What is Palytoxin Poisoning?

What Is It & What You Need To Know

As a saltwater aquarium owner that may be looking to add corals or you already own corals, you should be aware of Palytoxin Poisoning and so should your family members.

What is Palytoxin Poisoning? – Palytoxin is a very powerful toxin that can be contained in some Palythoa (Palys) and Zoanthid (Zoa) species. This toxin is used by the coral as a natural defense mechanism. Not all contain it and not everyone is susceptible to the toxin, but it can be very dangerous to your health if you are exposed to it and it could lead to life-threating consequences.

From my research, it appears that pets can also be susceptible to poisoning, especially if the toxin becomes airborne or an unnoticed coral falls to the floor and then gets ingested.

Thankfully, Palytoxin Poisoning is very rare, but I advise you to read this and make your family members be aware of the symptoms so they can recognize if you have been affected, then take the necessary actions to get you medical attention.

How Can I Be Infected?

The slime coating that covers Paly’s & Zoas is where the toxin is likely to be present. The greatest risk of infection comes from the following activities:

  • Placing new frags
  • Removing frags
  • Fragging
  • Removing corals next to Paly’s & Zoas
  • Cleaning Live Rock
  • Breaking down a tank
  • Moving from tank to tank

By following some simple steps you can drastically reduce your chances of becoming infected by the toxin:

  • Keep the coral submerged when moving between tanks. Containers with aquarium water work great. The greatest risk is when coral is exposed to air
  • Wear gloves when handing Paly’s & Zoa’s
  • When scrubbing rocks always scrub with the rock completely submerged. ALWAYS wear gloves, goggles & mask
  • Avoid working in your tank with cuts and hangnails on your arms and hands
  • Wear eye protection when cleaning live rock, fragging etc
  • NEVER BOIL or COOK LIVE ROCK – Sends the toxin airborne
  • ALWAYS wash your hands after they have been in the tank
  • Palytoxin awareness

Symptoms To Look For

Symptoms can occur and progress within minutes to hours after exposure. Knowing what to look for is key.

Symptoms Can Include:

  • Flu-like symptoms – Chills, Fever, Headaches, Cough, Sore Throat, Chest Pains, Muscle Aches
  • Rash, Itching, Numbness in Affected Area
  • Trouble Breathing, Shortness of Breath, Runny Nose, Wheezing
  • Dizziness, Blurred Vision, Fatigue, Irregular Heart Beat
  • Possible Foul Smell or Bitter/Metallic Taste in Mouth

Medical Attention

If you suspect that yourself or a family member may have become infected by Palytoxin Poisoning you are advised to:

  • Contact your local Poison Control Centre
  • Call Emergency Services
  • Take them to the hospital
  • Use the information guide below to help medical staff

Your response should depend on the severity of the symptoms.

Great Video For More Information

Download Your Free Guide

I have created this free, handy guide to keep in your home to help your family members be aware of what symptoms are associated with Palytoxin Poisoning.

Print off this guide and write on the phone number for your local Poison Control Center and keep it accessible so your family members can quickly and easily access help if required.

This guide is also useful if you have to go to the hospital. Palytoxin Poisoning is rare, the chances of a small hospital having dealt with this are probably zero. The information could help the medical staff access their information more efficiently.

Medical References:

Toxnet – Toxicology Data Network
US National Library of Medicine
Scientific American
South Australia Health

Now that you are aware of Palytoxin Poisoning and you know there is nothing to be afraid of let’s go and select some corals for that tank of yours!

19 Best Beginner Corals


Hi, I'm Richard and I have been an avid aquarist for over 30 years with a passion for Saltwater Aquariums. I love to pass on my knowledge to help others get the same amount a pleasure out of this hobby as I do. View my About Me page to find out more about me & my mixed reef aquarium.

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