/diseases that be transmitted to humans from dogs and cats too. I am sorry your son and your family had to go through this but I am glad he has recovered.-Chuck>

*******PLEASE HELP !!!!!!!FIREBELLY TOAD EYE INFECTION********  11/19/10
I was reading your study you conducted regarding fire belly toads, and I have a Question for you I was hoping you could answer. My son had a fire belly toad as a pet he received it from a friend and soon after he got the toad he experienced a really bad eye infection. I read on other sights of the internet that the toad itself can experience a cloudy like infection over their eyes . This is the same reaction my son had...Is it possible that he caught whatever infection he has from the Toad?... The optomologist seems to think it is a herpes virus but I do not agree... the meds they gave him did not work as expected and his eye is starting to get the fogginess back and I think the doctors are dumbfounded and do not know how to treat this infection properly.... Can you please give me some insight on this ? I would really appreciate it if you can give me any idea if my sons symptoms is something that you came across in your research'¦
Sincerely Michelle Spatz
<It is extremely unlikely that a toad would pass on a viral infection. However, toads also secrete toxins through their skins to defend themselves from predators, and if carried from hand to eye, such toxins could very easily cause irritation, inflammation or weeping. Furthermore, the warm, humid conditions in an aquarium or vivarium can culture bacteria such as Salmonella, and if basic hygiene practises are not followed, e.g., washing hands after cleaning the tank, it is certainly possible for aquarists to catch bacterial infections. Children are notoriously bad at cleaning their hands after handling animals, and it is also crucial to understand that a dirty, overcrowded aquarium with overfed animals and under-filtered water is MUCH more likely to culture dangerous bacteria than a spacious, clean, properly filtered aquarium stocked at a low density. Generally zoonotic infections (as they're called) are very minor and clear up by themselves. Most people with a healthy diet and a normal immune system will not be at any risk at all, and won't show any signs of infection; in fact I think my immune system is quite strong precisely because I've swallowed gallons of aquarium water over the years! But individuals with a poor diet or weak immune system can contract serious infections this way, and such zoonoses are something to consider in such situations. Note that zoonoses are not restricted to fish or frogs, and any pet, farm or wild animal can pose a health risk to individuals with weakened or compromised immune systems. We are not medical doctors and cannot offer you any medical advice at all, morally or legally. Consult with your own medical doctors and health practitioners and act accordingly. One last thing, as/when you write back, please don't send 6 MB photos! They really gum up our e-mail system. Use iPhoto or whatever to resize the images down to, say, 640x480 pixels, or less than 500 KB. We do specifically ask for that at the place where you found our e-mail address, and sticking to our few minor rules is one of the things you can do to make it easier for us to help you. Cheers, Neale.>

The Dangers of Live Rock 10/25/10
Hello WWM Crew,
<Hello Robin>
One of the first things I did years ago upon setting up my reef tank was check out your awesome site. Human curiosity being what it is, I was particularly intrigued by the sections of the site that covered injuries, illness and other sorts of damage a reef tank and its critters can inflict.
Now I'm back to share.
A few days ago my Jawfish's burrow collapsed. He was unable to re-excavate it due to pebbles and shells getting wedged in to the point where he couldn't dislodge them. He also didn't seem interested in moving house and in general just looked unhappy and distressed. So last night I decided to lend a hand and clear out the rubble. As it turns out I ended up giving him my arm.
After having bristle worm bristles embedded in my fingers more times than I care to admit, I had put on wrist length latex gloves before undertaking this task. During the dig out process my forearm kept making contact with an apparently uninhabited portion of the live rock. After the job was complete and the Jawfish was happy again, I washed up, had a beer and called it a night.
<I like the beer part.>
I woke up in the middle of the night with my arm itching worse than if I'd been bitten by a squadron of mosquitoes. I turned on the light to find these big, red, itchy welts covering my arm. The photo doesn't do the owie justice.
I'd experienced this one other time though on a much smaller scale. At the time I thought that I may have accidentally brushed up against my bubble tip anemone. This time the anemone was no where near by, nor were there any corals etc. on the piece of rock in question. Any idea what could have caused this?
<Mmm, could be most anything and depends heavily on your body's sensitivity
to toxic compounds. There are folks who could die from a bee sting.>
Aside from being uncomfortable, it's nothing a little Benadryl and hydrocortisone can't handle, so I consider myself lucky. Still, I thought I'd share to spare others from learning this lesson the hard way, and let you know that those arm length aquarium gloves are now on my shopping list.
<Is always a good idea to wear gloves when cleaning and or handling invertebrates, especially Zoanthids whose palytoxins are known to get some folks quite ill.
Thank you for sharing, Robin. James (Salty Dog)>

RMF suggests a call to your doctor, dermatologist... the application of as high a percentage of corticosteroid cream (possibly shots) as they suggest.

Fish I encounter snorkeling   9/25/10
I live in the Philippines and go snorkeling often. The fish seem to ignore me and often schools will swim let me swim in the middle of them.
One species, the boxfish or cowfish really seems attracted to me and nibble my fingers.
<Interesting... is this after having a shrimp dinner? Heeeee!>
I've actually been able to catch them with my bare hands, but then let them go of course. My question is whether or not this might be dangerous (the nibbling part). I understand they can be toxic to other fish, but can a small boxfish do any damage to me.
<Not to worry; not dangerous>
I wish I could show you all of the different species I see because I can't identify them. My digital camera is crap in the water. Thanks for all of
Best regards,
Gerald Stone
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Upper Respiratory Issues When Cleaning Our Reef Aquarium 1/14/10
<Hello Wayne>
After thoroughly searching the Internet as well as discussing this with my local shop owner as well as one of his aquarium cleaning staff I now turn to you. My 50 gallon saltwater reef aquarium for the past 1.5 years (it was
set up 3 years, 4 months ago) has become seemingly toxic to my health when cleaning. I am forced to wear a full carbon filter face mask (as used for toxic chemicals) to reduce the likelihood of getting an upper respiratory infection when I clean. I spend approx. 3 hours every 2-3 weeks cleaning.
If I break it up to 1 hour increments over a couple of days there is no issue as long as I wear the mask, but if done all at once, even with the mask, I develop (as does my wife if she assists me) a dry throat followed within an hour by mild to more aggressive coughing. The next day the cough is productive and colored. I work in a medical clinic and have considered culturing the sputum, but have not yet. The symptoms (pretty lousy feeling besides the cough) last for 24 to 30 hours. -- Have you heard of this before? I also wear full arm protection so it is unlikely that there is a connection to physical contact of the corals. Surely someone else besides my wife and me have had issues of this nature when cleaning their reef aquarium, but I have been unable to find anything on the Internet.
Thanks for any advise you might be able to provide. If you need more specific information such as what animals I have, I would be pleased to provide that.
<Mmmm, do you run an ozone generator in this system without an ozone filtering method? Seems unlikely that both of you would be allergic to a substance in this system other than ozone. Mr. Fenner may also shed his input here as this is the only item that comes to mind for me in lieu of the protective measures you employ.
James (Salty Dog)><<I am wondering... if some small fraction of the "spray" from the water while these folks are in/near their tank has a titer of toxin/s from some of their Cnidarian livestock. Please search here: http://wetwebmedia.com/Googlesearch.htm
With the string: "human health cnidarians"
Read the cached views... Likely Zoanthids... BobF>>
Wayne Luallen

Re: Upper respiratory issues when cleaning our reef aquarium   1/15/10
Thanks to both Bob and James. I am considering an ozone generator and/or carbon filtration.
<Both worthwhile>
I went to the URL Bob listed below and searched under "human health cnidarians" as suggested. Many of the articles I had already gone thru. Regrettably none of several URL's I went thru provided any information regarding respiratory issues, but instead dealt with the health of the aquarium animals and human "contact" issues. All the same I do very much appreciate you referring me to look there.
If you have any additional suggestions I would appreciate hearing from you.
Thanks so much for your interest and advise.
<I would be looking about, seeing if you can't find a doctor, or researcher that has dealt with such maladies from "aquarium contact"... Or perhaps even removing some of the types of life from your system selectively, to see if you can discern the root of the problem. BobF>
Palytoxins   1/15/10
Came across this in regard to the gent having breathing problems cleaning his tank.
FWIW I thought I would send to you.
<Ah yes. Have sent to Wayne as well. BobF>

Killing Palys. Zoanthid control, human toxicity f's-- 12/04/09
Dear Crew,
I have a tank being over run by brown polyps. I believe people here call them Texas Trash Palys. At first it looked nice to have a large mat of these but this is getting ridiculous. They were growing on all the rock, sand and back wall. Now I have reason to believe they are making me ill.
<No bueno!>
8 weeks ago, I did a lot of work on my tank, mainly removing algae and removing Palys growing on the sandbed. So my hands were in the water. I was wearing gloves, but they only come up above my wrists. I don't remember having any cuts. That night, I had trouble sleeping due to chills. I got up and went into the bathroom and blacked out. Busted my head open and bruised my ribs in the process. Went to the hospital but had no fever. My lower BP# was initially really low. Recovered an moved on.
A few weeks ago, I discovered a leak in my sump. So I broke down my tank and put all the live rock, including Palys in totes. That night, I had chills again and felt dizzy when I stood up. This time I sat down and did not black out. I recovered later in the day. I got a new DT and setup the new tank and sump. Put the LR and Palys back in. The water smelled terrible. All my Ricordea were dead but the Palys were alive. The can with the fish had a few rocks with Palys. Two fish were dead and the others were near death. That night I got the chills again. My remaining fish were dead by morning.
<Bad, bad and worse>
I'm thinking all of this is from the Palys.
<Could be>
Even if their not the cause, I want to get rid of them anyway. They are reduced in number, but I'm sure they'll be back. My tank completed a cycle and I've started adding some hermits and a brittle star to clean up anything left decaying in there. I as hoping to begin restocking fish this weekend. How can I kill the Paly's and not have another cycle of the tank?
<Remove all rock with them, the Zoanthids on them... Bleach... for a day... Rinse, let the "old" rock air dry... for a few days... Place back in the system with some new atop to reseed with other forms of life>
Not to mention avoid taking the rock out of the tank and manually removing them?
<This is what is necessary... Either that or nuking/bleaching all in place.
Yes, I am serious. You are by far not the first or worst to be malaffected by these Sea Mats... Do take care. Bob Fenner>

Infections in the skin from coral (dangers of SW sys. keeping)  11/8/2009
<Hi there>
I know these may simply be too gross to post, but if they can prevent someone from undergoing what I've gone through, not once, but twice now, I'd sure like to contribute them.
<I thank you for this. You will have saved many others great trouble>
My name is Renee, and I am a coral enthusiast and like most of us, I heard some things about coral being poisonous, and how not to take much of it to heart, that it's just over-stated to make us afraid, and - well, let me just say that I am now much more cautious due to a couple things that happened to me while reef-keeping, with varying degrees of poisoning and illness.
#1: Longhorn Cowfish poisoning. It's not Tetratoxin, but it's called Ostracitoxin.
<Yes... is an Ostraciid species (a boxfish), not a "true" puffer (family Tetraodontidae)>
My fish was in a 10 gallon hospital tank. She had Ich, and passed on and when she did, I noticed a slight foamy look to the water, so I slid it to the sink to dump it, and as I did, the tank slipped, cut my finger on the plastic liner to the bone and the water went inside of this open wound while I poured it into the sink. I was completely unaware that they carry toxin, as my pet store had told me that they were 100% safe to keep in a reef.
<Mmm, not so>
He even said people over-react about the puffers being poison and laughed it off when I had originally inquired.
I called the poison control center, and they told me that it could make me ill, to be careful for 4 to 6 hours and if I showed any illness signs, to call them back.
About 8 hours later, (way after poison control's time period), I began heavily salivating to the point it was hard to swallow it. Mucous got thick in my throat and I felt really dizzy. I vomited, and it passed, and if it had not subsided, I'd have called 911. I forced water and fluids for 24 hours and was fine.
Additionally: Poison control told me that a curator for the Shedd Aquarium once poked himself with a dead blowfish spike (which was the only case he could find like mine) and had a minor reaction.
<Reactions vary... akin to proteinaceous stings of social insects>
I thought I'd note that when I told the local store owner I had purchased the fish from about the incident, he did not believe me.
<Reflex defensive mechanism>
#2: Foxface Rabbitfish : Ouch. I had him over a year. I took him out of a fish trap he had accidentally gotten into and as I did, his fins went between my thumb and forefinger, lightly brushing as he went into the tank. Mind you, he did not poke my skin. He brushed it. IT BURNS. It stung like an amplified bee-sting. My hand swelled...and I put it under water, cleaned it and it wasn't bothering me an hour later, although I hear they can truly poison you if they poke the skin...I am thankful that mine was just a brush of fins and that I was not poked by one.
#3: The infections: Coral can bring with it some of the worst bacteria known to man. Here is one small video and a few small photos of varying infections caught after handling coral at my home.
The nose images may seem hard to believe, and the video of it, 2 weeks later (still huge, but going down), as it heals is still hard to believe.
Note: The nose.jpg photo is after the initial abscess was removed, after the treatment was given and antibiotics administered, 6 days into the infection. I had become very ill, and at one point, I had begun getting weak and dizzy from the infection.
10dayslater.jpg is 10 days after initial onset of infection.
The video is about 2 weeks later...and you can see how it has permanently damaged my noise now. I have a dent, a little hole and a permanent tear in the nostril.
I had gone to my friend Josh's house, sat on his sofa, handled 3 containers of frags I got from him, itched my nose and by the time it took me to drive 100 miles home, it had already begun itching severely.
Within 24 hours, it was a whopping 2.5" across and was unable to see past my nose.
You cannot imagine the pain from this. Just think how it feels when you get a blemish on/in the nose, let alone one that goes completely through from the top to the inside.
The neck images (2, one prior to removal of abscess, one after): The neck became infected when I handled coral and then scratched a blemish lightly, after a hand wash. The physicians said I had not cleaned under my nails thoroughly enough, and the bacteria (which I have never had identified) had entered that way. Within 8 hours of touching my tank, it was already swollen and inflamed. Within 5 days, it abscessed into a huge abscess, which subsequently was excised. The remaining hole is what is in the second image, and I am permanently scarred from this as well.
My point in sending this to you is to help prevent readers from undergoing these same infections.
Cautions I now take:
1. Wear gloves.
2. Wash hands under hot soapy water when finished, being very sure to scrub under the nails.
3. Read anything you can on fish before you handle them and check to find out if they carry toxin. I had no clue my Foxfish was poisonous till I was brushed by his fins.
Just be careful. We love our reefs, and fish and tanks, but the truth is, they can be a dangerous place to play in and unless we use some caution, know what we are fishing around in and are aware of potential dangers, then we are blindly walking in an attack zone.
Use caution please.
<Again, many thanks for your sharing/caring. Bob Fenner>

Re: Infections in the skin from coral 11/8/2009
You are welcome, Bob. You are also more than welcome to use the images or film to help people and to give them a healthy caution of the dangers lurking in their tanks.
<Thank you Renee>
I found that in my local shops, there is a generalized dis-belief about the dangers of reef-keeping.
<Yes... and though there is a bit of risk, I have optioned to post my more dire (though not alarmist in my value system) warnings on WWM, in articles, books>
3 local stores are still selling customers cow-fish, and right in front of me, one week after I had been poisoned, just after I told him the story, the owner told a customer to go ahead and buy the cowfish, that I had been misguided and probably had the flu.
<!? Bizarre. BobF>

Palytoxin... Zoanthid issue... have you? Jeff wants to know! 6/27/2009
Thanks for posting my question. I would like to post a follow up to those who responded. Did anyone see an ophthalmologist? If so, what were the findings? Specifically, did anyone have an immunologic ring infiltrate, diffuse lamellar keratitis (Sands of Sahara), or decreased cornea sensation? Also, did anyone with problems dose vodka or another carbohydrate source? Palytoxin has a backbone containing 115 contiguous carbon atoms. I am curious if carbohydrate dosing might facilitate palytoxin production.
<Will post, share, accumulate. BobF>

Possible palytoxin eye injury... Have you or someone you know had eye issues related to handling Cnidarians? Jeff is looking for your input   6/13/09
I am working up a case of corneal damage that occurred during removal of a colony of Acanthastrea lordhoweensis from a portion of rock also covered with a Palyzoa species. Some of the features of the injury, the inflammatory response, and the course of wound healing are concerning for toxic injury. There is very little information in the medical literature on this topic other than a single very brief case report and an animal
study from 1974, prior to the characterization of palytoxin. I would be interested if this has been encountered previously in hobbyists and also if there is an expert in Palythoa and coral toxins in general that might be worth contacting.
Jeff Jacobsen
<I only know of anecdotal accounts... but am willing to post your request for others input... Would you like to use/have this email address posted?
Bob Fenner>
Thanks for the response. This email address is fine.
Jeff Jacobsen  <Jeffrey.Jacobsen@hsc.utah.edu>
Will post then. BobF.

Palytoxin-like compounds and Marine Aerosols... Zoanthid sel., human hlth. f's
I am writing you today, as I came across the question below on your website. My family has experienced a similar situation, and I would like to share it with you, along with a recent article I found dated March 13, 2009 that directly ties Palytoxin-like compounds to marine aerosols.
<Thank you for this>
"Human Lung Disease? 11/26/07
Dear Dr. Fenner,
<Just Bob please... I have no doctorate>
Friday I spent several hours cleaning my sump, pumps, heaters etc. Most of this time was spent hunched over the garage sink with a lot of water vapor rising up into my face. That evening, my lungs felt inflamed. The next day (yesterday) a cough developed and then a high fever followed with all of the usual aches and pains associated. The reason I am writing is because there seems to be a very clear correlation between the cleaning of the sump and the rapid onset of this illness. I read the article posted on your site regarding aquariums and human health, and most of it seemed related to skin infections. Do you know of diseases of the lungs caused by the inhalation of bacteria commonly found in substrate? If so, I would greatly appreciate any references.
Best wishes to you all,
Brad in Basalt
<I do not... but do encourage you to seek out medical attention if you are concerned... I wish you good health. Bob Fenner>"
Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Production of Functionally Active Palytoxin-like Compounds by Mediterranean Ostreopsis cf. siamensis
Palytoxin is one of the largest and highly potent marine toxins first isolated from Zoanthids of the genus Palythoa. It has been also found in sea anemones, Polychaete worms, crabs and herbivorous fishes. However, algae from the genus Ostreopsis have been proposed as the possible biogenetic origin of this toxin as well as some potent analogues, e.g. ostreocin-D.
Palytoxin-like compounds also cause human sufferings because of exposure to the marine aerosols, with symptoms that include fever associated to serious respiratory disturbs, such as bronchoconstriction, mild dyspnea, wheezes, and in some cases conjunctivitis.
Here is our story:
Palytoxin Poisoning from Palythoa Polyps
Dave and I want to share a bizarre experience we have encountered, should you know of anyone who owns a salt water fishtank, and finds themselves getting sick from the water.
Dave recently purchased a 75 gal aquarium and then found a guy on Craigslist who was selling everything in his tank, as his doctor told him he was allergic to his fishtank. Every time the guy stuck his hand in the water he would get sick.
This sounded "odd", but we went ahead and purchased about 90 pounds of live rock, various sea anemones, etc. We really didn't know what the entire package included, but believed it was safe enough to transfer to our tank without gloves.
That night Dave , Kent and I all became dreadfully ill for 4 days. Dave had a fever for 3 days that peaked at 103.5. All of us had muscle aches, stomach cramps, difficulty breathing, coughing, diarrhea, nausea and headaches. Only Dave had the fever.
We recovered, only finding our family repeating this cycle every time Dave stuck his hand or arm in the tank, (to clean or move things around). After Dave's 5th fever of 101.7 he went to the doctor and they ruled out Swine Flu, but we had him tested for Salmonella Paratyphis B and Vibrio, both rare aquarium diseases that can both be quite dangerous.
We contacted the owners of Saltwater City in Bellevue , one of which is a Marine Biologist, and the other, "Andy" a microbiologist and research scientist. He believed we must have poisonous Palythoa Polyps growing in our tank. (They look like purple flowers.) This turned out to be exactly the problem. We called the previous owner and asked him what his "allergy symptoms" were, and they were identical to ours. Our family would get these symptoms just by BREATHING the fumes from the tank. We have since removed these deadly polyps, and are in the process of de-toxifying our aquarium.
Andy, from Salt Water City had a case of this only one other time. Every time the guy stuck his bare arm in the tank, he would get sick with a fever. He removed his Palys and recovered. Also, we did find out that the previous owner who sold us this live rock package had the exact same symptoms as us! Every time he stuck his hands in the water, he would get sick with a fever.
He has since recovered.
Trev Dakan, the owner and Marine Biologist of Salt Water City claimed that a couple times in his life, when we was cleaning out a "bad tank" he would get very ill with a fever. He just thought he caught the flu.
We have recently removed 4 LARGE clusters of Palythoa Polyps, and we also are removing all the sand in our tank, slowly, in sections to go bare bottom. The sand is in a bucket in our garage. If you were to stick your head in the bucket and breath in, you WILL find yourself coughing.
We have been to the Dr. My husband became the most sick, as his immune system has been compromised prior to all of this due to a sinus surgery.
Anyway, they did a chest X-ray, tested for every kind of bacterial infection, and read the above article linking Palytoxin-like compounds to marine aerosols. They believe this is the cause of our problem. (They did find Dave's white blood cells to be high. The microbiologist said this is common with Palytoxin exposure)
We are currently cycling "Chemipure" thru out tank for two months to try to purify the tank. We understand we may have to "gut" the whole thing and sterilize it, but the experts we have talked to think we can save everything by trying this method. Currently we have not had any reactions around the tank, but we do use gloves up to our armpits before entering the tank.
If you have any thoughts you would like to share, we are more than happy to listen.
Thank you for your time!
Amy and David Fulton
Monroe, WA
<Again, thank you for sharing... You may well have saved several others from very dire Zoanthid health issues. Bob Fenner>

Human injury from marines 11/29/04 HELP! I was pulling macro algae from my refugiums this morning and something toxic or poisonous splashed or squirted into my right eye and has caused severe burning and dizziness for past 3 hours... I am going to the hospital soon but was wondering if anyone might know a bit more about poisonous or toxic plants... or sea anemones.   <many possibilities here... but cnidarians (coral or anemone.. especially Zoanthids) are the likely dangerous candidates> I have Grape, Fern Caulerpa, Halimeda  and Chaetomorpha as macros and they're may be a tiny anemones in there as well.. could it have been an anemone or fluid from one of these macros? <Caulerpa is actually rather toxic> It's something so nasty I have been in severe pain for several hours and my nose is running constantly with headache and nausea. I will see a doctor but he will need to know more about what may have caused this. Any help would be great. Thanks, Chris <get thee to a hospital ASAP, my friend! With a list of species in your tank. Anthony>

Advice to ALL re dangers of pet-fishing Hi crew, <How goes it, M. Maddox here, tired of answering "how do I get rid of algae" questions, this one looked like a nice reprieve ;)> I just want to give advice to all reef keepers.  It should go without saying, but it is easy to be lax on this.  After putting your hands in your  reef tank, SCRUB them clean immediately.  I added 2 corals and re-arranged  some others, and failed to wash my hands after. I now have Allergic Conjuctivitis in both my eyes, and it really sucks.  <Ouch, get well soon. I sound bit of advice> I imagine one of you is laughing, but it is an overlooked  "procedure". <Not at all, good practice.  Also, avoid ingesting\absorbing toxins from Zoanthids\palythoas, all of you!> Tearing, blood shot, and miserable, James <Hope you feel better soon.  M. Maddox>

Medusa Sting in Mexico Hello, My 80 year old father was stung 2 days ago in Santiago, Mexico. The Jellyfish was described as "small, stringy and black with 'legs'". A doctor in town said "medusa", gave my father an antidote shot as well as a shot for the pain. He sent him home with prescription to take for 2 days that was something like an antihistamine and some pills for pain. As soon as shot wore off, Dad had an all- nighter in pain which only hot packs would relieve. He now feels fine.  Can you tell me the likely identity of this jellyfish, the antidote and whether there is any remaining threat to my Dad's health. He was stung in the ankle. Much Thanks, JM <Cannot tell either... but am surprised at the availability of an "antidote"... antihistamines, analgesics are standard treatment for such stings... with more treatment for shock in some folks. Some Medusoids are very dangerous indeed. Bob Fenner>

Torch Coral Sting 4/28/05 Hi, During routine cleaning, I accidentally touched my torch coral several times with my left hand. I have been experiencing numbness in the hand since then. I understand that this coral has moderately potent stinging capability. Are my symptoms normal? I have no redness or swelling, and no pain. Thank you, Matthew W. Stone R.T.(R) Cardiac Cath Lab Lead Tech  <Some folks can be quite sensitive to coral stings. Symptoms typically range from minor irritation to redness and welts. Severe sensitivities and allergies are rare but do occur. Since you work in a hospital, I would suggest that you ask some of the physicians (especially ER) for any suggestions. In the future, I would suggest that you wear gloves when working in the tank if you have symptoms of more serious allergic reactions, seek formal medical advice.  Best Regards. AdamC, CCP Perfusionist.>  

Hosting Sea anemone killed BC Shrimp & Terrorizing hosted Clarkiis Hi. My sea anemone is friends with my mated pair of Clarkiis but today when I came home it had the BC shrimp trapped-not eaten, but dead- and retracts when the clowns try to snuggle. I tried to remove it with a tool but my hands quickly became swollen upon contact with the water. I took Benadryl and am fine. My clowns, however, look sick and are breath hard. my ? is : is the water full of toxin or is it electrified or low on oxygen or what??? Also, the shrimp is large, should I try to remove it? The clowns are still trying to feed the anemone and are not eating themselves. <I don't know what has gone on here... but perhaps the anemone caught, killed the shrimp on its contacting it... You apparently have a great sensitivity to whatever is in the water... I would change out a good percentage of the water here, monitor water quality... Bob Fenner>

Elegance sting Bob, I normally am good about my research, but I can't seem to get a straight answer about this question: -Details: I have a med. to large elegance coral in a healthy 75 gal mini reef about 2 years old. A few months ago I removed a nuisance Condy anemone and my Maroon Clown started nesting in the elegance. Cool! The only problem is that the elegance seems to have become much more aggressive/venomous.  <I do not believe it is virtue of the clownfish> I was working with a little placement in the tank and it's tentacles grabbed on as usual and I washed my arms when I was done... That evening, I had about 11 sting marks on my arm that had grown into gigantic welts. They later became scars that haunt me today -3 months later.  <yes very serious indeed> I am not allergic to bee stings and I never went into any kind of shock, but there is one symptom I received that worried me both last time and tonight. - I become slightly disorientated and nervous...like a panic attack. (remember... I thought nothing of the first sting and was not worried at all) <you must be careful of repetitive stings... each will get worse and enough in a lifetime can theoretically send you into anaphylactic shock.> WHOA! -I have already consulted the appropriate doctors and all they can say is - "you can breath, you must be fine."  <they just have no experience with repetitive Cnidarian stings> I certainly would understand any hesitancy to answer, but I'm just shooting in the dark. -Meaning, I would never hold your advise responsible. <yes... thank you. And I am simply saying that your concern seems to be warranted. My advice to you and all aquarists for the safety of you and your corals (from each other) is for you to wear gloves when working in the aquarium. Corals are protected from contamination from your skin, under nails, etc and you are protected fro pads, paws and claws> -Question: In your experience, can coral toxins have this effect? It's not a nervous shock by any means, just an in between state.  <having been a coral farmer for nearly a decade on a commercial scale, I am very familiar with this. Euphylliids like your elegant coral are some of the worst. My nemesis is a relative Euphylliid the torch coral (E. glabrescens). I have been stung enough times by such cnidarians that the slightest brush with he animal feels like a full wall current electric shock! Indeed... it amplifies/gets worse every time> Are there known euphoric effects these toxins have?  <I'm still looking...heehee> Are there any resources that discuss this in plain English? <hmm.... more than a studies on the derivatives of "toxins" from coral, but you haven't actually been poisoned with a toxin. You have been stung and the sensation that you feel is mostly your bodies reaction to being stung. Indeed... an allergic reaction. Like being asthmatic> Thanks for any hints on this -Best! Dan J.W. <advice: Tunze gloves...heehee. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Elegance sting Thank you Anthony for the hints! <very welcome my friend> I'm certainly a careful person, but it just seemed harmless in the beginning. I'll be ordering gloves tonight in case I have to do any more shifting in the near future. <excellent!> You know, the sting can never be felt until minutes later. (I think my bodies nervous system just freaks out when there's something like that present. Similar to negative feelings I had at a few parties in college when someone passed around something cheap!) <Ha!> Any how, I'm a Graphic designer/developer for a large ISP in MN... If there's something small I could contribute as thanks... Let me know.  <how about a small, single, fair skinned girl that likes short hairy men of Mediterranean extraction who eats enough garlic to drop bats from eaves as he walks by?> I would be more than happy:-) <and I would too... in the meantime, your friendship is more than enough> -Best! <with kind regards, Anthony> Dan PS> You'll find my evil friend in the pic as he sat in a 55 gal last fall. ( I have plenty of sand room in my 75 to set him in now...) <indeed... such corals with conical corallums NEED to be nestled upon a spacious sand bottom. Kudos>

Palytoxin poisoning? 8.15.05 I've got a very important question here. This morning 11 AM, I changed 30% of water in my 15 gallon reef tank. I also rearranged the live rocks. But I forgot that I have a wound on my finger. But it was already dry, a scab. I have a Zoanthid colony (cats eye polyp) in my tank and I also moved it with my hands and been in contact with it for about 5 minutes, also removing some of the polyps that had been detached from the colony. I worked in the tank for about 20 minutes so the dry wound became soft again because of being soaked by the sea water. And only about 10 min.s ago I was reading about the palytoxins that Zoanthid have. I'm really very concerned about this. Have I been poisoned? I'm not really feeling anything unusual up to now and its been 12 hrs since I've had contact with the polyps. Please advise. I'm really scared. <no worries my friend... as someone who has been poisoned... sigh (my stupidity), no less than three times, I can assure you that you'd know it by now. The sensation is almost instantaneous... starting with a metallic taste in the mouth. in severe cases/reactions, you will have difficulty breathing. A search of the big message boards will reveal other such stories.> I didn't know about the potential dangers of Zoanthids. I did some research about their care but haven't read about their toxicity. <Some species are fatally toxic. But you'd be amazed how many other organisms in your tank are also quite noxious to taste, touch, etc: sponges, tunicates, many snails, etc. The lesson here is to please(!) wear latex gloves - for your safety and for your corals safe(r) keeping. Anthony>

Re: Maroon Clowns... Anemone sensitivity   9/2/05 James, She started eating and she has a pretty big appetite now. I tried frozen brine and I decided to give one of the other fish some small chunks of frozen krill and she ate it before they even had a chance. She did not even like krill the last time I tried to give it to her. Thank you guys so much. I also wanted to tell everybody that I had my first encounter with an anemone sting last night. I was trying to get my LTA to settle down yesterday and I put a light plastic net over it, went to work and felt a little spaced out all day, a couple of people asked me if I was alright and I didn't know any better at that point so I thought I was okay. I also decided to go for a 7.8 miles long bike ride and felt a little more sluggish than usual afterwards. Last night at 4:30 AM I woke up and had a panic attack, was covered in hives, and felt like my skin was on fire from the inside. I was beyond terrified at this point, and after a little research found that soaking the affected area in Vinegar for 30 minutes and taking some Benadryl the panic attack and hives went away. There were about 30 little white things that I could see floating in the Vinegar after I was done soaking my hand in it. I'm going to invest in some really good gloves now. Just thought that might be useful to let anybody interested in keeping anemones know about the prospective dangers involved. I did not even feel it sting me. You guys are the best resource available in this hobby. Thank you for what you do.   <Tate, glad to hear the clown is eating.  Your reaction to the anemone sting is not a common occurrence.  You would probably have a similar reaction to a bee sting.  Some people are much more sensitive to stings than others.  James (Salty Dog)> Tate

Zoanthid toxicity... to aquarists 02/12/06 Greetings to the best reef site on the net! <Hello! John here this morning!> As always when I have a question or concern I turn to WWM. The question/concern is in regard to Zoanthids. I seem to be finding many references as to the toxicity of Zoanthids. As i am just reef hobbyist I am in no way an expert on such matters. <Me too.. but have read first-hand accounts of problems due to Palytoxin, the toxin responsible.> Can you give me and all of my fellow reefers some insight into just how dangerous Zoanthids are? Are they potentially fatal? <Very much so, although this appears to be uncommon> What are the risks to us? <Dizziness, Short-term paralysis, death. Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals" has a few accounts of Palytoxin poisoning by aquarists. Here is an account: http://www.browseatwork.com/nph-proxy.cgi/000110A/http/www.thepufferforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php=3ft=3d2729 . Another is here: http://www.reefpark.co.uk/bb/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703> What special precautions are needed when handling zos? <I would wear gloves, and wash hands/gloves thoroughly after use. If you don't have gloves, make sure you have no breaks in your skin when handling these corals. If fragging Zoanthids, definitely wear gloves, and consider eye protection.> Are all zos venomous? <Not sure... I believe Palythoa are the worst.> Which types are the deadliest? Sorry to be alarmed or worried but I don't ever recall seeing any warnings posted in any LFS. Thanks again <You're welcome... Best regards, John.>

Several questions about clownfish, Kalkwasser, human pregnancy  - 03/05/06 Hello wise wet pet peeps, <Okay> I sent in a question about 6 months ago but I don't know how to find the answer. <We respond directly to all, post most all> I searched using a bunch of keywords but didn't find anything. So I guess my pre-question is if my question(s) are answered how do I find them on the WetWebMedia website? <Mmm, I'd search (Google on WWM) by key terms> How do I know if they are answered at all? <If we get it, we respond... Have had troubles with incoming however off and on> But here are my current questions. Question 1 is about a clownfish. I have been thinking about an anemone for about 6 months but every time I do research I realize it is not a wise thing to do so I have given up on that dream. One day I will set up an anemone tank. Something to look forward to. I have a 90 gallon tank with metal halides and power compacts, a very good protein skimmer, good current, and great water quality. I do a 5 to 10 gallon water change twice a week. Everything in my tank seems very consistently happy (although I have had a bit of bubble algae since almost day one) (I have a couple tangs, couple clowns, royal Gramma, shrimp, snails, hermits, red and green brain, hammerhead, mushrooms, polyps, cabbage, trumpet, leather, clam). The tank is a year and a half old. I have 2 ocellaris clowns that are tank bred. The female tried to host in a flowerpot that was thriving for about a year. After about 2 months the constant kamikaze dives by the female clownfish killed it. Now the clown is going after two other corals in my tank. A green brain and a pagoda. The brain doesn't seem to mind it too much but the pagoda is not a happy camper. I moved the pagoda but the clown found it quickly. I have a 2nd similar tank at my office and the clownfish there tries to use a green brain as well. I'm wondering will the brains survive? <Perhaps> Is there any other coral that will withstand the clown's hosting attempts better that I can put in my tanks? <Likely a/nother Euphylliid> Question 2 is about Kalkwasser. I drip this every other day or so and on the alternate days I use the A/B combo mix. I've read about the dangers of KW on human lungs and I'm wondering if there is an alternative? <...?> Why doesn't someone develop a sort of Alka seltzer like dissolving tablet that can be dropped in the dripper so there is no powder "smoke" to be inhaled? <Good idea> It is quite hilarious that all of us reef nerds have learned to hold our breath long enough to prepare a KW drip! Question 3 is about human pregnancy and a reef tank. I have had 3 miscarriages in the last year and a half and I am wondering if there are any areas of reef keeping that have been linked with prenatal problems. <... not as far as I'm aware> I've done research and can't find anything on this topic. I have been wearing gloves (FYI). I am also wondering about the dangers of Kalkwasser pertaining to this subject? <I hope not> I appreciate your response on the 3 questions above. Sorry for the lengthy prose! Regards. <Bob Fenner>

Red Phorbas sponge   7/7/06 Have you ever heard of a red Phorbas sponge encrusting a red fire coral?   <Yes, have seen this> I was snorkeling in Bermuda recently and as a novice didn't know not to touch, <Yeeowch> so I picked up what looked to me like a sponge, it was red, sort of cone shaped but with holes in the top that made it look like a sponge.  I carried it around for a few minutes while snorkeling and showed my son.  He also picked one up.  When we got out of the water our hands began to burn. The locals told us it was red fire coral.  Our hands burned and itched for 24-48 hours but then resolved.  My reaction has come back and my hands all swelled up.  I am now on prednisone.  I told the doctors that I picked up red fire coral.  In researching this on your site the red fire corals seem to be fan shaped. <Mmm, commonly, but come in all shapes> In looking at pictures of sponges I came across the red Phorbas sponge and that looks like what I picked up.  It says that they encrust dead or live corals.  Or do you know if this is one of the "fire" sponges.  And where I might find more info about fire sponges?  I am still searching.   Thanks for any help you can provide Typing with sore fingers, Katie McDonald <I'll bet, and unfortunately I'm fresh out of time as well. Please read through this search listing: http://www.google.com/search?q=are+phorbas+sponges+toxic%3f Bob Fenner, off to finish cooking dinner for 500>

Rash from Handling Live Rock (Wear Those Gloves!) - 05/10/06 I don't know if this e-mail should be addressed to you, "crew," or otherwise. <<"Crew" is fine as there is no set protocol on "who" will reply>> I've seen some info on your site about infections/diseases which can be caught from an aquarium.  About 3 weeks ago (this Thursday), I was cleaning a new batch of Fiji live rock that I had just received.  I foolishly did not use gloves (which after the fact, I found out was a good idea). <<Indeed>> I was holding each piece in my left hand, while scrubbing it with a brush in my right, and then adding it to a garbage can.  After I had finished, my left hand began burning, and I noticed little spines sticking out of my hands... <<Mmm...>> This reminded me of getting fiberglass on my hand. <<Very similar, but with a twist...the spines may have carried a venom.  It sounds like you came in contact with a/several large bristle worms while cleaning/handling the rock>> These spines were very thin, and appeared to be clear.  I removed what I could find with tweezers, but I could tell that a couple were still there. <<Yes, very difficult to remove this way as most will fragment leaving behind the embedded portion in your skin...though these usually dissolve away within a couple/few days>> About 2 days ago, I have developed a rash on my left hand. <<Possibly an infection...different folks react/have differing levels of sensitivity to these "stings">> It is red, blotchy, and slightly bumpy, and it itches.  The two incidents may be completely unrelated, <<Not likely>> and I am going to see a doctor tomorrow about this; however, if he is unfamiliar with the hobby and the "glass spines" are the cause, he may not know. <<This is true>> If you have any thoughts as to what this rash may be, please let me know. <<I'm fairly certain your rash is a reaction to contact with bristle worms.  Do a Google search on our site/the NET re "bristle worms" to arm yourself with some information to pass on to the doctor>> Thanks for your help. <<Regards, EricR>>

Palytoxin from Palythoa spp. in my eyes? Greetings to all the WWM Crew! <and to you!> I have a question regarding a very painful experience I am presently still experiencing. Two days ago while doing my regular weekly cleaning and water change,( I have a 50 gallon reef ), I noticed a few of my button polyps had detached from the main cluster. One small group of perhaps four were just an inch or so away from the main cluster, but I then noticed that a few had somehow become stuck in-between the slots at the input of my power head. So as is my custom when doing cleaning, I removed the syphon piece and went to the sink to clean it out. Then comes my big unknown mistake! As the button polyps were tightly fit between the syphon piece and would not come loose by rinsing with water, I pushed them through with my finger, which resulted in my getting a full strong squirt directly into my eyes. I was surprised at both the force and amount that had made direct contact into my eyes. I felt a slight sting but thought nothing of it so I just quickly splashed some tap water on my eyes and continued on with my water change. Soon after I went to bed. Upon waking up yesterday morning due to the pain in my eyes, I got up and proceeded to take a look at them and found they were almost completely swollen shut, with the whites of my eyes beet red and a burning pain I cannot put into words! I went to my local hospital where my eyes were examined for corneal damage,( Non had occurred), and they proceeded to flush my eyes with large amounts of saline. This is the first I was to hear about Palythoa / Palytoxin! The doctor had gotten the information through the poison center who had described my nights unfortunate encounter with my button polyp. I was told upon my leaving the hospital, that I could experience extreme swelling, redness, burning, etc. . for up to a week or even more. My question to you. The doctor made it clear he knew little of this toxin. Today my eyes are almost swollen shut, completely red, with a large amount of crusty discharge around the lids. My question to you is, Is this toxin known to cause permanent damage to the eyes? I know that in the bloodstream it can be extremely dangerous, but I would appreciate any input you might have regarding this mysterious and highly painful toxin. Especially as it relates to my experience? ( I realize you are not able to give me medical advise, but please provide me with some information, as even the doctor here seems to know little of it). Thanks WWM Crew ! I am looking forward to asking questions without the pain next time around! <Wow! I am glad you received medical attention here because it can be extremely serious!  I feel your pain.  You can read up on more here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i1/blane-zoanthids/zoanthids.htm    I haven't heard of permanent damage to eye per se, only when it enters the blood stream and then can interact with the heart/lungs and so on.  It seems you may be having more of an allergic reaction here - did they put you on any antibiotics?  Considering I'm not a medical doctor I really can't tell you what needs to be done.  However I would go see a specialist (or your general for a reference first.)  Hopefully he/she will be able to do more tests/prescribe more to help your situation.  I am very sorry that you have to experience this and it is one of the worse encounters I've heard of.  However it is your eyes, you can't be too careful.  Good luck with this.  Like I said check the link above, do more searches on here and the internet for more in-depth info on the toxin.  Keep us updated!  Jen S.>                       Sincerely,  Trever.  

Millepora? rxn help   7/18/06 I was down in Playa Del Carmen  a week and a half ago. They believe I got into fire coral. <Very common there... as are fire sponges (another distinct possibility)> I was given a shot <Of?...> and told to take Allegra and put an ointment <Of?> on it. I was better in 3 days and no complaints. Until this morning I woke up with it all over again. My fingers a severely swollen and itch and red and in alot of pain. any suggestions?   Casey <Yes... I would see someone in the medical field re... stat! Reactions differ per individual, but such stings can be quite serious... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Millepora? rxn help   7/18/06 I don't have a open wound or site of a sting is the problem. I live in Dallas Texas and no one here quite knows what to do. I saw my doc. this morning and he is clueless. <I... would... seek... other medical help... An endocrinologist likely... a large hospital. BobF>

Re: Milleporid sting?  - 07/18/2006 Let me ask you this is this something you would consider serious or life threatening if this was in fact a Fire Coral sting ? Have you ever seen a case where it came back ? <Mmm, not "come back" so much as never went away... the analgesic and likely anti-inflammatory you were administered just gave temporary relief. Some folks have dire reactions to such stings... Bob Fenner> So should I go to the actual hospital ? <Up to you... how do you feel? I have been stung by Milleporina all over the world... the pain, swelling, redness go away for me in about a day... Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank/Human infections   - 5/18/07 Hi Crew, <Mark> Sorry for the previous mis-spelled word(s). My left hand still hurts. Hard to type still. <I'll bet... can relate> I've already learned my lesson about infections. Get gloves! So now I'm thinking about the tank. Does this bacteria effect the corals? Fish? <Mmm, yes... mainly indirectly in most settings... through their metabolic activities...> Would it help the tank to get a UV sterilizer? <Mmm, yes... but not a "cure-all"> My  setup 125 gallon tank / 40 gal refugium with Caulerpa. Big protein skimmer I think it good for up to 250gal. No other filtration.   Lights 48" Orbit (2) 150watt HQI (2) dual 48" fluorescents Actinic03 / 7100k Is this too much? Is there such a thing as too much light? <Mmm, no... and yes> Mark Eason <Keep that curious mind going, studying, discoursing... Much on these topics, issues posted... on WWM. BobF>
Re: Tank/Human infections 5/17/07 Hydroids?   - 5/18/07 Red streaks going up my arm and fever of 101.8.  I guess I'm very  suitable to infections. More than others. The attached pic shows no  knuckles, very swollen. 2 punctures side by side. After 18 hours my hand showed signs of  infection and another 6 hours I had the fever, red streaks which  caused at least 3 shots (my buns hurt) from the Dr. I'm still under  treatment. <<Septicemia is quite serious!>> As you can tell I haven't down alot <No such word> of homework for my reef tank. What are those Spikey things? Should I  break them off? <Look like a type of calcareous algae, but might be the algae growing secondarily on other life or even non-living (like a chemical crystal matrix) material> <<Could these be hydroids?>> >Yes... but I did not make out the tell-tale "hair like" structures of same< Now that I read your article about using gloves I'm gonna get some  gloves. Mark Eason <Thank you for sharing! Bob Fenner>

Human arms in reef tanks...  7/12/07 Hello, I was doing some work in the sump of my 300 gallon reef tank (mixed fish inverts) and had to put my whole arm in up to about my elbow. The next day, I noticed several small red bumps on an area of my arm? That I had scraped while it was in the water. It has not spread but it is seriously itchy!!! <This sounds like an allergic reaction to me. Several types of reef invertebrates produce toxins that irritate skin (just like poison ivy does).> Some type of fungal or bacterial infection? Any suggestions? <We certainly can't diagnose you. But this doesn't sound like any of the bacterial infections reef aquarists worry most about.> I don't have any seahorses but I do have a mixture of snails, crabs, lots of live rock, etc. I am off to the dermatologist tomorrow <Good idea. You should always see a doctor when you suspect an infection or allergic reaction. And do tell the doctor you have a reef tank.> but I thought one of you guys might have some insight so I could prevent this from happening again....thx! <Gloves. There really isn't much else you can do to be sure. There are so many things in reef tanks that can cause reactions like this. Best, Sara M.> Dr Steven R. Cantor

Skin Irritations From Handling Live Rock (Wear Those Gloves!) -- 07/12/07 Hi there! <<Hello!>> I really appreciate all of your answers, and am currently re-reading Bob's CMA book...wow, what loads of information. <<Ah yes, and if you like CMA you should really enjoy the bit more updated Reef Invertebrates book which Bob co-conspired with Anthony Calfo>> Now my question - when I searched, I found info on corals and fish being hurt, and some reference to what I did on a dive magazine's article, but not the exact answer... <<...?>> After having hurriedly moved my tank early May (we got new floors, and the tank had to move), I only generally put the rocks back in (I swear, aquascaping can be one of the hardest things about this hobby!) <<Indeed...tis a matter of 'art' as well as function>> Well, having looked at it now for 2 months, I didn't like the arrangement, and I felt it did not have the nice through-passes I previously had - so on Sunday I carefully redid the aquascaping. No problem with that - except that something on the rocks got me...again! <<Mmm...is not uncommon...and reason enough to wear some type of protective glove>> In May, I got the finger tips on my left ring finger and my right pointing finger - very itchy, slight bumps, and after about 10 days, the skin peeled. <<Yikes!>> Interestingly, when I went snorkeling in Florida in mid-June, that newly peeled skin would turn white vs. the remaining skin. I thought I had recovered, but I did not yet purchase gloves, not being able to find ones that fit or that I thought would work. <<Mmm...>> Well, when I redid the aquascape this Sunday, I got the tips of the thumb through ring finger on my left hand...same as last time. I did not realize it immediately, or I guess an immediate soak in vinegar would have helped, yes? (Dive article solution for majority of stuff you can get while diving). <<Possibly...but if this is a 'Bristle Worm' encounter (would be my first guess), a good wash with soap and water has worked best for me...and then of course some time to allow the 'bristles' to dissolve. But, everyone is different and some folks can have quite severe reactions (as with insect stings/bites). And there's also the possibility you have encountered or contracted something else altogether>> By Monday morning, my ring finger pad had really swollen (although this time the bumps are actually on the side of the finger) and it has slightly discolored (towards the purple). I have tried the soaking-in-as-hot-water-as-you-can-stand, soak them in Epsom salt water, soak in vinegar, cover with Benadryl (R) cream, cover with an antibiotic cream, taking Benadryl (R) (liquid children's version) - but nothing seems to really help with the periods of itching. <<If this has continued for more than a couple days I would suggest seeing a Doctor/Dermatologist...being sure to explain/making them understand just how you came by the affliction>> Just a few minutes ago my thumb had an itch attack - and then it went away again a few minutes after I applied antibiotic cream - but the itching was almost painful in its intensity, so I am curious what is going on. Any ideas what got me? <<I can only speculate, but my first inclination is you have been 'stabbed' by Bristle Worms. These beneficial detritivores are in and around the live rock you have been handling and the slightest touch/brush will leave the ever so sharp (and possibly toxic) bristles embedded in your skin. These bristles will break off leaving bits that irritate and itch...but in most cases will dissolve away within a few days. There's also a myriad of other stinging organisms that could have caused this, depending on your sensitivity re...or this could be a secondary infection due to broken/scraped skin exposed to the water. Do have a read here for some more in-depth info: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm >> Any suggestions for reducing the itching? <<I find using a topical ointment containing Cortisone to be helpful>> I have read about toxicity of marine life, but as far as I know, I don't have fire corals - in fact, I was simply touching my rocks, so what is on the rocks that is so toxic? <<Many things...with exposure to Bristle Worms being very common>> I realize it is worse this time, so I am working very hard on getting gloves that fit to prevent this in the future - I did learn my lesson, albeit the painful way. <<Mmm, yes...have heard of some folks developing a more severe reaction with every encounter...so far I have been lucky>> Thanks again for any inputs you have, and maybe this will help someone else in the future as well. Kerstin DeRolf <<I'm sure it will. Do get your wounds looked at/tended if the irritation persists...and get those gloves! Eric Russell>>

Re: Skin Irritations From Handling Live Rock (Wear Those Gloves!) -- 07/13/07 Hi again! <<Hello Kerstin!>> Thanks for your response -- <<My pleasure>> I do have bristle worms (while my wrasse seems to have reduced the number, I am not silly enough to believe that they are completely gone), <<And not necessarily a desirable objective...are quite efficient/beneficial (and largely misunderstood, I think) detritivores>> but also wonder is something may be growing on some of my rocks that could have done it as well. <<Certainly, yes...this also is a possibility. Or simply a secondary infection of abraded flesh from exposure to the very concentrated soup of microbes in the system>> I am glad (?) to hear that this is not uncommon, and yes, I think I am more sensitive to it just from having done a similar thing 2 months ago. <<Common yes, but without being an alarmist I also don't want to downplay the 'potential' for serious consequences here>> I did actually read this article on Tuesday, before I wrote to you - and some of the suggestions are the same as in the Dive article I ran across. <<Ah, I see>> I think one of my biggest problems is that I did not realize it on Sunday, shortly after it happened, and so waited a long time before really doing any treatments. I stymied my vet (specialized in dermatology, also studied fisheries, albeit freshwater) with it - when I showed my fingers to him this morning, at this point his solution is to do hot super-saturated salt water or Epson Salt soaks, twice a day for 20-30 minutes, water as hot as I can stand it. <<If this complaint is still bothering/worsening I urge you to see a 'people' doctor (no 'slight' intended against your friend)>> I do have the Reef Invertebrates book - like it lots too, has been useful in many ways. <<Indeed>> Should get the next edition of Anthony's Coral Propagation book soon, will also be interesting reading, I feel. <<Very much in agreement>> Right now I am trying to get Latin/technical names for my corals, many of which I admit I bought based on looks more than anything...not useful when I want to discuss them with anyone. <<Mmm...also not useful when trying to determine care level/needs/overall suitability for captive keeping...all of which should be done 'before' purchase. Eric Borneman's book 'Aquarium Corals' may prove helpful to you...as should this site: http://www2.aims.gov.au/coralsearch/coralsearch.php >> Thanks again for all your help. <<Any time>> I really enjoy reading everything on your website - soooo much information, people coming at it from all various aspects. <<Indeed...quite the collaborative effort>> Kerstin:-) <<Be chatting. EricR>> P.S. Attached is the picture of my tank after the rearrangement that massacred my fingers - a 29-gallon that I know has lots of corals! <<Ah yes...looks quite 'busy' in there>> I am working on getting a new skimmer - Aqua-C Remora HOT instead of the SeaClone I now have. <<Will be a huge improvement>> I feel like my tank now has a heavy enough load that it needs more than the periodic skimming <<Agreed>> (Bob called it "a natural method" in one FAQ) <<Indeed...do try a Google search on Lee Chin Eng and the 'Natural Method'...you think your tank looks heavily stocked now....>> where I only run the skimmer as an actual skimmer several times a month, and otherwise depend on the LR and LS to do much of the filtering. <<Well past that point...in my opinion>> I think most everyone will be happier <<Oh yes!...have you heard of/researched the term 'Allelopathy?'>> - and hopefully soon I will upgrade the tank size. <<Always exciting. Eric Russell>>

Fire Coral, human hlth.  11/15/07 Just reading your article on fire coral. You mention about getting stung and the treatment, you should also mention that extreme caution should be exercised also, some people like me have extreme allergy to fire coral which can land people like me in hospital, it is not just ouch. I am starting up the salt again soon and I shall do what you say and use gloves at all times. Also I do not know if you mention any other corals that can sting, I know for someone like, I must exercise extreme caution in the hobby now.  By the way I do love your site and your articles, they are very helpful in giving information and giving advice. Cheers Richard South <Thank you for your input here. Will add/share. Cheers, Bob Fenner... always watching out for Milleporines UW>

Human Lung Disease?  11/26/07 Dear Dr. Fenner, <Just Bob please... I have no doctorate> Friday I spent several hours cleaning my sump, pumps, heaters etc. Most of this time was spent hunched over the garage sink with a lot of water vapor rising up into my face. That evening, my lungs felt inflamed. The next day (yesterday) a cough developed and then a high fever followed with all of the usual aches and pains associated. The reason I am writing is because there seems to be a very clear correlation between the cleaning of the sump and the rapid onset of this illness. I read the article posted on your site regarding aquariums and human health, and most of it seemed related to skin infections. Do you know of diseases of the lungs caused by the inhalation of bacteria commonly found in substrate? If so, I would greatly appreciate any references. Best wishes to you all, Brad in Basalt <I do not... but do encourage you to seek out medical attention if you are concerned... I wish you good health. Bob Fenner>

Skin Condition due to Saltwater  3/12/08 I can't find an answer to my dilemma. Please help. Have you ever heard of anyone getting a serious skin condition from exposure to saltwater? <Yes... an "industry hazard"...> My 125 gallon reef tank has a smell even though the water is clear. Seems like an algae smell. My problem is that I am getting skin outbreaks & eye itching that I can't help but think is coming from the aquarium. When I rub my eyes, I think I smell "that smell" coming from my tear ducts. Any of this make sense? <... Yes! Very important that you be extremely careful here... I would ONLY place my hands in the system with long gloves on my hands... There are such for many purposes... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm and esp. the linked FAQs files above. I would see a dermatologist re as well. Bob Fenner>

Re: Skin Condition due to Saltwater  3/14/08 Thank you! <Welcome! I and many other friends in the trade have suffered dermatological troubles from SW exposure... some can "get by" with lotions of different sorts use... Others have had to learn to keep their hands/arms out of tanks entirely! There are many possible negative interactions biologically as well to consider... The best "remedy" are arm-length gloves of quality. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Zoanthids, palytoxin, human contact  4/9/08 Mr. Fenner, I have a disease called scleroderma that effects my autoimmune process and need to be cautious. I have read about the neurotoxin called palytoxin that occurs with Zoanthid polyps. I read about the need for caution and it's effects but on the other hand I get the impression its occurrence in the aquarium hobby seems rare. With this in mind I have what I believe is a Zoanthid Palythoa that looks like the common type with green polyps. I'm new to the hobby and need to know if I have a serious concern. I intend to use gloves if the need comes to physical touch it, but do I need to be concerned about making contact with the aquarium water with my hands. Your input will be appreciated. Steve C. <Mmm, always best to be cautious when dealing with Zoanthids... particularly in handling directly, as in asexual propagation/cutting. I do advise that you, actually most everyone wear good gloves whenever they place their hands in their tanks... to prevent possible troubles for themselves during exposure, as well as to disallow contamination. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

May be Poisoned? 5/10/08 Hi, I was helping my boyfriend move his 12 gallon nano home today from school and in the process I spilled some tank water on my leg that has an open cut. The corals were all extremely irritated at being moved and I'm sure they gave off some type of toxin in the process. <Possibly, the zoos more than anything as far as toxins pertaining to effects on humans.> Its been about 10 hours and my leg is starting to hurt from my hip to my foot almost as if its just a strained muscle. I thought at first that's what it was because we moved a lot of stuff today but that was until I thought about the water being spilled on my leg where I had a cut. The corals in the tank are Zoanthids, mushrooms, Ricordea mushrooms, Acans, Xenia, yellow Toadstool Leather, and Frogspawn. I believe that's everything that's in there. The pain in my leg didn't start right away but now its extremely sore. Its 2 a.m. where I am and I don't know if I want to wake my entire house to go to the hospital if it really is just a sore muscle. I don't even remember cutting my leg so I'm not sure how old the cut actually was once the water hit it. <Even if there were toxins in the water, the dilution thereof should be of no consequence. It is likely not related to the water spilling onto your leg other than any possibility of an infection (even then not likely brought about by the spill alone). I/we are not M.D.'s, if you have any concerns about your well being, by all means do consult a physician, other concerns may be at play here. I wish you the best, Scott V.>

Zoanthus vs. Palythoa vs. Protopalythoa: Palytoxin 07/07/08 Hi WWM crew, <Hello Brian! Sorry about the slow response, I was asleep at the wheel...> I'm writing you about palytoxin because I so far cannot find concrete answers about it anywhere and I have children and pets around my tanks. <Yes...many stories, few facts available to the hobbyist> This is my first letter to you all after many readings (including reading many of your letters on Zoanthidea and palytoxin). I have a few quick questions and I would appreciate any citations to additional resources you can give, the more scientific the better. I'm trying to get hold of the Book of Coral Propagation by Anthony and Corals and Coral Reefs by Eric Borneman since I hear they have good info on palytoxin but no luck so far (they're expensive!). <Calfo gives some anecdotal info that is helpful- cautionary - to the hobbyist. If you're interested in scientific texts on palytoxins you might try a local library or (preferably) a college library where you can gain access to scholarly journals. Perhaps a search of scholar.google.com or JSTOR would be fruitful in this area.> (1) How can you tell the difference between a Zoanthus, a Palythoa, and a Protopalythoa species of Zoanthidea? I would like to concretely identify what is in my tank and learn how to ID future specimens. <As I understand it, this largely relates to the common foot. As hobbyists Zoanthus are the smaller, more colorful polyps sharing a foot; Parazoanthus being larger, more distinctly carnivorous, and still sharing a common foot, and the Palythoa/Protopalythoa being colonies of unconnected large polyps> (2) Do all Zoanthidea species have palytoxin in them? I know that even within Palythoa, not all specimens have palytoxin in them, but I'm wondering here whether all 3 species have palytoxin or if, for example, Zoanthus are safe and do not have it. <All of these families may/do produce palytoxin and other organic poisons> (3) If not all Zoanthidea have palytoxin, which ones do not have it? <Can't be told based on appearance, unfortunately. We must suspect all...for safety reasons> (4) Where is the palytoxin actually "kept" in the Zoanthidea? Is it ever released other than when the specimen is damaged or cut? How is it released (I've read about it squirting out of Zoanthus but never seen anything on how they actually release it)? <It is held in the fluid of the mesophyl, exuded in mucous, as an allelopathic compound.> (5) Is palytoxin also harmful to other things in the tank (e.g. other corals, fish, inverts, macroalgae, etc.)? <Anything with nervous tissue, motor function> (6) I have two Zoanthidea in my tank now that I was told, when buying them, were Zoanthus. I knew nothing about palytoxins so didn't ask any questions beyond that identification. They have spread off the original frag/rock/disc they came on and some of the polyps are bridging the gap between the frag disc and the live rock. If it turns out these are a species that sometimes contains palytoxin I'll probably not keep them, the risk seems not worth it despite their beauty. How should I go about removing them from the tank to minimize the risk of palytoxin exposure? <The only way to eliminate exposure would be to take the polyps and the rocks they are on, bag them in garbage sacks, and dispose of them.> I've taken up a lot of your time already, so I'll stop here. Thank you again for your answers. <Unless these creatures are handled, palytoxin poisoning is unlikely. If you are concerned about colony size or a child reaching a hand in the tank, removing these is probably prudent. DO take care in handling them (gloves, goggles, etc.) especially if they have been severed or crushed.> Sincerely, Brian <Benjamin>

Coral poison to humans? I know when you agitate corals, some can spew water or perhaps a chemical out to make the agitation stop.  I was recently moving my corals and tank and was pruning some Zoanthid polyps and while removing some of them from a rock, I got "spewed" right in my eye.   <Oh, no> My eye is all red now and I am wondering what if any information you can give me as to what this is or what I can and should do to combat this.  Thanks, as I do not want to go blind!-D <I do not with to sound like an alarmist... and I suspect that you will be just fine. But... get to a doctor promptly. Zoantharians have some of the most potent toxins (including Palytoxin) known to man. More commonly, there are issues with various bacteria simply from the organic/biotic nature of it all. Concerns with Vibrio, mycobacterium. etc. Please see your doctor promptly... take the antibiotics... and later come back to WWM and read here (with both  eyes<G>): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm  best regards, Anthony>

Safe handling I would like to know how to safely handle the sea cucumber Actinopyga agassizii. Thanks Jonathan <Best with gloves, though can be handled bare-handed... just wash your hands immediately afterward, and underwater, as in simply lifting the specimen and placing it into a submersed bag/container (not lifting it into the air). Bob Fenner>

Coral poison to humans? I know when you agitate corals, some can spew water or perhaps a chemical out to make the agitation stop.  I was recently moving my corals and tank and was pruning some Zoanthid polyps and while removing some of them from a rock, I got "spewed" right in my eye.   <Oh, no> My eye is all red now and I am wondering what if any information you can give me as to what this is or what I can and should do to combat this.  Thanks, as I do not want to go blind!-D <I do not with to sound like an alarmist... and I suspect that you will be just fine. But... get to a doctor promptly. Zoantharians have some of the most potent toxins (including Palytoxin) known to man. More commonly, there are issues with various bacteria simply from the organic/biotic nature of it all. Concerns with Vibrio, mycobacterium. etc. Please see your doctor promptly... take the antibiotics... and later come back to WWM and read here (with both eyes <G>):http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Wound.htm best regards, Anthony>

Another Reason to Wear Gloves (9/12/04) Hello, <Hi. Steve Allen with you tonight.> I have had a reef tank for about a year. It is thriving. I recently set up a 2nd tank for a friend following the same procedures I used on the first tank. The new tank has live sand, well cured live rock, 3 mushrooms, a couple different polyps, a hammer head frag from the first tank, and an Alveopora also from the first tank. There is also a lawnmower blenny, snails, hermit crabs, sand star, sea serpent star, a royal Gramma, bicolor Dottyback, and an orange spotted shrimp goby. All inhabitants are doing well and have been in there for over a month. There were two clown fish in there but they both died. The water tests perfectly. Additives and food include all in one, Kent Iodine, Sea Lab block, Marine Deluxe, Zooplex, BioPlankton, Formula One (frozen), and silver sides. The question is that I have painful and swollen fingers. After about a week of this condition I went to the doctor and told her I had a reef tank. She could find no other reason for the injury and put me on antibiotics (Cipro). <I'm not certain that this covers Mycobacterium marinum, which could be the source of your problem. Read more about this in the wound FAQs. You might have your doctor look for recent articles (appeared this year) about this in Annals of Internal Medicine and The New England Journal of Medicine. I believe I previously left references on the wound FAQ page.> I am seeing no change in the condition and am wondering if you have heard or experienced anything like this and what can be done about it. I have been doing some research and ran across something called mycobacterium marinum. <Yup, as above.> Some of what I am reading sounds like hand infections can turn into a very serious problem. I am wondering if this is common in the aquarium industry and what people do about it. <Yes. Smart people wear gloves (long armed-ones are available at local or online fish stores) to prevent it. The rest of us hope we never get it. I can't claim to be among those who use gloves all the time, but I try to remember. ;) It's like using a condom some or "most" of the time--sooner or later something undesirable happens. It is also possible that this is a local allergic or toxic reaction to coral venom (also preventable with gloves), in which case an OTC antihistamine like Claritin might help, but you need to consult your doctor before taking this. Sounds like you need to go back right away if the Cipro hasn't helped.> Both tanks are very clean and meticulously maintained weekly by myself as well as a service technician from my LFS. <This is no protection. Even a "clean" tank is a veritable cesspool of germs. Remember, your animals pee and poop (sorry, pediatrician talk) in it all the time, Would you stick your bare hand in a "clean" toilet bowl? I think not.> I would appreciate any advice you may have. <My primary advice is to go back to the doc and be sure to mention M. marinum and coral venom.> Thanks. <I hope this helps and I certainly hope your hands return to normal quickly and uneventfully.>

Zoanthid compatibility Hi,     I recently purchased a very nice yellow polyp rock which is very densely populated with these beautiful Parazoanthids.  But, I am very worried about them because there is a brown polyp reaching around from the underside of the rock which seems to have come in contact with a few of the yellow polyps, as they are remaining closed.  Is there anything I can do to get rid of him? <Yes... most directly, chip off the base where this polyp is attached and either move or remove it> I'm extremely paranoid about the toxins produced by Zoanthids, as I have a heart condition and may not fare well if exposed to something so powerful.  Do people die from this poison? <Mmm, some have gotten very sickened>   I've been searching the web but I haven't found too much detail about these guys.  I've read many books but I have never heard that these guys were poisonous until recently. thanks, Chris <Wear gloves while handling... wash them before removing... Bob Fenner>

Zebra Danios With TB  12/05/2005 Hi, We have 10 gallon tank and have started the tank 4 months from now. We bought 3 Danios to start with, and they did very well for first 2.5-3 months. We used to do weekly water change. Our local pet store suggested to not to change water for first month to have fully cycled tank. We stopped the water change. I am not sure if this is the cause or something else, but we lost our smallest fish during this time.  Rest two fishes has lived fine for some time and they started slowing down. They used to eat a lot and swim around in whole tank that is filled with natural plants. They stopped eating with that eagerness. They stopped playing. We noticed that their spine is also got curved.  First we were thinking that they are getting old. After reading FAQ section in your website, we are scared about fish TB.  I have been touching the water to clean up the tank. Though I don't have any wounds, but still I am scared and wanted to know what measure we can take to diagnose if we got infected or not. About the fishes, now they both are dull and during the night they lie down on the bottom of tank. Actually till light is off mostly they lie down on the bottom. If light is on, they try to swim. We can see they have hard time swimming. They most stand still at one place. I have also read on internet somewhere that when they are at the end of their life cycle, then also they develop curve in their spine. So how do I know if my fishes have TB or they are just old. In summary these are questions I have. 1) What measures can we take to find out if we have infected ourselves with the fish TB? < Fish TB is very very rare. If people were getting infected and it was a problem I think you would see warnings all over the place. As a precaution I just wash up after having my hands in an aquarium.> <Rare in people, yes....  but I have seen many, many cases in fish lately - many of which were Betta splendens....  -SCF> 2) how do I find out if my fish's spine is getting curved because they are old or they have fish TB? < More than likely your fish are getting old. Usually these little guys don't last more than a couple of years tops and the contouring of the spine is one of the signs of a fish getting older.> 3) In case of fish TB, how do I sterilize the whole tank? Do we have to start from scratch for the new fishes? < I think you fish may have gotten ill due to poor water quality. Check the nitrates. The lower the better. These little guys like clean well oxygenated water.-Chuck>  

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