Respect the Zoas



Who doesn’t like zoanthids and palys? They are relatively inexpensive, grow fast and come in a dazzling array of colors. They don’t sting other corals , theyget along with each other allowing reefers to make awesome gardens. Some devote entire aquariums to just zoas. They are easy to frag and they don’t need any special attention or feeding. They are one of the most adaptable corals doing well in high or low light and varying levels of flow. They are hardy, fun to collect, great for beginners and advanced aquarists alike. There is not much more you can ask for from a coral. They seem like the perfect coral!

What’s the catch? Some of them contain the world’s second most deadly poison, Palytoxin.

According to an ancient Hawaiian legend, there is a cursed village in Maui near the port of Hana. The villagers captured and killed a shark god after several of the village members had gone missing. They believed the shark was the culprit.  In their anger and frustration, they dismembered and burned the god, before throwing its ashes in a tide pool near the town of Hana. Shortly after, a mysterious type of seaweed started growing in the pool. It became known as “limu-make-o-Hana” (deadly seaweed of Hana). If smeared on a spear’s point, it could instantly kill its victims.

Palytoxin was first discovered in 1971 and it was recorded that The limu-make-o-Hana was real, but it wasn’t seaweed – it was a type of colonial anemone We now know of its lethal properties. Its an intense vasoconstrictor, and is considered the most toxic substant known second to maiotoxin.

Some zoanthid species contain no  toxin at all, infact,  many people handle zoanthids for years without problems. However, those that contain palytoxin can can affect us in serious ways if not handled properly.



I learned the lesson the hard way last year when fragging some nice large pink passion palys. No gloves, no mask, no goggles, nothing. Just a razor blade and the palys. I began to frag the palys and right after the first cut, it squirted a liquid with sniper like accuracy right into my eye. Palys  are under immense pressure and when distributed or cut they can shoot up to 4 feet away. I felt an immediate burning sensation, instincts kicked in and  quickly rinsed it out with fresh waster. After 4 hours of pain and discomfort I decided to get some medical attention. It took the hospital 8 hours to figure out what to give me. They had to call a number of specialists in the states as they have never dealt with this before.  I was on antibiotic eye drops and some other formula for 3 weeks. I wouldn’t dare frag zoas or palys now without goggles or gloves. I hope you can learn from my experience and take care when handling these animals. Respect the zoas!


photo 2 : eye one hour after being shot with paly juice!

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