Environmental chloride has been shown to inhibit methemoglobin formation in fish, thereby offering a protective effect against nitrite toxicity. Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) were simultaneously exposed to various environmental nitrite and chloride levels (as either CaCl2 or NaCl) in dechlorinated tap water (40 mg/L total hardness, 47 mg/L alkalinity, 4 mg/L chloride, pH = 6.9-7.1, and temperature 21-24°C). Methemoglobin levels in fish simultaneously exposed to 2.5 mg/L nitrite and up to 30 mg/L chloride as either CaCl2 or NaCl were similar but significantly lower than in unprotected fish. Exposure to 10 mg/L nitrite and 60 mg/L chloride resulted in methemoglobin levels similar to those of the controls; most unprotected fish died. Fish exposed to 10 mg/L nitrite had significantly lower methemoglobin levels when protected with 15.0 mg/L chloride as CaCl2 than with NaCl. Fish exposed to nitrite in the presence of 60 mg/L chloride (as either CaCl2 or NaCl) had similar 24-h LC50 values that were significantly elevated above those obtained in the absence of chloride. Calcium had little effect on tolerance to nitrite toxicity in channel catfish in contrast to its large effect reported in steelhead trout (Salmo gairdneri).
Additional publication details
Inhibition of nitrite-induced toxicity in channel catfish by calcium chloride and sodium chloride