Hi, my name is Taï from Paris, I’ve been in the hobby for more than 10 years now and I wanted to share with you a scary and dangerous experience regarding my reef tank. I used to collect zoanthids to the tune of around 150 different strains growing in my 90G mixed with some LPS.
In summer 2020, my wife closed the fridge door on my finger which resulted in what seemed like a tiny injury but nothing really bad. Shortly thereafter while cleaning my tank I accidentally caused a small collapse of the live rock aquascape.
And like every time you try to put the reef rocks back in place, it’s nearly impossible to put things back precisely how they were so I decided to build a new structure on the right side of my tank. One of the rocks I worked on was overgrown by many polyps of Scrambled eggs zoanthus. When I tried to separate this rock from the main scape I notice that it was held down by encrusting zoanthids which ejected an ominous brown fluid when I tried to rip them off.
A few minutes later, I could feel a burning sensation in my finger but I wasn’t alarmed and kept working on my tank. About 90 minutes later after the tank work was finished my right hand was in severe pain, like I had broken bones from punching a wall at full strength.
5 hours later, the pain climbed to my forearm and stopped at elbow. I started wondering if I need to go to hospital but tried to go back to sleep but the pain was so intense that I could only find relief by lying on my back and elevating my entire arm towards the ceiling.
By 5 a.m. I couldn’t sleep at all so I drove myself to the hospital using only my left hand where I had to explain to doctors about Palytoxin and the effects on breath system and eyes irritation. So after some soem X-Rays, the doctors decided surgery was required to open and clean my finger articulations at the joint where it had been caught in the refrigerator door.
The following day after my first cup of coffee I noticed that my fingers were in pain and then was surprised to see a big red line on my injured arm. It appeared to be lymphangitis which is an inflammation of lymphatic channels due to infectious or noninfectious causes
So my wife drove me back to the hospital and the doctors decided to take me back into surgery this time for a deeper and longer cleaning and disinfection. This time I stayed in the hospital for eight days with an IV drip infusion of two separate broad spectrum antibiotics and to keep an eye out for any progression of the lymphangitis or possible blood infection.
After being discharged from the hospital I couldn’t work for six weeks due to the injury and there’s still some range of motion missing from the affected finger. I now always wear full gloves while working around my tanks and while you may not need to go to such great lengths to protect yourself, just know that Palytoxin from Palythoa and Zoanthus can be very dangerous so don’t go working on your reef tank if you have a small cut or scratch, especially if you have a sizable population of these awesome but very toxic reef animals.