A single overlay plaque assay was designed and evaluated for infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus. Epithelioma papillosum carpio cells were grown in normal atmosphere with tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane- or HEPES (N-2-hydroxyethylpiperazine-N'-2-ethanesulfonic acid)-buffered media. Plaques were larger and formed more quickly on 1- to 3-day-old cell monolayers than on older monolayers. Cell culture medium with a 10% addition of fetal calf serum (MEM 10) or without serum (MEM 0) were the most efficient virus diluents. Dilution with phosphate-buffered saline, saline, normal broth, or deionized water reduced plaque numbers. Variations in the pH (7.0 to 8.0) of a MEM 0 diluent did not affect plaque numbers. Increasing the volume of viral inoculum above 0.15 ml (15- by 60-mm plate) decreased plaquing efficiency. Significantly more plaques occurred under gum tragacanth and methylcellulose than under agar or agarose overlays. Varying the pH (6.8 to 7.4) of methylcellulose overlays did not significantly change plaque numbers. More plaques formed under the thicker overlays of both methylcellulose and gum tragacanth. Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane and HEPES performed equally well, buffering either medium or overlay. Plaque numbers were reduced when cells were rinsed after virus adsorption or less than 1 h was allowed for adsorption. Variation in adsorption time between 60 and 180 min did not change plaque numbers. The mean plaque formation time was 7 days at 16 degrees C. The viral dose response was linear when the standardized assay was used.