Exposure of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) fingerlings for 24?h to 1.0, 2.5, and 5.0?mg/L nitrite (pH?=?7; hardness?=?40?mg/L; temperature?=?22–25 °C) produced methemoglobin levels of 20.7?±?1.9%, 59.8?±?1.9%, and 77.4?±?1.4% (SE), respectively. However, methemoglobin levels were not elevated when fish were simultaneously exposed to 1.0, 2.5, and 5.0?mg/L nitrite and 25, 50, and 100?mg/L sodium chloride, respectively. Acclimation to sodium chloride for 24?h before exposure to nitrite did not enhance the inhibitory action of sodium chloride. Fish exposed to 5?mg/L nitrite for 5?h developed 42.5?±?3.8% methemoglobin. When transferred to water containing 5?mg/L nitrite and 250?mg/L sodium chloride, methemoglobin levels returned to normal within 24?h. Environmental chloride probably inhibits methemoglobin formation by competing with nitrite for entrance into the gills of the fish. An ionic ratio of 16 Cl- to 1 NO2- is capable of complete suppression of nitrite-induced methemoglobin formation. Bicarbonate ion present in the test water (1?meq/L) may also have contributed to the inhibitive action of chloride.