Always keep in mind that as an Aquarist you are accountable to your family, children, friends, neighbors and pets... The purpose of this discussion is not to condemn a Genus or Family of specimens but to simply present facts from which common sense can be applied... When I was a kid you could still purchase live, one or two foot, Alligators from Department Stores: these beasts grow to over 15 feet and past one ton... Yet customers were under the impression that these were MINIATURE Alligators...
IGNORANCE and MYTH-INFORMATION prevailed. Yes chicks and rabbits were also sold at Easter... I hope you get the point :)
Your homework today is to search for PALYTOXIN on whatever device you use and please don't freak out or be alarmed by what you might find: It's TRUE...
This is where common sense brings you back to reality. It's a hard world we live in: danger lurks everywhere. In cars, trains, planes, boats where your life is constantly at risk. Then there are all the diseases that may hit you... Flesh eating bacteria is present on the Florida coast as well as in the Mexican East coast where it is found in the food chain: even the raw juices of seafood can contaminate your dinner plate and kill you in 48 hours !!!
I personally am allergic to most fishes and seafoods which can make me severely ill or even kill me if treatment is not readily available, fast... ALLERGIES are very similar in nature to Palytoxin poisoning: Allergies can be Respiratory - by Contact - by Ingestion (blood stream) and will cause blisters, rashes, itching, numbness, intense pain, difficulty in breathing... and even death. So I had to Educate myself throughout my life as to what Fishes and Invertebrates i could ingest without danger.. Some kitchens I can't get close to because of fumes... Some fishes I can't handle because of contact allergy, etc... People with Peanut, Egg and Bee Sting allergies must face the same education dilemna.
ZOANTHIDS are neither Corals or Anemones: they constitute a distinct Order of their own
A few decades ago they were classified in three families: Protopalythoa, Palythoa and Zoanthus. Protopalythoa and Palythoa are the NASTY and /or DEADLY ones. Protopalythoa are essentially brown and show no distinct polyps: only oral disks are apparent encrusted in a thick tissue... Then there are the Brown Polyp Colonies that are as ugly and invasive but they can also be yellow and look quite similar to Yellow Aiptasia colonies... Palythoas are the typical Giant Green polyps and all similar smaller species... Today both are part of the Palythoas but you will find that the litterature worldwide is still very confusing.
The problem with Zoanthids is Identification: it is impossible to identify any species visually. Only scientific examination with very costly equipment can determine any specie and it's degree of toxicity !!
So our recommendation is to avoid anything that comes under these two denominations in the trade. If you already own such specimens and want to remove them from your tanks: PLEASE be advised that there is only one safe and efficient way of destroying PALYTOXIN without creating any toxic vapors. The rocks and Palythoas should be soaked in a BLEACH solution: 1 part bleach to 12 parts water. Avoid the Peroxyde method since it is unreliable and unsafe.
Above all please use eye protection wear, breathing mask and gloves. Avoid cheap plastic and silicone gloves since they break easily on sharp edges: THICK HOUSEHOLD RUBBER GLOVES ONLY are recommended. In order not to flood your elbow high gloves make sure you make this task coincide with a major water change thus lowering the water level in the tank. Make sure no one else is present when handling Palythoas... net even pets... Then wash gloves with bleach before removing them and do same with any accessory used.
Once again visual identification is impossible and don't be fooled by internet whiz kids who claim that some colors are safer than others... You see there are hundreds of species of ZOAS and until recently they had never been under scientific scrutiny for toxicity levels. The good news is that over 140 species have now been studied and classified. These lists (from non-toxic to toxic) are found with little effort... So it should be easy to get safe specimens, right?
The problem is that no one in the trade, for now, cares to clearly identify those species: they only give them ridiculous commercial names... but not the authentic scientific names !!! In fact most LFS's and distributors get them in large shipments of unidentified coral frags.... So do yourself and the whole community a favor: Ask that ZOAS be clearly identified. The cost may go up of course but what is your health and that of your loved ones worth ???