First Aid for the Reef Aquarium


Active Member
I will start a series of informative posts on first aid for the reef tank keeper. I am an emergency doc, but these posts are for information and not to take the place of evaluation and treatment by you own physicians. I will keep these as short as possible, but still get the info across. Any additions are welcome.
Some basic background. As has been seen in recent posts, owning a reef can be hazardous. Our fish and inverts have evolved many mechanisms for defense and feeding, sometimes we run afoul of them.
Common reactions to envemonations range from local swelling, secondary infection to life threatening anaphylactic allergic reactions.
Allergic reactions:
The first time you are exposed to a substance, your body has not yet formed a reaction to it;therefore, the reaction if any will be mild. In the next exposure you may have a life threatening allergic reaction or local irritation or swelling. Benedryl is used to blunt this reaction, and may be taken on the way to the ER. If you are exposed and have swelling of the tongue, neck, face, trouble breathing or swallowing GO DIRECTLY TO THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM. Allergic reactions usually occur within minutes of exposure with the worst reactions literally occuring within seconds.
The best way to prevent this is to prevent exposure. Wear gloves to prevent skin contact with animals. If you are known to be sensitive do not take any chances.
Local and systemic infections
Trauma to the skin from spines of nematocysts breaks the barrier allowing bacteria to enter the skin. Over the course of 24-48 hours you can develpoe warmth redness pain and swelling to the area of infection. This is know as cellulitis. Sometimes an abcess, or pocket of pus may form. Red streaks indicate that the infection is being picked up within the lymphatic system. You may also notice painfully swollen lymph nodes in the groin or armpits as the infection is being treated. For local infections oral antibiotics are indicated. Abcesses new to be opened up so they can drain. More severe infections require hospitalization for IV antibiotics. Be sure to tell your treating physician that you think the souce of infection is an aquarium. Mycobacterium Marinum, a relative of tuberculosis, can cause nasty infections and cannot be detected by standard cultures. If you have a non-healing sore it is probably caused by M. Marinum.
Thanks for reading. More to come

nm reef

Active Member
oscardeuce ...I have no idea who stuck these threads...but thank you for some very vital and potentially critical information!!

I'm sure your effeorts are appreciated by the forum ...I just wanted to comment that threads of this type by members such as yourself is what makes this a good place to visit...again...thanks for the informative posts.:yes:


thanks doc I'm a newbe and although when we dive and snorkel we take precautions along the way I honestly never gave enough thought to the dangers of a reef tank thank you for the post (you may have saved this newbe! have a beautiful day