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Kansas Water Science Center

U.S. Geological Survey
Fact Sheet 120-02
Prepared in part of the

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Occurrence of Antibiotics in Water from Fish Hatcheries

E.M. Thurman, J.E. Dietze, and E.A. Scribner


    Types of Fish Hatcheries
    Sample Collection
    Analytical Methods
    Occurrence of Antibiotics in Fish Hatchery Water
    Web Sites

Thurman, E.M., Dietz, J.E., and Scribner, E.A., 2003, Occurrence of antibiotics in water from fish hatcheries: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 120-02, 4 p.


The recent discovery of pharmaceuticals in streams across the United States (Kolpin and others, 2002) has raised the visibility and need for monitoring of antibiotics in the environment. Possible sources of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals in streams may include fish hatcheries. This fact sheet presents the results from a preliminary study of fish hatcheries across the United States for the occurrence and concentration of antibiotics present in fish hatchery water. The study examines both sufonamides and tetracyclines. Sulfonamides are synthetic compounds, and tetracyclines are naturally occurring compounds.

The use of antibiotics added to specially formulated feed is a common practice in fish hatcheries to treat and prevent bacterial infections in large fish populations. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved antibiotics are oxytetracycline-HCI, sulfamerazine, and a combination drug containing ormetoprim and sulfadiamethoxine (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2003).

During January 2001–June 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Organic Geochemistry Research Laboratory (OGRL), Lawrence, Kansas, cooperatively collected water samples from 13 fish hatcheries across the United States (fig. 1) with the assistance of hatchery operators. A method for the analysis of antibiotics was developed and used to identify and quantify these compounds in fish hatchery water (Lindsey and others, 2001). This study was completed to determine if trace levels of antibiotics [approximately 1 microgram per liter (µg/L) or 1 part per billion or greater occurred] in which water associated with fish hatcheries, which are a potential source of these compounds in surface water.

For more information contact:

District Chief
U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, Kansas 66049-3839
(785) 842-9909
Or Visit Emerging Water Quality Issues